In general, grammar likes to be on paper, but grammar in the air can have a big influence on how learners understand and use structures. This is the grammar of oral production, of quickly passing sound waves. Function words—high-grammar, low-lexis items such as a or to—often all but disappear in rapid-fire spoken discourse. It’s no wonder, then, that students who receive a lot of oral input may have skewed perceptions of what English grammar entails. Spoken language can get set in their minds, often without the words that we expect to see on paper.

The attached downloadable is a listening and practice activity that is designed to help students notice certain grammar words by attending to the difference between conditionals for something that is factually oriented e.g., If I eat raw carrots, I get a stomachache vs. something that is future-oriented, e.g., If we finish early, we can go to the movies. By attending to oral production in this way, they can reflect on the influence of spoken English on their understanding of target language.

The key target for noticing is the verb structure in the second clause. Does the verb include a modal (can, will, etc.)? If so, it’s probably future-oriented.

The downloadable lays out an activity that you can do in class.