How To Teach The Present Subjunctive

How To Teach The Present Subjunctive

Wondering how to teach the present subjunctive to your Spanish students? A lot of people feel that the subjunctive mood is a big, scary monster, but I don’t think it’s so bad! Everyone’s curriculum is a bit different, but here is ONE way to present and use the present subjunctive with your students!

Step 1: How To Teach The Present Subjunctive

I choose to start using the subjunctive with impersonal phrases like: Es necesario, Es importante, Es recomendable, etc.

The reason why I find impersonal expressions an easy way to start is because A) a lot of them are cognates and therefore easy to understand and memorize, and B) Most of them already have a conjugated verb that doesn’t need to be changed.

One of the great confusions for students learning the present subjunctive is about conjugated the verb in the first clause in the indicative and the 2nd clause in the subjunctive. Using impersonal expressions takes away the need for that step, and while they learn about HOW to form both the subjunctive verb forms and HOW to formulate a sentence, it’s one less thing for their brains to do!

Step 2:

Next I teach students how to form the present subjunctive. We probably all learned the same way:

  1. Start with the yo form
  2. Drop the o
  3. Add the opposite endings

Sometimes the concept of “opposite endings” can be confusing for students. I use my white board to write out and demonstrate what I mean. And here are some other ways we practice JUST the formation of the subjunctive verbs.

Using verbs they already know, we

-use individual white boards (I tell them, “show me the ella form of the verb comer”) and they write and hold up their board. They LOVE using whiteboards and markers, and its a super fast way for me to see who is confused and help them fix it right away!

-I also make index cards with verb stems and endings. Students can use them to mix and match in a similar way to the white boards. Example: they have 15 verb stems, and the 10 endings. I can say, “make me the ellos form of estudiar”, and they word find one index card with estudi written on it, and then the card with en written on it.

Step 3

The next important step for how to teach the present subjunctive is to show them the 3 parts of a subjunctive sentence. Students really like formulas! They are accustomed to using formulas in math class. They make sense! So showing students that part 1 of the subjunctive sentence is always the impersonal expression, part 2 is always the word que and part 3 is always the present subjunctive is a simple and understandable formula for our students.

I reinforce this concept by assigning a digital task where students must move the word tiles to form subjunctive sentences. It’s a lot like the index cards I mentioned above, but now all 3 parts of the sentence must be moved around and into the right position! It really helps students think about the formula of 3 parts, and it reinforces what a subjunctive sentence sounds and looks like!

grammar games for Spanish class

Subjunctive How To

Of course, this is not the end! That is just the very beginning! I also like to start using subjunctive sentences when I talk to my students a few weeks before we start learning this. It’s called priming the pump!

And in another post, we can talk about how to get students to use the present subjunctive in a more natural and real-world kind of way! But first- they need to learn how to form it!


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