Lessons You Can Use Often, Sometimes, Always: Teaching Adverbs of Frequency

Lessons You Can Use Often, Sometimes, Always: Teaching Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs may not be the first topic you cover in your ESL class, but they are sure to come up sooner or later.

Once your students understand the basics of how this part of speech works, it’s time to look at adverbs with more specific uses, for example adverbs of frequency. This unit takes your students through 7 separate activities all focusing on adverbs of frequency. They can be used together, or you can use each activity independent of the rest.
And here is the best news for the busy teacher reading this page. There is almost no preparation needed for the entire unit!

How to Teach Adverbs of Frequency

  1. 1


    With your class, brainstorm a list of adverbs of frequency. They will probably be familiar with at least some, so take this as an opportunity to introduce some less common ones to them. Your list should include the following: always, usually, frequently, often, commonly, sometimes, occasionally, rarely, seldom, hardly ever, never.

  2. 2

    Question Your Classmates

    Once your students are familiar with these basic adverbs of frequency, have them work together in groups of three or four to come up with some activities they think members of the class do either regularly or rarely. After a few minutes, students should choose some of the activities they have been discussing and write five questions. These questions will be geared toward the entire class, and they should question how often members of the class to certain activities within the span of one week. Your students might come up with questions like the following: How often do you brush your teeth in one week? How often do you eat spaghetti in one week? How often do you see your parents in one week? As they discuss and then write these questions, your students will be practicing questions which will be answered using adverbs of frequency. Make sure that no two groups have the same questions as you circulate throughout the room.

  3. 3


    Once each group has their questions written, have those group members make predictions about how often the class as a whole does those activities, first as a number of times and then with an adverb of frequency. Students should first work independently as they make their predictions. The group members can then discuss their predictions and then write one set of sentences using adverbs of frequency that the entire group agrees upon.
    Eventually, each group should have a list of five sentences something like the following: The members of our class frequently brush their teeth. The members of our class rarely see their parents.

  4. 4


    Now your students will have a chance to survey their classmates. Have them type up a survey (more on using surveys in your ESL classroom) containing the questions from all the groups in your class, or do it yourself, and then make copies for all of your students. Take a few minutes to let everyone answer the questions, and then have original groups work together to tabulate the results for their questions. To make the logistics of this easier, keep each group’s questions in order on the page, and then have students tear their surveys into the appropriate sections before turning them in.

  5. 5

    Graph It

    At this point, each group should have a numerical answer to the questions they wrote at the beginning of the process. It is now time to convert those numeric answers to a visual. Ideally, your students can plot the answers on a number line posted at the front of your classroom. It should look something like a timeline, but instead of times and dates, your students will plot the events they asked about. The location of these events will be based on the frequency with which they happen. For example, since international students probably don’t see their parents very often, “see your parents” may be plotted at zero. On the other hand, “use a dictionary” may be up very high on the number line.

    If you do not want to use a number line with your class, you can also represent the information from the survey in a bar graph or pie chart and still be able to do the following activities.

  6. 6


    Make some observations for your students regarding the events on the number line using adverbs of frequency. Give examples like, “Our class frequently uses an English dictionary.” Then, have students work in pairs to make similar observations based on the number line. Have each pair of students write ten observations, each sentence using a different adverb of frequency.

  7. 7


    Finally, give the original groups a chance to debrief the results of their survey. Were their predictions correct? Were their expectations similar to the actual results? Or did they really miss the mark with any of their guesses? Have students share with the class any information that surprised them.

Whether you rarely talk about adverbs of frequency or they come up in class frequently, your students will have fun making predictions about their classmates!

In addition, they may learn some things about their friends that they hadn’t already known as they use adverbs of frequency in speaking and writing.

Do you have any successful activities to teach and/or review adverbs of frequency with your class?

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