It seems every time I teach something I have to fight the urge to give too many examples. The temptation is great, after all it seems that examples form an elixir to quickly understanding something. The truth, however, is that too many examples can be overwhelming.
The 2nd grade students are about to learn “if” statements now (as in, “If it’s sunny, I want to play baseball”). This grammar is very useful, and of course there are many examples and variations. Let’s take a look at some:
If I were rich, I would buy a house,
I would buy a house, if I were rich.
If I had money, I would buy a house.
I would buy a house, if I had money.
I could buy a house, if I had money.
If I had money, I could buy a house.
The list goes on and on, with various constructions, verb and tense uses and so on. To native English speakers, the list is easy to follow. Perhaps it’s even interesting to see the possibilities.
But to people learning this for the first time, too many examples can be like pouring too much water in a cup. The water spills out and makes a mess.
So I have a mantra for myself. Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS). Simple examples and few of them are essential to people grasping a concept at first. After that, more examples are the essential building blocks of learning.