IELTS Speaking Part 2 (Fun) Practice Activity

Each week on a Tuesday, since my IELTS courses finished, I have been doing IELTS PSP Speaking, which is basically an hour of IELTS-focused speaking practice. I have found that when practicing part 2, students frequently dry up before 2 minutes, sometimes well before, so I came up with this activity to encourage them to extend their answers as much as possible… It is a mixture of an activity that was suggested by a Sheffield Uni colleague of mine from last summer, Tim Ball, at the IELTS Swap Shop session that took place at IATEFL this year, and the well-known game, connect 4.

  • It consists of a 6×6 grid (click on the picture to access a ready-to-use document):
Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 12.53.30

Game board

  •  In each square of the grid there is an IELTS Part 2 Speaking topic.
  • Students are aiming to score as many points as possible by getting 3 or 4 squares in a row, with 3 being worth 10 points and 4 being worth 20 points.
  • In order to “win” a square, students must speak for the full two minutes about the topic in question.
  • The instructions on the game remind students to think about the what/who/why/when/how type questions that accompany speaking part 2 topics.
  • As with the exam, they have a minute to think about what they are going to say and make a few notes.
  • Students play in pairs.
  • Student A speaks, Student B listens and times, and vice-versa.
  • Teacher listens and does delayed feedback at suitable moments.

The students were engaged by it and the aim was fulfilled: instead of just giving up after 1 and a half minutes, they did push themselves to keep speaking! (How important winning a square becomes… 😉 )

Let me know how your students get on with it! Enjoy!

TeachingEnglish British Council Blog of the Month Shortlisted!

Yep, that’s right! My blog has just been shortlisted for a Teaching English British Council blog of the month award! The shortlisted post is Top 10 resources for teaching IELTS which I wrote because it’s what i would have wanted to be able to find when I started teaching IELTS. 🙂

If you would like to vote, click on the picture below and it will take you to the Teaching English British Council page. There, you can cast your vote for me by clicking on ‘like’ on the post that looks like this picture, or, for any of the other shortlisted posts this month, should you prefer…keep checking the TEBC page, as new ones will be added over the course of this week!

Shortlisted! Thank you TEBC!

Shortlisted! Thank you TEBC!

Useful IELTS Websites

Here is an annotated list of all the useful links I’ve found for helping students prepare for IELTS. I thought it would be a useful resource for anybody teaching IELTS (as this is what I would really have liked to find when I started!) and I will soon be adapting it and posting it as a resource specifically aimed at students on the Independent English blog (I promised my current class!). There were/are too many for all to be included in a ‘Top 10’ list but they are worth a look nevertheless; whether by you or your students! Let me know if you think there are any links that I should add or if any of the links are broken. I intend to keep adding links to this list, as I come across them.

IELTS! image taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification

                                                            IELTS!                                                                           image taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification

General

This website is very useful, containing sections on writing, reading, speaking, listening, grammar, vocabulary, with advice and opportunities for practice, as well as a section that brings together all the material available for download e.g. sample tests, sample answers for the writing etc. It also boasts a useful collection of student writing, for Writing Part 1 and Part 2, together with feedback on this.

The British Council Learn English IELTS page bills itself thus:

‘In our IELTS section you can find practice materials and advice to help you prepare for the listening, speaking, reading and writing modules of the IELTS test.

You can watch learners from different parts of the world give views and opinions about IELTS. There is a series of videos focusing on the speaking module of the test, as well as online practice activities and mock test papers for the other three modules.’

A good starting point for students, the official IELTS website contains all the information students/test takers need to know about how to register, how to find a test centre etc. It also contains a test sample for each of the 4 components and a complex set of FAQ’s.

Regularly updated with quiz questions relating to the various components of the IELTS exam, typical grammar and vocabulary, this Facebook page is linked with IELTS.org.

A collection of freely accessible practice materials for all four test components, put together by IELTS Exam-Net.

Lots of material for IELTS preparation here, focusing on each of the components as well as on relevant grammar and vocabulary for both General and Academic IELTS (the latter based on the Academic Word list) and providing lots of opportunities for learning how to approach the exam, practising and, in terms of the writing, seeing what other people have produced.

This website contains daily IELTS lessons from ‘Simon’, an ex-IELTS examiner. For example, the latest lesson is ‘IELTS Writing Task 1: using words from the chart’. There are categories for each of the components, and with the writing divided up into Academic Part 1, Academic Part 2 and General. There is also a section for general advice and for relevant grammar and vocabulary.

Reading

From IELTS Buddy, another clear overview of this component of the exam, detailing the different question types and requirements, with some useful tips.

From British Council Learn English IELTS page, this is a reading text and some questions, together with an answer key for checking afterwards.

This is a comprehensive page from DC IELTS which includes links to tutorials focusing on each of the reading question types, tutorials focusing on increasing your reading speed, tutorials focusing on the necessary reading sub-skills, a band calculator and some exam tips.

Listening

IELTS Buddy gives a clear overview of the listening component of the IELTS exam, as well as a selection of practice tests.

Students can do listening test practice on this part of the British Council Learn English IELTS page.

From the DC IELTS website, this page gives a clear overview of the listening component of the IELTS exam, together with links to 10 lessons that focus on various sub-skills that students need to be confident with in order to do well in this component. It also boasts a Band Calculator that students can use to translate their listening scores into IELTS bands.

Independent English is a site that was set up by DoS and teacher trainer Sandy Millin, with whom I have just entered into collaboration regarding this site. Its goal is to help learners learn independently by publishing posts that both offer a range of ideas and guide students through carrying them out. I haven’t posted any content yet (watch this space!) but Sandy has published this post on IELTS friendly podcasts, which brings together links to a range of podcasts on IELTS style topics e.g. science and global problems, and offers suggestions for using these effectively.

Speaking

Students can look at the assessment criteria for the speaking component of the exam here.

A series of videos put together by the British Council,  giving advice on how to approach the speaking component of the IELTS exam.

A comprehensive overview of the speaking component, this DC IELTS page contains a map of the speaking exam, tips for success, training videos, practice questions, focus on the exam format, on how to use preparation time, speaking component tutorials e.g. on pausing language, and ideas for practice, amongst others.

Writing

This post from the IH London Blog helps students prepare for the IELTS writing component, by focusing on how to structure a Part 1 and a Part 2 piece of writing.

Writing Part 1

‘IELTS Buddy’ provides sample Writing Part 1’s for all the possible task types and analyses the process of producing an answer to a Writing Part 1 task.

Again from ‘IELTS Buddy’, students can look at other students’ work together with feedback on it.

This is a link to the criteria used for marking Part 1 of the writing component of the IELTS exam.

A blog post from TEFL Reflections, of a podcast focusing on the Task Achievement category of the assessment criteria for Part 1. NB: This blog has other useful posts relating to the IELTS exam including focus on writing and on speaking.

This article on Exam English explains how to approach an IELTS part 1 with two sources of data within a single task, e.g. a graph and a table.

Writing Part 2

This blog post on the IH London blog focuses on how to improve your writing score by planning more effectively. NB: This blog contains other useful IELTS-related articles in its exams category.

In this section of IELTS Buddy, students can look at example part 2 essays written by other students, together with feedback.

And here is the criteria used for marking Part 2 of the writing component of the IELTS exam.

From Exam English, this is a detailed explanation of what examiners are looking for in the introduction and conclusion of a Writing Part 2 essay.

Another article from Exam English, this time explaining how Part 2 questions work and how to make sure you have answered them fully.

From DC IELTS, this page contains a wealth of material to help students with IELTS essay writing.  It looks at the different types of essay, structuring an essay, the process of writing an essay, some sample essays, vocabulary for essay writing, a focus on each portion of the essay (introduction etc.), and guidance on how to review your essay effectively once you’ve written it.

Vocabulary and Grammar

This is a link to all the lessons on the IELTS Simon site that focus on IELTS grammar and vocabulary-related topics, for example ‘IELTS Grammar: natural answers‘ and ‘IELTS Vocabulary: Band 7-9 words‘.

Quizlet

Quizlet is a useful website that allows you to review and memorise vocabulary, while having fun at the same time. Registration is free and can be done by setting up a new account or by using a Facebook or Google account. Students can access sets of flashcards that other test takers have made, or create their own. Quizlet can be used on both smartphone and tablet devices (Apple and Android) as well as your computer.

Here are some sets relating to IELTS that students can use:

Quizlet sets relating to IELTS speaking component.

Quizlet sets relating to IELTS writing component.

Quizlet sets relating to IELTS reading component.

Quizlet sets relating to IELTS listening component.

Here are some materials I wrote, which take you through the process of using Quizlet.

Memrise

Memrise is another site dedicated to learning while having fun. Registration is free and can be done by setting up a new account or using a Facebook account. Memrise can be used on both smartphone and tablet devices (Apple and Android) as well as your computer.

Here is a selection of the courses that have people have made to prepare for IELTS:

A selection of courses relating to IELTS. Memrise courses relating to IELTS

Other vocabulary resources

Exam English have made a timed quiz relating to words from the academic word list.

Also from Exam English, here students can find the academic wordlist and related tests.

From the DC IELTS website, this is a comprehensive set of activities linked with the Academic Word List, including activities that allow students to see the words used in the context of IELTS writing answers. Includes daily activities and review activities as well.

Wordandphrase.info is a tool for corpus analysis and the academic version enables one to search an academic corpus for words or phrases and generate concordances of examples showing how they are used, as well as definitions, synonyms, collocates and frequency information. Here are some materials I made, which guide you through the process of using www.wordandphrase.info. These materials focus on the general part of the site (www.wordandphrase.info) rather than the academic but the principal is the same. (Creating materials specifically focusing on the academic portion is on my list of things to do!)

Grammar-related links

Exam English have put together a twenty question grammar quiz for IELTS test takers.

This link, from the IELTS-exam.net website, offers offers “concise yet comprehensive coverage of the grammar necessary in order to be successful in the IELTS test.”

Exam strategies, techniques and tips

Put together by the British Council, students from all over the world give their opinions and tips for the IELTS test.

From IELTS Buddy, this is a collection of lessons relating to each of the four components of the exam, containing lots of tips for how to approach these most effectively.

This is a set of exam tips from the Exam English website.

The top five fears of IELTS test takers and how to overcome them.

Knowing the exam well is a key strategy, and this is a quiz from the DC IELTS page for students to find out where they are with this.

10 Tips to help students succeed in the speaking component, from DC IELTS.

Apps

If you are inclined towards the world of tablet and smartphone, as many are these days, here are a couple of apps that might be worth looking at:

This app was developed by Sam McCarter, writer of the Macmillan Ready for IELTS coursebook. It works on iPhone, iPad and Android devices. For free, you get access to a wide range of interactive activities to practice essential IELTS exam skills, and for £3.99 or five dollars, you get that plus ‘take the test with an interactive video examiner’, detailed hints and tips on all the different parts of the exam and an interactive ‘can do’ statement section with which you can score yourself. If the course book is anything to go by, then I would imagine that this app will be worth the small outlay. But even what’s available for free is already a jolly good start and surely worth downloading!

This is a free app developed by the British Council, which enables students to work on building up their IELTS-relevant vocabulary, through doing lots of quizzes and fun activities. There are different topics, typical to IELTS, such as ‘The Environment‘ and ‘Work and Business‘.

In the Classroom

Lesson plans and materials for helping students to prepare for each of the components, including some plans that require minimal materials/preparation.

More material ready to deploy in the classroom, together with advice on how to use it effectively.

For more resources that are useful for teachers (but also including books that are suitable for self-study), you might like to look at my recentTop 10 Resources’ list !

Again, If you know any other useful sites, please comment on this post so I can add the links to this collection! 

My Top 10 Resources for Teaching IELTS

Following my recently begun and ongoing foray into teaching IELTS, I thought I would revisit my Top 10’s in ELT series and offer up a list of the resources that I have found most helpful in my IELTS journey so far. The focus of this Top 10* post will be Academic IELTS, as I haven’t taught General IELTS thus far. Of course, the listening and speaking components are the same, so some aspects will be transferable.  Click on any picture to be taken to a description of the source (books) or the source itself (websites).

*The more astute amongst you will notice that this Top 10 list is only 9 – strong… it’s deliberate! No. 10 is up for discussion: please do comment on this post and tell me the resource you think should fill this space… (And for further IELTS-related links, see my Useful IELTS Websites post!)

Books

1. Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 14.07.46

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Written by Pauline Cullen and published by Cambridge University Press, this is a book I initially came across while working on the pre-sessional at Sheffield University last summer. I have since used it with my IELTS students here in Palermo, and found it to be a great resource. It cleverly combines a focus on and practice of each of the four IELTS components with useful, relevant vocabulary input and practice. It is also packed with ‘Test Tips’ which are act as a useful reminder of what to emphasise to students.

2. Complete IELTS (Bands 5 – 6.5)

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 14.15.00

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Also published by Cambridge University Press (unfortunately I am not on commission…), Complete IELTS was written by Guy Brook-Hart and Vanessa Jakeman. There are similar books available for other bands, but this is the one I have been using. What do I like about this student book? It’s user-friendly, it integrates the grammar and vocabulary with focus on the different elements of the exam. It also has a really useful Writing Reference at the back of the book, which breaks down all the different task types that students might meet in Writing Part 1, with clear information, tips and models to help them face these different task types, and highlights the different question types that students might meet in Part 2, again with information, tips and sample answers to guide them.

3. Ready for IELTS

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

Ready for IELTS is published by Macmillan and written by Sam McCarter. This has been another valuable resource for me, for the following reasons: It contains four ‘Ready for…’ sections, one for each exam component, which offer a guided discovery approach to IELTS reading, writing, speaking and listening, and is also full of useful tips (‘What to expect in the exam‘, ‘How to go about it‘ ‘Don’t forget‘ boxes can be found throughout). It contains plenty of test practice opportunities but rather than being empty practice, the book makes a real effort to help students improve, rather than hoping sheer repetition will get them there. Finally, and perhaps a little shallow, I also like how colourful and visually appealing it is!

4. IELTS Resource Pack 

Screenshot from Amazon

Screenshot from Amazon UK website

This fantastic pack of activities and games, written by Jan Marks, is very useful for livening up IELTS prep classes while at the same time ensuring that important information is thoroughly hammered home. Like the earlier-mentioned Vocabulary for IELTS Advanced, I first met this book during the summer, as it was one of our resource books for the entrance exam preparation component of the pre-sessional, and found it very useful. Depending on the length of your sessions, these activities can be used independently or to supplement a given lesson that you are doing.

Websites:

5. TEFL Reflections

Screenshot of TEFL Reflections

Screenshot of TEFL Reflections

For useful, practical information that will help you to help yourself ( 🙂 ) your students get to grips with IELTS writing, part 1 AND part 2, the best thing you can do is look at these posts written by Marek Kiczkowiak and Robert Wiilliam:

IELTS Writing Part 1

IELTS Writing Part 2

They have also taken on the IELTS Speaking exam, for example:

IELTS Speaking

Marek and Robert are both IELTS examiners and have taken the time to share some of their IELTS expertise with the rest of us. I, for one, am grateful! 🙂

6. British Council Learn English IELTS

Screenshot of the British Council Learn IELTS page

Screenshot of the British Council Learn IELTS page

Like the rest of the British Council Learn English site, this is an invaluable source of material for students and teachers alike. Practice materials and advice that you can point your students towards or have a perusal of, yourself!

7. British Council Take IELTS Teacher Resources

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 19.15.51

Screenshot of the British Council IELTS teaching resources page

More quality materials from the British Council, this time aimed at teachers of IELTS, very helpful for guidance in making IELTS come alive in the classroom.

8. One stop English IELTS page

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 13.33.19

Screenshot taken from One Stop English IELTS page

This page is part of the collection of resources for teachers gathered under the name ‘One stop English’. Amongst all the resources for different types of English (e.g. Business English, English for Children etc.) there is a section dedicated to exam preparation within which can be found the IELTS page. The material is divided up into categories, one for each exam component, one for strategies, one for exam orientation and a nifty little selection of activities requiring ‘Minimal Resources’.

 9. IELTS.org and The Official IELTS Facebook Page

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 09.27.57

Screen shot from IELTS.org

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 09.27.26

Screenshot from the IELTS Official Facebook Page

A list of IELTS resources wouldn’t be complete without a tipping of the hat to IELTS.org, home of IELTS on the web, and the Facebook page associated with it. IELTS.org has sections dedicated to test-takers, organisations, researchers and teachers. The Official IELTS Facebook Page publishes regular quiz questions relating to the exam and language typically used in the exam, with the answers following 24hrs later. If your students use Facebook, it’s worth pointing them at the Facebook page, and certainly they can benefit from looking at the test-takers section of IELTS.org.

I hope you find this list useful. And now, I look forward to hearing your suggestions for no. 10! 

Edits:

IELTS! image taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification

IELTS! image taken from en.wikipedia.org via google search for images licensed for commercial reuse with modification