IELTS Mindset: Preparing for the speaking test.

14th May 2020

As usual, I use bold font to highlight words, expressions and idioms that students can learn and then use in their everyday speech. Remember, some expressions are only used in some situations, but an IELTS instructor will always notice an attempt to use a wider variety of English.

Những lầm tưởng về IELTS Speaking - AMERICAN STUDY

Next week, one of my IELTS classes has their speaking test therefore this blog will help, I sincerely hope, to prepare them, and enable them to achieve a commendable result.

With that in mind, tonight’s class will just be practice, practice and … more practice.

I try to relax my students by telling them that passing IELTS is easy (that normally gets their attention). I have to elaborate; IELTS is easy because they

TELL YOU WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR

Namely, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and para linguistics (body language, eye contact, stress, intonation, rhythm) and fluency (the ability to speak without overlong pauses) as well as answering the question relevantly.

Let’s break that down:

Vocabulary: low-frequency words // idioms // expressions //

Structure: complex sentences employing discourse markers and clauses

Let’s kick off with complex sentences. Here’s a link to a previous blog regarding just that subject; there are a number of exercises for students to practise:

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/04/30/ielets-mindset-complex-sentences/

Now some tips on using various expressions and phrases to introduce and close your speech. Again, this is from a previous blog (IELTS 12th May 2020):

https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2020/05/12/ielts-quick-fire-talking/

The above blog gives an example of answering a question about laptops, then allows students to compose their own response on subjects of their choice.

Finally, here are some expressions that can be used to ‘spice up’ a student’s talk as they are all everyday phrases though some will be UK-specific as they are part of the common culture:

Not my cup of tea = a polite way of saying you don’t like something.

I can take it or leave it = have no strong feelings about something.

I’m really into it = like or love something very much.

It does what it says on the tin = something that does the job, no more, no less (this is from a UK TV commercial).

Does exactly what it says on the tin - Story behind the logo

Vocabulary game:

To pracise using low-frequency words, put students in teams, giving each team a set of IELTS words (or phrases, idioms). They have a set time, maybe a minute, to use as many as they can, speaking about any subject they choose.

Some students may prefer to be given a set topic, so choose typical general subjects such as shopping, food, their city or country, free time etc.

Words and expressions are:

ubiquitous // somewhat // not my cup of tea // significant or significantly // I can take it or leave it // exhausting // challenging // miserable // having said that // I’m keen on // all in all // consequently // allow me to explain // eventually // thrilling // put up with

Vocabulary booster

Find low-frequency words for these adjectives:

boring // repetitive // tiring // interesting // relaxing

Break A Leg: What Does "Break A Leg" Mean? | Useful Example ...

IELTS 5 – 6:5: Talking Englishes

28th August 2019 page 13.

Today is a speaking lesson, so hopefully that will be more active and interesting for the students. However, a three-hour lesson means the teacher has to prepare a ‘montage of attractions’ (a connected collection of various activities) to maintain energy and enthusiasm and … most importantly … to help the students acquire and practice the new vocabulary, expressions and pronunciations.

Warm up: As mentioned in just about every blog, students arrive willy-nilly and, for sure, they are coming from work, from school, stuck in traffic but it does interrupt the flow. therefore we need a quick warm up game into which people can jump.

Call My bluff:

Image result for call my bluff

Class in two teams (or sub-divided for larger classes). One team has a list of low-frequency words, followed by three definitions and word class. The object is for them to read out (and hopefully elaborate) the definitions, give examples and trick the opposition into giving a wrong answer. For example, the word ‘obnoxious‘:

  1. Adjective – an unpleasant, horrible person
  2. Noun – science, a gas that becomes a liquid at 50 degrees centigrade
  3. Noun – a small village, usually in north Europe, that doesn’t have a church.

Depending on the English ability (and let’s be honest – the motivation) of the students, this could be an interesting game, as well as increasing their vocabulary. New words can be recycled throughout the lesson. Other words are ‘demeanour’, ‘broadsheet’, ‘mindset’, ‘surreal’, ‘vainglory’, ‘troglodyte’ (believe me, this word perfectly describes a lot of people in my neighbourhood) & ‘excruciating’.

After this, I want to get all the book work under our belts then move on to speaking activities.

Small Talk and keeping conversations going.

This could introduce cultural topics; what is acceptable in one culture is a big ‘no-no’ in another, for example, you can ask a westerner if they are married, but if they say “No,” it is not acceptable to ask WHY (implication – what is WRONG with you ?). For a western, used to ‘Rockin’ in the Free World,’ all politics is off limits … If people want to proclaim, “Communism forever !”, while using the latest iPhone X and getting rides home from their parents in luxury cars, let it go … likewise, hearing that Chairman Mao is a hero … oh well, whatever, never mind. At least in Viet Nam people has access to the internet, so maybe a little Google search with ‘Mao’ & ‘famine’ could be enlightening. So, you see, this digression was to show just precarious small talk can be.

Image result for neil young rockin in the free world

NOT that I’m saying the west is a Utopia of free speech … political correctness, non-disclosure agreements, hate speech, misinformation and downright lies … but that is ANOTHER story. Back to our activity:

There will be a list of ten innocuous questions. The idea is to use back channelling, follow-up questions, tag questions and encouraging elaboration, to make a long discussion. EXAMPLE:

What do you do ? // I’m a student. / Really, where (and what) do you study ? How do you like the classes ? / Have you given any thought to what you want to do after you graduate ?

Other questions are:

Where do you live ? // What are you going to do this weekend ? // Have you ever been abroad ? // Where do you come from ? // How do you like studying English ? //

This activity can also be timed … can they speak for one or two minutes without a break ?

Buying and selling role play

Variaties of English used in purchasing and bargaining. This may seem unnecessarily complicated, but code-switching (changing from language to language or from formal to informal) is a part of (I’m sure) most if not all languages (I haven’t studied enough world languages to state this as a concrete fact – if anyone knows, please correct me, with citations – thanks).

SO .. half my class are sellers, working in either a top department store, a High-Street shop having a sale, or a good old-fashioned street marker.

Image result for harrods seller
This is a salesperson in a high-end department store.

The language here would be RP, standard English, no glottal stops or slang, although some common expression may creep into the dialogue.

Here, we can elicit the type of conversation one would expect, e.g. “Yes, Madam, how may I be of assistance ?”

Related image
A cashier in a High-Street clothes store.

Language would be friendly and probably more informal, though still polite, “Hi, how are you today ? Oh, that really suits you !”

And now, a market trader. This has subtitles, so it a great way to follow the man’s London accent

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sw94R0P2dOs

You may hear questions such as, “Yes, mate, what can I do for you ? What do you fancy ? How about (‘owwbout’) a nice box of (boxa) strawberries ?”

I will give the students some photos of various items (shirts of differing quality, shoes, watches etc). The idea is to buy four items but spend under a certain amount.

As a fun ending, and depending on the energy of students, some could try to imitate the sound of the market trader … not just the vocabulary, but the tones and stresses, the ups and down of the cadences … in a word … the music of everyday speech.

If time allows, we always need some quick games up our sleeves.

One is guess the idiom – I say an idiom and the students have three option from which to choose.

There is also two lies, one truth; I say three facts about me, but only one is true. By asking questions, the students have to deduce the correct one. Then they can repeat in small groups (or sleep or just talk Vietnamese, let’s be realistic here … Vietnamese are not the best students in Asia … but that is another story, for another blog).