A new class, new students, so let’s hit the ground running, get the students mixing, talking to each other and up from their seats. I prepared a questionnaire. They have to interview different classmates and learn a little about them
Gather information about your classmates
Why are you studying IELTS ?
Where would you most like to visit and why ? Would you like to live abroad ?
What is the hardest thing about learning English ? How do you solve this ?
How often do you use English ?
Do you read, write or speak at school or at work ?
What do you most like about western culture or countries ?
What idioms do you know ?
This lead into the idiom it’s raining cats and dogs which most students had heard (it means raining heavily).
Today’s lesson is based on types of housing and areas; some extra terms:
gritty / industrial
quite / safe / residential
boring / peaceful / suburban
bustling / vibrant / city centre
Which would you apply to these:
All photos are from the UK
Ask each other about your hometown or your neighbourhood.
A database of idioms that my physical classes covered previously as well as new idioms plus a reminder of some low-frequency words that are guaranteed to impress the examiner. Let’s kick off with some vocabulary building:
We’ve got photographs of men on the moon We’ve got water that is good for us We’ve got coffee that’s instantaneous We’ve got buildings that are very tall We’ve got cigarettes that are low in tar We’ve got policemen can tell us who we are We can reproduce a work of art We’ve got missiles can tear the world apart Good, good, good, good, good, good technology
We’ve got trains that run underground Aeroplanes that fly very fast We’ve got music that is popular We’ve got machines that sound like orchestras We’ve got ability to transplant a heart We’ve got freezers full of body parts We’ve got computers that can find us friends We know roughly when the world will end Good, good, good, good, good, good technology
We’ve got animals with transistors in We’ve got pills that can make you slim We’ve got factories turning frozen chickens out We’ve got ovens that cook in seconds flat We’ve got plastics that are indestructible We’ve got deodorants that make us smell of flowers We’ve got detergents to clean up the sea We’ve got sounds can turn you inside out
Sometimes I wonder what it is all about There’s lots of leisure time to sit and work it out There’s a TV show I’ve got to see Good, good, good, good, good, good technology Good technology
Now, to cut down on ‘Teacher Talking Time’ and to get the class prepared to speak, to use intonation and stress as well as affording them the chance to use their L-FWs and idioms, a little warm up activity.
Firstly, what did you think of the song, with special reference to the lyrics and themes. remember – this song was from the 1980s, before mobile phones and the internet, which are now ubiquitous.
Ask and answer. Speak to many different students.
Elicit answers, interview your fellow students, pump them for information, don’t allow them to get away with a two- or three-word answers
How many hours do you use a computer every day ?
[Ask what the computer is used for, ask for examples, favourite sites, what is the work – play balance ?]
Do you have a smartphone ? If so, what type ?
Have you ever read an e-book ? Which one ?
What are your favourite video games ?
Do you write or read a blog ?
Are you on Instagram or Twitter ? Why or why not ?
When do you post comments online ?
Do you make phone calls or text family and friends ?
This town (town) is coming like a ghost town All the clubs have been closed down This place (town) is coming like a ghost town Bands won’t play no more Too much fighting on the dance floor
Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town? We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown
This town (town) is coming like a ghost town Why must the youth fight against themselves? Government leaving the youth on the shelf This place (town) is coming like a ghost town No job to be found in this country Can’t go on no more The people getting angry
This town is coming like a ghost town This town is coming like a ghost town This town is coming like a ghost town This town is coming like a ghost town
Songwriters: Jerry Dammers
Exercise 3: What do you know about The Specials. Here’s some facts. Arrange them in the form of an IELTS-standard paragraph.
The Specials were formed in Coventry, in the British Midlands.
Formed in 1977. They had two main singers, Terry Hall and Neville Staple.
Their music is a mix of punk and reggae.
They had a number 1 song in 1980.
‘Ghost Town’ was also a number 1. It was released in 1981. This song is about the recession in the UK. Many people had no work, no money and no hope.
The Specials broke up (disbanded) in 1984 but later reformed. They still perform together.
Next blog will focus on pronunciation. To my classroom students, be prepared for a lot more speaking and practising so, yes ! You DO have to say it again … and again …
A typical, run of the mill IELTS question will be about your hometown or about your neighbourhood.
First, some new vocabulary. I will expect you to learn these:
gritty / industrial
quite / safe / residential
boring / peaceful / suburban
bustling / vibrant / city centre
apparently – something you believe to be true
conversely – the opposite, on the other hand, however
actually – saying something that is surprising or is the truth
bear with me – please wait a very short time
bit of a sore point – something that makes you sad or angry
like a madhouse – a place or area that is crazy, too noisy, too busy etc
run of the mill – ordinary, typical, unusual, boring
you take your life in your hands – doing something that is extremely dangerous
NOW … your turn
Tell me about your neighbourhood
Remember, give me a great introduction, have a positive point, a negative point and a short conclusion.
Use some of the new vocabulary
Well, that question is a bit of a sore point with me because I live in a terribly noisy gritty industrial area. My apartment is near the Cat Lai port which is one of the busiest in Vietnam. Consequently, we have containers driving past, day and night which, as you can imagine, creates so much pollution.
However, allow me to talk about the good points. Firstly, it is significantly cheaper than, say, District 1 or 3, as it is quite far to the centre. The shops, also, tend to be on the cheap side. Additionally we have some street markets where I can pick up some very cheap food and fresh fish. We are well-served with several convenience stores although, in my opinion, Family Mart charges an arm and a leg.
Conversely, my friends avoid visiting me because it is so dangerous to ride a motorbike here, we really take our lives in our hands every time we go out. Furthermore, I love fresh air so I open my windows, yet I have to dust and clean every day because so much dirt comes in. Finally, we have open-air karaoke nearly every night and street wedding parties most weekends which means loud and terrible singing. It’s like a madhouse, I really detest this horrible noise.
I am lucky with my neighbours, and the apartment is really spacious. Having said that, the area is so bad that as soon as possible, I will leave and find somewhere cleaner and safer.
Part 2: What problems would you have with the food if you lived in the UK ?
You should say:
what UK food you know,
if you have ever tried it
if you have ever seen it
if you think you would enjoy it … and why (or why not).
Try to speak for the full 2 minutes. By now, you should know the formula: great introduction, some positive points, some negative, an anecdote, then a conclusion.
Well, that’s a very pertinent question because recently, I have been thinking about where I would like to study, and the UK is certainly top of my list. I am sure there would be some culture shock, especially when it comes to the food.
In class, we have seen some photos of traditional food such as toad in the hole, the full English breakfast and of course, the traditional Sunday roast. I think that British people have special food at Christmas time with … let me remember … turkey and vegetables then a special pudding which they set alight. I guess they use strong alcohol to make it burn. It looks tremendous fun.
I come from a small town, so I only had local food, but now I live in a big city, I can experience more western cuisine although we mostly eat fast food. So, no, I haven’t tried British food. Not yet, but the Christmas food looks mouth-watering.
Sometimes I watch a movie and I look out for what people eat. It looks very different from my country. Oh, of course, we use chopsticks here, as well as spoons, but they use a knife and fork in the UK. I tried once. My friend Jenny, who went to London on holiday, came back with a present for me. It was a knife and fork. I tried, I really tried but I couldn’t get the hang of it.
However when I see people eat in restaurants, I am a little nervous. They look so expensive. It must cost an arm and a leg to eat there.
Would I enjoy it ? I am not sure but I think so. My favourite food is chicken and sea food so I am sure I can get those easily. Maybe the food would possibly be bland compared to Asian food because we use lots of fresh vegetables and spices. On the other hand, new food is part of the new culture. Now I start to feel hungry !
Indeed … next week is the speaking test, so I get to interview the students, one-to-one, to see how much they have listened to me and retained the information.
For some students, the biggest test will be NOT using their phones for ten minutes. Be that as it may … No time for learning anything new, tonight will just be as many activities as reasonable, and then practice.
I shall offer my help to those that request it.
So, let’s kick off with the first game:
Two teams … on the board, single words. Teams have to complete the idiom and give the definition.
mouth // candle // cats // piece // arm // grindstone // sky // blue //.
Next, one team selects a word, then asks one member of the other team to use it in a sentence.
Moving on up: Complex sentences. I shall give the names of some famous companies and the teams have to compose a complex sentence using relative pronouns and discourse markers.
I have my heart set on buying a pair of Converse, which is an American company with a star logo, who make very fashionable, not to mention very cool, footwear.
The teams have to choose from:
Keep the ball rolling with a pronunciation game. I’ll play two clips of native speakers. The teams, one by one, have to copy using correct intonation and stress.
Well living in a big city, I have a wide choice of food, including American and European cuisine. Fast food restaurants are ubiquitous so I have eaten, for example, burgers, KFC and pizza, which is my favourite.
In my opinion, younger people like western food. I often hang out with my friends at a mall and then grab a bite. It can be quite quick and very tasty. The restaurants are fun because they are colourful, have music and many happy people.
Having said that, fast food, especially burgers and fried chicken, is very unhealthy. There isn’t much salad. My mother, who is a great cook, doesn’t want me eating this food but I feel that it is OK if I only eat it occasionally.
Another point is the price. As a student, I think pizza costs an arm and a leg. It is so expensive compared to local street food. When I eat at, say, Pizza Hut, I usually order the sea food because it’s, I guess, better for me that the four-meat special !
Naturally there is a lot of western food that is mouth-watering and nutritious. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried much although I did go to an Italian restaurant once, when my uncle, who lives in Ha Noi, came to visit. I had spaghetti and meat balls, with a beautiful fresh salad and … allow me to add … a small glass of red wine. I would love to eat more western food, especially in a nice restaurant but that only happens once in blue moon.
More sample answers in the next blog. Happy eating
So this is a brief summary, the ‘Cliffs Notes’ version, if you will.
Right off the bat, relax … be cool. You merely have:
1) To demonstrate you understand the question
2) To demonstrate you have IELTS-standard language to respond
3) To reply based on either your opinion or experience. YOU DECIDE
As per usual, let’s kick off with a killer introduction. Prepare some expressions so you can adapt them for the specific question. To refresh your memory:
Well, that’s a very complicated question …
What a hard question, I may have to think about this …
I’m not sure I know how to answer that because I don’t have enough information, however …
Next stage is to explain how you’re going to answer:
in my experience
allow me to tell you what I do
I can’t speak about other people, but I …
Finally, exactly, spot on; you answer … only now, YOU are in control, you are in the driver’s seat. Respond in a way that will earn you points. We want to hear low-frequency words, idioms, phrasal verbs, vernacular (“big time !”). Furthermore, frame your answers in complex sentences, use body language and intonation and stress. If you can illustrate your response with an anecdote, all the better.
What do you think schools will be like in the future ?
This type of question invites you to give YOUR thoughts (“In my opinion,” etc)
Well, I’m currently in my last year of high school, so this is a very pertinent question for me. Naturally, I can’t foresee the future however, I could offer some predictions though, of course, this is just my opinion.
To start with, I can only speak about …… (say your country) as I don’t know enough about the educational systems in other countries.
For me, I feel that technology will play a greater part in schools, such as using the internet, working on tablets and joining online groups. Personally, I’m in a small Facebook group to help with learning English and I find it tremendously helpful and rewarding.
On the other hand, this can be extremely expensive. Providing tablets for a whole school will cost an arm and a leg, so maybe this will only occur in private schools. Furthermore, as the population increases, there will be many more students. This could lead, inevitably, to larger class sizes.
I really hope our system continues to improve although we have to be realistic; higher standards means higher costs … but I feel it will be worth the expense.
Now, that was quite a long reply but let’s break it down:
The first paragraph personalises the question, as well as adapting an introduction expression.
The second explains how you are going to answer.
The third states your main point. Moreover, it includes an anecdote (this doesn’t have to be true).
The fourth gives an opposing view – thus affording you the chance to use a discourse marker, to alter your body language and intonation, and to throw in an idiom for good measure. Also, some L-FWs, which are always impressive (if used correctly).
The final paragraph is to conclude and is, as you can clearly see, purely personal. Did you also notice the poetic repetition ? Allow me to point it out – “Higher standards means higher costs.”
Some notes I found as I was cleaning my old Apple Mac. I’m not sure where they are from; a book, website or centre notes. I thought they may be of some use to teachers of IELTS.
Before I do a listening practice, I tell my students to R.U.P.
read, underline key words and predict the answer.
(Going from meaning to language, using background knowledge to understand the meaning of a message).
Students generate a list of things they already know about a topic and things they would like to learn more about, then listen and compare.
Students generate a set of questions they expect to hear about a topic, then listen to see if they are answered.
Students look at the question sheet and identify its structure before listening.
Students read a list of key points to be covered in a talk, then listen to see which ones are mentioned.
(Going from language to meaning, using linguistic knowledge clues to understand the message).
Students listen and distinguish between positive and negative statements.
Students listen and identify key words that occur in a spoken text.
Students listen to a conservation and complete a form.
Students use stress and intonation to identify word and sentence functions.
SOME EXAMPLES OF MICRO LISTENING SKILLS:
Discriminate among the distinctive sounds
Recognize the functions of stress patterns, intonation contours
Recognize reduced forms of words (contractions)
Recognize grammatical word classes (noun, verb, etc.), systems (tense, agreement, pluralization), patterns, rules and elliptical forms
Recognize that a particular meaning may be expressed in different grammatical forms
Recognize cohesive devices in spoken discourse
So, I made a lesson plan for teaching section 4 of the listening test like this.
1. read the instructions carefully to see what they are expected to do (especially the number of words they can write for each answer) R.U.P.
2. identify the topic of the lecture. Teacher can activate their background knowledge by asking them what they know about it, maybe showing a short video clip
3. identify the structure of the test (how many parts, key words) so that students do not get lost in the middle of the listening
4. pair a weak student and a strong student so that they can help each other in predicting the answers
a. part of speech (e.g. expressions or idioms)
c. meaning (make a list of guesses to help the weaker students)
1. Students listen to the recording and do the task individually.
2. Peer check
3. Task correction (the teacher then plays the recording again bit by bit to check the answers)
1. Students work in group to share their experience after doing the task. What difficulties they had or how they could recognize the answers. (5minutes).
To build confidence, I often play a recording up to three times, highlighting new vocabulary or expressions. I then let the students write the answer on the board, so everyone can see, correcting if necessary.
2. sharpening the macro skils:
Activity to help students recognize paraphrases:
Students stand in 2 lines. There are 2 circles in front. The teacher shows 1 word (e.g crowded) and plays the recording. When the students hear the paraphrase of that word (e.g a lot of people), the first pair jump into the circle. Who can do that first gets 1 point for his team. The first pair then go the back and the procedure is repeated with another word. This can be adapted for older and adult students.
Activity to teach new vocabulary after listening:
The teacher can choose 5 or 6 words that he would like to teach and print them out. Then, put students into groups with a set of words for each group and play the recording. When students hear the word from that set, they have to quickly knock on their desk and take that piece of paper. Who gets the most words wins. The students in group read the words and explain the meaning. Teacher checks the pronunciation and meaning as a class.
The Teacher may wish to set a speaking task related to the topic as a post-listening activity
I believe the students can do better if they are well-prepared in ‘pre-listening’, and for ‘post-listening’, if we can make use of the recording to teach them some skills in doing the task, they will perform better the next time.