Louis RogersLouis Rogers is an English language teacher and author with titles including;

‘Foundation IELTS Masterclass’ student’s book published by OUP
‘Bridge to IELTS’ workbook published by National Geographic Learning.

In this post, Louis shares his 10 ideas on IELTS speaking classes.

1. Focusing on grammar

Choose one topic area common to IELTS, such as family, environment, media, health, etc. Brainstorm some questions on the topic. Write possible questions using different grammatical structures. For example; 1) Is family important? 2) Who in your family has influenced you the most? 3) How might families be different in the future? Ask students to think of a set of questions on another topic. Next, tell students to think about their answers to these questions and the grammatical structures they might use.

2. Giving a full answer

Encourage students to give a full answer and not just a few words in response to part 1 questions. You can help them do this by giving them one of the following topics to discuss: how you spend your free time; describe the environmental problems your town is facing; what changes should be made to school education. Ask students to record themselves speaking. Students should set a stop watch at the start but not look at it. Tell students to stop when they think they have spoken for 30 seconds. Students can listen back to their responses in groups and suggest things the other people would add to or drop from their answer.

3. Predicting questions

Speaking part 1 has a lot of common topics. Before the exam it can be helpful to try to predict some of the topics and questions. Give students a set of topics e.g. shopping, free time, education, media and four questions to match to these topics. Then give students a set of question words (When, Where, How often, Do you think, What), and in groups ask students to brainstorm two or three questions for each topic. In pairs, students can then practise asking and answering the questions together.

4. Visualize the answer

Students are often encouraged to write notes when they plan their answer to part 2. However, some people do not like to make notes. They feel they write slowly, they start to worry about spelling, handwriting, etc. Some people prepare better visually. Give students a prompt card and tell them to close their eyes and picture the things they want to describe instead.

5. Perspectives and reasons

Part 3 questions require students to think of an opinion abstractly related to the part 2 monologue. It can help students to consider a topic from a range of perspectives. Give students typical part 3 questions that naturally elicit a range of perspectives e.g. Do you think cars should be banned from city centres? Do you think governments should provide green energy? Then give students a range of people / groups who might have an opinion on the topic e.g. governments, businesses, environmental groups, consumers, etc. In groups students should then think of different opinions for each group. e.g. local business would think that … /may think that / will probably disagree with …This kind of task helps students to give fuller answers.

6. Build world knowledge

Students can sometimes feel that they do not perform to the best of their ability as they are not familiar with a topic. Infographics can be a useful, quick and efficient way to build knowledge on common areas. Lots of infographics are available online to use to develop knowledge on common IELTS topic areas. Alternatively, you can create your own ones using websites such as https://infogr.am/en http://piktochart.com/. Using infographics can help students feel confident and secure in a range of topic areas.

7. Use all the sensations

In speaking part 2 students can be asked to describe a particular place such as their hometown, somewhere they went on holiday or a city they like. To help students think of enough details they could use different tactics in the preparation time. One tactic could be to use the four Ss’: sights, sounds, smells, and sensations. These different categories could help students remember more detail. You can also use it ask a task to build the students’ knowledge on adjectives for describing these experiences.

8. Using debates and discussions

Rather than asking typical part 3 questions it can help to generate more opinions and reactions by giving students opinion statements to discuss. Make a set of opinion cards related to typical part 3 topic areas and use them as discussion prompts in class. When students are less familiar with a topic it can be easier to respond to an opinion rather than a question. Examples could include: One day science will explain everything; It would be better if cars had never been invented; Globalisation is destroying local cultures; Unhealthy food should be banned.

9. Play games

Holding cardStudents in exam classes often question the idea of ‘playing games’. However, games can still be useful as long as students can see the connection. For example, look at the topic areas you have covered with students and create cards with words for students to describe to each other. Create between 10 and 20 cards. In pairs, students have 1 minute to describe as many words on their card as possible to their partner and their partner should try to guess the word. Afterwards, ask students to think of part 3 questions they might be asked on these topics.

10. Create general interest

Many IELTS topics are related to everyday life and it would therefore be quite common to talk about them in a non-test situation. Play ‘find someone who …’. Give the students topics such as home, family, holidays, future plans, etc. For each topic students should talk to a different person and find out if the person has similar or different experiences to themselves.

Are you an English language teacher? Got something to share with the class? Share your ideas here.