Number one for English language teachers

IELTS: Minimal resources - listening and reading

Introduction

These are activitives for part one of the listening test, some of which also practice reading skills.  All use minimal resources.

Word building activity using dictation

Time: 20 minutes +
Language focus: Word building: science and technology, focus on spelling

This is a very simple activity using dictation to get students to think about different forms of the same base word. It is also an opportunity to focus on spelling. Spelling is particularly important for the listening paper where an incorrectly spelt word is marked as wrong.

Stage 1:

Draw a table on the board as follows:

verbnoun (object, in general)noun (person)adjectiveadverb
     
     
     

 

Stage 2:

Dictate a word, e.g. science

Students put the word in the correct column and then attempt to think of other forms of the word, for example:

science, scientist, scientific, scientifically

You could dictate about ten words associated with a theme you have been looking at. Recently, we were looking at themes associated with science and technology and I dictated the following words:

science, technology, research, experiment, discover, invent, expert, investigate, breakthrough

Think of other word groups, e.g. associated with, health, education, work, finance, leisure, travel, the language of graphs.This exercise is great for recycling vocabulary from previous lessons too.

After dictation get students to compare in pairs and then feedback. Focus on problem words (meaning and spelling). Make a note of problem words for future recycling.

Adresses: format and spelling

Listening – incorrect spelling is a main cause of loss of marks in the IELTS exam. There are many activities that help to improve spelling. The following activity aims to improve performance in part 1 of the listening test by helping students become more familiar with formats of forms and personal information, etc.

Students often live in countries that have different address formats. Therefore familiarization with a British format is important, as is the spelling of typical words within an address. For example, teaching Bulgarians I realised that their address format was completely the opposite of that in Britain: i.e. the country is written first. In addition, address notation is completely different. This can be a problem as prediction of what is going to come up next in the listening is important. Thus familiarization will improve students’ prediction technique.

Procedure:

  • Dictate several addresses (British) to students, spelling names where necessary.
  • In the addresses include words such as the following: road, street, avenue, lane, crescent, park, terrace, etc.
  • Check students have spelt everything correctly; get them to read them back to you.
  • Students could make up their own addresses and dictate in pairs or to the group.
  • Do the same again but focusing on postcodes/zip codes.

Numbers


This activity aims to improve students’ performance in part 1 of the listening test by helping them become more familiar with stress patterns in numbers.

Particularly in part 1 of the listening test, numbers may come up in addresses, telephone numbers, etc. Again, these should be relatively “easy” marks but often mistakes are made in this section. The main trap set by the examiners seems to be the difference in stress pattern between numbers in the teens, e.g. thirteen, fourteen and numbers in the tens, e.g. thirty, forty. It is important that the students are aware of the difference in the stress pattern between the two. I illustrate this on the board using big and small circles.

Drill the pronunciation for fourteen/fortyfifteen/fifty, etc illustrating the stress on the board with circles or any symbol you may wish to choose. You could emphasize the stress pattern by clapping on the stress or tapping on the desk.

Possible practice activities:

Activity 1:  Write up numbers 13/30, 14/40, 15/50, etc on pieces of paper and stick them to the board randomly. Students form two lines in front of the board, i.e. two teams. Dictate a number to students and one person from each line runs to the board to try and grab the correct number for their team first.This activity is great with young adults who may be preparing for IELTS for university entrance.

Activity 2:  Write numbers on board in two columns. Label columns 1 and 2, dictate a number – students shout out the correct column number.

Activity 3:  As above, but the students dictate the numbers again, dictating phone numbers, etc in pairs or to the class.

’Who wants to be a millionnare?’

This activity aims to improve students’ performance in part 1 of the listening test by getting students to check answers in multiple-choice questions.

A fun way to check answers from multiple-choice exercises can be to play ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’. The format of this game is known in many countries and the rules can be adapted to suit the class.

Suggested format:

Students compete to play by being the first to answer a question, similar to the ‘Fastest finger first’ round. The chosen student is then given a question and four multiple-choice options. The student must choose the correct answer to each option. If they get an answer wrong, they are out of the game. If the student gets all of the answers to a set of questions correct, they can win a prize. Each contestant has three ‘lifelines’ that they can use if they get stuck: a 50:50 (two of the incorrect answers are taken away), ’Phone a friend’ (the contestant can ask one member of the class) or ’Ask the audience’ (the rest of the class must vote for which answer they think is correct, and the contestant decides whether or not to take that answer).

Alphabet

This activity aims to improve students’ performance in part 1 of the listening test by making them more familiar with the alphabet.

This activity focuses on improving performance in part 1 of the listening test, which often involves some kind of form filling exercise. In theory, this is the ‘easiest’ part of the listening test. However, students often lose vital marks at this stage because even at advanced level they continue to make errors with letters of the alphabet. Common errors include i/e, g/j, p/b, etc. The type of mistakes made often depend on the students’ first language. The following activity aims to help overcome these difficulties. Some students may feel the exercise is below their level. I would say that students at any level make mistakes with letters of the alphabet and a student requiring a high IELTS grade such as 7 cannot afford to lose any marks at this stage of the test.

Procedure:

  • Focus on the vowel sounds of the letters of the alphabet.
  • Start with the letter ‘A’. Place in a drawn column on the board and label the column ‘1’.
  • Next ‘B’. Ask students if the letter has the same sound as ‘A’. The answer is No so draw another column. Write ‘B’ in it and label the column ‘2’. Next ‘C’ – does it have the same vowel sound as ‘B’? – Yes. Put ‘C’ in column 2.
  • Continue like this for the whole alphabet in alphabetical order. If your students are familiar with the phonetic alphabet then insert the phonetic symbols for the vowel sounds under the numbers. I suggest doing this activity as a controlled exercise by the teacher to the whole group. After having done this you should have a table on the board which looks like the table below:
1234567
/ei//i://e//ai/ /u:/ 
A

 

H

J

K

B

 

C

D

E

G

P

T

V

F

L

M

N

S

X

Z

I

 

Y

0Q

 

U

W

R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your students are not familiar with the phonetic script, you could use a rhyming word with the vowel sound. Be careful here, as the students may not necessarily have the correct pronunciation of the rhyming word. In this case the board could look like this:

1234567
sAYtrEEbEDmYGodOcAr
A

 

H

J

K

B

 

C

D

E

G

P

T

V

F

L

M

N

S

X

Z

I

 

Y

0Q

 

U

W

R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Drill each column chorally and individually.
  • Get students to say the sounds to themselves or in pairs
  • Focus on problem sounds for students.

Possible follow-up practice exercises:

Students exchange personal information in pairs (name, address, etc). There is an opportunity to do some work on questions here, e.g. could you spell that for me please?

  • Students prepare their own business cards to use as a basis for exchanging personal information.
  • Give students role cards with made up personal information – role play a telephone conversation, e.g. phoning a personnel department for an application for a job.
  • Practise leaving a message giving personal details on voicemail and record.
  • Role play filling in a form, e.g. at a bank or job centre. Get students to create the blank form and then do the role play in pairs. Again, there is an opportunity for work on questions here.
  • Dictate a list of names to the class. Dictate only once.
  • Focus on typical address formats and words used.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Hello Anonymous,

    Thank you for your lovely comment. It is really great to hear that this activity is working so well for your class and that you feel it is useful.

    Best wishes and continued happy teaching,

    The onestopenglish team

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  • The word building activity using dictation has become a favorite way to activate schema before introducing new topics, as well as recycle vocabulary from previous classes. Students love it and as an instructor I feel it’s a valuable use of time.

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