Number one for English language teachers

IELTS set one - listening - alphabet

Type: Teaching notes

Aims to improve performance in part 1 of the listening test by students becoming 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. 


 

Procedure

  • Focus on 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:
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
/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
0
Q
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:
 

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
sAY
trEE
bED
mY
Go
dO
cAr
A
H
J
K
B
C
D
E
G
P
T
V

F
L
M
N
S
X
Z

I
Y
0
Q
U
W
R
  • Drill each column chorally and individually.
  • Give students to say the sounds to themselves or in pairs
  • Focus on problem sounds for students.

Possible follow-up practise exercises

Students exchange personal information in pairs (name, address etc.). 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 telephone conversation e.g. phoning a personnel department for an application for a job.
  • Practise leaving a message giving personal details on the answering machine. Record on cassette.
  • 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 (see next activity).

Some students may feel the above 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.

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