An integrated skills lesson with the overall aim of preparing students to write an essay on the issue of public transport/car ownership.
This is an integrated skills lesson with the overall aim of preparing students to write an essay on the issue of public transport/car ownership.
In my experience, students often complain that they can't come up with any ideas for an essay on such a topic under pressure exam pressure. This may be because of lack of background knowledge on the topic or because of exam nerves. In addition, even if they have some ideas they possibly don't plan their essays. Furthermore, essays written often lack structure, clear linking and paragraphing. This lesson hopes to look at some of these concerns in four stages:
- Stage 1- Speaking in class about transport
- Stage 2- Reading jigsaw
- Stage 3 - Guided writing at sentence level
- Stage 4- Guided writing at text level
Stage 1- Speaking in class about transport
The aim of this stage is to generate some interest in the topic of transport and to come up with some ideas for the essay at a later stage.
To start with you could ask the students some questions (or group or pair-work) such as those in the box below:
How do you get to work/ school?
Have you got a car? Can you drive?
If yes - what kind of car is it?
How long have you had it?
How many miles/km has it done?
Is it reliable, economical, fast, comfortable, etc?
What kind of car would you like to own?
What do you think of the public transport in your town/city?
How often do you use public transport?
Is public transport expensive?
If yes - would you use it more if it was cheaper, more convenient, quicker, etc?
If you are going on a long journey how do you prefer to travel?
Stage 2 - Reading jigsaw
The two texts attached below could be used as a pairwork jigsaw.
- Text A -The Real Price of Petrol
- Text B -Transport and Health
- Put students in pairs, and assign one person A and the other B.
- Give students A text A and students B text B.
- Ask the students to read their text.
- After reading get students to summarize their text making a few notes.
- In pairs, students discuss the main points of the texts
After this stage you may wish to address any new vocabulary that has come out of the reading. The texts are very clearly written as they have been designed for use in schools. They are language rich on the topic of transport and the environment and you may want to use the texts for further language work. Also you may want to use the texts for further IELTS reading test practice. The texts I’ve chosen could also be used to practice the “headings” question type. Why not delete the headings and get the students to give their own headings to each paragraphs in the text.
N.B. If you think the text is too small it could be enlarged to A3.
Stage 3 - Guided writing at sentence level
Exercise 1 - Using logical linking words
This is an exercise to focus on using logical linking words in constructing sentences.
Draw on the board a grid as follows:
|Giving an example||Adding a point|
After giving an example, ask the students to put the following words in the correct column in the grid:
not only....but also
as well as
|Giving an example||Adding a point|
|for example||in addition|
|such as||not only...but also|
|as well as|
Exercise 2 - Using sentence headers
This is a simple exercise technique used here to practice constructing sentences with linking words from exercise 1.
Hand out the sentence headers worksheet (attached below). Students have to complete the sentences using their own ideas or ideas that they have taken from the texts they have read. Of course, you could add some more sentence headers of your own and indeed add more linking words if you wish. Alternatively you could dictate the sentence header and the students finish the sentence off.
After this activity, compare the ideas of the students as a group; we recommend you collect the written work for correction as this is very much an exercise focusing on accuracy.
Write an essay question on the board, for example:
People should be encouraged to use public transport due to the ever increasing traffic congestion on our roads. How far do you agree with this statement?
Draw a grid on board as follows:
Students fill in grid with their own ideas.
This will form their essay plan. Set a time limit for this of no more than three or four minutes, tell them to use keywords only and not sentences as there isn’t enough time in the exam.
Possible essay plan:
|Environmentally friendly||produces less greenhouse gasses||Timetable inconvenient||can't travel late at night|
|Safe||trains have a better safety record than cars||Can be dangerous||criminals on public transport|
|Don't have to drive - relaxing||can read newspaper on bus to school||Sometimes slower||bus stops very often|
Exercise 2 - Writing the essay
I often suggest a four-paragraph structure as follows:
- Paragraph - details with examples (e.g. advantages of public transport)
- Paragraph - details with examples (e.g. disadvantages of public transport)
- Conclusion - personal opinion in answer to question
Now hand out the guided writing structure (attached below) for the students to write their ideas into using the structure mentioned above and referring to their essay plan. This could be done as homework. Instead of using the worksheet you could make your own guided structure and simply write it on the board.
Even though this approach may seem a bit mechanistic it can serve as a useful guide in getting students to think about how to write essays for the purpose of the writing test part 2.
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IELTS: Structuring an essay