Thursday, October 19, 2017

Lesson Plan for Practice IELTS Reading Test

(TESOL Worksheets--IELTS Reading)
Google: docs, pub
[Background: This lesson plan grew out of a conversation at work.
We had a teacher call in sick at the last minute, and there was panic about how to cover his IELTS classes.  Especially since the only options were teachers who either hadn't taught IELTS before, or who would be double covering two classes at once.
"Well," I said, "You could always just do a practice reading test."
"Yes, but the practice reading test is only one hour," someone responded.  "And the class is 2 hours."
"Oh, I get two hours easily out of a practice reading test," I said.  "You put the students in groups, have them discuss the answers, feedback as a class, et cetera."
This resulted in me quickly throwing together instructions for other teachers on how a 1 hour practice test can easily fill up a two-hour time slot.
This lesson plan of course assumes that the teacher has a practice IELTS reading test that they can use.  (Cambridge publishes these books full of old IELTS examination papers that can be used for this purpose.--see HERE for example-- At my school, we had several of these books available for teachers.)]

Materials: Copy of a mock reading test (one for each student), copy of a mock test answer sheet (one for each student), copy of the mock test answer key (one for each student)

1: Elicit facts about the test from students (whole class--5 minutes)
2: Elicit reading strategies from students (in groups with whole class feedback--20 minutes)
3: Mock test (1 hour)
4: students mark their own answers (10 minutes)
5: Students discuss the answers (in groups with whole class feedback--20 minutes)
6: students discuss general problems in difficulties with the test (in groups with whole class feedback--20 minutes)
7. Students make individual study plan (individually--10 minutes)

Note on the timing: Timing will vary for group discussion depending on how much the groups get into it.  I usually allow it to run overtime as long as everyone is engaged and on task.  You can use your own discretion.
There’s more here than can be covered in 2 hours.  So you can cut stuff out (steps 6 and 7 will probably be cut).
In classes with a break, I usually take the break after step 4.  (Admittedly it’s a late break--but it works best with the structure of the lesson)

Step 1: Elicit from students the facts about the reading test (whole class):
How much time do they have for the whole reading test? (1 hour)
How many questions are there total? (40)
How many reading passages are there? (3)
How many questions are there for each reading section? (13-14)
How long is each reading passage? (900-1100 words)
Will they have extra time at the end to transfer the answers to the answer sheet? (No, the time to transfer the answer is included in the 1 hour)
Math time: If they have 40 questions, and 1 hour to do them in, how many minutes will they have for each question? (1.5 minutes each)

Step 2: Elicit from students the strategies they should use on the reading test, and the order in which to do them:

A). On the white board, write a number list vertically from 1-8

Ask the students: “What is the first thing you should when you start the test?”  You’re likely to get a lot of wrong answers at this point (e.g “Look for keywords”), so just be patient with them.  Keep trying to elicit.  Say something like: “good, but before that”  (Possibly, if the students say “look for keywords”, explain to them that they can’t look for keywords if they don’t know what the keywords are yet)
Eventually, elicit “Read the title, subtitle, pictures, and captions”  (Or tell it to the students if you can’t elicit it)
Write this on the board under number 1).  
1 )Read the title, subtitle, pictures, and captions

Next, try to elicit from the students why they should do this.  (Suggested answer: This will give them an idea of what the overall text is about).
Explain to the students that they must come up with the rest of the steps, and the reasons for these steps, themselves.
Put them in groups of 3-4.  Give them 5 minutes, and instruct them to come up with the reading test strategies (in the correct order) and the reasons for these strategies.
Don’t stick to the time to rigidly (allow more or less time depending on how engaged the students are in the discussion).  But when the students have finished discussing, feedback as a class onto the whiteboard.

Suggested Answers:

Read the title of the passage and (if applicable) the subtitle.  If applicable, look at any pictures, and any captions accompanying the pictures
This will give students a general idea of what the passage is about.  Having a general idea of what the reading is about will aid comprehension once they start reading
Make a mental prediction about what the reading passage will be about
Predicting the topic will give them something to focus on when they skim.  (They can check to see if their predictions are correct).
If the students can accurately predict the content, this will aid them in comprehending the message of the reading even if the vocabulary is above their level
Skim the passage (lightly move their eyes over the passage).
Skim both for the main idea of the whole passage, but also for the main idea of each individual paragraph.
Possibly write down brief notes next to each paragraph identifying the main idea.  (For the purposes of taking notes, try to summarize the paragraph in a couple words)
Knowing the main idea of the passage will help with questions that test general comprehension.
Knowing the main idea of each paragraph will help with questions that test specific details.
A lot of time will be lost if the students have to scan the whole reading for each question about a specific detail.  Ideally, they should skim the reading once, identify what each paragraph is about, and then they can immediately know which paragraph to go to for each specific detail question.  (e.g. This is a question about the history of the product, so the answer must be in paragraph 2)
Read the question--underline the key words
Identifying the keywords will help the students know where to look in the passage
Think of synonyms for the key words
IELTS is notorious for using synonyms and paraphrases.  Roughly 80% of the time the words in the question will be phrased differently from the words in the actual reading text
Identify which paragraph the answer is likely to be located in
Valuable time can be lost if the students are scanning over the entire reading passage for each question.  Hopefully they’ve already identified the main idea of each paragraph in step 3, and can refer back to that.
Scan the paragraph for the keywords or synonyms of the keywords
Locate the answer quickly is crucial, since students have limited time
Once you find the keywords, read that section of the passage carefully.  Also read the sentences around (before and after) the key passage
Inspite of the limited time, the students actually do need to take the time to read the key parts of the reading carefully.  IELTS is notorious for having lots of trick questions where the meaning hinges on one word in the sentence.
Also, IELTS loves to use questions where the answer appears to be given in one sentence, but is then contradicted in the following sentence, so it’s worth it to read the sentences around the key passage
Disclaimer: In IELTS we often teach these reading strategies as “one-size-fits-all”.  In reality, the ideal reading strategies will differ somewhat depending on personal style, and proficiency level.  (i.e. Someone at a level 8 or 9 may actually be fluent enough to read the whole passage in the short time allowed, whereas someone at a level 4 or 5 cannot read the whole passage in the limited time.)  The above strategies are merely suggestions, and students should be encouraged to experiment in the practice tests as to what styles fits their individual personalities and cognitives styles the best.

For the purposes of the whiteboard, I would write the above information in much abbreviated form. E.g.

1 )Read the title, subtitle, pictures, and captions
2) predict
3) skim: for whole passage and main idea of each paragraph
4) read questions--key words
5) predict synonyms
6) identify the paragraph
7) scan for keywords
8) read carefully

When eliciting the answers from students in the feedback, if the students give the correct strategies in the wrong order, leave a blank space on the whiteboard to indicate there’s one strategy missing.  (e.g if the students give you the strategy for 5 before 4, go ahead and write it down under step 5, but leave step 4 blank to indicate to the students that they’re still missing one step).
Give hints as necessary, or tell them the answer when eliciting is not possible.  Eventually fill out the whiteboard.

Step 3:
Give students the mock test.  Set a timer (e.g Google Countdown) for 1 hour.  Students do the mock test for one hour

Step 4:
Give students the answer sheet, and have students mark their own answers.
Students may need some brief instructions on how to mark their tests.
The IELTS reading tests are not marked by English teachers, but by clerical workers.  The clerical workers are instructed that the answers have to be exactly the same as the answer sheet, or the answer will be marked wrong.
Any differences in spelling, singular/plural, or phrasing that is not on the answer sheet will be marked wrong.  The IELTS is a very unforgiving test.
In cases where words are optional, these are indicated on the answer sheet by paranthesis (), and in cases where alternate answer are acceptable, these are marked by a slash /

Students total up their correct answers, and give themselves a score.  If you have access to a conversion table, you can use this to give students a mock IELTS score.

Step 5:
Put students into groups of 3-4 people.  They discuss with each other the questions they got wrong, and try to figure out why they got them wrong.  (i.e. they try to identify the reasons why the correct answer is what it is.)
Teacher gives them roughly 15 minutes to do this in groups (longer or shorter depending on level of engagement).  Then feedback as a whole class, where the teacher answers any questions that were not able to get resolved in the groups.

Step 6:
Students are put into groups again (3-4 people--ideally different groups than in step 5).  This time, they discuss not specific questions, but general difficulties they had with the test.  (e.g. timing, vocabulary, synonyms, trick questions, etc).
After they’ve brainstormed this as a group first, then the teacher does all class feedback, and collects the general problems up on the board.
The teacher and the class then discuss what can be done about these problems.  Ideally, both short term solutions and long term solutions should be suggested.  That is, talk about what students can start doing now to prepare for a test several months from now (e.g. study more academic vocabulary) and what they can do on the actual test date (e.g. strategies for guessing unknown words from context)

Finally, students make an individual study plan for what they plan to do on their own time to address their weak areas.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Solutions 8 Unit 4 Lesson C p. 36 "A British Spy"

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks--Solutions 8)
Google drive folder HERE
Reading text: docs, pub
Vocabulary: docs, pub
Write your Own James Bond Adventure: docs, pub

A British Spy
Read the texts (A-D) and match them with four of the headings.
1).  The man who created James Bond ______
2). British action films ______
3). The actors who play Bond ______
4). The Bond books ______
5). What’s James Bond like? ______

A. The British do not make many action films.  They’re more famous for historical dramas and, more recently, romantic comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral. However, in 1962 a film called Dr No appeared.  It was about an intelligence agent called James Bond and was an immediate success.  There are now over twenty Bond films, and they are some of the most successful action films ever made.

B.  Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, was born in 1908, and went to Eton, one of the most expensive private schools in Britain.  In the 1930s he worked as a journalist and a banker.  But he wanted a more exciting life and in the Second World War he got a job in the British Intelligence Service.  After the war Fleming returned to journalism, but in 1953 he started writing thrillers, using his wartime experience in the intelligence services.  In all he wrote fourteen Bond books, selling millions of copies around the world. He died in 1964.

C.  James Bond works for MI6, the international part of the British Intelligence Service. His other name is 007 (pronounced ‘double-oh seven’). In the books and early films, Bond is charming, drinks and smokes a lot, and has many affairs with women. In more recent films, he is more sensitive and less reckless, and the female characters play a bigger role in the stories. Bond is famous for the way he introduces himself: “The name’s Bond. James Bond.”

D.  Six actors have played the part of Bond: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.

Match the word to the definition
1. affair___

2. appear___

3. charming___

4. intelligence agent___

5. recent___

6. reckless___

7. role___

8. sensitive___

9. spy___

10. thriller___

A). a book or film with an exciting story, often about crime or spying

B). someone who secretly tries to discover information about a person, country, etc

C). a sexual relationship between two people when one or both of them is married to someone else

D). an adjective describing someone who has the ability to make other people like them

E). doing something dangerous and not caring about what might happen

F). happening or starting from a short time ago

G). the job someone or something has in a particular situation

H). to start to exist or become available

I). another word for spy

J). able to understand what people are feeling and deal with them in a way that does not upset them

intelligence agent

Write Your Own James Bond Story

James Bond walks into a hotel room.  He sees a beautiful woman drinking a martini.  Suddenly…

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ready, Set, Talk!

(TESOL Worksheets--Speaking)
Google: drive, docs, pub
Rules: docs, pub
This is a speaking game I actually got from a colleague.  I posted it before under my IELTS Part 2 material.
But, recently, when I was asked to contribute to an archive of material for teachers, I just deleted the word "IELTS" and repurposed this as a general speaking activity.

Ready, Set, TALK!
Aim: Students talk for 1 minute about various topics.
The Rules: Put students in groups of 3 or 4.  Give each one a copy of the board, a die, and a place marker (a paperclip should do fine).  The first student rolls the die, and advances their marker the number of spaces.  They then have to talk about that topic for 1 minute, while someone else in the group keeps the time.
If the player cannot speak for 1 whole minute, or has a pause longer than 10 seconds, then they must move back to the beginning.  But, if they successfully speak for 1 minute, they can remain on the square.
Play then proceeds to the next player.
The first player to make it to the finish is the winner.
This game is aimed at higher levels but it can be adjusted for lower levels by
  1. Changing the speaking prompts
  2. Decreasing the amount of required speaking time