Most ESL teachers know that it’s important to get your students moving around the classroom. From mingle activities to running dictation, having an active classroom is not just fun, it’s important in the education process. But what about IELTS? I believe that it’s also important to bring a little physical activity to an IELTS class, too.
Ok, before we get into how, let’s tackle the obvious question: Why?!
It is actually a good question. IELTS students are usually quite serious about their studies and they typically want to make the most of their time with a teacher for language input and feedback. Students often know lots about the IELTS exam, and that includes one key detail – you don’t get to run around during any part of it!
But that’s not the point. IELTS training still requires a lot of learning, and learning happens best when you’re having fun and being active. Get your students off their butts and away from their desks to speed up their language acquisition.
A mingle activity, in TEFL-speak, is one where students walk about the classroom, talking to others. Obviously you won’t do this in a one-on-one lesson, but most of these activities are intended for larger classrooms anyway.
The reason I started with a mingle is because it’s so useful and versatile. You can use it, obviously, for practicing speaking. You could also use it for a pre-amble to a writing activity, or just about anything else! Students tend to cluster with their friends, and it’s really important to break those groups up sometimes. Get them on their feet and speaking with others (in English, of course).
Make sure that you give them clear instructions beforehand, and don’t forget to monitor if needed. My students tend to resort to Chinese if I’m not hovering nearby, but mixed language groups allow you to step back a bit.
This is one of my favourite exercises because, like the mingle above, it is so versatile. With a little bit of adaptation, you could tailor it to any number of language points.
Here’s how it works: You write something and post it somewhere. Students need to take it in turns to read and memorize the text, and then report back to their group. It’s harder than it sounds, and great fun.
What’s the point? Well, if you post the text far away, it’s actually quite challenging to remember it and then tell it to the rest of your group. It requires students to internalize the text and then agree upon spellings and grammar. You can then check they have the correct text and use that as a model for the next activity! Perfect!
I really love using this on difficult days like a late Friday class, when the students otherwise are quite disinterested. It may seem like silly fun at first, but it’s really very valuable.
An ESL auction is one of the best and most exciting games for teaching English, and it works as well for IELTS as general English. The idea is that you have students “bid” on grammar items (or this could be altered for vocabulary or essay structure).
You need to put your students into teams and then prepare a list of right and wrong items. You can then allow the students to confer before opening a bidding session. Whichever team has the most correct items at the end wins, unless two teams have the same, in which case the one who spent less would be the winner.
I have an example of this activity applied to grammar here.
Go out and explore
Alright, this one isn’t really a classroom activity but it is about getting your students to move around and do something different. Some of us are very much confined to the classroom, but if it’s at all possible, you may find it worthwhile getting your students outdoors. If you can take them on a walk around campus or the neighbourhood, you can engage with them on a new level and introduce them to some new language.
The change of scenery may break down barrier and open new channels for learning. It allows you to interact with your students away from the desks and blackboards, in the real world. IELTS is, after all, about the real world. It is a test of real English. Have conversations with people and talk about what you see. It will be a refreshing and rewarding change of pace for both you and your students!