If you’re new to teaching IELTS, you might wonder how to write effective lesson plans. It can seem scary at first. IELTS students often have extremely high expectations and so there’s a lot of pressure on the teacher. However, planning a good IELTS lesson is not really much different from a regular ESL lesson. You need to figure out what you want to teach, and set about creating an interesting, useful way of doing that. You can be creative and come up with fun, exciting lessons even if your students are expecting to be drilled on pronunciation for speaking or grammar for writing. After all, an interesting lesson makes for motivated students, and motivated students learn quickly. 

What to Teach?

Choosing what to teach in your IELTS lesson will depend on a number of factors. If you’re working for a school, there will likely be a curriculum in place that you should follow. In this case, your lesson plan is going to have to respect that. If you’re teaching an individual or small group, you might have to teach what they want you to teach. In other cases, you might have total freedom – and this is the scary part! It can be overwhelming trying to teach IELTS when you have no book to follow.

In general, though, making an IELTS lesson plan is going to involve focus on one of the four tested areas – reading, writing, listening, or speaking. You may cover more than one. For example, it is common to pair reading with writing and listening with speaking.

Learning English - input and output

Another way to do it is teaching thematically. That is, teaching IELTS topics. In this way, you may cover all areas of language in one lesson. This is probably the most interesting lesson type, but not necessarily the most effective. It is a great way of teaching general IELTS preparation to inexperienced students who are in need of more general English training.

IELTS Teaching Resources

To make an effective lesson plan, you’re going to need some good resources. Fortunately, Google is your best friend here. Once you know what you want to teach, you’ll find the internet just opens up countless possibilities. You can easily find practice tests, YouTube videos, Facebook groups, and much more.

Google is also great for teaching ideas. You can get some great materials from the British Council and other websites. Get creative with your planning. If you’re teaching about food, look for cooking shows from the BBC. These exposure your students to real world language. Is it directly related to IELTS? No, but it doesn’t always have to be! You can use this sort of material to demonstrate target language, or practice reading or listening skills.

If you don’t have a book to teach from, here are some good ones. (I’m using my affiliate link.)

Essentials for an IELTS Lesson Plan

Every IELTS lesson really ought to contain some exam practice. After all, that’s why your teaching IELTS! It’s good to squeeze in some general English and to teach vocabulary and grammar that are necessary for IELTS and general use, but your students will need actual exam practice constantly. This can simply be a speaking lesson that uses IELTS speaking questions, or a writing lesson that analyzes IELTS writing questions. It doesn’t have to be – and in fact should not be – a full lesson of exam practice. They can do that at home.

Feedback is also essential, especially for speaking and writing classes. Students need to be corrected in order to eliminate the mistakes that will cost them dearly in the exam. This can be very challenging in a large class. But there are many ways to incorporate this essential element. You can utilize peer checking to some extent, but in my experience students rightly want some direct evaluation from their teacher.

Examples and explanations are also really important here. At home, a student can take an online reading exam and check the answers, but he may not know why he was wrong. Likewise, with the writing exam it is useful for the teacher to show sample answers. Draw the students’ attention to structure and language that may be useful for them. This can be done as a model for them to follow, or after they have gotten feedback on their own writing.

Making IELTS Lessons Interesting

It can be tough planning an interesting IELTS lesson because often is does seem a bit boring, especially for reading and writing. But of course it needn’t be boring. Writing is often seen by teachers and students as a solitary endeavour in a quiet room, but it can be fun. For one thing, you can play music while your students write. For another, you can have them prepare to write in groups, and share their essays for criticism among their peers. When doing controlled practice, they can even work collaboratively.

One of my favourite IELTS lessons involves cutting up a pre-written band 9 essay and having students attempt to assemble it. This is a really fun and helpful activity that can be done in groups of 2-6 students. Likewise, you can even do running dictation and other ESL games to teaching essential writing skills.

Most importantly, vary your lessons and always involve your students as much as possible. Don’t preach to them too much and think that hints and tips will suffice. Get them actively involved in practice work of all sorts on all topics. If you’re doing a boring reading lesson, get them to talk a little. Ask them what they think about the topic. Show a video or play an audio recording.