Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Tag: IELTS Preparation

Speaking Activities for Online Individual IELTS Students

Teaching individual students can be a challenge to be honest, especially when learners expect their teachers to contribute more during online lessons. After teaching privately to individual students, especially for those that are preparing for IELTS, I wanted to share some of my favourite speaking activities that I tend to incorporate during online lessons to get my students speaking and communicating more.

Activity 1: Wheel of Words

Wheel of Names can be used for various purposes; randomly nominating students or choosing conversation questions

Wheel of Words is a great tool which I tend to use for a variety of purposes – one of which is to randomise conversation questions. Essentially, you write in your conversation questions or copy and paste them into the text box on the right of the website.

I tend to share my screen when spinning the wheel, and once a question is chosen, confetti shoots up and the question is displayed fully. Students find this rather engaging and entertaining, then proceed to answer their question. The best thing about this is you can save questions in Word and then import them into Wheel of Words, or refer to the Internet TESL Journal website for inspiration on questions to ask on particular topics. Otherwise, you can choose a variety of common questions which may arise on certain topics within the IELTS exam and randomise the choice of them by using this website.

Activity 2: Tell Me Why / Give Three Reasons

A huge thanks to David Sweetham for sharing this activity with me on Twitter (refer to his Tweet below), but I have found this a joy to incorporate into most of my conversational lessons.

Based on the activity that was shared, you choose one card for student(s) to talk about for a few minutes. As David mentioned, you can attempt intentionally wacky topics or ideas to get students thinking outside the box. It takes minimal preparation – always a bonus for me based on my Dogme-esque approach – which can then be used effectively with online IELTS conversational lessons. Here are some example conversational prompts to give you an idea of how this task runs.

  • Give three reasons why everyone should learn another language.
  • Tell me why rabbits make better pets than hamsters.
  • Present three reasons in favour for national service.
  • Give three reasons outlining why social media is harmful.

As you can see, being as creative and wacky as possible is a bonus. Students are forced to reason or justify their thoughts. This will help students gain greater confidence with dealing those challenging questions in the IELTS exam.

Activity 3: Odd One Out

It is best to keep language either topic specific or to increase difficulty try to use random verbs, adjectives, adverbs or nouns

A popular speaking activity in the physical classroom is getting students to reason why a particular object or word is the odd one out compared to the others. There is not a correct answer, as long as the reason is valid. I used to incorporate this activity in lessons and students found this task engaging and motivating, often allowing learners to develop their fluency.

You can either provide each group of words one at a time, by using Wheel of Words or by some other tool, or all at once as a document. Whatever approach you decide, you can give your individual student a short while to prepare and then allow students a short time to explain their reasoning. This task is engaging and motivating, and can be adapted for groups of students if needed. It is also a suitable activity for those learners preparing for the IELTS examination.

Activity 4: Picture This

Using Google Images can help you source suitable pictures for this fourth activity

The final activity that I enjoy incorporating into my individual IELTS preparation online lessons is getting students to respond to pictures on similar topics. It is very quick to prepare a selection of images within PowerPoint, Word or Jamboard, and then share the screen to students asking them to talk between 2 to 3 minutes explaining the similarities or differences about the pictures.

It is a task which naturally focuses on the use of comparative forms but getting students to draw similarities will require a bit of practice and creativity, especially once you have sourced rather random images for the activity. Again, it is a task which lends itself well in preparing students for speaking in English, as well as developing their confidence in communicating and expressing ideas or opinions.


What are your favourite individual speaking activities to get your online learners developing their fluency? Have you tried any of the activities shared in this post? If so, how did learners respond to them? As ever, please share in the comments.

“IELTS Academic Reading Practice”: Book Review

IELTS Academic Reading Practice by Peter Clements and Paul Murphy

The International English Language Testing System (also known as IELTS) examination is one of the most widely acknowledged tools of assessment which is recognised by universities, public organisations as well as organisations. With many international students preparing to undertake an IELTS examination as a pathway to universities in North America, Australia or the UK, it is natural for schools and teachers to offer preparation courses with a vast array of publications and material available for such courses.

Prosperity Education was kind enough to send me one such publication to review: their latest publication, IELTS Academic Reading Practice. IELTS Academic Reading Practice is co-authored by Peter Clements who is an academic skills specialist based in an international school in Thailand (also known for his acclaimed website ELT Planning), and Paul Murphy who is currently an IELTS Speaking Examiner, has been teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) in Glasgow and is currently teaching such courses at Mahidol University International College in Thailand. The first two chapters of the book naturally guide the reader towards the use of the book within a classroom environment, include preliminary information about the units, suggestions for speaking activities, as well as introduce readers to the IELTS examination, particularly the Academic Reading tasks.

Summary of the book

The book is organised into 14 chapters depending upon the task focus. Tasks types which are included within the publication include Matching Headings, Matching Information or Summary Completion to name just a few.

Tasks are organised into 14 different chapters depending upon the focus

After the initial introductory chapters, the reader is introduced to the 14 task types (matching headings, sentence completion, etc.). Each of the 14 task introductions are accompanied with suggestions for completing the relevant task as well as potential pit falls. For example, the first task is Matching headings. The reader is introduced to this task (testing the candidate’s ability to understand main ideas), suggestions on the most suitable approach to complete the task (skim-reading, using prediction skills, guessing meaning) as well as recommendations on what not to do during the exam (not to look for an exact match of words or focusing to heavily on unknown language).

Once readers have been introduced to the various academic reading tasks included in the IELTS, the following chapters focus on individual task types with a focus on a range of topics. Each task type includes discussion questions – always a good opportunity to incorporate with possible lessons, a vocabulary matching activity, followed by a practice activity for the task, then a more exam-focused task.

Each of the task types include extra practice activities (page 110-137) with all answers being included at the end of the book (page 138-151). There is also a glossary of language used throughout the publication with necessary definitions and a reference to the page number. I could see myself using the glossary of terms to help prepare vocabulary review tasks with students.

Who is the book for?

The publication is geared towards either students who are preparing for the IELTS examination independently, or for schools and teachers who are delivering and teaching preparation courses. It would also be a suitable resource for teachers who are venturing into the teaching of IELTS preparation courses.

The great benefit of such a preparation book is the flexibility to incorporate with future IELTS courses – both online or face-to-face. Combined with Jane Turner’s Reading Practice with 28 sample papers, teachers will have a range of material that could be used with relevant preparatory exam courses. It would also be wonderful to see a future publication by Prosperity Education that prepares students for the Listening and Writing elements of the IELTS exam.

Overall opinion

The book is an invaluable resource which helps guide and prepare students to complete the relevant Academic Reading activities depending on the type of task. It naturally organises the tasks into comprehensible chapters and will support students seeking to become confident candidates for reading in the exam or to help support teachers prepare IELTS reading classes. The authors have done a marvellous job organising the components of IELTS Academic Reading with the publication. If you are a teacher looking to update your current IELTS material, then this book would be a worth considering.

Finally, here are a few pages that give you an idea should you consider purchasing this book – you will not be disappointed.

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