Helping students improve their intonation and stress
A common issue for Chinese IELTS candidates is using a wide enough range of English pronunciation features to help bring their score to a higher band. In speaking test preparation, there is often a greater focus on building vocabulary and preparing responses related to common IELTS topics. This means that candidates might perform better in Part 1 and 2 but then struggle to express themselves more naturally in Part 3 when the interaction becomes more spontaneous. Pronunciation accounts for 25% of the final speaking score and to achieve a Band 7 or above in this particular area, it is helpful to sustain a flexible use of pronunciation features throughout the test. One way to help learners in this regard is to get them practising expressing their opinions with a focus on how intonation and stress will impact on meaning. Below is a useful activity teachers can use to facilitate this.
Activity: How do you feel?
The teacher elicits and writes some phrases for agreeing/disagreeing about a subject on the board, e.g. I definitely think so, I suppose so/No way, absolutely not etc. Then writes up a few ‘feelings’, e.g. angry, surprised, worried, unconcerned, etc. Ask the students to choose a response to a certain statement and focus on saying it in a way that expresses each feeling. You can model this by reading some of the phrases using two or three of the feelings and getting the students to guess which feeling you are expressing through your intonation, stress and tone.