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IELTS Teacher e-newsletter – September 2020

Teaching the Listening Sub-skills for IELTS preparation

IELTS preparation lessons can be difficult to manage. Often, they are very boring and run the risk of being very teacher-centred, with lots of mock test completion and lecturing. This is especially true for the receptive skills, with tutors not always being sure how else to approach the teaching. Something that they regularly forget to pay enough attention to, are the sub-skills. The sub-skills are the conscious and sub-conscious processes which take place that help us perform the skills like listening and speaking to people and reading and writing things.

So what are some of the listening sub-skills? These include, among others, the following:

• keeping chunks of language in short-term memory
• recognizing and discriminate among sounds
• recognizing vocabulary and key words
• distinguishing word boundaries
• recognizing reduced forms
• guessing meaning from context
• recognizing basic syntax and parts of speech

As a test preparation tutor, lessons should contain a enough time spent on improving students’ abilities in these areas. It isn’t enough to just drill students on vocabulary and do extensive listeningpractice for hours on end. To make this a bit more practical, here are 4 activities that can be incorporated into your teaching to, hopefully, activate and improve your students’ listening sub-skills:

1. Deaf dictation
If there is more than 1 student, this can help students with keeping chunks of language in their short-term memory. Dictate a sentence to 1 student, while others keep their ears closed (or take the student outside for a bit more TPR). Listener comes back, then dictates to the rest of the class and everyone writes down the phrase. Students then check with multiple partners, if possible, and discuss errors.

2. Identify words in a list
To help students recognize vocabulary and key words, the teacher writes a number of words (about 12) on the board. Half are in the listening, half aren’t. Students listen and identify which are correct and which aren’t. Paired or group discussions follow, in order to activate and reinforce lexis.

3. Word count and Parts of Speech recognition
To help with distinguishing word boundaries, recognizing reduced forms and basic syntax, facilitate a word count activity, where the teacher reads a sentence of about 10-15 words. To make it harder, students have to count the words they heard AND identify a specific part of speech the teacher asks for. Only read the sentence once or twice to train listening speed and accuracy.

4. Word-stress: complete non-content words
To increase students’ ability to guess meaning and lexis form context, the teacher gives students only the STRESSED, content words from certain sentences, as well as the word count. Students then must complete their own sentences by adding the non-content words. Check and compare. Practice saying the sentences with correct stress and intonation to reinforce.

Try these activities out in your class, modify them to suit your needs and use them to break the monotony of a Listening lesson. Best of luck!



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