I would like to write a follow-up to Greg’s article on using the Communicative Approach for teaching an IELTS preparation course. In his article, you can see some of the rationale for including communicative techniques in exam preparation classes, as well as an example for using communicative techniques for Writing Task 1.
I taught IELTS preparation courses in Vietnam, and I would like to give you two examples of how communicative techniques can be implemented when teaching Writing Task 2.
Essay Writing – Writing Task 2
There is an obvious connection between speaking and writing as they are both productive skills. In the IELTS classroom, this connection can be exploited in a number of ways.
1) Debates – Formal or informal debates are a great way to generate ideas and opinions on different topics. In order to make the topics relevant, the teacher should make them very similar to IELTS essay questions. Students will often get passionate while defending their side in an effort to win the debate and may actually come up with more interesting ideas and examples than when just brainstorming by themselves. These ideas can later be used to make outlines and eventually body paragraphs or full essays.
Teachers should make sure that students are familiar with using language for expressing opinions, for agreeing and disagreeing and for supporting ideas with examples or explanations before doing the debates.
2) Team Essay Writing – In this lesson students will work together to write an essay. These are the steps to follow:
SET UP: The teacher will:
- Divide the students into groups (4 people is best)
- Give each group an essay question
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BEFORE WRITING… The groups will:
- Analyze the essay question
- Brainstorm for information
- Make an outline
- Decide which student will write which part of the essay. One student should do the Intro, another the first body paragraph, and so on) (at this point, the students should NOT do any writing yet)
- Make a SHORT presentation to the class on their subject (if there is enough time and it suits the dynamic of the class). (Each student presents the part of the essay that he or she will write) This is so that the teacher can give the students advice on their outlines.
- Each student writes his or her paragraph
- The students exchange their paragraphs and edit each other’s work, making sure that the essay is coherent and cohesive.
- The final product is written and submitted.
During the collaborative steps of this exercise, the teacher should circulate to address any questions the students may have and also to make sure the students do not slip into their native tongue, in the case that the students share the same first language.
The Process of Peer Editing/Rewriting for TEAM ESSAY WRITING
1) Students exchange paragraphs
2) Students edit their classmates’ work using the provided correction key
3) Students return the edited paragraph to the writer and they discuss any issues which arise
4) The writer rewrites the paragraph making changes to improve it
NOTE: TEAM ESSAY WRITING should not be attempted until students have been introduced to, and familiar with all of the tasks required.