Responding to a Reading – Critical Reading

Continuing the theme of IELTS lessons, this is another that looks to help students with their exam but also their university studies after.

This looks to explore what arguments are being made and then asks students to respond to them. Stance and criticality are key elements of university study. The ability to understand a writer’s ideas and then use them in their own writing will be tested but sometimes perhaps gets lost in the IELTS classroom. This is a lesson which will work a little on reading skills, but which mostly seeks to prepare students for university. That in turn makes it suitable for any high-level class.

Of course, you can, and should, do all the other lovely textploitation things with a grammar and lexis focus.

Level: IELTS / Advanced / Proficiency

Aim: To give students an opportunity to examine a writer’s opinion and respond to it.

Procedure: 

Reading Skills – Prediction

  1. Direct Students to the worksheet and put them in pairs to discuss what the terms could mean. Focus students on the form of the words. Remember to stress the importance of prediction as a reading skill.
  2. Read to check – Now ask the students to read the text and find out what the two terms mean. Ask the students which reading techniques they will use: ‘Scanning’ to find the terms and then ‘deeper reading’ to understand.
  3. To check understanding and practice paraphrasing, ask the students to write their own definitions. Encourage them to think of synonyms and to use different grammar structures. This might be a time to bring in the idea of plagiarism if they haven’t discussed it before. Below are the sections of the text that would need to be paraphrased:

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a policy whereby a financial payment is made to every citizen, unconditionally, without any obligation to work, at a level above their subsistence needs.

Half-Earth – the simple but profound idea that environmental repair could come from allocating half the Earth’s surface primarily for the benefit of other species

 

Reading – Note-taking

  1. This skill will help with IELTS tasks such as matching, but it is a skill I encourage all of my students to do every time they read an exam text. Ask the students to skim read the text – set a time limit (5mins) – encourage them to take notes in the margins.
  2. Now ask them to compare their notes to their classmates. Make your own notes and see how similar your students are.

NB The article roughly fits a situation / problem / solutions / questioning solutions and conclusion structure.

Reading – Stance and argument

  1. Ask the students to reread the text and look for the writer’s opinions. Then follow the instructions on the worksheet.

Answers: People would still work; break link between work and consumption; ability to say no to undesirable jobs; chance to think long-term

2.

Answers: Reforesting already in action / our views on nature are forged by our society / re-establishing humans as part of nature / seems popular

note taking on different sections – explain how it helps with matching

Students’ Reactions

Ask students to work in pairs or small groups and discuss the points on the worksheet.

Writing: summary and reacting to it in an academic style to be set as homework.

When marking, encourage students for their content, don’t just mark the grammar and the vocab. Look at the structure, arguments and how they are supported and their paraphrasing / summarising skills.

Materials:

Original article taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/12/universal-basic-income-and-rewilding-can-meet-anthropocene-demands

An IELTS essay compared to an EAP essay

Hi all, apologies for the recent radio silence, but we have been super busy.

Anyway, here is a lesson using a model answer to an IELTS part two writing task. It is pitched at between a 7 and an 8 in case students are interested. It contains a section on brainstorming and planning, before a little on vocabulary and grammar. Where this is perhaps different is that it then examines how this would be different if it were written for university. This is not an EAP lesson, what it seeks to do is to raise the awareness of the students for what may be needed.

Level: IELTS

Aim: Provide a good model answer for IELTS and to raise awareness of what will be needed at University

Procedure:

Speaking: This is just to get them thinking about the topic. Put the students in pairs or small groups.

Writing:

1 The aim here is to help with brainstorming ideas and also moving them onto thinking about whether these are good or bad changes. This is helpful in a ‘to what extent’ essay, but will also be very important at university where they will need a position.

2 Here you are just asking them to further extend what they saw in 1a.

3 Skimming practice – a) Give students the model answer and ask them to read and check whether the writer used the same ideas that they came up with. b) ask them to try to evaluate the essay, is it good / bad  and ask them to justify. Give them 4 minutes to read it in detail and then put them into pairs or groups to discuss it. They should decide it is a pretty good essay – good vocab / well linked and so flows / some higher level grammar.

Vocabulary focus:

1. a) The aim here is to build synonyms – make sure students focus on and record the prepositions here. If they don’t, they will be unable to use the vocabulary in their own writing.

Answers:

  1. changing quickly –> progressing rapidly
  2. will have a negative effect on –> will be detrimental to
  3. do not talk to –> lack interaction with
  4. ignores –> overlooks
  5. decrease in the number of people who work –> shrinking of the workforce
  6. is dangerous to –> could pose a threat
  7. gives us a chance to –> presents an opportunity to

b) This focuses students on the difference in register. These words are more formal, less general and therefore will result in better scores.

2. This is all about reinforcing the chunks of language and checking that they are using them correctly as well as giving a chance for students to personalise. While the students write their sentences, monitor and offer help and encouragement. When they have finished do all class feedback and board some of the examples.

N.B. It is worth focusing a little on the pronunciation of these words too as they would be suitable for part 3 speaking.

Grammar focus:

This essay talks about changes in the past twenty years so the writer has used present perfect to talk about the changes. This section aims to focus on specific grammar usage and ask students to analyse it.

1 Ask students to look at the example sentence and work alone to answer the questions. Then put them into pairs to check before all class feedback.

Answers

  1. present perfect
  2. The question talks about the last 20 yrs, this allows us to talk about a change that happened in that time and which may not have stopped or which still has impact.
  3. paragraph 2this overlooks the huge change that these screens have made to the lives of millions. paragraph 3 – As well as the communication change, people often complain of the increase in automation that machines have brought. 
  4. present simple – this is standard in essays.

2 This looks at hedging* and the use of could.

  1. b is softer and a more defensible position academically so better in an essay. Could is used to hedge the sentence or position.
  2. possible answers – may / might / can (depending one tense) / it is possible that etc
  3. They make your writing more academic – soften the position and demonstrate a considered argument.
  4. possible answer – technology may make life easier

*Hedging is the use of modals or phrases to lessen the impact of a sentence, or to soften. It is common in academic writing.

An essay at University

This section is focused on raising students awareness of how the IELTS exam does and doesn’t prepare them for university.

It starts by asking them what they think is required. This is interesting as some have an idea, some clearly have very little idea. Both are fine, it is good to know where they are.

As an answer, the essay is not suitable – too short – most university essays will be in the 1000s not 100s, not cited, no real thesis position. Areas where it is suitable would be the academic style, cohesion.

1 They are different as the new example takes a position. It tells the reader what the essay is going to argue – This is the thesis statement and students need to be aware that for most essays, this will be a key part. IELTS essays can contain them and it is a good habit to encourage.

2 Ask them to read and then work in pairs. Then do class feedback. They will notice the citations, these are in the Harvard style. They will also hopefully notice the concluding sentence which provides a link to the thesis position. try to elicit this from them.

3 This exercise examines what they do and don’t know about citations

  1. True – they can do, but this is not the prime reason for using them
  2. True – you need to base your argument on the research and arguments of others, but blend it together to create something new.
  3. False – if you do this, your essay will contain no synthesis (blending of sources)
  4. False – paraphrasing is very important
  5. False – most have never had to use them before, or if they have they may not have used the same system.

The big thing here is highlighting that they exist. The students do not need them for IELTS but they will need them after.

Ask the students to turn their ideas into full sentences.

The positions are limitless in a sense but could include:

  • This essay will argue that technology is having an adverse effect on society.
  • This essay will argue that the impact of technology is mixed and that though some areas are negatively effected others benefit
  • This essay will argue that it depends on which technology

 

Reflection

Ask the students what they feel the differences are between university in their country and the UK, and also how IELTS fits into this. encourage them to reflect on how to use what they learn in IELTS classes at uni, but not to think this is the end of the journey.

Follow up.

Ask the students to write the essay using one of the thesis positions that they wrote in exercise 4. Remind them that it is a good idea to get used to taking a position. Also remind them that each paragraph should have a conclusion that links to the overall position. It is not ok just to get to the conclusion and present your ideas like a magician revealing the answer.

Materials:

Paraphrasing and IELTS

This was a lesson I wrote earlier this week, when asked to cover a class with little notice. Having been teaching a lot of EAP, I wanted to bridge the gap between what students do in IELTS classes and at Universities.

The class begins with some reflection, I think the important thing here is that even if they are not planning to go to university, paraphrasing is a crucial skill, however, why then are they doing IELTS, especially if studying within the UK.

When teaching it I highlighted how much we paraphrase in our daily lives, the fact native speakers find it almost impossible to repeat what someone has just said to us without altering it.

This lesson aims to serve as an introduction to paraphrasing, and looks at both lexis and vocabulary within the framework of IELTS.

Aim: introduce students to paraphrasing, to better prepare them for IELTS and their studies afterwards.

Level: High Int +

Procedure: 

Reflection to begin: for all of this section set up groups and monitor and then do all class feedback

the things that students should need will be numerous but should include: register, ability to use a variety of grammar / vocab, cohesion, coherence and the ability to paraphrase. Any others that you think work, please include.

For what should come next, all of them.

Definition:

I asked them to define without looking and then showed them the definition, but you could ask them to read the definition and then rewrite it using different words if you think your class can do this.

Why we do it – again, I did this and ‘how we do it’ as a group discussion

Why – to avoid repetition, to show off range, to avoid plagiarism

how – changing vocab, changing grammar

Using Vocabulary / Grammar

examples and graph come from

http://www.ielts-exam.net/academic_writing_samples_task_1/162/

  • Ask the students to read the two example paragraphs and evaluate it. It is a good example and would have got an 8 approximately
  • .Ask them to focus on the words shown and in pairs think of synonyms, try to discourage them from using dictionaries.

here are possible synonyms, accept any others and explain why some may/may not work here.

shows –                                                             depicts

a gradual decrease –                                     a steady fall

study for their career  –                              learn in order to further their future job prospects

gradually declines –                                     steadily reduces / experiences a step by step fall

 

Identify the word form difference:

people who study for career reasons – study (v) / career (acting like adj)  / reasons (n)

interested in studying for their career – studying (n) / career (n)

 

Grammar:

Passives – this is really easy, just a way of them adding and rewriting

answer: it can be seen that the percentage increases slowly

conditionals – 

answer: if we look at the graph, it can be seen that the percentage increases slowly

final change

If we look at the graph, it can be seen that there is a slow increase in the percentage

Nominalisation

follow and guide students through this.

n.b. – I ask students to find examples in the real world as part of their homework and to bring them to the next class to check

Answer for “women earn less than men”:

earn (v) –> earnings

The earnings of women are less than those of men

Free practice part 2

There are no correct answers here, I gave students around 5-10 mins to work on this in pairs and asked them first to think about words where synonyms could be used.

I would recommend getting different versions on the board and comparing them.

 

Remember this is only supposed to be an introduction, there will be more in-depth lessons coming soon.

Materials:

PDF  –   paraphrasing

Word – paraphrasing