Top Tips for IELTS

Teaching opinion vocabulary for speaking

This is one of my favourite classroom routines: it’s something I get to do with most all my classes – IELTS or not. Indeed, I find the fact that it isn’t one of those exercises that is necessarily IELTSy is a positive benefit. An unrestricted diet IELTS is not good for the soul. All it involves is the simplest of classroom activities – one of those warmer/filler/cooler type activities and a very simple  hand out.

The aim – extend opinion language

Opinions are crucial to IELTS speaking and writing. The goal here is to drill the words to extend range, but also encourage accuracy. Not all opinion words are equal. The idea is to encourage the students to explore different ways of stating opinions.

Start off with a brainstorm  – a lesson with no thinking

The way I tend to work this is to write the word “think” on the board and say today there will be no thinking and then cross the word out. Then the question is “What other ways do you have of saying “I think”.

I then brainstorm the words to the board as shown below. I then simply ask the students to explain why I have grouped the words in the way I have – hoping they will see that there are strong opinions, weak opinions/speculations and neutral phrases.



The student checklist – downloadable resource

This is a resource I use – in slightly different formats – all the time. Download it if you like, but it is very simple to put together being no more than a table. The concept is not so much to give the students a list of “opinion vocabulary”, rather to show them what words they do use and to attempt to get them to use more words.

The idea is that they tick an opinion phrase every time they use it with the aim of ticking as many different phrases as possible.  All you need is an activity that requires them to give an opinion. If you run short of ideas, then why not simply rotate students around the class so that they talk to a different person every minute or so. Each time they talk to someone new, it becomes a new conversation.

I should perhaps point out that I leave spaces on the hand out for a reason. It is to encourage students to fill in their own variations. This, to me, is to be encouraged. The phrases I include are a simple starting point in teaching opinion vocabulary.

Opinion vocabulary for speaking - forced drill (2491)

Other ways to reinforce the language

Very often the students have all this language. They simply don’t use it! More than that they have “I think” and “In my opinion” so deeply embedded in their idiolect that it takes a major effort to lead them into new language habits. Taking this account I tend to recycle this language mercilessly. A degree of flexibility helps in this repetition and here are a few very simple ideas. They remain simple because they are 5-10 minute activities only. I’d add that each time I aim to get the students using the phrases for themselves as a follow on activity.

Give me the words

A simple warmer for day 2 . Write “I think” on the board, which words do they remember?

Categorise the words

This time you start with the words and the students need to categorise them into groups.

Add 1 more word

Most students will have their own phrases. That’s good. Share them. Ask them for other phrases they have. You can expect conversations about the relative merits of

in my view

from my point of view

my view is

You can also do some useful correction of mis-learned phrases such as “in my viewpoint”.

Challenge the students

If you have lower level students for whom some of this language is unfamiliar, then it can pay to reinforce the notion that opinions come in varying levels of strength. Ask the students opinion questions and then ask how strong that opinion is:

Do you think that sport in school is a good idea?

Yes, in my opinion, it is a good idea


Do you think that sport in school is a good idea?

I’m absolutely convinced that sport in school is a good idea

Make the words disappear

How you proceed from here will depend on your class of course. This is a variation I quite often use. Each student is asked an opinion question using:

“Do you think”

They simply need to answer without using “I think”. Each time I get one of the target words, it is removed form the board – leaving the remaining students with one less option, forcing them into some new vocabulary. This is the sort of routine that really does work best when repeated. Often.

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6 Responses to Teaching opinion vocabulary for speaking

  1. Mg k kyawmaung March 12, 2014 at 5:03 am #

    Thank you very for your help.

    • Dominic Cole March 12, 2014 at 5:25 pm #

      A pleasure.

      I intend to publish ideas like these on a regular basis – each Saturday. They are ideas that work (or have worked) for me and I consider worth sharing.

      I’ve published a few already, but this is the first comment. I’m relieved.

      • Anonymous March 18, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

        Brilliant I am a teacher and I love what you have produced and shall certainly use your site and pass it on to my colleagues. Thank you!

        • Dominic Cole March 18, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

          Thank you for the comment. I intend to publish more ideas/resources more or less weekly. I just get worried that no one ever comments on them.

  2. Katie March 27, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Simply marvelous! I just started out as an IELTS teacher and I was running out of ideas on how to keep the class fun and educational. Your tips have helped me a lot. Thank you so much.

    • Dominic Cole March 27, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

      Thank you for the comment. I was getting nervous that I get comments on my lessons for students, but these materials were going wholly uncommented on – teachers are normally quite talkative!

      FWIW, I think my best IELTS teaching often happens in my general English classes – I say “Oh look, this is just like IELTS”. Then, in my IELTS classes I teach an awful lot of general English – completing the circle. That’s where this idea comes in

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