Wednesday, 20 February 2013

IELTS Speaking Task 2 - The Lexical Approach

No! Not pineapple chunks, lexical chunks!

This IELTS speaking task 2 lesson is based on Leo Sulivan’s ‘Live Listening’ technique that questions teacher dependence on pre-recorded textbook listening activities. Sullivan refers to his activities as ‘Lexical Listening’ as they not only promote listening fluency, but also encourage students to extract useful language and incorporate it into their own lexical repertoire. The lesson follows one of the main tenants of the Lexical Approach, the brainchild of Michael Lewis, who stated that language consists mainly of lexical chunks (collocations etc.) and grammar merely acts as glue that binds them together. In fact, Sullivan points out that native speakers possess a veritable reservoir of chunks; he estimates anywhere between 250,000 to 500,000.

The teacher’s role is thus to assist students in recognizing lexical patterns and also set up activities where these chunks of language can be activated. Chunks include: collocations, fixed and semi fixed expressions.

Sullivan gives the following example:

Talking about a friend or partner

We hit it off immediately

We really see eye-to-eye

We are on the same wavelength
We get on like a house on fire

We’ve had our ups and downs

I got to know him/her better

Therefore, in this spirit I applied these principles to a recent IELTS class with positive results.

Language Level: Intermediate up
Learner Type: teens and adults (IELTS)
Time: 30 minutes
Topic: IELTS Speaking Task 2
Language: Collocations, fixed, semi fixed expressions

Preparation, materials and equipment

1. For this activity you will need to prepare a small list of collocations, fixed and semi fixed expressions that are related to the topic area

Part 1: Introduction

Write an IELTS Speaking Task 2 questions on the whiteboard

I used the following:

How would you like to spend your ideal weekend?

You should include:

With whom would you like to spend your ideal weekend?

What would you like to eat on your ideal weekend?

How much money would you be ready to spend on your ideal weekend?

Part 2: Instruction

Tell students that they have to work in pairs, one student as the examiner and the other an IELTS candidate.

The teacher can then start the clock and the students plan for one minute.

I always use Online Bomb for this:

Student A will then speak for 2 minutes while student B listens.

Switch and repeat.

Once both student have finished, tell students that they have to work in pairs and come up with 2 questions that they want to ask the teacher about his/her ideal weekend.

Feedback and write questions on the whiteboard correcting if necessary.

Explanation of Lexical Chunking

The teacher then writes some examples of chunking on the board and explains their importance.

The Teaching English section of the British Council website defines a lexical chunk as the following:

"A lexical chunk is a group of words that are commonly found together. Lexical chunks include collocations but these usually just involve content words, not grammar."


- Did you stay long at the party?
- No, I got out of there as soon as they ran out of food.

Part 3 Listening
The teacher answers the students’ questions from the board adding in pre-prepared lexical chunks. Students listen and make a note of any they hear.

The teacher repeats 2 or 3 times.

Class feedback and the teacher writes the lexical chunks on the whiteboard.


Part 3: Productive Stage

In pairs, the students return to the pre-listening stage and answer their questions again; however, this time they have to incorporate the new lexical chunks into their answer.

Follow up:

Students can write their answer to Task 2 at home including the new chunks.

Let me know if this works in your classroom.



  1. Thanks for sharing this nice post. If you want to get maximum marks in IELTS Listening section than increase your practice for better IELTS Listening test preparation.

  2. Good post about ielts it is very useful for students

    Best IELTS Score

  3. Thanks for the heads up! IELTS is very challenging and it should not be taken for granted. It needs time as well as constant review and practice.

    IELTS passing review