Encouraging students to pretend to be their favourite TV character can make it easier for them to relax when preparing for IELTS Speaking. That’s according to an award-winning English teacher who recently picked up the 2023 IELTS Morgan Terry Memorial Scholarship at this year’s IATEFL conference, in Harrogate, UK. The annual scholarship is designed to recognise innovation in the English teaching space.
Natalia Larchenko, who is based in Italy, has been teaching English online for the last seven years using Zoom and Skype. She is currently working for International House, Milan and teaches a broad range of English language abilities from children up to adult learners and she has a particular interest in IELTS. During her IELTS preparation classes, she found that some students struggled with the speaking part of the test due to not being used to coming up with ideas on the spot, and it was common for them to become anxious about examinations. This sparked an idea with Ms Larchenko that came from a rather unlikely source of favourite TV characters.
‘I came up with this idea where the student is asked to talk like they are a character from their favourite TV show and the results were staggering,’ explained Ms Larchenko. She continued: ‘There was one student who was reluctant to give answers to IELTS questions at first, but when I said that he could pretend to be any character from his favourite TV show things changed pretty quickly. His favourite show was The Office and he chose different characters from the show for the teacher to guess. When in character he suddenly got very talkative and was able to give longer answers, which was really encouraging to see’.
The activity also included a healthy competitive element. Ms Larchenko randomly selected IELTS practice questions by spinning a wheel - which the student answers in character. They keep spinning the wheel and answering the questions until the teacher guesses the character.
Being in character helps people detach from exam anxiety
Ms Larchenko believes the idea will benefit prospective candidates of all levels. She says: ‘it is an easy exercise to prepare, but it helps students to detach from the stressful context of the exam and enjoy the process’.
She says that to be successful students still need to have a wide range of language skills but at the same time, ‘it is very hard to get a coveted score if you do not know how to relax and think of ideas to develop’.
Picking up the award
Ms Larchenko was presented the 2023 Morgan Terry Memorial IATEFL Scholarship award at this year’s IATEFL conference, which brought together thousands of English language teachers from across the world. Ms Larchenko also got the chance to swap ideas with last year’s winner who was also at the event. Anestin Chi won the scholarship in 2022 for her innovative exam preparation idea the ‘vocabulary clock’ – a word map in the form of a clock, with different topics included on the clockface.
Will the idea get a second series?
Looking to the future Ms Larchenko has ideas on how the idea could be developed further. She says:
‘As a further step, students could be set homework to watch videos of their favourite character and try to copy the pronunciation, intonation, and the language they use. This would be a great way to motivate students and help them practise their pronunciation, vocabulary, and fluency’.
IELTS provides expert insight at IATEFL
Elsewhere at this IATEFL conference, the IELTS team were there in full force providing information on the free support materials available for both students and teachers, along with showcases on IELTS Online and IELTS One Skill Retake. They also shared expert insights and research into how teachers can help students to improve their writing skills.
The IATEFL annual conference and exhibition 2023, which is now in its 56th year, brought together thousands of English language teaching professionals from across the world.