IELTS teachers will be glad to know that The Economist has a “Daily Chart” section on their blog pages called Graphic Detail.
Featuring “charts, maps and infographics”, not all the content is useful for those IELTS Academic writing part one tasks – the recent retrospective of Margaret Thatcher’s career in Economist covers being an example – but a lot of it is indeed very useful: see yesterday’s exploration of changes to the minimum wage (pictured) as an example.
The sheer wealth of information that The Economist publishes in this way means that there should be something for every IELTS lesson, or at least that you can build up quite a nice collection of graphics for use with your classes.
Ways that I’ve been using these graphics with my current IELTS group include:
A mingle activity where learners each have a different graphic, they mingle and describe their graphic to each other, thus getting a bit of additional practice in using data analysis language. A variation: learners swap their graphics each time, so that they get practice with lots of different graphics and information.
A dictadraw activity using two different charts where learners sit back to back and describe their graphics to each other, draw a representation of their partner’s graphic (based on that description) and when both are done, compare their efforts with the original.
It is, of course, easy enough to design a quick IELTS academic writing part one task based on these graphics.
Each chart is usually accompanied by a short paragraph that describes the chart and the background to it. It’s worth pointing out to learners that the Economist model is a journalistic one – the purpose, tone and content will be slightly different to that required by IELTS. Nonetheless, if you have a large collection of graphics and paragraphs, learners can do a matching exercise or a reading race (where you give learners the graphic and they have to run and find the correct matching paragraph from a selection stuck to the board).
The paragraphs are also useful sources of language and, despite the caveats noted earlier, it is a useful process for learners to mine the text for any and all expressions they think they can pull out and use in their own writing.