The Happiness Graph is a warmer that you can use with any class and which can, with the tiniest bit of adaptation, be used as a student generated IELTS task.
As a warmer, you draw the X and Y axes on the board as shown in the image above. As you draw the line graph, talk the learners through your week and your reasons why. For example: “Monday is the start of the working week and is never a good day for me, but work went well on Tuesday and Wednesday and I was feeling pretty good. When I woke up on Thursday morning I wasn’t feeling very well and this, as well as a lot of work to do on Friday, left me feeling a bit tired and stressed. But I recovered well on Saturday, and on Sunday my family and I all went to the beach and had a really nice time, before going back to work on Monday!”
The learners then draw their own version of the happiness graph. When they’re done, they share and compare their graphs with each other, explaining the peaks and troughs and hopefully asking follow up questions of each other.
In the IELTS writing part one, learners are asked to write about a chart, diagram or graph, so I adapted the happiness graph for this purpose. This lesson requires no real preparation as the materials come from the learners, though you might want to supplement the language input slightly with additional verbs that describe trends.
Begin in the same way as the warmer, by drawing your version of the graph on the board and describing what happened to you during the previous seven days.
Ask learners to draw their own versions of the graph, but not to show it to anyone.
Refer learners back to the board and your happiness graph. Ask learners for expressions they can use to describe the level of happiness over the week. Write up their suggestions on the board and input additional verbs that describe trends (e.g. rise, fall, drop, increase etc) and adverbials of degree (e.g. slightly, massively, a lot, a little etc) as necessary. In pairs, ask the students to write a brief description of your happiness graph. Monitor and provide feedback as necessary. At this stage, depending on your class, you could do some additional input work. There is a nice task at the back of Scott Thornbury’s “Uncovering Grammar” (page 106), but many IELTS and Business English course books have sections on this area that you could use.
Ask learners to work with a new partner, preferably someone who is seated on the opposite side of the room. Learners then do a dictadraw activity, where learner A describes their happiness graph and learner B listens and draws a version of it. Learners then come together to share their drawing, compare what they drew, and explain why the level of happiness moved up and down as it did. Learners then draw their partner’s happiness level onto the same graph as they drew their original happiness graph, so that there are now TWO different (and accurate) happiness lines on their graph.
Finally, learners write a short (!) 150 word description that compares and contrasts the two lines on their graph. As a final analysis learners can compare what they wrote and look at why any differences occurred – and can correct any errors spotted!
I would set an authentic IELTS part one writing task as homework from this.
Acknowledgement: The happiness graph as a warmer was shown to me at International House Katowice by David Magalhaes in 2005 (or so). I think. Apologies if I’ve got that wrong, do let me know!