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Here Below you can check out the feedback (for one of our units) of one of the 16.000 students that last year took an online course with ITTT!
This unit is about two of the four basic skills of any language: listening and reading. These two skills are classified as receptive skills.
There are two main reasons for reading and listening:
- For a purpose (takes places as it helps us achieve something)
- For entertainment (takes place because it is enjoyable)
Often our reasons for listening and reading includes both motives.
We can employ a number of specialized skills when we read or listen, and the understanding of the context will be influenced by these:
- Predictive skills
Predicating the context of an article or dialogue based on for example a headline.
- Scanning for specific information
We listen or read for specific information only
- Skimming for the general idea
Reading or listening to the gist of the text / dialogue. We don’t focus on every word, we just try to get a general understanding of the content.
- Detailed information
We want to understand everything in detail. This needs to be done in a concentrated manner to gain the full benefits.
- Deduction from context
We deduce or understand the meaning of individual words or phrases from the context in which we hear or read them. Sometimes we need to see past the literal meaning of the words.
Problems we might encounter when teaching or learning receptive skills are often connected with language contained in the text, the topic and the task the student will perform.
Problems that might arise specifically when teaching or learning the receptive skill reading
Reading word to word, sentence length, and the structure of the text
Problems that might arise specifically when teaching or learning the receptive skill listening
The flow of information (with a text we can read the word or sentence again and again but with information we listen to the information is gone), the speed of speech, and accent.
How can we avoid these problems?
- Pre-teaching vocabulary and structures, however we shouldn’t overdo this. Students need to get past the stage of having to understand every single word or they’ll never feel comfortable with receptive skills. We need a balance between pre-teaching vocabulary and letting students access unknown language. We should only pre-teach vocabulary that is essential to understanding and leave other unknown vocabulary for later.
- Careful selection of texts.
Expose students to a variety of text both non-authentic texts (designed for language students and their level and ability) and authentic texts (not specifically designed for the students and should give them confidence in their skills).
Non-authentic texts should be selected carefully, focusing on what the student knows and not what they don’t know.
The topic needs to motivate students. It is important to remember that just because we as teachers are interested in a topic, it doesn’t mean our students will be as well. We have to get to know out students’ interests. We should furthermore use a variety of topics over a period of time to cater to all individual students.
3. Create interest
Get students engaged by discussing the topic, showing pictures, predicating what the text will be about and other engage stage activities.
An important feature of teaching receptive skills is comprehension tasks. These will need to promote understanding not just check understanding. It should be a challenge that is realistically achievable
The basic keys to a successful receptive skills lesson are:
- Choose material that interests / motivates students
- Build interest before reading or listening
- Vary the type of material
- Pre-Teach complex vocabulary and structures, but don’t overdo it.
- Use material to practice different skills
- Use realistic comprehension tasks to aid understanding
- Incorporate activate phases that naturally lead on from the text.
The unit finally also provides an example of a Receptive Skills Patchwork ESA Lesson plan.
This unit really gives some good pointers on how to improve my teaching of receptive skills to my students. Most useful to me is the part on how to avoid certain problems when teaching the receptive skills. Some of my students lack motivation and I am going to select my text more carefully whenever possible and try and create more interest in them. Also, several of my tasks used in combination with a text or dialogue were usually designed to check and not promote understanding, so I will change this as well.