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Here is a summary of what I’ve learnt while reading the eleventh unit.
There are four basic skills in any language :
- Reading (receptive skill)
- Listening (receptive skill)
- Speaking (productive skill)
- Writing (productive skills)
They are equally important and, if they want to have a balanced approach, teachers should try to incorporate all of them into their lessons as often as they can. Teachers may also sometimes want to focus more on one particular skill but still integrate others in.
I also learned that we can divide the reasons and motives for reading and listening into two categories:
- Reading for a purpose : this type of reading takes place because it will help us achieve some particular aim or goal.
- Reading for entertainment : it takes place when we read information because we find it pleasurable or enjoyable in some way.
I also read that our reading and listening may include a mix of the two motives.
On the other hand, I’ve learnt that we must not only be able to recognize and understand the words ; we also need to be able to grasp their overall meaning from our pre-existing knowledge to gain true understanding.
While reading the eleventh unit, I also found out that the understanding of the context will depend on the reader’s expertise in these areas:
- Predictive skills : the ability to predict the content from a text.
- Specific information (also called “scanning”) : the ability to read for specific information.
- General idea (also called “skimming”) : the ability to read or listen for the essence of a speech, dialog or text. In this case, we do not focus on every single word as we are trying to get a general understanding of the content.
- Detailed information : the ability to read in order to understand everything in detail. This method requires concentration in order to gain full benefit.
- Deduction from context : the ability to understand or deduce the meaning of individual words or phrases from the context in which we hear or read them. We sometimes also need to see beyond the literal meaning of words.
I’ve also learnt that the usual potential problems that arise when learning English are mainly in connection with the language contained in the text, the topic and the tasks the students will perform.
Sentence length, word length and a number of unfamiliar words can also present problems. Reading presents fewer problems as the text remains on the paper afterwards. It is therefore possible to read it again and to think about it. However, when we are listening, there is no time to really deduce the meaning or think about the language.
I also found out that there are many ways of approaching language difficulty. Here are the main ones :
- Pre-teaching vocabulary : this approach involves teaching the difficult or unknown language and structures, prior to commencing a reading or listening activity.
- Careful selection of texts : this approach involves exposing the students to a variety of authentic and non-authentic texts. Authentic texts are not designed for language classes and often gives students more confidence in their own skills. On the other hand, non-authentic texts allow students access to material that contains language more suited to their abilities. It is important to keep in mind that the content must be carefully selected as it needs to focus on what the students know, rather than how much they don't know.
I also read that the topics that are selected can also increase the students motivation. Teachers therefore need to know what really interests them and the topics need to be varied over a period of time in order to ensure that everyone is equally catered for.
In another section of the unit, I’ve learnt that if the students are motivated and engaged in the tasks, they are more likely to read and listen with enthusiasm. Another important feature in the teaching of receptive skills concerns comprehension tasks. Teachers need to provide tasks that promote understanding, as opposed to just checking understanding. A good task should also not be too easy or too difficult and should be realistically achievable.
I also found out, while reading the unit, that the basic keys to successful receptive skill lessons are:
- Choosing material that interests or motivates the students
- Building interest before reading or listening
- Pre-teaching complex vocabulary or structures if necessary without overdoing it
- Varying the type of material
- Using the material to practice different skills
- Using realistic comprehension tasks that aid understanding
- Incorporating activate phases that naturally lead on from the text