THE STRUCTURE OF A SKILL LESSON
- Written by : Drs. Suyatno MM
What are the skills?
Listening, reading, speaking, and writing are referred to as “the four skills”. Listening and reading are RECEPTIVE SKILLS, i.e. they require only understanding. Speaking and writing are PRODUCTIVE SKILLS, i.e. they require the learners to produce something.
How is teaching skills different from teaching language?
When you are teaching language, you are teaching “WHAT” ( for example, a grammar point, a function , or a vocabulary item), and the aim of the lesson is to introduce and practice new language. When you teach skills you are teaching “HOW” : how to listen in a more focused way, how to read more quickly and efficiently, how to speak more fluently, or how to write particular types of text.
Learner master skills by practice, in a similar way to other skills like playing the piano or swimming. You can give them practice in the whole skills or in sub skills. Learners can practice the skills of reading in a general sense by, for example, reading a whole text and then answering a question, or they can practice various sub skills, such as guessing unknown words, scanning for particular information, or predicting what will come next. These sub skills, like practicing scales in music or learning the stroke movements in swimming, help with the mastery of the whole skills.
How do I teach a skill lesson?
The simplest way of structuring a skills lesson is in three stages :
BEFORE THE SKILLS ACTIVITY
The activities in this stage should engage the learners’ attention and get them thinking about the topic they will be hearing, reading, writing, or talking about. For example :
- To introduce a reading text about festivals, you could ask learners about their favorite festival in their country.
- To introduce a story the students are going to listen to, you could show learners a picture and ask them to predict the story.
- To introduce a lesson on writing postcards, you could bring in postcards sent to you for learners to read.
- To introduce a discussion of childhood memories , you could show the class a photo of yourself as a child and tell them one of your own memories
You might also include a short language focus to introduce some key vocabulary or expression
DURING THE SKILLS ACTIVITY
There might be a task or series of tasks that the learners have to carry out, for example :
- Reading a text about festivals and matching pictures to the description of the different festivals
- Listening to a story and arranging pictures in the order of the events in the story.
- Learners get a holiday postcard with a picture on the front. They have to imagine they are in that place and write a postcard on the back.
- Learners complete a questionnaire about childhood memories and discuss with a partner.
There may be several tasks in this stage, particularly in the case of reading and listening, beginning with more general tasks and progressing to more detailed tasks.
AFTER THE SKILLS ACTIVITY
After the learners have completed each task, you will need to go through the task carefully, checking understanding and giving answers in listening and reading lessons, and giving feedback/ errors correction in writing and speaking lessons. You may like to have a specific language study spot, doing more detailed language work on a reading or listening text, or giving learners more practice in a structure or function that they are finding difficult in a speaking or writing activity.
Finally, you can use the skills activity you have just completed as a springboard into practicing another skills. For example;
- Learners write about their favorite festival from their own country.
- Learners act out the story in groups
- Learner exchange postcards and read them. They think of four questions to ask about the postcard writer’s holiday. Then they role play meeting after their holidays and discussing them.
- Learners write about their strongest childhood memories. In groups they make wall posters with a collage of “ Our memories”. These are pinned up for other learners to read