How to teach four language skills using reading materials

While it is important to teach each language skill separately, it is more important to teach four language skills combined. In many countries, especially in the countries in Asia and South America, EFL seems to be taught with a lot of emphasis on reading comprehension and grammar. This is mainly because of the current English education system in those countries in which teachers are required to teach English with a lot of knowledge of grammar, using textbooks full of reading materials. In such a situation, how can such English teachers teach English in just a communicative way? How can they teach four language skills combined, using reading materials? Any ideas? I would like to hear ideas on this from EFL teachers who teach English as a foreign language, but ideas from ESL teachers teaching English in English-speaking countries are also welcomed. Would you please click here and send your ideas by mail? I will add them to this page later. When you send, please don't forget to give me your name, mail address and the name of the city, the state/province and the country you live in.

In Japanese junior and senior high schools, we are required to use textbooks authorized by the Ministry of Education and they have quite a few reading materials in them, especially in those used in high schools. Many teachers believe it is quite difficult to teach four language skills using such textbooks, but I think that depends on their efforts to make use of reading materials effectively with teaching four language skills combined in mind.

Here are some suggestions to teach four language skills effectively using reading materials.

  1. Choose reading materials that students are likely to show their interest in

    This is very important as students will be reluctant to read if the reading material is boring, and you cannot expect them to show their interest in it.

  2. Start your lesson with discussing topics relating to the reading material

    To do this, you should prepare the topics to discuss beforehand and give them to students before they discuss them in groups and/or in class. This way they will have time to prepare what to say, show more of their interest in the reading material and understand it better when they read it.

  3. Give students some questions about the reading material that are helpful for them to understand it well with

    Nuttall (1982) suggests questions about the reading material be 'signpost' questions that help students understand it better and more easily.

  4. Discuss the content of the reading material and the related topics, and extend the discussion to the level in which students can express their own thoughts and feelings about what they have discussed and read

    To do this, it is necessary to give students topics to discuss in advance so that they can have enough time to prepare what to say as their thoughts or feelings.

  5. Have students write compositions based on what they have discussed and read in class

    To do this, I recommend students take notes about what they have discussed and what has been written on the blackboard. Besides, it is very helpful if you give them 'hints for writing' from which they can get tips for writing compositions. This way they are well motivated and inspired to write.

Textbooks often deal with reading materials that are rather difficult for students to understand and discuss. So I recommend you make your own textbook taking your students' level and interest into account. To do this, you can send them out a questionnaire to know what topics they are interested in before you get down to making it. [Hiroyuki Yukita: Aomori, Aomori, JAPAN]

Look for every opportunity to divert from the prescribed text to bring more realistic and "authentic" conversation into the classroom. Use the text to talk about a related item the students are interested in and then develop a group writing from this. The teacher can solicit comments or sentences from the class and write them on the board. They can then be arranged into a meaningful paragraphusing the students' own words. After a group writing is finished, then go back and talk about the different grammar forms that were used.

Most important is to use these four areas EVERY DAY: Listening, Speaking, Reading, Writing - in that order! [William Menz: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA]

I'm a teacher in Mexico. Readings help a lot when we have a conversation in class. When there's a book with lots of readings and nothing for speaking, I just encourage students to speak about their own experiences or what they know about the material we're using. They seem to enjoy it, and everytime we find a reading that is not so "interesting", they try to change the formal idea and just start speaking about something related to it. [Ruben Ochoa Mora: MEXICO]

We usually start with a short discussion around the topic whose aim, apart from being a warm-up, is to check the amount of vocabulary and grammar needed. If there is any problems I continue with explanations. If not we read a text (various types - articles, letters, etc) or we listen to something related to the topic. The reading and/or listening sessions include all stages, i.e. pre, actual and post. Then we finish the lesson with a discussion, role-play and/or game, and sometimes with writing (paragraph, article, advertisement, letter, etc). In this way apart from developing the four skills I manage to arise students' interest. And there are occasions on which students do their additional reading in English at home, just because they are interested in the topic. I am far from saying that this is the right formula, but I think that it deserves trying. [Maria Pophristova: BULGARIA]

Non-native English teachers teaching in English-speaking countries

Back to the front page