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Integrating Skills for teaching a foreign language

Integrating Skills for teaching a foreign language

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Dec. 2006, Volume 3, No.12 (Serial No.36) Sino-US English Teaching, ISSN1539-8072, USA
1
Integrating Skills for Teaching EFL
—Activity Design for the Communicative Classroom
WU Jing
(Foreign Language Department, China Youth University for Political Sciences, Beijing 100089, China)
Abstract:
Integrative approach in a communicative classroom teaching is getting more attention in EFL. Theauthor makes use of this paper to demonstrate the using of the approach to design classroom activities and itstheoretical basis by analyzing a model of teaching plan.
1
 
Key words:
English language teaching; communicative approach; integrating skills
1. Introduction
“Real success in English teaching and learning is when the learners can actually communicate in Englishinside and outside the classroom” (Davies & Pearse, 2000: 99). Teachers have been studying the ways of enablinglearners to use English freely, effectively, and as far as possible accurately, in realistic communication, which hasbecome not only the major goal of all English language teaching, but also the students’ main concern when theymake their efforts to study English. For various reasons, traditional ELT tends to train the four languageskills—listening, speaking, reading and writing separately, and materials and activities designed usually focus onone specific skill and others are ignored. Undoubtedly, a separate focus on individual skills can play a useful rolein accelerating students’ language learning if it is well taught. However, since integrated skills use coincides theway we communicate in real life, and integrating the skills can bring plenty of benefits to English teaching, it is aworthwhile experiment in a communicative classroom despite its higher demanding for teachers.The following will take an actual lesson plan as an example to present how to adapt the textbook and designactivities for the integration of skills. It will also discuss the teaching idea of the lesson plan on the basis of therelated theoretical principles.
2. Literature Review
It has been widely accepted that integrating the four skills can develop communicative competence because itfocuses on the realistic communication, which is the main pursuit of teaching and learning in the modern society.What follows gives brief literature review illuminating the theoretical basis and the benefit of the integration toteaching and learning in a communicative classroom.The translation of communicative competence in language teaching practice is to develop learners’ languageskills, namely, listening, speaking, reading and writing. The goal of communicative language teaching is todevelop students’ communicative competence, which includes both the knowledge about the language and theknowledge about how to use the language appropriately in communicative situations. The ultimate goal of foreignlanguage teaching is to enable the students to use the foreign language in work or life when necessary. Thus an
WU Jing(1970- ), female, associate professor of Foreign Language Department, China Youth University for Political Sciences;research field: English teaching methodology.
 
Integrating Skills for Teaching EFL—Activity Design for the Communicative Classroom
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English teacher theoretically should teach that part of the language in the way that is used in the real world.However, this is not always the case in the present day foreign language teaching practice. One possible solutionto bridge the gap between classroom baggage teaching and real life language use is the adoption of communicative language teaching.Listening, speaking, reading and writing are means of communication and among them, listening and readingare considered as receptive skills that help students get information as the input of language, whereas speakingand writing are both treated as productive skills that make language output possible and require sufficientlanguage input as their basis. There are many situations in which we use more than one language skills tocommunicate in our everyday life. Integrating the four skills emphasizes the focus on realistic language and cantherefore lead to the students’ all-round development of communicative competence in English. Moreover, thereare other reasons why integration can benefit a communicative classroom. Firstly, integrating the skills allows ateacher to build in more variety into the lesson because the range of activities will be wider
 
(WANG, 2000: 147).
 
Successful integrative approach may help a teacher to make the lessons dynamic, involving the learners in variedactivities and interactions, which can create plenty of opportunities for students to participate in class and raisetheir motivation to learn English. Secondly, integration of skills satisfies students’ different learning styles in thatthe extroverts may speak a lot, the introverts prefer to listen or read, and the analytically or visually orientedlearners like to see how words are written and sentences constructed. Integrating skills helps the students to learnEnglish willingly and comfortably. As a matter of fact, a vivid and effective communicative class is supposed tobe the integration of the four language skills training, in which the teacher needs to establish a positiveatmosphere, plan appropriate activities, encourage learners and deal with problems sensitively (Davies & Pearse,2002: 99).
3. Practice
Using integrative approach in a communicative classroom requires a teacher to make more effort in choosingmaterials and designing activities in comparison with the traditional English teaching. What follows is an actualteaching plan that will be used as an example to demonstrate how the integration of the skills can be designed andits theoretical basis.
A lesson plan:E-mail and Letter-writing
Time: 90 minutesObjectives: the students will (a) discuss the advantages and disadvantages of e-mail and letter-writing;(b) write a composition within the time limit about these two means of communication.Procedures:Step I: Lead-in questions (2 min)Q: a. When you want to send a message to or contact with someone, which means of communication do youprefer, e-mail or letter-writing? Why? b. Is there anybody in this class who merely uses e-mail/ letter-writing to send messages or information?c. When did you last write or receive your letter?Step II: Warm-up (8 min)(1) Show the students the prepared list of  the advantages of e-mail and letter-writing to activate students’
 
Integrating Skills for Teaching EFL—Activity Design for the Communicative Classroom
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common knowledge and generate related words and expressions.(2) Students discuss the following questions: a. Are there more advantages of e-mail can be added to the list? Add at least two points to the above list.b. What are the disadvantages of e-mail? Please make a list. Find out at least four disadvantages.c. Are there more advantages of letter-writing can be added to the list? Add at least two more points to theabove list.d. What are the disadvantages of letter-writing? Please make a list. Find out at least four disadvantages.Step III (5 min):Reread the listed points about the advantages of e-mail and letter-writing; students practice keywords-seekingtechnique by demonstrate simultaneously how to find out key words. Students are demanded to take down thesewords. The notes taken down will be the reminder of the mentioned points to avoid forgetting or repeating in theirown practice.Step IV (10 min):(1) Students try to find out disadvantages of e-mail and letter-writing in groups of four or five and make lists.(2) Each group will have a representative to speak out those disadvantages in class. Students are not allowedto repeat other groups’ ideas. Students do the discussion. Step V (15 min):Choose two students as secretaries to the board to note down the main points (key words) of therepresentatives’ talked opinions and the rest of the students practice note-taking individually and monitor the twosecretaries’ proper understanding and correct spelling. Students are encouraged to provide help whenevernecessary. The two secretaries will be changed momentarily to let more students have the chance to practice.A Ten-minute Break Step VI (5 min):Give instructions for writing:(1) Review the listed points on the board.(2) Give students the writing task.Writing:E-mail or Letter-writing(1) More and more people prefer e-mail to letter-writing as means of communication.(2) There are still some people enjoy writing letters.(3) Your own attitude to e-mail and letter-writing. Which means of communication do you prefer? Why?Step VII (30 min):(1) Brainstorm individually or with their partners to choose the points they want to use on the board. (Anypoint listed on the blackboard is tangible and available to them that what they need to do is just to make the bestchoice.) (3 min)(2) Make an outline and discuss with their partners. (2min)(3) The students are given 25 minutes to finish the composition.(4) Hand in the final draft with their brainstorming notes and outline.Step VIII (5 min):Give a summary of this class.The whole class is completed.

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