Four Skills of English Language Learning

Four Skills of Language Learning: Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing.

The purpose of language learning is to improve the speakers’ four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, with the base of large vocabulary and good grammar, but this is not the final purpose. The final purpose is to let speakers be able to use the language. For instance, why do people study English? If a man is only good at listening and speaking, can people say that he is good at English? No. If a woman is only good at reading and writing, can people say that she is good at the language? No. In addition, most of the speakers do better in reading and writing than in listening and speaking. They can read and write, but they can hardly communicate. They can hardly express themselves with their own words. We are not able to change the examination system, but we can improve our learning method. So when speakers want to use a language well, do not forget to know all the abilities of the four skills.

Listening, one of the means of language communication is used most widely in people’s daily lives. In addition, teaching the learners a lot of listening activities is a good way of enlargening their vocabulary. On the other hand, it also helps the learners improve their listening comprehension. For instance, people know that the largest difference between mother language learning and foreign language learning is the environment. For a foreign language, we can meet it only in formal places and classes. Training and practicing the oral reading is not a day’s work. Practice is important. Only through the practice can the learners improve their listening comprehension.

Next, Speaking is often connected with listening. For example, the two-way communication makes up for the defect in communicative ability in the traditional learning. Two-way means the relationship of the communication between the teacher and the students at school. This relationship is connected with the communicative activities between two people. It can create a fresh environment for speaking language. The two-way communication can lengthen the dialogue limitlessly. This is its advantage. At the same time, if the speakers want to give the correct response, he has to think hard, the sentence is not easily forgotten which is created by themselves through thinking, sometimes with the teacher’s hint. They can talk freely and express themselves as well as they can.

Next, Reading is an important way of gaining information in language learning and it is a basic skill for a language learner. There are a lot of reading exercises in an examination today. But all these readings must be done in limited time. So learners are asked to read them correctly and with a certain speed. For instance, someone reads word by word. Someone reads with his finger pointing to the words or with his head shaking. Those are all bad habits. They should read phrase by phrase. Do not blink eyes so often and shake head. Just move the eyeball. That is enough. If they want to get more word information, there must be a proper distance between their eyes and the reading material.

Finally, Writing is one way of providing variety in classroom procedures. It provides a learner with physical evidence of his achievements and he can measure his improvement. It helps to consolidate their grasp of vocabulary and structure, and complements the other language skills. Sentence is the base of an article. So he should begin his writing with sentences. For example, translation, sentence pattern exchanging, and text shortening and rewriting. It helps to understand the text and write compositions. It can foster the learner’s ability to summarize and to use the language freely.

Generally these four skills cannot be separated. People often say “First listening and speaking, then reading and writing.” But this way of saying is fit for the beginning stage. Before they are going to have a new lesson, do reading and writing first. So, training and practicing helps learners that raise their ability of language skills.


Teaching tips


1. Seven Teaching Strategies for Classroom Teachers of ELLs
Learn 7 key strategies classroom teachers must know to provide an effective learning environment for ELLs.

2. Bloom’s taxonomy and English language learners
Your English language learners should be developing thinking skills as they acquire English. Dust off your copy of Bloom’s Taxonomy and ask questions from all levels. There are activities that ELLs can do on every level. Includes classroom resource picks.

3. Collaborative Teaching: Are Two Teachers Better Than One?
Over the past few years co-teaching has become more popular as low incidence school districts search for ways to best serve the needs of their English language learners. What is co-teaching? Does it work? Read this article to find out.

4. Communicating with Gestures
Very few gestures are universally understood and interpreted. What is perfectly acceptable in the United States may be rude, or even obscene, in other cultures. Includes classroom resource picks.

5. Tips for teaching to write

What are the challenges learners  face in learning to write in English? How can you help them? Read this article.

6. using video in classroom

Do you use videos in your classrooms? Read this article to have an idea about a way of using video in classrooms.

7.  A series of articles about course planning:

        1. course planning  (part 1)

       2. course planning  (part 2)

      3. course planning  (part 3)

     4. course planning  (part 4)

     5. course planning  (part 5)


1.Testing and assessment:

All that you should know about testing and assessment ….

2. Test writing

What you need to know to write and administer tests..

3. Reading:

Some clarification about some reading techniques ….

4. Teaching mixed-ability class 1:

Understand better you classes…

5. Teaching mixed-ability class 2

And more understanding…

6. Teaching large classes

How easy or hard is to teach lots of kids?

7. Teaching small classes

How easy or hard is to teach few kids?

8. Methodology and teaching:

A method of how to use texts…

9. What is Reading Comprehension?

10. Fostering Reading Comprehension

11. The Five Essential Components of Reading

12. The Relationship Between Reading and Writing

13. Vocabulary Basics

14. Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary

What is Reading Comprehension?

Apple banana blue walk tree happy sing. Surely you were able to read each of the words in that sentence and understand what they meant independently. An apple is a fruit that is usually round and red, green or yellow. A banana is another fruit that is yellow. Blue is a color…and so on and so forth. However, when you look at the sentence as a whole, does it make sense? Probably not. This nonsense sentence demonstrates the difference between being able to read words and comprehend text. As practiced readers we may take this distinction for granted since the acts of reading and comprehension occur almost simultaneously for us. For developing readers this relationship is not as apparent, but is essential for them to become strong, capable readers.

What exactly IS reading comprehension?

Simply put, reading comprehension is the act of understanding what you are reading. While the definition can be simply stated the act is not simple to teach, learn or practice. Reading comprehension is an intentional, active, interactive process that occurs before, during and after a person reads a particular piece of writing.

Reading comprehension is one of the pillars of the act of reading. When a person reads a text he engages in a complex array of cognitive processes. He is simultaneously using his awareness and understanding of phonemes (individual sound “pieces” in language), phonics (connection between letters and sounds and the relationship between sounds, letters and words) and ability to comprehend or construct meaning from the text. This last component of the act of reading is reading comprehension. It cannot occur independent of the other two elements of the process. At the same time, it is the most difficult and most important of the three.

There are two elements that make up the process of reading comprehension: vocabulary knowledge and text comprehension. In order to understand a text the reader must be able to comprehend the vocabulary used in the piece of writing. If the individual words don’t make the sense then the overall story will not either. Children can draw on their prior knowledge of vocabulary, but they also need to continually be taught new words. The best vocabulary instruction occurs at the point of need. Parents and teachers should pre-teach new words that a child will encounter in a text or aid her in understanding unfamiliar words as she comes upon them in the writing. In addition to being able to understand each distinct word in a text, the child also has to be able to put them together to develop an overall conception of what it is trying to say. This is text comprehension. Text comprehension is much more complex and varied that vocabulary knowledge. Readers use many different text comprehension strategies to develop reading comprehension. These include monitoring for understanding, answering and generating questions, summarizing and being aware of and using a text’s structure to aid comprehension.

How does reading comprehension develop?

As you can see, reading comprehension is incredibly complex and multifaceted. Because of this, readers do not develop the ability to comprehend texts quickly, easily or independently. Reading comprehension strategies must be taught over an extended period of time by parents and teachers who have knowledge and experience using them. It might seem that once a child learns to read in the elementary grades he is able to tackle any future text that comes his way. This is not true. Reading comprehension strategies must be refined, practiced and reinforced continually throughout life. Even in the middle grades and high school, parents and teachers need to continue to help their children develop reading comprehension strategies. As their reading materials become more diverse and challenging, children need to learn new tools for comprehending these texts. Content area materials such as textbooks and newspaper, magazine and journal articles pose different reading comprehension challenges for young people and thus require different comprehension strategies. The development of reading comprehension is a lifelong process that changes based on the depth and breadth of texts the person is reading.

Why is reading comprehension so important?

Without comprehension, reading is nothing more than tracking symbols on a page with your eyes and sounding them out. Imagine being handed a story written in Egyptian hieroglyphics with no understanding of their meaning. You may appreciate the words aesthetically and even be able to draw some small bits of meaning from the page, but you are not truly reading the story. The words on the page have no meaning. They are simply symbols. People read for many reasons but understanding is always a part of their purpose. Reading comprehension is important because without it reading doesn’t provide the reader with any information.

Beyond this, reading comprehension is essential to life. Much has been written about the importance of functional literacy. In order to survive and thrive in today’s world individuals must be able to comprehend basic texts such as bills, housing agreements (leases, purchase contracts), directions on packaging and transportation documents (bus and train schedules, maps, travel directions). Reading comprehension is a critical component of functional literacy. Think of the potentially dire effects of not being able to comprehend dosage directions on a bottle of medicine or warnings on a container of dangerous chemicals. With the ability to comprehend what they read, people are able not only to live safely and productively, but also to continue to develop socially, emotionally and intellectually.

Effective Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary

Because vocabulary knowledge is critical to reading comprehension, it is important that those working with young readers help foster their development of a large “word bank” and effective vocabulary learning strategies. There are several effective explicit (intentional, planned instruction) and implicit (spontaneous instruction as a child comes to new words in a text) strategies that adults can employ with readers of any age.

Pre-teaching Vocabulary Words

One of the most effective methods of helping children learn new vocabulary words is to teach unfamiliar words used in a text prior to the reading experience. Adults (either alone or with the child(ren)) should preview reading materials to determine which words are unfamiliar. Then these words should be defined and discussed. It is important for the adult to not only tell the child(ren) what the word means, but also to discuss its meaning. This allows the child(ren) to develop an understanding of the word’s connotations as well as its denotation. Also, discussion provides the adult with feedback about how well the child(ren) understands the word. After pre-teaching vocabulary words, the child(ren) should read the text.

Repeated Exposure to Words

It may seem common sense that the more times we are exposed to a word, the stronger our understanding becomes. However, repeated exposure to new vocabulary words is often ignored. Adults often forget a person (especially a child) needs to hear and use a word several times before it truly becomes a part of her vocabulary. Providing multiple opportunities to use a new word in its written and spoken form helps children solidify their understanding of it.

Keyword Method

Like pre-teaching, the keyword method occurs before a child reads a particular text. In this method, unfamiliar words are introduced prior to reading. However, rather than encouraging the child to remember a definition for a new word, the adult teaches him a “word clue” to help him understand it. This “word clue” or keyword might be a part of the definition, an illustrative example or an image that the reader connects to the word to make it easier to remember the meaning when reading it in context. The idea behind the keyword method is to create an easy cognitive link to the word’s meaning that the reader can access efficiently during a reading experience.

Word Maps

The word map is an excellent method for scaffolding a child’s vocabulary learning. Like the other explicit instructional methods, the adult (either alone or with the child(ren)) should preview reading materials to determine which words are unfamiliar. For each of these new vocabulary words the child (with the support of the adult) creates a graphic organizer for the word. At the top or center of the organizer is the vocabulary word. Branching off of the word are three categories: classification (what class or group does the word belong to), qualities (what is the word like) and examples. Using prior knowledge the child fills in each of these three categories. Word maps help readers develop complete understandings of words. This strategy is best used with children in grades 3-12.

Root Analysis

While root analysis is taught explicitly, the ultimate goal is for readers to use this strategy independently. Many of the words in the English language are derived from Latin or Greek roots. They either contain a “core” root (the primary component of the word) or use prefixes or suffixes that hold meaning. Adults should focus on teaching children the most commonly occurring roots, prefixes and suffixes. As each is taught examples of its use in common word should be shared and examined. The reader should see how the root helps her understand the word’s definition. Children should then be given practice analyzing words to determine their roots and definitions. When a reader is able to break down unfamiliar words into their prefixes, suffixes and roots they can begin to determine their meanings.

Restructuring Reading Materials

This strategy is particularly effective for helping struggling readers improve their vocabularies. Sometimes grade level materials are inaccessible to readers because there are too many unfamiliar words in them. Adults can restructure the materials in several different ways to help readers comprehend them more easily. A portion of the difficult words can be replaced with “easier” synonyms to help the reader understand the overall text. Vocabulary footnotes (definitions provided at the bottom of the page) can be added for particularly challenging words so that the reader can easily “look up” the word while still reading the text. An accompanying vocabulary guide can be provided for the text. Words that are included in the guide should be highlighted or printed in bold text to direct the reader to check the vocabulary guide if the word or its meaning is unfamiliar.

Implicit Vocabulary Instruction

Incidental Learning

Incidental vocabulary learning occurs all of the time when we read. Based on the way a word is used in a text we are able to determine its meaning. Consider this example: “Megan’s fluxoolingy hair reached all the way down to her knees”. While you may not know the word “fluxoolingy” you could determine that it has something to do with length since the rest of the sentence focuses on describing where Megan’s hair comes to on her body. Adults should model this sort of incidental vocabulary learning for children to help them develop their own skills.

Context Skills

Context skills are the strategies that a reader uses for incidental vocabulary learning. Texts are full of “clues” about the meanings of words. Other words in a sentence or paragraph, captions, illustrations and titles provide readers with information about the text that they can use to determine the meanings of unfamiliar words. These features are often referred to as “context clues” because they are contained within the context of the piece of writing rather than outside it. Young readers should be taught to find and use context clues for learning new vocabulary words. Adult modeling and practice are key for helping children develop this important reading skill.

Vocabulary Basics

Knowing the meanings of words on the page is essential for reading comprehension. While few would deny this fact, the role that vocabulary plays in reading is often ignored or overlooked in reading education. A strong vocabulary is one of the pillars of reading comprehension.

What Exactly is Vocabulary?

In its simplest terms vocabulary is words. Your vocabulary is the words you know and can use. While children often have extensive oral vocabularies (words they use in speech) translating these to print often poses challenges. Vocabulary, as it applies to reading, is not only a person’s knowledge of words, but also his ability to recognize these words in print. Learning new vocabulary involves connecting the oral and print versions of the words and integrating them into our vocabulary “knowledge base”.

Vocabulary is multifaceted and complex. Each new word a person learns has denotation(s) and connotation(s). A word’s denotation is its literal definition. For example the denotation of “frugal” is economic in use or spending. Connotations, on the other hand, are the implied meanings of words. Consider the connotations of the word “frugal”. Calling someone “frugal” is usually a compliment meaning that the person is careful and conservative in her spending. If you were to change the word “frugal” to “cheap” the connotation would be different. While “frugal” and “cheap” have essentially the same dictionary definitions, their connotations are very different.

Relationship Between Comprehension and Vocabulary

Vocabulary is inextricably linked to comprehension. Simply put: you cannot comprehend a text if you do not understand the words being used in it! Vocabulary knowledge is the greatest single predictor of a reader’s ability to comprehend a text. When a reader comes to a text with knowledge of its vocabulary or is able to use strategies to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words while reading he is very likely to be able to understand what the piece is saying. This is why vocabulary is often used to determine the difficulty of a text. The proportion of challenging words in a piece of writing is the standard measure for determining a text’s difficulty.

Methods for Acquiring New Vocabulary

There are four standard ways that we learn new vocabulary words: through explicit or implicit instruction, multimedia and through association. Explicit instruction of vocabulary is the pre-teaching of words or root analysis strategies prior to a reading experience. Implicit instruction, on the other hand, occurs naturally and spontaneously during reading. When a reader comes to an unfamiliar word she is taught the word or discovers the meaning using independent strategies such as context clue identification and analysis. Multimedia learning occurs when the reader uses a non-print source to discover the meanings of unfamiliar words. Pictures, hypertext and American Sign Language are common methods for teaching and learning vocabulary through multimedia. Finally, learning through association happens when a reader is able to connect a new word to prior knowledge. This connection allows her to add the new word to her reading vocabulary.

Any or all of these methods can be used alone or in combination for any reading task. Ultimately, readers should be able to apply vocabulary learning methods flexibly and independently.

Impact of Vocabulary on Reading Ability

It is not surprising that vocabulary knowledge increases reading comprehension. This is especially true when new words are taught prior to the reading experience and the reader has multiple exposures to the words.

Vocabulary knowledge is not only essential for reading comprehension it is also critical for academic success. Because reading is an important component of every instructional program, regardless of the content focus, vocabulary knowledge plays an important role in a child’s academic performance. Each content area has its own set of vocabulary that is essential for understanding its concepts and ideas. Vocabulary knowledge is thus a predictor of a child’s general academic success. Furthermore researchers have found that students coming into 4th grade with significant vocabulary deficits not only have difficulty with reading comprehension, they also are unlikely to catch up with their similar aged peers.