How to incorporate integrated skills into the classroom

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Teachers spend a lot of time in class working on reading, writing, listening and speaking with their students. These skills are essential for effective communication and are the areas tested in many well known English language examinations.

We may work on a number of these skills within a single lesson, however, we often teach students to do them in isolation. If we want our learners to become successful communicators, we need to make the situations as authentic as possible inside the classroom.

To do this we need to use an integrated approach to language learning.

An integrated approach to language learning

This is when we ask the students to use a combination (or all four) of these skills within a single activity (or series of activities) to create a situation which is much more similar to one they might come across in the real world.

If you take, for example, a simple telephone conversation. We listen to what the other person is saying and then reply. We may also need to make a note of something they’ve said, read it back to make sure it makes sense and then explain it to someone else.

Integrating skills can help students transfer skills, e.g. if students have to read a blog post before writing their own they’ll become familiar with the structure and content which will help them write it.

It also allows you to vary your activities in class, creating a more engaging and motivating experience for students.

How to Integrate the four skills

The four skills can be referred to as Receptive Skills (listening and reading) or Productive Skills (speaking and writing).

Perhaps the easiest way to start integrating skills in your class is by combining the receptive and productive skills which are used across the same medium.

Oral medium – Listening and Speaking

Try a simple yet fun activity like Telephone.

Telephone

  • Level: Any
  • Grammar: Any
  • Vocabulary: Any
  • Skills: Listening and Speaking

Put students into groups (or, if you have a small class, do it as a whole class activity) and tell them to sit in a circle.

Nominate a student to think of a sentence (ideally related to what you’ve been doing in class). Have them whisper their sentence to the next person in the circle, who must listen and repeat what they heard to the person next to them. This continues until they reach the final person in the group. The last person then has to say out loud what they thought they heard. Finally ask the first person what their original sentence was and write both on the board and compare them. Deal with any issues which come up.

Written medium – Reading and Writing

Group story writing

This game works well with all levels and can be used to write funny stories using the target language of your choice.

First, put students into groups (or if you have a small class do it all together). Hand out a piece of paper to each student.

Next, read a cue (see an example below) to the students and have them write a sentence at the top of the paper. They then fold the paper so their sentence is hidden and pass the paper to the person on their right. Each student should receive a new piece of paper each time they pass it on.

Continue until you’ve read all the cues. At the end of the game each student unfolds their piece of paper and reads it to the rest of their group. Make the activity more challenging by getting students to read the story and then retell it to the class without looking. They should then discuss the stories and decide which one they thought was best.

My last holiday

  • Level: 1 (CEFR A2)
  • Grammar: Past simple
  • Vocabulary: Holidays
  • Skills: Writing and reading

In this story your students will tell an exciting story about trip they went on. Tell your students to write in full sentences. If this is too difficult you can give them the start of the sentence, the verb they need to conjugate or the key vocabulary etc.

Example cues:

  1. Where did you go? The more creative the better. (E.g. I went to the moon).

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. Who did you go with? (E.g. I went with the Queen of England).

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. How did you get there? (E.g. We travelled by hot air balloon).  

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. How long did it take? (E.g. It took 5 hours).

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. Where did you stay? (E.g. We stayed in a tent).

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. What did you do during the day? (E.g. During the day we played volleyball).  

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. What did you do at night? (E.g. At night we went dancing).

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. How was your trip? (E.g. We had a great time).

Fold the paper and pass it to your right.

  1. Unfold the paper and read the story to the rest of the group.

When you start to feel more adventurous try to combine all four skills. A good way to do this is by doing content based learning (where students learn about other subjects like science, history or geography) using English as the medium of instruction. Task based learning also works well.

Here is an easy activity you can do at the start of a course that combines all four skills and helps the students learn new things about each other.

About me

  • Level: A1+
  • Grammar: Present simple
  • Vocabulary: Likes and dislikes
  • Skills: Writing, reading, listening, speaking

Have students write a short introduction (50-70 words) about themselves on a piece of paper. Include things like where they are from, their likes and dislikes etc. They shouldn’t include their names.

Collect the papers and distribute at random. Have students read out the information while the others listen. The students should then guess who they think it is about.

Once they’ve determined who it is, have your students mingle and ask further questions about each other based on what they heard.

Integrated skills in Pearson Test of English (PTE) General

One of things which sets the PTE General apart from other examinations is that it incorporates integrated skills.

In Section 2 students are tested on both their listening and writing. They first have to listen to a recording and then have to write down exactly what they heard. This is something we have to do in our daily lives and by including it in the exam, it encourages students to practice combining skills in class.

Sections 7 and 8 also rely on skill integration. Section 7 is a reading activity where students have to read a text and then complete some notes. In Section 8 they must write a correspondence such as an email or letter. However, to do so, they need to use the information found in the previous section.

Sample activity

Here is an example activity you can do to help students practice integrated skills and prepare for PTE General.

  • Level: Any (choose text and writing task depending on level)
  • Grammar: N/A
  • Vocabulary: N/A
  • Skills: Reading, listening, writing, speaking

Choose two short texts similar to what might appear in Section 7 of the exam that your students might be interested in.

Split students into pairs – A and B. Give one text to person A and the other to person B.

Have student A read the text to their partner who has to transcribe it. Remind them to speak slowly and clearly, pausing when necessary.

Swap so that B reads their text to A who now has to write down what they hear.

Get students to check accuracy by comparing their transcriptions with the original texts. Assist them and help with difficult vocabulary or other problems.

Next have them briefly discuss each text with their partner, giving their opinion on the content.

Finally, they should write a correspondence like in Section 8 of the exam. This will vary depending on the text given and the level of the group, however, it should be something like an email to a friend or a letter of complaint to a hotel manager.

For more information visit the PTE General website and discover the free resources.

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