TEFL: Planning Lessons for Receptive Skills

TEFL lesson planning receptive skills blogOur life is largely taken up with receiving information from outside sources, most of which enters our consciousness via our eyes and our ears. ESL lessons focusing on reading or listening require a variety of teaching strategies and activities, so there are many ways to design a lesson plan for these receptive skills. Despite the many ways in which reading and listening activities can take place, there are nevertheless general stages we can follow when planning.

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  1. Establish your objectives for the class

What are your learners going to gain through their exposure to this reading or listening? Think about this carefully and give your class specific goals that they will, hopefully, have met by the end of the class.

Here is a good example:

  • “Learners will read and understand the vocabulary and phrases related to asking for items of food in a grocery store.”

If your objective is too vague, it will be difficult to place any value on it, or discern whether it has been met during the class. Here is a poor example:

  • “Learners will have better listening skills.”

This objective is too large to achieve in one class, and impossible to measure.

-Read: Teaching fluency through extensive reading and listening activities

  1. Introduction: pre-reading / listening task

At this point you should aim to discuss the topic with the whole class or in groups. Your purpose here is to discover how much your learners know about the topic and the extent to which they are ‘primed’ for the teaching material. Ask questions that are related to the learners’ personal experience. At this first stage, you should also aim to generate interest in the topic of the lesson by showing images, headlines or key words.

-Read: Choosing a book and assessing students

  1. Teaching the essential vocabulary

There will be words that your learners are unfamiliar with that are essential to understanding the teaching material. For instance, aim to teach any vocabulary items that are necessary for answering comprehension questions, or unusual words that appear a number of times. Remember: this is not a vocabulary lesson, so you should be looking to develop passive knowledge, rather than getting learners to the point that they can use these words correctly in writing or speaking.

-Read: How to introduce new vocabulary

  1. Reading / listening for general understanding

Prepare a small number of questions that evaluate your learners’ general comprehension of the teaching material or extract relevant information (three or four questions is an appropriate number) If a listening lesson, play the recording once; if a reading lesson, have learners read the text. They answer the questions while engaging with the teaching material. Plan for some not being able to answer the questions: allow time in your lesson plan for replaying the relevant part of the recording, or rereading the relevant part of the text.

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  1. Reading / listening for specific information

After general understanding, create a task that aims to check more detailed understanding of the teaching material. As with the previous stage of the lesson, allow for repeated engagement if necessary. Before getting feedback, plan time for learners to compare their answers in pairs or groups. If certain questions are causing problems for many learners, allow additional time in the lesson to focus on particular reading passages of specific parts of the listening.

  1. Post-reading / listening

A natural part of everyday reading or listening is for there to have been a point to the whole thing: we read or listen to obtain information and then do something with that information. Your receptive skills lesson plan should finish with a productive activity related to the topic. This task may be spoken or written. A class discussion is a good activity, as is a role-play, or writing a letter.

Always remember that receptive skills lessons are important, as they reflect the way we generally obtain new information in real life. They should, therefore, replicate the kind of actions we undertake in our everyday reading and listening, but this should be balanced with the necessity to repeatedly expose learners to the teaching material to make sure comprehension is achieved.

Related reading:

Teaching English with Songs

Listening Lesson Plan by OnTESOL Graduate