A letter to the teachers of English: 57Integrate all the skills while you teach (1) [Archives:2004/798/Education]

December 13 2004

Dr..M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
In my earlier letters, I was telling you how to present language items, vocabulary and language functions in interesting ways involving the learners in your English classes. I also told you how to contextualize your presentations in the class so that they are meaningful to the learners. In this letter and the following, I will discuss another important aspect of classroom teaching – how to integrate all the skills while teaching English in the classes. This is important to you because, otherwise you will be like the legendary blind men who described an elephant in piecemeal!
First of all, let's see what skills are taught while we teach English. We teach them the four basic language skills, namely listening, speaking, reading and writing; the study skills such as reference skills, storing skills and retrieving skills; the literary skills such as interpretation skills, skills of appreciation, critical skills and creative skills and so on. Of course these skills are paid attention to at different stages of learning English; for example, literary skills are generally reserved for higher classes. However, when there is a need for paying attention to any of these skills, you must not hesitate to do so. For example, while teaching Unit 7 in Pupil's Book 3 in the Preparatory Third year, interpretation skills are a part of the lesson, and you needn't hesitate to teach them these skills, thinking that they are meant for higher classes.
Why do we need to integrate the skills in teaching? The simple answer is that it is only natural that all necessary skills are employed while using a language and English is no exception, and so when we teach English in a natural way, it is only appropriate that we integrate all the necessary skills. There was a time, when the Audio-lingual Method of teaching English was propagated, it was said that the skills have to be presented and practiced in a linear sequence – listening, then speaking, then reading and then writing. Teachers were told to adhere to the sequence and warned not to make their learners read what they have not listened to and spoken several times. But later experiments in language teaching/learning have proved that this practice of sequencing the skills in a linear fashion is against the natural process of learning and so treating the skills in watertight compartment is discouraged while teaching. Can you ever think of a situation where one only speaks without having to listen to at all? Or does anyone write a letter to a friend without reading it at all? Integrating the skills while using a language is more natural than disintegrating them. So, while we teach, it is natural that we integrate the skills.
How do we integrate the skills while we teach English in classes? Not very difficult. As long as you don't try to teach the skills discretely, one at a time, you will be able to teach them integratively, because when you use English in your classes, you will be, no doubt, using all the skills necessary for your purpose. You don't need any extra effort to integrate the skills. Make your teaching as natural as possible; you will be integrating the necessary skills in your teaching. I will continue my discussion with specific examples in the letter that follows. Good luck.
Yours fraternally,