A letter to the teachers of English: 58Integrate all the skills while you teach (2) [Archives:2004/800/Education]

December 20 2004

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

Dear Fellow teachers,
In the last letter, I started discussing how to integrate the skills while we teach English. I stressed that teaching English in a natural way is the only way to integrate the necessary skills. Let me explain it with a few examples in this letter.
Imagine that you are introducing Unit 3 in Pupil's Book 3 “What is the weather like?” What do you do first? You tell your class something related to the weather in order to introduce the lesson to them; while saying, you will use a few words that they may not understand easily. You will write the words on the blackboard and try to explain them; your student may take them down in their notebooks; a few clever ones, if they have dictionaries with them, will try to find the meanings of those words stealthily; some of them will consult each other for the meaning in Arabic. Now look back and see what skills have been involved with or without your knowledge. There were speaking, writing, reading, referring to a dictionary, consulting each other, using the mother tongue, copying down in the notebook etc. When all these are possible (most of the time unavoidable) while you are involved in one stage of teaching, you can imagine the quantum of integration and the number of skills involved in the entire teaching process.
Let's look at another example: Arts 5 in Pupil's Book 5 'The world'. The skills you will concentrate on while teaching this lesson are reading and writing skills. But while you read this lesson orally, won't you ask your students to guess the meaning of words like 'map' or 'ocean'? Will there be no speaking and listening at all? If you use a world map as a teaching aid in the class, won't you ask your students to refer to the map for certain countries like Yemen, continents like Africa? What do these activities involve? Other skills such as reference skills, listening skills, speaking skills etc.
Let's look at yet another example. Unit 5, 5.1 (page 57) in Workbook 4. The exercise asks students to write sentences about certain people, their names, jobs, places going to and purposes. As a preparation to this exercise, you will give a few examples of known people, say Abdo's sister who is going to India for higher studies; then you will ask your class to interpret the pictures given in the workbook; then some of them will answer the questions orally; and then they write the answers in the workbook. What skills are involved in the activity? Listening, speaking, writing, reading, interpreting, translating, if necessary, referring to a dictionary and so on.
I hope you get the message now; you cannot teach any thing in the class without integrating the necessary skills. Then why do we say that workbooks are for writing and the Pupil's Books are for reading? Why do we have composition classes for developing writing skills? Why do we have reading classes for developing reading skills? This is because the skills that get major attention are the skills mentioned against each activity and this does not mean that we develop these skills at the exclusion of the other skills in these activities. I repeat what I said early: we cannot develop any one set of skills without paying attention to another set of skills.
Let's remember this and try to teach in a natural way so as to integrate the skills necessary for the purpose. This is what is advocated by the communicative approaches to the teaching of English, which are followed in the Crescent English Course for Yemen teaching materials. Try them. Good luck.
Yours fraternally,