Our 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 to plan a receptive skills lesson. This OnTESOL graduate blog shows quick steps to plan a receptive skills lesson.
6 Steps to Plan Receptive Skills Lessons
1. Establish your objectives for the class
What are your learners going to gain through their exposure to a reading or listening activity? 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.
2. Introduction: pre-reading / listening task
At this point, you should aim to discuss the topic with the whole class or in groups. Our 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 keywords.
3. Teaching the essential vocabulary
There will be words that your learners are unfamiliar with that are essential to understanding the teaching material. Aim to teach vocabulary items that are necessary for answering comprehension questions, or teach 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.
4. 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).
With a listening lesson, play the recording once. With a reading lesson, have learners read the text. Students answer the questions while engaging with the teaching material. Plan for some students 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.
5. Reading/listening for specific information
After general understanding, create a task that aims to check a 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.
6. 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.
Use Meaningful Authentic Material in Receptive Skills Lessons!
I have recently taught some students who were very fluent in speaking and listening; fluent to the extent that I asked when they had lived in North America. They had never been immersed in a native English speaking culture, but they had immersed themselves in listening: listening to music, movies, TV, YouTube, and social media. They did not become fluent through a classroom language learning experience, but they were unwittingly employing communicative TEFL teaching methods. They were doing both extensive top-down listening and more conscious accuracy–focused listening without realizing it, transferring strategies and skills that they had developed in their native language such as skimming, scanning, inferring, and predicting. Through a lot of exposure, repetition, imitation, and drilling with materials that they enjoyed, they become highly proficient in receptive skills.