Practical Application of Teaching the 4 Skills


Why should we cover the four skills every time we show up in front of a class?


1)      It is recommended by the MOE.

2)      Attention span in a second language learning context is very limited. By frequently moving from one activity to another, you keep your kids alert.

3)      It suits different learning styles and reinforces self-esteem.


 How to deal with outside pressure against teaching the four skills?


You give the reasons mentioned above.



What is the function of the textbook in relationship to teaching the four skills?


        To help you teach the 4 skills.



Why using a lesson plan?


        -Making sure you cover the 4 skills.

-Making sure you don’t have a discipline problem caused by a lack of preparation.

- Making sure the material for the test is covered.




Last time we went over one of my lesson plans designed for first grade students.


-         The main goal was to show you how to teach English without using Chinese even with very young kids.

-         My lesson plan wasn’t following a textbook.

-         I was mainly dealing with flashcards because textbooks and written words are too confusing and distracting for younger students.

-         However, for older kids, a textbook can become very useful.














Lesson plan using a textbook to teach the four skills


Topic: Body Parts

Target Group: Grade III

Textbook: Magic Land 2




Introduction (listening and speaking)

1) Head and shoulders, knees and toes (song)

2) The song in the textbook is also good to introduce the topic, but don’t ask the students to read the song yet.

- The objective here is to wake up the student and focus their attention on the topic.


Vocabulary (listening and recognition of written words)

1)      Introduce the flashcards and match the words with the pictures.

2)      Evaluate the understanding of the students by asking them to do the same thing. Only when this task is achieved by most students, should you consider moving to the second activity.

3)      The presentation in the textbook (Unit 2, Lets’ Say, p.4) is very confusing. The picture has a lack of focus and we don’t really know what is going on. It is to be avoided.


Songs (speaking and reading)

1) Once you are certain that the kids can recognize the written words, you may proceed with reading the song.

2) You may use the one in the textbook or the one in the e-book.

3) Using an overhead projection has the tendency to put the viewers asleep, but the song presentation in this e-book is very effective.

4) If you are using the book, it is a good idea to ask the kids to follow with their finger. It gives you an idea of who is lost and it helps the kids focussing on the task.


Writing Activity (listening and writing)

1)      Place on the board the sentence pattern¨“Point at your…”and leave all the pictures and the vocabulary on the board too.

2)      Ask to kids to go at the board and to write the word you call.

3)      This is a very popular game when girls compete against the boys.

4)      Since it involves copying the words on the board, almost everyone can complete the task. Of course, match the students according to their level of English.



Game (listening)

        Simon says using the verbs ‘touch’ and ‘point’.

Focus on the vocabulary and the words introduced with the song in the introduction.





Making Links (reading and speaking)

        -Review the song “Point at your …”

-Use the words on the flashcards or some of the other body parts introduced last time.


Sentence Patterns (listening and reading)

Make a smooth transition from speaking the sentence patterns to reading them by adding only two to three new written words at a time.

Ex: I have a nose. I have two ears. You may write the words on the board or use a printed form.

Do the same thing with: This is my nose.

Add another word after another till you get all the full sentence patterns.

If you show a long sentence pattern already made right at the beginning, it can be too much for the regular or weaker students.      


Story (listening and meaningful reading)

1)      Read the story with the kids focussing mainly on the meaning of the story.

2)      If there is a translation at the end of the book, show them how to find out about the meaning of the story.

3)      If not, ask some students to give you a translation and correct them.

4)      Never give a translation yourself. The teacher is not a universal translator. The teacher is there to help the students in the process of understanding.

5)      If possible, replay the scenario with the students.


Exercises (listening, reading, and writing)

1)      The exercises in the workbook should be completed together. (e-book)

2)      It is best to start with the listening sections of the workbook.

3)      Give the answers to everybody at the end.


Testing (listening, reading, and writing)

1)      It is better to give small quizzes very often rather than a bigger test at the end of the semester.

Students will get used to be tested. They will be more familiar with the format of the test and will eventually gain control on the task.

2)      You may create you own quizzes or use those provided by the publisher.


Testing (speaking)


1)      Pictures and sentence patterns seen in class should form the basis of the test.

2)      Last time I saw you, I used a game to show you how to evaluate your kids.







Evaluation of the four skills


a) Should we give marks to everybody?


Marks can have major negative effects on the student motivation.


1)      If a student gets very poor marks, he may give up and feel helpless.

2)      If a student gets good marks all the time, he might feel that everything is too easy and stop making efforts.

3)      Especially with first and second graders, I do not recommend giving marks. Since English is not compulsory for them, you shouldn’t bother evaluating the kids.

4)      If you are asked by your school to evaluate these kids, make the administration understand that it is not suitable for young kids.

5)      If parents are still insisting, you can always give them the writing activities you have done in class with the kids.




b) Why do we evaluate students?


1) Evaluations should be used by us to see if we can move on with new material. If most students in the class do not master what has been practiced in class, the teacher shouldn’t start a new unit. This is why frequent testing is important for the teacher. Sometimes kids understand and you don’t know because they are very quiet and shy; and sometimes they don’t understand and you don’t know for the exact same reason. Regular evaluations should help you fixing the pace of your teaching.


2) Evaluations are also used by the parents and the students to give them an idea of the position they hold within a group.


3) Never evaluate your students on something that hasn’t been presented in class. All students must know that 100 % is possible to achieve as long as they pay attention, study, practice, and participate.


4) When I talk about exams, I always do it in Chinese. It’s the only time I speak Chinese in class. By doing so, I want to make sure the kids know exactly what to study and practice for the exam.


The Speaking Exam (Discussion)


How do you evaluate the speaking skill of your students?

Is it just a general appreciation of what they can say in English or is it a systematic evaluation of what has been practiced in class?

Do you evaluate what has been done at the cram school or the result of your teaching?

Are you fair? Do you give the same chance of success to all your kids?


Demo: The little presentation

Evaluation of class material and textbooks



1) Flashcards:


        1) Two words meaning the same thing on one card.

        2) Plural and singular forms on the same card.

        3) Words seldom used like toothache, earache, backache


2) Sentence Patterns



        1) Presence of difficult punctuations

        2) One gender only


3) Textbook



1) Confusing pictures with too much material.

    ML2, p.19 Unit 3, Let’s Say

2) Activity too difficult to explain in English only.

ML8 p. 4 Unit 3, Phonics, part 2

ML4, p.5 Unit 6, Let’s Practice

3) Ineffective speaking activities.

ML8 p. 46 Unit 4, activity 1

4)      Reorganize the activity to suit your needs.

 ML 6, p.15 Unit 2, activity

        5) Irrelevance of talking about phonics for the sake of talking about phonics.

-         Doesn’t make sense to study words without a specific context.

-         Many words introduced for their phonological property are seldom used in English: hen, ox, dent, vat, rake, top, lid

-         English is far from being a consistent language: tear, vase, sox, socks



Guidelines for a lesson plan based on a textbook


        - The 4 skills must be present in every class.

- There should be a gradual build up of difficulty unless you are just reviewing what has been learned at the cram school.

- Never follow blindly the order of presentation in a textbook. Sometimes, the approach is gradual, but not always.

- There should be a unity or a topic guiding your lesson plan.

- If an activity or a page is irrelevant or too confusing in a book, skip it.

- Reorganize the material to fit your teaching needs. Avoid confusing teaching material.

- The evaluation of the skills should always be kept in mind whenever you teach.


Class Management in English


Just make sure that your students love the English class. Make it fun. Give a lot of positive reinforcement to your kids and make sure they feel comfortable when you speak English by smiling all the time or being funny.


At an early stage like with first and second graders, kids should be able to guess what you’re saying just with the tone of your voice and your facial expression.

Dogs understand our feelings just by looking at us.

Kids should be able to do the same thing, don’t they?




Dealing with Emotions


If a kid is crying and you don’t really know what is going on, you have two options:


a)      You inform the homeroom teacher who knows the kids much more than you.

b)      You try to resolve the problem in Chinese. Using English is definitely not appropriate in this case.























Target Group: ____________


1) Listening:


Objectives: ___________________________________________________






2) Speaking:


Objectives: ___________________________________________________




Method: ___________________________________________________



3) Reading:


Objective: ___________________________________________________




Method: ___________________________________________________



4) Writing:


        Objectives: ___________________________________________________




Method: ______________________________________________________













1) The Hangman Game: Controversial, but effective


Why playing games?


As we all know, when there is no parent support available, playing games is the most powerful motivating factor in the process of learning a foreign language. No matter how short is the game, we must play something to make sure students are left with a positive image of learning English. 


The importance of playing very simple games


However, playing games all the time has shown poor results in the process of learning a language because it rarely involves reading and writing. This is why games should be short, repetitive, and easy to remember. Some people have argued that the hangman game contains a morbid component not suitable for young students and have proposed other versions of playing this game. However, once you go in that direction, you will waste a lot of time in explaining the new rules. Personally, I prefer to focus on a well-known structure rather than getting everybody confused with new rules.


A game that is more than just a game


At first, the hangman game appears to focus mainly on the alphabet and of some vocabulary. However, depending on how you play the game, you will notice that this very simple game hides a very efficient way of teaching how to use the articles “a” and “an”. No grammar rules have to be explained. Playing the game on a regular basis will bring students to be able to use instinctively the articles “a” and “an” by repeatedly using the pattern: Is there an “H (a letter)”?


Grammar Guidelines


1) Why do we use the article “an” in front of some isolated consonants?

Answer: They carry the sound of a vowel with them.


“R” sounds like the “ar” of “argument”, “archive”, and “arc”.

“X” sounds like the “ex” of “excellent”.

“M” sounds like the “em” of “embassy” and “embargo”.

“L” sounds like the “el” of “elegant”.

“S” sounds like the “es” of “essential”.

“N” sounds like the “en” of “end”.

“F” sounds like the “ef” of “effort”.

“H” sounds like the “ach” of achievement.


2) Why do we use the article “a” in front of the vowel “u”?

Answer: It carries the sound of the semi-vowel “y”.


“U” sounds like the “y” of “you”.



Is there ….


an A

a B

a C

a D

an E

an F

a G

an H

an I

a J

a K

an L

an M

an N

an O

a P

a Q

an R

an S

a T

a U

a V

a W

an X

a Y

a Z
















2)  Scrabble: For you and for them


1) The in-class game

2) Set parameters to give equal chances to everybody, i.e., can use only the words in the textbook. That prevents cram school students from controlling the entire game.

3) The internet match between schools and people

4) A game a week keeps your spelling sharp.



3)  Boggle


1) A good pronunciation spelling game

2) As the other games, set parameters to give equal chances to everybody.

3) Students might be allowed to speak only once to make sure everyone has a chance to speak and to push good students to help weaker ones.

4) Good idea to play the game by yourself before you go to class.

5) You may want set a limit by requiring a Chinese translation every time they find a new word. Otherwise, kids might just end up combining letters randomly.

6) Playing with a dictionary can be a fun research game too.














Last modified: Thursday, 24 February 2011, 2:16 PM