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Bringing the four skills together




Christopher Graham, teacher and teacher trainer, discusses what our everyday skills teach us about skills integration and how to apply this in the EFL classroom. Chris hosted a webinar on this topic on the 7th June.

There are many pleasures in being a father, and one of them – I’d hoped – would be helping my kids with their homework. My fourteen year old son, however, seems to have other ideas – as revealed when I recently watched him starting a homework project about Indian history.

I thought his starting point would be, “Dad what do you know about ….?”.  But no, the first thing he did after reading his homework task was to send some instant messages to a group of classmates and follow that up with a group Skype call to decide what needed doing for the project. This was followed by furious Googling, lots of Wikipedia reading and copious YouTube watching. This in turn was followed, sadly, by quite a lot of cutting and pasting and just a little rewriting. The final written version was supplemented by some ideas that came from a Skype call to an ex-classmate who now lives in India. Job done and emailed to the teacher!

It was a genuine pleasure to watch highly motivated collaborative learning in action, something that we teachers have strived to achieve for years and that for so many young people today is part of their lives. Part of their lives thanks to technology.

But the use of this technology requires us to do something else too. My son was integrating skills at high speed. Reading, listening, speaking and writing were all being used, constantly intermixed and in many different combinations. This integration of skills is a requirement to make the best of the technology that we now have at our fingertips.

Think how you might book a restaurant table for a dinner with some friends. A few SMS messages to see who is free, then perhaps a look at TripAdvisor to see where to go;  follow this with one or two phone calls to discuss options and then book online with the place you’ve chosen. A few days before the event you let everyone know where and when with an email with a nice map link embedded into it. A Facebook status update on the day will be the final element of 21st century restaurant life. With lots of integration of skills.

My webinars are based on the assumption that we are preparing our students for real life. And real life means the integration of skills. What I hope to show you is why a holistic approach to integrated skills is so realistic and thus a vital element in the EFL classroom. We will also look at why the content and setting are so important. Remember how motivated my son was to do his homework or how motivated you are when you arrange to meet your friends in a restaurant. Rich and personalised content drives our desire to communicate and this creates the learner motivation and enhanced levels of confidence that we EFL teachers need to harness in our classes.

I hope that you will come away from the webinars with some practical classroom ideas for skills integration that you can adapt and use in your day-to-day teaching. What I can’t promise is that it will make your teenagers want to do their homework!

You can view a recording of this webinar here.

Christopher Graham has been working in English Language Teaching for many years as a teacher, academic manager, teacher educator and materials writer. He is now a London-based freelance consultant and travels widely, working with teachers and institutions in a range of EFL areas. His own professional interests include EAP, Writing Skills , Cross Cultural Communication and ESP.


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