Gabrielatos, C. (1998). Receptive skills with young learners. In Gika, A-S. & Berwick, D. (eds.), Working with Young Learners: A way ahead. Whitstable, Kent: IATEFL, 52-60.

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In this article I will argue for the benefits of receptive skills development (i.e. reading and listening) with children (seven to eleven) at beginner/elementary levels who are able to recognise words in print. I will then outline objectives and discuss text and task selection.


My survey of EFL coursebooks, as well as my observations of lessons and discussions with teachers, indicate that courses for children at beginner/elementary levels usually concentrate on vocabulary and grammar teaching. Texts are normally used as vehicles for the presentation of new language, whereas systematic receptive skills development is reserved for intermediate levels. Teaching materials may involve some ‘comprehension’ tasks (usually questions), but this alone hardly seems to constitute systematic skills development.


True, texts can be used for the presentation of language items, but it is not helpful to equate all text-based lessons with language work (see also McDonough & Shaw, 1993: 103-105; Underwood, 1989: 23). The main objective of a receptive skills programme is not the teaching of more grammar and vocabulary, but the development of the learners’ ability to understand/interpret texts using their existing language knowledge. Of course, receptive skills development can be combined with language input in the same lesson, but the procedures need to be staged in such a way so that the ‘language’ component does not cancel out the ‘skills’ one. For example, explaining all unknown lexis before learners read or listen to a text will cancel out training in inferring the meaning of lexis in the text.


Key words


Reading, listening, English language teaching, language teaching methodology, EFL, ESL, ESOL, ELT, TESOL.


Relevant details


This article is based on a seminar entitled ‘Receptive skills development with mixed-ability young learners’, which I conducted for Greek state school teachers of English, September 1997 (organised by the Greek Ministry of Education and the British Council, Athens), and my paper ‘Receptive skills development with young learners’, given at the 2nd IATEFL Greece Symposium, Athens, March 1998.



Related article by the same author


Gabrielatos, C. (1997). Teaching Reading and Listening for Exam Preparation. ELT News 99-102 (published in 3 parts).

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