Listening And Writing In Esol Planning And Teaching Education Essay

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Speaking, listening, reading and writing are considered to be mutually interdependent upon one another in language learning. Although speaking coherently and intelligibly is generally recognised as the most important goal for second language (L2) speakers, particularly ESOL speakers (Murphy 1991:52), competence in reading and writing complete a learner's proficiency in L2. Speaking and listening may be described as the major skill areas of interpersonal communication (Murphy 1991: 52). Whether through interactive or teacher-instruction, the listening skill will determine how learners develop fluency and competence in the language being learnt (Nation and Newton 2009; Ellis 2003).

Listening is key in language learning because it not only aids competence in speaking, but also in reading. Ellis (2003) has noted that researchers and teachers have their own aims in pursuing listening as a language skill. For researchers, listening provides means for investigating learners' ability to process specific linguistic features ( Ellis 2003: 37). In view of this , he suggests that focused tasks can be devised by 'seeding' the input with the targeted feature and designing the task in such a way that the product outcome can only be achieved if the learners are successful in processing the targeted feature. Thus, listening tasks provide an excellent means for measuring whether learners have acquired the feature in question. On the other hand, listening skills can be devised to facilitate the acquisition of the targeted feature ( Ellis 2003: 37).

This essay discusses how the four language skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing are interdependent in helping a learner achieve competence in learning English as a second language. As we already know, interactive language learning depends a lot on listening and speaking skills (Ellis 2003) . However, a well balanced language course which consists of four roughly equal strands of learning/instruction in the language classroom (Nation and Newton 2009), known as meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, language-focused learning, and fluency development, bring out the mutual dependency of the four language skills. The four strands methodology as described by Nation and Newton (2009:1) may be summarised as follows:

learning though meaning-focused input, that is, learning through listening and reading where the learners'attention is on the ideas and messages conveyed by the language

learning through meaning-focused output, that is, learning through speaking and writing where the learners'attention is on conveying ideas and messages to another person

learning through deliberate attention to language items and language features, that is, learning through direct vocabulary study, grammar exercises and explanation, through attention discourse features and deliberate learning and practice of language learning and language use strategies, and

learning through developing fluent use of known language items and features over the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing

Second language acquisition shows that appropriately focused attention to language items can make a very positive contribution to learning (Doughty 2003; Doughty & Williams, 1998; Ellis 2005). A well-planned language course has an appropriate balance of these four strands. Through these four strands the learners achieve the learning goals of a language course, namely fluent control of sounds, spelling, vocabulary, grammar and discourse features of language, so that they can be used to communicate effectively.

A justification of the four strands is the time-on-task principle, that is, learning-to-read by reading or learning-to-write by writing (Nation & Newton 2009:2). The more time one spends doing something, the better they are likely to do it. Those who read a lot, for instance, are better readers (Cunningham & Stanovich 1991), and those who write a lot usually become better writes. The evidence for the four strands draws on a large and growing body of research into the roles of input, output and focused instruction on L2 learning and on development of speaking and reading fluency ( Nation & Newton 2009:3).

Meaning-focused input: learning through listening and reading

The meaning-focused input strand involves learning through listening and reading, that is using language receptively. It is called 'meaning-focused' because in all the work done in this strand, the learners' main focus and interest should be on understanding, and gaining knowledge or enjoyment or both from what they listen to and read. Typical activities in this strand include extensive reading, shared reading, listening to stories, watching TV or films, and being a listener in a conversation ( see Hinkel 2006).

Meaning-focused output learning

Meaning-focused output involves the learners producing language through speaking and writing were the learners' focus is on others understanding the message (Nation & Newton 2009). It occurs when learners write essays,and assignments, when they write letters, dairies, send e-mail and text messages to each other and when they write about their experience. As spelling is particularly important in writing, having to write can make learners aware of the gaps in their spelling knowledge( Nation 2009:18).

Writing activities that can help with spelling are copying, delayed copying, read and write from memory, dictation, the various forms of guided writing, writing with the help of a dictionary and free writing.

Language-focused learning

Language-focused learning has many names; focus on form, form-focused instruction, deliberate study and deliberate teaching or learning as opposed to acquisition, or intentional learning (Nation & Newton 2009:7). It involves deliberate learning of language features such as pronunciation, spelling, vocabulary, grammar and discourse. A variety of activities may be used, such as pronunciation practice, using substitution tables and drills, learning vocabulary from word cards and intensive reading. Other activities may be translation, memorising dialogues an getting feedback about writing.

There are numerous techniques for giving deliberate attention to spelling, for example. . The critical factor is making sure that there is an appropriate balance of each of the four strands so that there is some deliberate attention to spelling but this attention does not become excessive. Deliberate attention can include a number of activities such as cover and retrieve, using analogies, using word parts, pronouncing the word the way it is spelled and visualising. There is need to look at each of these techniques:

Cover and Retrieve

The learner writes a list of difficult to spell words down the left-hand side of the page (nation 2009:19). The first letter or two of each word is written next to it, for example:

yacht y

occurrence o

The words are studied and then covered and each word is written from memory using the first letter clue. The first letter is written again so that the activity can be repeated.

yacht yacht y

Using analogies

Working with the teacher or in small groups, the learners think of known words that share similar spelling features to words that they have difficulty in spelling. For example, if learning to spell 'apply', the learners think of the known words 'reply', 'supply' which are words with similar spelling features and sound (Nation 2009:19).

Using word parts

Word parts may be helpful in drawing attention to word building units. This may be particularly useful with advance learners. For example, the word 'separate' contains the root 'par' which is also in 'part'. Therefore, the spelling is 'separate' not 'seperate'.

Pronouncing the word the way it is spelled

Teaching spelling is one of the great challenges of language teaching. As a guideline, Nation (2009) encourages that pupils may be encouraged to deliberately mispronounce a word like 'yacht' /yaect/ as a kind of mnemonic for spelling .

Learners may also be encouraged to look at a word, close their eyes and try to 'see' the spelling of the word in their mind. This is what is called 'visualising' a word.

The case for integrating language learning skills

Although a large number of traditional methods of language learning continue to be useful, current studies encourage integrating language skills in the language classroom. For instance, teaching reading can be easily tied to instruction on writing and vocabulary, and oral skills lend themselves to teaching pronunciation, listening and cross-cultural language interaction (Hinkel 2001; Lazaraton 2001; McCarthy & O'keeffe 2004).

Task-based teaching of L2 skills has built-in opportunities for more accurate and complex uses of language (Ellis 2003). For example, narratives and description tasks in fluency-focused teaching, debates and problem-solving tasks promote increased grammatical and lexical complexity in learner language. Through these tasks a substantial improvement in the amount of spoken discourse and in grammatical , lexical and articulatory competence is enhanced.

English language has become more internationalised, and therefore, teaching of skills such as pronunciation has shifted from targeting native-like accents to targeting intelligibility (Tarone 2005). In this regard, teaching has to address issues of segmental clarity, that is, the articulation of specific sounds, word stress and prosody and the length and timing of pauses.

The current approach to teaching pronunciation is generally based on three principled criteria. Firstly, pronunciation and intonation are taught in context and in conjunction with specific skills. Secondly, instruction in pronunciation serves broader communicative purposes, and finally but not least, the teaching of pronunciation and intonation is based on realistic rather than idealistic language models (Chun 2002).

The 1980s saw a shift from the view of L2 listening as predominantly linguistic to a schema-based view, and listening pedagogy moved away from its focus on the linguistic to the activation of learners' top-down knowledge (Hinkel 2006:9). Emphasis now, is on the integrated teaching of listening for communication and in conjunction with other L2 skills such as speaking, socio-pragmatics, grammar and vocabulary. The linguistic and schema-driven strands of teaching listening have found a niche in current integrated approaches, such as task-based or content-based instruction (Snow 2005).

The design of listening practice, for instance, can incorporate a number of features that make the development of L2 listening abilities relevant and realistic. Listen-and-do tasks, for example, represent a flexible source of listening input for beginning o intermediate learners.

The content of tasks can be easily controlled in regard to their linguistic and schematic variables, such as frequent occurrences of target syntactic and lexical structures in the context of meaning-focused task (Ellis 2003). This is done in areas of grammar constructions, words and phrases or conversational expressions.Recent research has shed a great deal o light on the processes and learning of L2 reading . As in listening, L2 reading involves both top-down and bottom-up cognitive processing. Eskey( 1988:95) suggests that the strongly top-down bias neglected learners weak ares of linguistic processing.

the bottom-up processing of reading involves a broad array of distinct subskills, such as word recognition, spelling and phonological processing, morpho syntactic parsing and lexical recognition (Eskey 2005). The reader needs to gather visual information from the written text, identify the meaning of words, and then move forward to the processing of the structure and meaning of lager syntactic units, such as phrases or sentences. Visual processing of words and letters represents a cognitively complex task ( Koda 1999 ; Chikmatsu 1996; Shimron & Savon 1994). Readers whose L1 orthographies are markedly diffrent from the that of L2 may be slowed down in their reading process by the need to attain fluent L2 word recognition before acquiring text-processing skills. The findings of L2 reading research on the key role of bottom-up processing, word recognition fluency, and the recognition of the morphophonemic structure of words and phrases have led to substantive shifts in reading and literacy instruction to young and adult L2 learners alike. As an example, in 1999, the National Literacy Strategy in the UK introduced work on phonics, word recognition, and graphic knowledge primo to sentence and text levels of instruction ( Hinkel 2006:13). In teacher education, current methodology textbooks reflect the change in perspectives on teaching L2 reading, literacy and writing.

Most influential L2 teaching and learning publications have seen the need to include at least a chapter on the teaching of bottom-up reading skills usually followed by instruction in top-down and strategic reading( Celce-Murcia 2001; Carter & Nunan 2001; Mckay 1993; Nunan 1999, 2003; Wallace 1993).

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