The Internet TESL Journal

A Scheme for the Obtaining of Language Skills

Gong Xue-Ping
gongx [at]
Mian Yang Normal College (China)

This article introduces a scheme for systematic training in language learning which covers the four abilities and macroskills as well. This scheme focuses on the classroom implementation through different training items for different levels at different times. It especially stresses the key points in the process of training. Each training item defines a specific aim and a specific content and also prescribes a certain method. Therefore, this scheme provides a comparatively fixed procedure for classroom teaching.

This scheme is divided into two parts: the first part refers to the training for the junior level, the second part for the senior level.

During the last ten years, TESOL schools in the world have focused their research on the practical application of English language rather than the theoretical discussion of linguistics. This is a progress and a reform on language teaching which has produced an overwhelming number of teaching procedures. How can we develop a teaching project which is easily operated? How can we operate it systematically while pushing our teaching forward? In physical sports, the coach trains the sportsman effectively by way of items training. Enlightened by this idea, we designed the following scheme for training TESOL students. The teaching requirements are defined differently based on the different levels. Each training item has a definite aim.

Junior Level


1. Single Word Listening time: at the stage of learning pronunciation

Following a tape-recorder or their teacher, students imitate the sounds while reading the international phonetic alphabet. Then they are given dictation of morpheme, phonetic transcription, word stress and so on during every lesson. Students should learn to compare and differentiate sounds in order to improve their listening ability through the early training of single word listening.

2. Sentence Listening time: when learning new words of each lesson

At this stage, the teacher focuses on teaching the words, phrases and sentence patterns appearing in the text which are frequently used in daily life. Students are required to carefully listen to the single sentences made using the new words by their teacher and try to write them down. The teacher should take care that sentences which are given to students progress from short ones to long ones.

3. Listening to Catch Information time: during the explanation of the text

When explaining the new text, the teacher should use the words, phrases and sentences already learned and, at the same time, introduce a few new words, so that students can gradually be trained to listen to short paragraphs. The students practice guessing the meaning of some new words in a training activity called "information catching".

4. Listening for One Hour per Day time: the student does this by himself outside of the class.

Students are required to listen to a special program of English made or edited by their teacher as well as taped lessons by native English speakers for one hour every day.


1. Daily Reports time: when the class begins

The student on duty makes a regular report about the weather, the attendance, and so on. Besides this, he reports any news about his class or college . The teacher may ask another student to retell the main points that the reporter has covered. This exercise involves the training of listening and speaking skills together.

2. Asking & Answering Activity time: when learning the sentence patterns of each lesson

Based on the language materials in the drills of each lesson, students practice dialogues in pairs without looking at the textbook till they can easily use the sentence patterns. Then the teacher asks students to use the newly-learned words or phrases in these dialogues.

3. Communication Performance time: when playing games after learning a lesson

The teacher recommends a topic based on the content of the newly-learned lesson or social life. Students perform in class. In their performances, students communicate with each other, their imagination is inspired and their motivation is stimulated greatly.

4. Situational Speaking time: when the learning of a lesson is finished

The teacher puts forward one or two scenes based on the content of the lesson and requires students to develop some plot or give an impromptu speech using their imagination. Students may try to speak without preparation while using the content of the lesson.


1. Re-reading of the Text time: before the explanation of a new text

The students read quickly in order to obtain some rough information about the text. The teacher may then ask students to retell the text, put forward some questions for debate, or simply ask students to answer some questions to help students gradually deepen their comprehension.

2. Reading of Simplified Materials time: during the students' spare time

Outside of class, students are required to read simplified and short stories at the speed of sixty words per minute. They are expected to read one book, comprising about fifty thousand words every month. Reading stories keeps the students interested and improves their reading speed and efficiency.

3. Guessing While Reading time: in the course of reading simplified materials

Before students start reading short stories, the teacher gives some guidance in advance in order to develop their conjectural ability. When reading simplified materials, students are encouraged to guess the meaning of some words from context. This is a good way to help students to speed-up their reading.


1. Making Sentences time: when learning new words

This is a combined practice of both listening and writing. When teaching new words, the teacher should demonstrate their use in a few sample sentences. The teacher should then ask the students to make five of their own sentences with the new words. The teacher should encourage students to make sentences which can be frequently used in their daily life. This training may help students develop the good habit of referring to a dictionary when writing.

2. Single Sentence Translation time: when doing the exercises of each lesson

Before doing the translation exercises, the teacher chooses one sentence as an example, asks for various translations, and then makes some comments on them. The teacher tells the class which translation is the best. The students are required to translate sentences based on sentence patterns, so the students gradually accumulate a great number of well-written sentences.

3. Paragraph Writing time: when the study of a text is finished

This training is a link between sentence writing and composition writing. After finishing the study of a text, students should either sum up the main ideas or write an approximately 150 word outline of the text. This may serve as a short-cut in the training of writing.

4. A Short Composition time: once a month

This is an introduction to writing before the formal training is introduced. At this initial stage, the content of the composition may be limited to everyday practical matters. For example, students may write a two-paragraph letter. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence. The composition should be about 300 words.

Senior Level


1. Sentence Dictation time: after finishing the study of a text

This training focuses on the studentsŐ transient memory. The teacher makes up two or three short paragraphs with the words and the main sentence patterns from the text. Then the teacher reads the paragraphs three times at an appropriate speed. The first time, the students should listen carefully and catch the rough meaning and write some of it down. When the teacher reads it the second and the third time, the students should complete the writing of the paragraph. The students should be able to get at least 70 per cent of the paragraph correct.

2. Listening for 40 Minutes Per Day time: evenings

This is a compulsory cultural activity for students. They are required to listen to an English program over radio or TV for at least forty minutes per day. (It is better to choose a channel from an English-speaking country.) During this time, students are expected to get cultural information and should report what they heard and learned in class the following day.

3. Note Taking While Listening time: through discussion which aims at the training of speaking in class

This is a training of quick reflection while listening. In the discussion of a text, the students as listeners need to take notes of a speech by a student speaker, so that they can get to the essence of speaker's ideas and confirm their own attitude towards it quickly and accurately.

4. English Lecture time: once a week (if possible)

This is a high-level activity which assists in the training of listening. Visitors from English-speaking countries are invited to give lectures about their social culture, customs, education, and so on.


1. Three-minute Speeches time: the first few minutes of class

This is a training for fluent speaking. The teacher writes a topic for a speech on blackboard and gives students five minutes to prepare before speaking. The student whose name is called by teacher should give an impromptu speech in class. Usually a chance to present himself or herself in public will motivate students to strive for further success or to behave better.

2. Discussion in Class time: when a certain topic is studied

This is a training in speaking about a certain topic. Based on the content of a text, the teacher puts forward questions, the answers to which may be controversial. Students may debate on two opposite sides. This kind of discussion is exciting and interesting. The teacher may also put forward some "hot topics" related to social life, about which students are eager to give their opinions. Some other ideas included having the students summarize the main ideas of a text, find some writing features, or make a critique about the protagonist and antagonist.

3. Being a Leader of an English Program time: of group work or parties

This is a training for speaking as a major speaker. Activities outside the classroom are important to English study. Students may preside at an evening party in English, hold a speech competition in English, or practice visiting as a news reporter.

4. Activity in the English Corner time: once a week

The English learners practice speaking in English by fixing a certain time and a certain place on campus once a week to talk to fellow students about whatever they want to talk about. This social communication will help students participate in speaking more conscientiously. Of all the activities advocated by our teachers to improve the students' speaking, this one is probably the most effective.


1. Three-Minute Reading time: at the beginning of the lesson or some time during the lesson

This is a training for speed reading. Students are required to finish a reading and check multiple-choice questions at the speed of 150 words per minutes. Students are expected to get at least 70 per cent of the multiple-choice questions correct.

2. Skimming and Scanning time: before learning a new text

This is a training for getting ideas from reading materials through fast reading. When a new text is introduced, the students are required to skim or scan over the text at the speed of 200 words per minute. This is faster than the rate of the three-minute reading exercise. Students need to catch the main meaning of it and understand the structure of the text with the help of skimming and scanning.

3. Reading Reference Books time: pre-viewing

Before starting a new lesson, students need to have some background information. The teacher should recommend some materials for students to read and prepare some notes. This training may aid students' ability to do research work in the future.

4. Reading of Materials Designed for Native Speakers time: the students' spare time

This is an extra reading outside of class. At this higher level, students ought to read quite a lot of English literature covering a wide variety of topics at the speed of 80-100 words per minute. The more books they can read, the better. At the end of semester, teacher should score the outline of book reports by students.


1. Paragraph Writing time: during the learning of a text

Paragraph writing at this level is an imitation of well-written articles. When coming across a very well-written paragraph during the learning of a text, the teacher may give students ten minutes or so and ask them to write another paragraph using some of the interesting words or some of the phrases from the text. Students should do this with their textbooks closed. The content of the paragraph can vary, including narratives or persuasive writing.

2. Summarizing Writing time: the closing segment of learning the text

This teaches students to summaries or condense what they have read into a digest form. Students who major in English should be both good readers and good writers. After learning each text, the teacher sets some time aside for students to digest it and refine their understanding. The students should summarize the main ideas and the most featured expressions of the text.

3. Book Report time: once per semester

After extensive reading students are expected to write a book review in their spare time. Students may choose one of their reading reports or a book review, and hand it to teacher, usually at the end of a semester. This kind of writing is unconsciously influenced by the originals they have read and can be improved gradually.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. III, No. 6, June 1997