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Receptive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning

18 Comments

Young woman wearing headphones and writingHelen Stepanova is an English language teacher, teacher trainer and author, currently working as a Business English teacher in Latvia. In this guest post, she looks at some of the resources available for improving students’ receptive language skills.

Nowadays the Internet provides numerous possibilities for students to improve, polish and master their English language skills. In my lessons I introduce these options, explaining how my students can use them and inspiring them with my own personal experience.

I have divided these resources into two main groups:

  1. for receptive skills, with 2 subgroups: reading and listening
  2. for productive skills, with 2 subgroups: writing and speaking

In each group there are several useful resources. Choose the most appropriate ones for your class.

Receptive Skills

Productive Skills

Reading

Listening

Writing

Speaking

1.Fiction literature 1.Radio 1. Social networks 1. Social networks
2.Professional literature 2.Audio books 2. Language learning communities 2. Language learning communities
3.Bilingual parallel texts 3. Films  3. Writing Clubs 3. British Council
4.Newspapers, magazines, online news 4.Podcasts  4. Private journal 4. Speaking Clubs
5. Blogs 5. Conversations 5. Couchsurfing
6. Scripts 6.Music 6. International learning and volunteer programs

In this post, I’ll be looking at Receptive Skills. I’ll cover Productive Skills in my next post.

Reading

  1. Fiction literature

This is the best option for those who love reading. The choice of books is enormous, from historical adventures to mainstream and children books. It’s possible to relax and learn new vocabulary and grammar constructions simultaneously. Project Gutenberg is a free online library.

  1. Professional literature

If your students are learning English for a specific purpose (e.g. Engineering), reading professional literature is a great way of improving students’ knowledge in that professional area, and in English at the same time. You could also try reading the lectures of world-renowned academics, which are now uploaded to the websites of many leading universities. MIT’s Open Courseware and Coursera are two examples.

  1. Bilingual parallel texts

On one side you’re given English text, on the other there is a translation in your native language. This option is convenient for those who like to read original texts of any complexity, without having to stop to look up unknown words. This resource is very helpful, as the structure and ability to look at the translation immediately allow students become more confident in reading and lessen their fear of long texts.

  1. Newspapers, magazines, online news

Nowadays there are plenty of news websites and online resources for reading, e.g. BBC News, Daily Telegraph, Reuters, and CNN. By reading online news, students kill two birds with one stone – they read articles that are interesting and relevant to them, and learn a lot of new words that are common in press reporting. Reading these daily and writing down any unknown words will help students develop their vocabulary.

  1. Blogs

There are thousands of blogs on the Internet dedicated to different themes – travelling, fashion, gardening, children, phychology, etc. Use a service like Technorati to find relevant blogs. Several times per week bloggers update their pages with new stories. Like with online news sites, students will be interested in keeping up with new posts and will learn at the same time.

  1. Scripts

This is one of the most amazing resources for improving reading skills. We all have our favourite films, and reading the script can be a great way of entertaining students and showing the use of English in more natural, informal settings. The same will apply to plays. Sites like AwesomeFilm, The Daily Script and SimplyScripts have loads of movie scripts available as PDFs.

Listening

  1. Radio

There is possibly no better source for listening practice than radio. There are hundreds of different radio stations where you can listen online, so try listening to a station from a different country to your own. It also helps to listen to different dialects and accents, e.g. British English – BBC Radio, American English – Voice of America, Canadian English – CBC Radio, Australian English – ABC Radio Australia.

  1. Audio books

There are advantages and disadvantages to listening to audio books. The lexis can be learned quite easily, however not everybody likes listening to books. It is a matter of preference. Audio books can be downloaded for free from, for example, the University of South Florida’s Lit2Go program, New Fiction, and LibriVox. Or they can be purchased from sites such as Audible and AudioGo.

  1. Films

This is an ideal way to master listening skills, as all three VAK styles are used: visual, auditory and kinaesthetic. If something is unclear, it is easy to rewind back and re-watch that section of the film until it becomes clear. Reading the script before watching, or watching the film in students’ native language first, will also help. Repeat words and phrases, imitating the actors’ intonation, will help to get students’ kinaesthetic memory working.

  1. Podcasts

Short audio lessons or stories recorded by native speakers are what will really help students. Choosing podcasts at the right language level for your students, and with themes that are interesting and relevant to them, is crucial to maintaining students’ interest and motivation. You can even subscribe to podcasts to be sent the most recent episodes automatically. Try a service like ESL Podcast.

  1. Conversations

Encourage students to find a friend – either a native speaker or someone with a good level of English – and to talk with them in English. Thanks to social networks such as Facebook, Skype, Google+ and Lang-8, it’s very easy now for students to connect with native speakers and improve their English effectively.

  1. Music

Listening to music is a great way to develop English skills. When you are listening and singing your kinaesthetic memory is working. Even if it is difficult to understand the lyrics, music is poetry and is often very idiomatic. Students will pick up key phrases and words to add to their vocabulary.

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and other ELT professionals top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help further their ELT career. Follow Oxford ELT on Twitter. Find Oxford ELT on Google+.

18 thoughts on “Receptive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning

  1. Thanks very much, Helen, for these helpful resources.

    I would add another site for movie scripts—useful for either reading or speaking. That is Drew’s Script-o-Rama http://www.script-o-rama.com/. This site contains both transcripts of the dialog in movies and detailed scripts of movies including stage and camera directions. It’s very useful for ELT teachers.

    And I’ve got a question for you. Here in the U.S., we’ve pretty much done away with the terms receptive and productive skills. The thought was that receptive made it sound as though the reader or listener didn’t have to do much except to passively receive the content. We now know that both reading and listening require a great deal of very active processing on the part of the reader or listener. Are those terms are still widely used in Europe?

    • Thank you, Joe, for your feedback and a great resource! Concerning your question about productive and receptive skills, I suppose this is because in reading and listening the students mostly receive the information (of course they are doing a lot and these skills are quite difficult but still the information is produced by someone else), however in the productive skills (writing and speaking) the students have to create/produce the information themselves. Both processes are active, but differently.

  2. Reblogged this on Intelligence is not a Sin! and commented:
    This is true of any language, not just English.

  3. Pingback: Receptive Skills: Resources for Independent Lea...

  4. Thank you, Joe, for your feedback and a great resource! Concerning your question about productive and receptive skills, I suppose this is because in reading and listening the students mostly receive the information (of course they are doing a lot and these skills are quite difficult but still the information is produced by someone else), however in the productive skills (writing and speaking) the students have to create/produce the information themselves. Both processes are active, but differently.

  5. Pingback: Receptive Skills: Resources for Independent Lea...

  6. Pingback: Receptive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning | Prof. Leonardo's Blog

  7. Hi Helen,

    Nice post.

    Joe McVeigh doesn’t mention what labels he is using now . The skills used to be called “active” and “passive” then got changed to “productive” and “receptive”. This was to reflect a change in perception i.e. that listening and reading were also active and not at all passive. I didn’t know that the labels had changed again. What are they being called now? Do you know, Helen? Or, if you are about, Joe, could you let me know?

    all the best, Peter

  8. Hello Peter!
    No, I do not know. From Joe McVeigh reply I understood that they just avoid term receptive, as all skills are productive.

  9. Pingback: Productive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning | Oxford University Press

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