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Productive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning

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Girl with headset looking at computer monitor smilingHelen 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’ productive 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 Productive Skills. I covered Receptive Skills in my previous post.

Writing

1. Social networks

Skype, Twitter and Facebook are examples of free resources to communicate in written English as you would orally. Write in your Skype profile that you are looking for a native speaker to improve your English. When someone contacts you, explain your needs and offer to correspond on a regular basis. You can then chat with them through Facebook chat, on Twitter, through blogs, etc. The disadvantage of this approach is that people are unlikely to correct your mistakes (unless you ask them to); however as the correspondence is very informal and friendly, the learner can relax and express himself/herself freely. Twitter messages make you formulate your thoughts very concisely, as the maximum length of the post is 140 characters. It teaches you to write the core idea. Blogging is also a good way to present your ideas to a wide audience and invite comments and corrections to your writing.

2. Language learning communities

Language learning communities, such as Lang-8, Phrase Base are specialized sites to help you polish your language skills, where native speakers from 180 countries will correct your writing for free. First you have to log in, and then write your text, publish it and wait until a native speaker (possibly even a teacher) checks it and gives a detailed explanation of any mistakes. You can write your own blog, correct posts of other participants if they are in your native language, make friends, create your own community, and expand your network.

3. Writing Clubs/Classes

These are a very popular form of mastering the language. The teacher gives you a theme for your writing and a deadline to submit your work. The goal is to write an essay, to develop writing skills and to monitor your mistakes, both grammatical and stylistic. Sometimes writing clubs can include written debates on a particular topic. When the discussion is over the teacher individually comments on mistakes, or a peer assessment is provided. Different Universities offer such courses, and there are several such classes on Coursera.

4. Private journal

This resource demands a higher level of motivation, as the student has to commit to keeping a regular journal. It can be a fictitious or simply a record of everyday events. The habit of writing regularly promotes a habit of thinking in English. There are several online journal tools, such as Life Journal. Nobody monitors your mistakes, but Life Journal’s password and encryption system keeps your information safe and private, unless you choose to share it to get feedback on your writing.

Speaking

1. Social networks and 2. Language learning communities

The same principle as with writing, with one difference – you have to talk with your new native language friends. Speaking demonstrates any gaps in your language knowledge. Corresponding with pan-pals through social networks, ask them to have a conversation via Skype or another service. Regular real-life conversations will put what you’ve learned into practical application. The best practice will come from conversations with a native speaker, but even if he/she is not, you will learn to speak spontaneously and across a variety of different topics.

3. British Council

The representative office of the British Council is in every country. The main aim of the British Council is to help to share British expertise and knowledge with over 100 countries worldwide. You can attend seminars and workshops in English, meet English-speaking partners and master your speaking skills.

4. Speaking Clubs

This is a very popular forum to improve your speaking skills. Clubs are often organized to discuss the latest news and talk about different subjects.

5. Couch Surfing

Participating in a ‘’Couch Surfing’’ club allows you to host travellers at your house and to connect with new friends all around the world by staying at their houses while travelling. You can offer your guide services in your home town and invite the foreign visitors just for a cup of coffee, which will definitely involve and improve your speaking skills. Some examples are CouchSurfing, HomeExchange, and The Hospitality Club.

6. International learning and volunteer programs

Participation in different learning and volunteer programs, such as archaeological excavations, building projects, medical volunteering, wildlife conservation or life-long learning programs, such as Grundtvig practical learning for adults, gives you the opportunity to improve your speaking skills significantly.

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+.

10 thoughts on “Productive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning

  1. Reblogged this on LE.TE. Le Educazioni Tecnologiche and commented:
    Per chiunque insegni/ studi una L2 e non solo per chi studia/insegna Inglese. Cedo che davvero i Media offrano delle potenzialità infinite a chi abbia la voglia di arricchire le proprie conoscenze.

  2. Hi Helen, thanks for the comprehensive post! I wanted to add that for language learning communities, I’ve always found that http://www.italki.com has a really active community, with really fast, free feedback.

    Oh, and if learners aren’t sure how to pronounce words or phrases, they can post whatever they want to say on http://www.rhinospike.com to have a native speaker record it for them (for free).

    Thanks again!

  3. Pingback: Productive Skills: Resources for Independent Le...

  4. Pingback: Productive Skills: Resources for Independent Learning | Prof. Leonardo's Blog

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