Written by Maria Ivanova – English teacher,
“Hristo Botev” Primary school, Plovdiv
Teaching young learners is fun. If you are not sure, just come! Curious about what you are going to see? Then you are welcome to join me! Share ideas inspired by Oxford Basics series and other OUP methodology books, which make the primary classroom a fun place to be.

The aim of this talk is to outline the main features of the four language skills and to demonstrate some useful techniques. The ideas are based on the Oxford Basics series. The only materials the teacher and the class need are the board, paper and pens.
Although language often involves the use of all four skills, for the sake of their improvement, we are going to focus on each skill separately:

Listening involves various sub-skills like listening for gist, listening for specific information, listening for general comprehension, etc.
The listening activities, according to Oxford Basics, contain three main stages:

  • Warm-up – This introduces the learners to the topic and focuses their attention, either by provoking them to make suggestions, or by pre-teaching some new vocabulary.
  • Listen and respond – This is the main part of the activity. The Ss listen to a text and respond to what they hear in a variety of ways. Here are some techniques:

1) Listen and complete –The Ss listen and use the information to complete a picture, a map, a diagram.

2) Listen and correct- The Ss listen to a text, which contains a number of factual mistakes.

3) Listen and do – The Ss listen to e series of instructions or actions and do them as they hear them. /Ex. Simon says, Polite robots, Your nose is a pencil –some of these games were demonstrated.)

4) Listen and draw – The Ss listen to a description of a person, a place or an object and draw it as they listen. /Draw a tree, draw a box under the tree, draw a cat in the box, ect./

5) Listen and guess – The Ss listen to a description of a person, a place, an object and try to guess who or what it is? /Ex. I’m thing of a person. The Ss ask questions-Is it a boy or a girl? Has he got black hair? What colour are his/her eyes?

6) Listen and match – The Ss listen to a description and match it to people, pictures, objects, places.

  • Fallow –up –This stage gives the Ss the opportunity to practice what they have learned using the other language skills.

The procedure is:

1) To explain clearly what we want the Ss to do and to check that they have understood it.

2) First listening –we read the text, act out the story, play the record/ the Ss just listen.

3) The Ss do the task while they listen.

4) Get the Ss to check their answers in pairs.

5) Then we check the answers with the whole class.

6) We can check the answers on the board, or use some parts of the text to work on in detail.

The good thing about this Oxford series is that the same topics re-occur in all four books, only each time the focus is on a different skill. (During the presentation the topic of “Greetings and introduction” was used to make a demonstration to the participants – see Simple Listening Activities OUP Basics – p.3)

Reading involves various sub-skills similar to the ones in listening:

  • reading for detail (intensive reading)
  • reading for gist (skimming)
  • reading for special information (scanning)
  • predicting content
  • inferring  meaning from content and context

Some typical techniques are:

1) Read and complete – The Ss read a text and use the information to complete a list, a table, a chart or a picture.

2) Read and correct – The Ss correct mistakes in a text.

3) Read and draw – the Ss read a text and draw what is described.

4) Read and guess – the Ss read a text and guess what is described./Some riddles were read/

5) Read and match The Ss match the information in a text with other reading texts or pictures.

6) Read and reorder – The Ss read a text in muddled order and number the sentences or paragraphs in the correct order. Or they physically reorder sentences on separate stripes of paper.

7) Read and sort –Two texts mixed together. The Ss have to sort them out.

The main stage of each activity has six basic steps:

  • Put up the text.
  • Set the skimming or scanning task.
  • Set the read and respond task.
  • Give the Ss time to read the text individually
  • Let the Ss compare their answers in pairs.
  • Go to the answers with the whole class and discuss them.

Many of the follow-up activities are aimed at extending the Ss’ vocabulary. Some ideas are:

  • Wall poster- Ss own work displayed on the wall /projects/
  • Reading cards – short texts+ activities –a kind of lending library

An example was demonstrated. See Simple reading activities, OUP Basics, p.3

Speaking – The aim is to achieve oral communication that means to be able to convey messages.  Each activity has three main stages:

  • Setting up – This introduces the Ss to the topic
  • Speaking practice – This is the main part of the activity. The Ss communicate with each other in pairs or groups or compete as a team.

The speaking part is a kind of bridge for the learners between the classroom and the world outside.
Learning new language in the classroom – speaking practice – using language to communicate in real life.
In order to build the bridge, speaking activities must have three features. They must give the learners practice opportunities for purposeful communication in meaningful situations. /Suggestions-interviews, foreign guest,ect./
Some examples of  speaking techniques are:

1) Ask and answer – Learners ask and answer questions.

/Ex. With a  ball/

2) Describe and draw – In pairs. Learner A has a picture, which learner B cannot see. Learner A describes the picture to the partner and learner B draws it.

3) Discussion – Ls work in pairs or groups to find out each other’s ideas or opinions on a topic.

4) Guessing – The teacher, or some of the learners, have information which the others have to guess by asking questions.

5) Remembering – Ls close their eyes and try to remember, for example, items from a picture or the location of objects in the classroom.

6) Miming- A learner mimes, for example, a feeling or action which the others have to identify.

7) Ordering – Ls arrange themselves in a particular order (for example alphabetical) by asking questions until they find their correct position.

8) Completing a form/questionnaire – Ls ask and answer questions, or provide information, in order to complete a form or questionnaire.

9) Pole play – Ls act out an imaginary situation. They either use a dialogue, or the teacher gives them instructions about what to say.

An example was demonstrated. See Simple speaking activities, OUP, p.3. Some pronunciation points were  also  demonstrated.

Writing includes so many other elements such as handwriting, spelling, syntax, grammar, paragraphing, ideas, etc. For the Ss in primary school the most important writing skills are mastering the Roman alphabet, copying, handwriting, spelling and basic sentence formation. The three main stages of the activities are:

  • Lead-in –This introduces the Ls to the topic and focuses their attention. It helps them to start thinking about the topic and to practice some of the language they will be needed.
  • Organizing texts – This stage provides controlled writing practice in preparation for a free writing task.
  • Creating texts –This stage gives the Ls the opportunity to use the knowledge they have acquired in the previous two stages in producing their own text. The T provides a context and a reason for writing.

Some text organization techniques are:

1) Completion – The Ls fill in the blanks in a text or a crossword puzzle with an appropriate word or phrase.

2) Describing a picture – The Ls write a description of a picture.

3) Joining – The Ls join words or sentences using a linking word, such as “and” or “but”.

4) Matching – The Ls have to match the two separate halves of sentences which are written in the form of two lists.

5) Reordering – Sentences or texts are given to the Ls in muddled order and they have to rearrange them in the correct order.

Creating texts techniques:

6) Writing from a picture – The Ls use a picture as a starting-off point for creating a text.

7) Responding to a text –The Ls are given a text to read before they write, for example, a poem or a letter. The text acts as a source of inspiration.

8) Survey and report – Here a writing text is proceded by a speaking task, in which the Ls have to gather information from each other and use it to write a report.

9) Visualization – The Ls close their eyes and visualize a scene which the T. describes to them. They then write about the scene they have imagined.

An example was demonstrated. See Simple Writing Activities, OUP, p.3
Examples of using grammar and classroom English were also shown.
See OUP relevant basics.

As we outlined the main features of the four language skills, let’s practice them in a fun way by using flashcards. The ideas that I would like to share with you are based on the “Happy House” series, Oxford University Press. We may use “hand-made” flashcards or we can buy them. Whatever our flashcards are-here are some ideas of how we can use them.

  • Listen and respond – Either stick the flashcard around the room or ask some of the Ss to hold them up. Say a word and ask the children to point to the flashcard. Instead of just saying words, you can say the word in a short sentence. Ex. I like bananas. Tell the Ss to listen for the key word and point to the flashcard.
  • Stop – Use about 5 flashcards. Say a word, then show the Ss the flashcards one at a time. The children shout “Stop!” when they see the picture. You can do this slowly at first and then speed up.
  • Help the teacher –Hold up a card for the Ss to see without looking at it yourself. Guess what the picture is. Is it a banana? Tell the Ss to answer Yes or No.
  • Jump- Ask the Ss to stand up. Show them a flashcard and say a word. Tell the children to jump if the word is the same as the picture on the flashcard or to stand still if it is different.
  • Say the name – Hand some flashcards out around the class. Ask the children with the cards to hold them up for all to see. Say Who’s got the banana? And tell the other children to answer with the name of the child who has that flashcard.
  • Echo –Ask the Ss in L1 what an echo is. Ask them to be your echo. Show them a flashcard and say the word. Ask the Ss to echo it by repeating the word several times, becoming quieter and quieter. You can make it more fun by saying the word in different ways.
  • Repeat – Ask all of the Ss to stand up in their places. Show the flashcards one at a time saying a word. Tell the Ss to repeat the word if it is the same as the picture on the flashcard and to remain silent if it is different. Tell any of the children who get it wrong to sit down and to help you to spot any children who get any other words wrong.
  • Bit by bit – Cover the flashcard with a piece of white paper. Reveal the picture bit by bit and ask the children to guess what it is.
  • Flash – Flash a flashcard, at first very quickly and then more slowly, until someone says the word.
  • What’s in my right hand? – Show two or three flashcards and ask the children to say the words. Put hem behind your back, swap them around a few times and ask the Ss which card is in your right hand.
  • Guess – Choose a flashcard without the Ss seeing which one and ask them to guess which one you have chosen.
  • Who’s got it?– Hand out some flashcards around the class. The Ss with the cards hold them up for all to see. Say the name of a child. The rest of the Ss say the word on their flashcard.
  • Disappearing words –Put several flashcards on the board. Point at them one at the time and the Ss say the word. Remove a card and repeat the process until pupils are chanting all the words with no prompts.
  • Memory – Put five flashcards on the board. Give the Ss time to memorize them then take them away and ask the Ss to say the words.
  • Extra – Put five flashcards on the board and say four of the words. Tell the Ss to say the extra word.
  • What’s missing?- Put five flashcards on the board. Ask one student to go out of the room. Remove a flashcard from the board (or ask a child to do this). Tell the child who went out to come back into the room and say which word is missing?
  • What I am thinking of? – Use about four cards. Put them where everyone can see them. Think of one of them and give the SS two guesses to find out which one you are thinking of. If they guess correctly, they get a point. If they don’t, the T. gets a point.

Ideas were exchanged. A song with flashcards was sang. There was a heated discussion.