Category Archives: Integrated and Discrete Skills Courses

Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Parts 3 & 4: Discussion and Writing aspects)

discussion abc

Discussion and Writing Skills

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

It may surprise some how closely discussions and writing assignments are intertwined in an academic integrated-skills course.  The writing assignments are often related to the readings in the course, and the students are required to summarize and paraphrase from the passages.  One of the best ways to helps students do this is if they’ve had a chance to talk about the ideas in the passages.  In other words, they “orally paraphrased” the readings before they are asked to paraphrase from them in writing tasks.

To illustrate how reading, discussion and writing can be integrated to help students develop each skill, we’ll follow up to the reading passage about why Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners from Part 1. Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview) I’ll include some specific activities:

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Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect)

party shy

Feeling shy in social situations

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?

To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.

This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:

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Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 1 Overview)


Studying about the reasons for cultural differences

This post may sound like I am contradicting a previous post of March 13th, “Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills”   Despite my support for segregated skills in general, an integrated skills course with higher-level students who are more homogeneous in ability can be effective and practical.

For an integrated skills 1 course to be effective and engaging to the students, the subject should be something which is inherently appealing to the majority of the students.  After all, the students will be spending the course time reading, writing, and talking about the subject.

One subject which has been enthusiastically received by both students and instructors is culture, and more specifically, differences in cultures and the reason for these differences.

Some examples of these are:

-Why are people in western cultures more likely than people from eastern cultures to smile at a stranger standing at a bus stop than?

-In a study of 4-year-olds, why did the Asian children spontaneously share their candy with another child but the American children only reluctantly share when asked.

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Integrated vs Discrete Skills ESL Courses: Advantages of Discrete Skills

Startup Stock Photos

After the first day at a college I had previously taught at, I noticed a long line of students outside our EAP (English for Academic Purposes) director’s office.  It was my first day teaching in this program, so, needless to say, I was curious.  It turns out these students all felt that they had not been placed in the right level.

I soon discovered that this was a common occurrence on the first day of each term in that program.

The courses in that EAP program were organized around integrated skills, so each student was placed into one of five levels for all five hours of instruction. 1 By the end of the first day, students were quick to notice that some of their classmates were weaker than they were in some skills (e.g. speaking) but higher in others (e.g. reading).  They also were aware that some of the activities during the course of the day, depending on the skill, were right at their level, but others were above or below.

It’s not too surprising that this would happen.  New students had been given a placement exam that tested multiple skills: reading, writing, speaking, listening and grammar.  The exam resulted in one score, and their level was determined by that one score.  That seemed to be the crux of the problem. 

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