Developing Receptive Skills with Young Learners  

Shane Corporation Ltd

Developing Receptive Skills with Young Learners



There are a number of skills that are developed in a young learner class. The main 4 are: reading, writing, speaking and listening. However, other skills include: Motor skills (from holding crayons (fine motor skills) to more complex craft and physical activities (gross motor skills)); Cognitive skills (solving problems, answering questions, applying learning to tasks & bookwork); interactive & social skills (sharing, working in teams, working with a partner or the teacher); discipline / classroom protocol – responding to teachers commands, incidental language


Of the 4 main skill areas these can be broken down into 2 main areas: Receptive Skills (reading and listening) and Productive Skills (writing and speaking).


Developing Receptive Skills 

There a number of reasons to develop receptive skills these include:

 It helps with language development and retention
 It builds confidence
 It opens up a new world of English
 It allows learners to experience English outside the class
 It makes English learning an authentic useful task not just something they do for school


Receptive skills integrate with productive skills e.g. listening and reading the correct form help in memorization, listening helps with pronunciation etc.


The following activities (all found in young learner classes)apply to both reading and listening (receptive skills):

 Letter recognition
 Individual phonic recognition
 Phonic cluster recognition
 Whole word recognition
 Understanding context
 Sentence recognition
 Identification of parts of a sentence
 Extracting detail
 Reinforcement of form for grammatically accurate production
 Reinforcement of form for pronunciation- stress & intonation
 Flash card recognition (run, touch & say)
 Dictation activities (running dictation; Drawing dictation etc.)
 Understanding sentence meaning
 Extracting key words
 Matching words and pictures


These can all be practiced in a variety of ways including:

 Alphabet activities
 Phonic recognition activities
 Cluster recognition activities
 Whole word recognition activities
 Spelling activities
 Mixed up sentences from a dialogue
 Mixed up words from a sentence
 Reading from the board
 Reading from the book
 Listening for true / false statements
 Listening for answers / detail
 Incidental Language
 Answering questions about a piece of text
 Listening & repeating from a CD
 Listening & repeating what the teacher says
 Listening / Reading for gist
 Using a reader
 Listen /read for a key word


Setting up Activities 

Even when listening in your native language we do not take in or remember everything that we have heard unless specifically asked to. When setting up a listening task in a young learner class (as with any class) it is important to:

 Set the scene
 Teach essential language
 Set prediction task – give learners time to compare predictions/answers
 Play CD for first time 
 Learners compare answers – teacher monitors
 Set questions for specific detail 
 Play CD for second time – in chunks if necessary
 Feedback to whole class – teacher confirms correct answers



Being able to complete the task correctly does not necessarily mean learners have understood the language.


To show understanding learners should:

 Practice of the language (speaking) before moving to receptive tasks
 Encourage full answers from learners during the task or feedback
 Feedback can be done via memory games / role-plays
 Learners can read or listen and then show meaning through another medium e.g. drawing, actions, TPR, role-play. This can also be done in reverse – present the concept and ask learners to produce the language using cut up sentences for example.
 Giving learners the teacher role in any task
 Concept check questions


Round up 

Below are some examples of effective activities and ways to adapt exercises in the standard texts: 

* Listening – predicting / guessing on answers before listening, stop / starting / reducing volume during dialogues to allow learners to fill in the gaps either from memory, by reading or using their knowledge of the language. 

* Reading – initial letter stations, find the word on the page, counting words / letters e.g.  “How many ‘the’ on page **?” missing letters or vowels / missing words, building up words one letter at a time in random order. 


Receptive skills need to be built up over the duration of a course. It is important they are done a little and often, reviewing and building the complexity gradually week by week.


In order to help learners and encourage learner autonomy, away from class they can:

 review class work
 use supplementary resources, flashcards, reading oceans
 listen to / read as much English as possible, songs, TV, CDs with their texts. 


How do you develop these skills in your classes?


Sophia McMillan Feb 2019



About kintaro63

Writer and teacher in Japan
This entry was posted in Teacher Training, Teaching Children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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