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  Home > TEFL Clinic > Teaching Knowledge > Glossary

Describing Language Skills


Accuracy: The use of correct forms of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. In an accuracy activity, students typically give more attention to correctness. See fluency.

Authenticity: see authentic material.

Context: 1) The situation in which language is used or presented in the classroom, 2) The words or phrases before or after a word which help a student to understand that word.

Deduce meaning from context: To guess the meaning of an unknown word by using the information in a situation and/or around the word to help, e.g. I drove my van to the town centre and parked it in the central car park. Van must be some kind of vehicle because you drive it and park it.

Develop skills: To teach students how to do activities like listening, and help them to understand how to listen.

Draft noun + verb, re-draft verb: A draft is a piece of writing that is not yet finished, and may be changed. A writer drafts a piece of writing. That is, they write it for the first time but not exactly as it will be when it is finished. When the writing is changed, it is redrafted.

Edit: To correct mistakes in a piece of writing, and perhaps shorten or change the words of some parts of the text to make it clearer or easier to understand.

Extensive listening/reading: Listening to or reading long pieces of text, such as stories. You may listen to or read some parts in detail and may skim other parts. See intensive listening/reading.

Extract: Part of a text.

Fluency, oral fluency

The use of connected speech at a natural speed without hesitation, repetition or self-correction. In a fluency activity, students typically give more attention to the communication of meaning, rather than correctness. See accuracy.

Infer attitude, feeling, mood: To decide how a writer or speaker feels about something from the way that they speak or write, rather than from what they actually and openly say or the words they use.

Intensive listening/reading: Reading or listening to focus on how language is used in a text. See extensive reading/listening.

Interaction noun, interact verb, interactive strategies: Interaction is ‘two-way communication’. Interactive strategies are the means used, especially in speaking, to keep people involved and interested in what is said, e.g. eye contact, use of gestures, functions such as repeating, asking for clarification.

Layout: The way in which parts of a text are organised and presented on a page. Certain texts have special layouts, e.g. letters and newspaper articles.

Listen/read for detail: To read or listen to a text in order to get meaning out of every word.

Listen/read for gist: To read or listen to a text to understand its general meaning or purpose. See skim.

Listen/read for mood: To read or listen to a text in order to identify the feelings of the writer or speaker. See infer attitude/feeling/mood.

Note-taking noun, take notes verb: Note-taking is one of the subskills of writing. To take notes means to write down ideas in short form.

Oral fluency: see fluency.

Paragraph noun + verb: A paragraph is part of a longer piece of writing such as an essay, which starts on a new line and usually contains a single new idea. When a writer is paragraphing, he/she is creating paragraphs. See topic sentence.

Paraphrase noun + verb: To say or write something in a short and clear way, using different words. If a learner is not sure of the exact language they need to use, they can paraphrase, i.e. explain their meaning using different language.

Prediction noun, predict verb: A technique or learner strategy students can use to help with listening or reading. Students think about the topic before they read or listen. They try to imagine what the topic will be or what they are going to read about or listen to. This makes it easier for them to understand what they read or hear.

Process noun: A series of actions performed in order to do, make or achieve something.

Process writing: An approach to writing, which looks at writing as a process and includes different stages of writing such as planning, drafting, re-drafting, editing, proofreading.

Productive skills: When students produce language. Speaking and writing are productive skills. See receptive skills.

Proofread: To read a text checking to see if there are any mistakes in spelling, grammar etc.

Re-draft: see draft.

Receptive skills: When students do not have to produce language; instead they read or listen to a text. See productive skills.

Scan: To read a text quickly to pick out specific information.

Skill, subskill: The four language skills are listening, speaking, reading and writing. Each skill can be divided into smaller subskills that are all part of the main skill, e.g. identifying text organisation (reading); identifying word stress (listening).

Skim: To read a text quickly to get a general idea of what it is about.

Subskill: see skill.

Summary noun, summarise verb: To take out the main points of a long text, and rewrite them in a short, clear way, using full sentences.

Text structure: The way a text is organised. For example, an essay typically has an introduction, main section and conclusion.

Topic: The subject of a text or lesson.

Topic sentence: A sentence that gives the main point or subject of a paragraph. This is usually the opening sentence in a paragraph.







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