The Town Musicians of Bremen. The importance of teaching listening and speaking skills

The Town Musicians of Bremen. The importance of teaching listening and speaking skills

Text extracted from: Programación y Unidades didácticas Inglés-Primaria. Método de elaboración y presentación oral.

Getting down to business.
We have already defined what a unit is and outlined the most notable aspects that intervene in its elaboration. Nevertheless, we guess that candidates expect more from this point, as have not talked about how to solve the “blank paper challenge” yet; and how to slip into the units with the confidence that we know the building procedures. In what follows, we are going to spell out a series of clarifying steps to overcome logical fears on this issue.

A. First steps.
We have already decided the grade the programming document; and that initial decision delimits to a certain extent the “what” we have to teach, since the regional curriculum establishes the compulsory contents for each level. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as those contents must be sequenced and related to the rest of curricular elements.

Undoubtedly, our principal decisions at this stage refer to the contextualisation the unit itself shall revolve around. In further chapters, this guide includes different examples of learning contexts to help out in this creative process. It is of utmost importance to concentrate on forging solid proposals adapted to children´s cognitive stage, which at the same time result appealing to them, and hence to the board of examiners.

In guise of an example, let us think of a term-project devoted to “music in the Anglo-Saxon world”, where the first unit takes The Beatles as guiding thread, and the students´ task-product is the elaboration of original lyrics to participate in a karaoke contest. In this case, common sense suggests that the difficulties in the written production it entails may be out of reach for children in their second or third grade; simply because they still do not have the cultural notions and linguistic competence to accomplish the product the unit demands. As opposed to this, fifth or sixth grade pupils would find it interesting to discover about who the Beatles were, where they lived and how they started. Even more, the creative challenge in the task may be wrapped in a joyful “competition” resembling TV programs like “Got Talent”.

However, how about those students in the third grade? Obvious as it may seem, the contextualisation of the unit would have to be different and so the linguistic and communicative product. A possible example could be a unit entitled “Around the world in eighty days”, based on the popular story, to work on countries, nationalities and description of means of transport. The linguistic product in the unit may be an oral presentation in groups where they express their preferences as for types of transport and places to go.
This first approach to the units (thinking of the contextualisation) should not be underestimated, as somehow it is our “cover letter” for the examiners. In other words, the context should seek for the “punch” to create expectations; after all, we are all curious primary school teachers willing to learn something new to apply in our lessons. It is advisable to think of contexts per term (for all the units in the same term). In the process, we suggest following the same procedure, once we know about the project the units contribute to. The chart below exemplifies how to begin with the first draft for children in the fourth Grade who are going to embark on a project based on stories:


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Text extracted from: Temario de oposiciones Inglés-Primaria Road to your Post.



The main goal to be attained in the teaching of a foreign language in primary education is the development of a certain degree of communicative competence. This term refers to enabling the learner to communicate through oral and written means, using the foreign language in real and meaningful contexts. As it is stated in RD 126/14 28th February, the ability to communicate is the first requirement in an increasingly pluricultural and plurilingual context… Furthermore, the capacity to communicate in at least one FL constitutes one of the main aims of our current educational system. Considering the language as an instrument of communication implies using it to express and exchange meanings in contextualized situations, getting the students to apply different strategies to get their meaning across; instead of learning an abstract set of grammatical rules.
In this line, recent tendencies in FL teaching focus their attention on a crucial aspect: language as a means to transmit certain meanings to others, rather than a theoretical acquisition of linguistic and grammatical rules and items. These communicative approaches start from the outstanding role of language as a tool of communication instead of an aim. FL teaching, then, must be concerned with reality: with the reality of communication as it takes place outside the classroom, and with the reality of the learners outside and inside the classroom.
We, as human beings, need to communicate, and as most of us live in a society in which we normally apply oral and written language to transmit or receive information. The use of oral language entails the knowledge of certain particular elements, norms, routines, formulae and strategies that are put into motion in conversations. On the other hand, writing and reading require formal instruction, and children face a series of difficulties when learning these skills. However, learning to write and read is probably the most fundamental step in education, because is the basis for future instruction and access to many fields of knowledge.
In this paper, we are going to consider the main characteristics of oral and written language, to subsequently analyse the factors that define a communicative situation, namely the sender and the receiver of the message, the functionality and the context.
The current legal framework is concerned with the teaching of the FL as a tool to communicate, socialize, investigate, solve problems, etc. On the whole, using the language to communicate involves real situations where learners can put their linguistic abilities into motion in diverse contexts.
This perspective is directly related to the guidelines defined in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL, 2001), which intends to establish a common basis for the design and development of content blocks and methodological guidelines for an adequate treatment of foreign language teaching (FLT). As a consequence, the Spanish educational legal framework is highly concerned with this reality. In this light, as RD 126/14 28th February establishing the Basic Curriculum for Primary Education states, the progressive globalisation of the world entails the need to provide with useful instruments to develop the necessary competences to get by in this global and technological society.
In addition, the educational system in our Autonomous Community acknowledges the prominent role of being able to establish real and practical communication in a FL, since the capacity to communicate is the first requirement to get along in an increasingly pluricultural and plurilingual international context. In this sense, the regional curriculum (a reference to the curriculum of the Autonomous Community should be included here) establishes the general aspects to be taken into consideration as for the FL teaching process, as well as the specific methodological orientations, stressing the decisive implementation of active methodologies that challenge learners to solve problems which imply practical use of the FL. In this light, we may define the goal of FL teaching in the following terms: ‘to get the students reach progressively a satisfactory level of linguistic competence’.


Thus, it is important to extend the range of communicative situations in which the learner can perform with focus on meaning, without being hindered by the attention he or she must pay to linguistic form.
In Communicative Language Teaching (CLT onwards), learners are expected to use the language, rather than just repeating. The theory of communicative competence (Hymes 1972) and communicative Language Teaching (CLT) turned oral communication skills into the focal point in FLT, thus changing prior approaches focused on the development of grammatical competence. In this light, today FL teachers are expected to establish a balance between accuracy and fluency; and students are also encouraged to take responsibility for their own language, developing awareness of their own learning and learning to learn strategies.
Let us analyse some essential factors in both oral and written language.
Oral language
As we have already noted, the curriculum Act D 126/14 28th February emphasizes the use of the FL to communicate in real-life contexts. In this sense, listening and understanding messages, using the transmitted information for the realization of tasks connected with their experiences, is included in the first and second content blocks:
Block 1 relates to comprehension of oral texts. This block is devoted to the acquisition of strategies and basic learning for an adequate comprehension of the oral FL, fostering active listening in oral texts and understanding of oral texts.
Block 2 refers to production of oral texts: expression and interaction. This block intends to…




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