Topic 8 – Foreign written language. Approximation, maturing and improving the reading-writing process. Reading comprehension: techniques for global and specific understanding of texts. Written expression: the interpretation of the text production.

Topic 8 – Foreign written language. Approximation, maturing and improving the reading-writing process. Reading comprehension: techniques for global and specific understanding of texts. Written expression: the interpretation of the text production.








In order to develop this unit we will divide this essay in five main chapters. The first one will analyze in detail the term communicative competence and its evolution through new methods and approaches. The second chapter will emphasize the importance of the development of the four skills viewed as the manifestations of interpreting and producing discourse. The four part will establish the importance of working the four skills as a continuum and finally a conclusion where educational implications will be discuss and a commented bibliography will be included for further references.


Nowadays the most accepted instructional framework in second language programmes is Communicative Language Teaching ( henceforth CLT). Its main goal is to achieve communicative competence. This theoretical term refers to being able to use the linguistic system effectively and appropriately in the second language and its culture.

The first time the concept of communicative competence was used was in 1965 by Noam Chomsky. In his structuralism work he defined language as an infinite set of utterances constructed out of a finite set of items. He stated that an able speaker has a subconscious knowledge of the grammar rules that allows him/her to produce correct grammatical utterances ( competence) and, on the contrary, the actual production of language in specific situations is defined as performance.

There were several reactions against Chomky´s definitions. It is worth mentioning Campbell´s (1970) who highlighted the importance of the socio-cultural aspect of language and pointed out that Chomsky had left out the appropriateness rather than correctness in grammar.

In 1972 halliday published “ The Theory of social interactions in contexts”, where he describes three main components of the context in which an interaction takes place, and which will affect grammar and performance. The three main aspects of contexts are Field ( the subject matter), tenor ( relationship between participants) and Mode ( written and oral language and rhetorical mode).

In 1972 Dell Hymes brought out the importance of the “ rules of use” and the socio-cultural aspects, functions and participants. For him the rules of grammar are useless without the rules of use. Hymes declared that “an able speaker not only knows how to produce correct grammar structures, but he/she also knows to whom, where and why”. He replaced the term competence by that of Communicative Competence and emphasized four aspects of Communicative Competence (FOSA).

· Feasibility: an able speaker knows if something is possible or not in a language.

· Occurrence: an able speaker knows how often an item occurs and act accordingly.

· Systematic Potential: and able speaker has the ability to create new utterances.

· Appropriateness: an able speaker knows the adequate language according to the circumstances.

In 1980´s Canale and Swain published an article about the rules of grammar and the rules of use. They agreed on both aspects being compulsory and needed reciprocally. They developed the first model of communicative competence for language courses and defined the term by four subcompetences.

· Grammatical competence: Knowing how to use grammar, syntax and vocabulary of a language.

· Sociolinguistic competence: knowing how to use and respond to language appropriately given the setting, the topic and the relationship amongst people communicating ( Speech act theory and context of situation).

· Discursive competence: knowing how to interpret larger contexts and how to construct longer stretches of language so that the parts make a coherent whole. This subcompetence is directly tied up to the second part of this unit in which the four skills will be analyzed.

· Strategic competence: know how to recognize and repair communication breakdowns and enhance effectiveness of communication.

This model was later extended by Van Ek, who stressed the importance of the socio-linguistic competence and he introduced the notion of Social competence, which is described as the will and skill to interact and the socio- cultural is defined in terms of appropriateness and adequacy to the given circumstances.

In 1983 widdowson was the first to pay attention to the concept of performance and the real use of language. He defined competence as the knowledge of linguistic and sociolinguistic conventions and Capacity as the ability to use such knowledge to create meaning. He distinguished in performance usage and use. The former, as the manifestation of knowledge both oral and written, and the latter, as the manifestation of knowledge as meaningful communicative behavior.

In the same year Sandra Savignon directed the emphasis on the aspects of ability and capacity. As for her, communication is a dynamic exchange of information in which the linguistic competence must adapt itself to the information input, linguistic and paralinguistic, of one or more interlocutors. She also illustrated some aspects of the communicative competence in foreign language courses. First she highlighted the willingness to take the risk to speak and write in another language, second, she defined communicative competence as the ability to function in a truly communicative setting. She also established the relationship amongst Canale and Swain subcompetences. The strategic competence is used at initial stages of communicative competence development and its use decreases since the linguistic competence and discursive competence increases.

Sandra Savignon prescribed that competence is only observable and assessed through performance and Communicative competence is relative, not absolute because it comes in degrees depending on the cooperation of the interlocutors.

In 1989 Wolfson included some cross-curricular considerations based on the idea that socio-linguistic interferences arise during contact between cultures with different systems. He outlined a model of rules of speaking with pedagogic purposes including culture aspects.

In 1999 Bachman and Palmer published a model of Communicative Competence based on three major components.

· Language knowledge: both organizational ( grammar and textual knowledge) and pragmatic ( functions of language).

· Strategic knowledge: communicative strategies and metacognitive strategies ( developed and analysed in the four skills).

· Pshyhopsychological: based on productive and receptive skills.

In 2001 the Common European Framework of reference for Languages: teaching and learning ( henceforth CEFR), described achievement of learners in foreign languages. It established a system of validation of language ability and established six levels of language individual proficiency. The CERF divided general competence in languages in knowledge, skills and pragmatic competence. The four types of language activities or skills are: reception (listening and speaking) and production ( listening and speaking).

In 2013 the organic Law on the Improvement of Quality on Education established the four skills as the basis for language courses and focuses on achieving European objectives on language learning. Amongst its objectives it is established that at the end of the primary stage of educations children must develop basic communicative competence in at least two languages. And its contents are divided in four blocks. 1. Comprehension of oral text. 2 Production of oral texts… etc


As stated above, in order to use language effectively a variety of skills must be developed. Aims of language courses and evaluation criteria are defined in terms of these four skills. receptive ( Listening and Reading) and productive ( speaking and Writting).

In this unit we should focus our attention on written skills. reading and writting.

READING: is an essential part of learning because it supports learning in multiple ways. Reading skill refers to the ability to understand written text. It is advisable to develop this skill at early age of schooling. When students comprehend or understand written text, and combine their understanding with prior knowledge, they are able to perform the following three reading-comprehension skills

1. Identify simple facts presented in written text (literal comprehension)

2. Make judgments about the written text’s content (evaluative comprehension)

3. Connect the text to other written passages and situations (inferential comprehension)

The development of these reading skills is vital to children’s development, and a sheer volume of studies has demonstrated a link between competency in reading and overall attainment in school (literacy attainment and other outcomes).

reading can be used as a tool ( to learn language, source of vocabulary and grammar). as an object ( content information about a subject matter) and read for culture knowledge ( insight lifestyles).


  1. GIVE STUDENTS CONFIDENCE: Our pupils must understand they might not be able to discriminate every sound or understand every word but they are not asked to do so. They need to guess from context and get the gist or main ideas of the reading.
  2. CONTEXTUALIZED TASK: teachers must give enough vocabulary or grammar rules to understand the reading.
  3. DEFINE GOALS AND TYPES OF RESPONSE: we must explain our students why are we reading. it is important to set goals before starting the activities to decrease stress on children. main goals on receptive skills are.
    1. improve general attitudes- enjoyment, concentration..
    2. improve metalinguistic aspects of language.
    3. reinforce conceptual development
    4. interact with others.
  4. HELP STUDENTS DEVELOP STRATEGIES: Rubin defined strategies as cognitive steps or operations used in learning and solving problems. we have three different types.
    1. BOTTOM- UP: These strategies are based on the text. students build up knowledge supported by the information given. Skimming and scanning are reading techniques that use rapid eye movement and keywords to move quickly through text for slightly different purposes.Skimming is reading rapidly in order to get a general overview of the material. Scanning is reading rapidly in order to find specific facts.
    2. TOP-BOTTOM: which are based on students previous knowledge. In reading and listening is important to predict through images and previous activities so they can be prepared for future information, and guessing meaning from context is a key strategy to overcome difficulties in both listening and reading.
    3. METACOGNITIVE: refers to methods used to help students understand the way they learn; in other words, it means processes designed for students to ‘think’ about their ‘thinking’.


1. PRE READING: explain background goals, create expectations and motivate and introduce vocabulary.

2. WHILE READING:define what is important, practice strategies. define specific listening tasks.

3. POST READING: brief review, essays, summary. diferentes tipos de actividades de reading para niños de todas las edades.

Furthermore, we must give students enough practice, in extensive and intensive reading.

● Extensive reading(where a teacher encourages students to choose for themselves what they are going to read to and do so for pleasure and general language improvement. Nowadays thanks to new technologies, students can download different comics, novels or any type of book and read on their epods, even listen to audiobooks regarding masterpieces of literature.) This material for extensive reading can be found from a number of sources: audio versions of books, recordings of authentic materials (such as songs, short videos or films), and audio course books.

● Intensive reading – usually requires employing taped materials. The issue that needs to be addressed here is the number of times the reading material appears in the textbook and it is focused on language items or vocabulary contents.


There has been three different methods regarding the learning and teaching of writing. The Phonic Approach is a synthetic method which uses the 44 sounds and 26 letters to understand vocabulary and lexicon. The Whole -word approach focused on words as whole units as the basics for reading and writing. And mayers established the basis for current methods, stating that texts, words and sentences should be included in meaningful contexts.

We must bear in mind the stages of the development of writing in our pupils. In the early stages students are developing the motor skills and writing activities should be based on spelling. After we have the preparatory stage in which students consolidate their motor skills but they do not differentiate oral and written language differences. Free production activities and informal emails or letters are appropriate for this level. Around the fifth year students start the differentiation stage in which written words may diverge from oral language. Harmer proposed exercises of parallel writing in which structures and formulaic expressions are used to guide students productions.

At the end of the primary stage our pupils reach a good command of the different rhetorical texts and they are able to master what Matthew’s described as writing skills. These writing skills include, graphic ( spelling and pronunciation), grammatical ( word order) stylistic ( precise style and register) , organizational. ( sequencing ideas) and Rhetorical ( cohesion devices).

● Different types of activities regarding the levels:

○ word level: making lists, crosswords and diagrams.

○ sentence level:captions, halves, questions, reorganize.

○ discourse: parallel writing ( Harmer).

○ communicative: writing letters, relaying instructions, story construction, writing reports). diferentes tipos de actividades de writing.


The integration of skills can be defined as the combination of two or more skills within a communicative task. By integrating skills we make classroom work closer to real life, where more often than not we integrate more than one skill. In addition, some concrete reasons are given by Read (1985): Continuity – Realism – Appropriateness – Variety – Recycling – Confidence. When preparing classroom activities we should prepare “Input” before “output” activities. Most of the combinations of skills exemplify the usefulness of presenting a receptive-interpretative skill before asking students to produce something, that is to say, providing “comprehensible input” before asking students for any “output”. In this sense, it is advisable for listening to precede speaking or reading to precede writing.


Brown, S. (2006) Teaching Listening. Cambridge University Press


LEER : especifica cómo desarrollar actividades de listening y la importancia en el aula.