The Four Strands

What are The Four Strands?

The skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing) are categorized into 4 areas:
  1. meaning-focused input (I)
  2. meaning-focused output (O)
  3. language-focused learning (L)
  4. fluency development (F)
To summarize the link above, here a list created by Paul Nation as a reference for teachers with classroom examples.

Can you identify which ones are I, O, L, or F?


(1) Add a deliberate element to skills teaching.
Examples: note words on the board as they occur in listening, do consciousness raising activities before communicative tasks, get learners to reflect on new items they met while reading and explain problem items that come up in the context of communication activities.

(2) Push spoken and written output in a variety of genres.
Examples: use role plays, discussions, or or a reflective journal.

(3) Provide opportunities for cooperative interaction.
Example: do group work involving split information, opinion gaps and information gaps, and get learners to work together on writing and reading.

(4) Deliberately teach patterns, including sounds, spelling, vocabulary, multi-word units, grammar and discourse.
Example: do teacher-led intensive reading, give feedback on writing, deliberately teach language items and arrange individual study of language items.

(5) Teach strategies that will contribute to language learning.
Example: work on guessing from context, dictionary use, word part analysis and learning using word cards.

(6) Provide fluency development activities in each of the four skills.
Example: run a speed reading course, include repeated reading, provide an extensive reading program, do 4/3/2 activities, organize a regular ten-minute writing program and do listening to stories.

(7) Provide balance.
Example: keep a record of the activities done in the course, the strand they fit into and the amount of time spent on them.

(8) Recycle language items.
Example: how many examples of the target can you find in the reading from yesterday? How many of them can you use in your conversation today?

(9) Use analysis, monitoring and assessment.
Example: use concept checking questions (CCQs) to assess understanding before moving on to the production (ask "is an apple yellow?" "No teacher, it's red." "Great answer, now let's draw one.")

The benefits of using the four strands as a guide when planning is that can a springboard to try new instructional strategies in the classroom like computer-assisted language learning, having a negotiated syllabus, class books, team concept maps, jeopardy, creative problem-solving, and many others mentioned in Student Engagement Techniques by Elizabeth Barkley.

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