An ELT Glossary : Productive and Receptive Skills

The four language skills are speaking, listening, reading and writing.

  • Of these, speaking and writing are productive skills - they involve the user in actively formulating ("producing") language.

  • Listening and reading, on the other hand, necessitate only "receiving" and understanding the language. They are therefore known as receptive skills.

Many communicative situations involve using two or more of the four skills. For example, a conversation will involve both listening and speaking, while listening to a lecture may also involve reading (eg handouts or projected slides), writing (notes) and/or speaking (asking questions at the end).

A classroom activity which is consciously planned to involve the use of more than one skill is thus known as an integrated skills activity. One example would be jigsaw listening (or jigsaw reading) where different learners in a group first listen to (or read) different texts and then discuss what they've read in order to perform a task.