In the world of ELT, when we talk of skills we are generally referring to the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Even more narrowly, we often divide these into the so-called productive skills (writing and speaking) versus the receptive skills (reading and listening) – however unsatisfactory that separation might seem to be. In reality, these skills are rarely separate, and each can be seen to support the others in some way; yet they are often tested separately, with the result that they are frequently taught separately, too.

This issue of ETp considers all four skills, plus a few more besides. We begin by looking at listening, and in our main feature, Lesley Lanir begins a new series on identifying and addressing the problems that students may have with listening. She believes that pinning down where and why breakdowns in comprehension occur is key to being able to deal with them. Chiara Bruzzano offers some practical suggestions for approaching listening with more variety, and teaching students how to listen rather than just assessing  how well they can already do it.

For speaking, we have Paul Morin, who advocates giving students more time to prepare what they are going to say; John Kay, who has to teach speaking in a very specialised way to aviation personnel; and Chris Roland, for whom absenteeism is a gift horse that he definitely isn’t going to look in the mouth.

Representing reading, we have Mohamed Elhess, who uses online news to cater for diversity in his classes, and Graham Perry, who has activities to make reading more interactive and fun.

Mark Trevarton is keen that the skill of writing should be integrated with the teaching of other skills, rather than being done in isolation. Benjamin Moorhouse sees how young learners can be challenged and encouraged to become writers, by introducing them to the genre of fan fiction. And in a welcome return  to ETp, Mario Rinvolucri explains what led him to a career-long exchange of letters with his students.

Of course, there’s a whole wide world of skills out there. Our Scrapbook looks at some of the more unusual ones and, in a photocopiable activity, invites you and your students to showcase your own particular skills – and then teach them to others.

Helena Gomm