1.Characteristics of effective tasks i.e. tasks that generate rich language use
‘We can determine how task-like a given activity is by asking the following questions. The more confidently we can answer yes to each of these questions the more task-like the activity’.
- Does the activity engage learners’ interest?
- Is there a primary focus on meaning?
- Are learners allowed free use of language?
- Is there an outcome?
- Is success judged in terms of outcome? Is completion a priority?
- Does the activity relate to real world activities?’
These criteria do not constitute ‘a watertight definition of what constitutes a task, but they will provide us with guidelines for the design of activities which are task-like in that they involve real language use.’ (Dave Willis & Jane Willis Doing Task-based Teaching OUP 2007).
2. A Task-based lesson framework
Priming & Preparation
Key topic lexis & useful phrases
Task(s) >> Planning >> Report
Language extension >>Prestige language use
Analysis and practice of language features
from texts (written or spoken) that learners have read or heard
3. Seven types of task – for planning a task sequence based on a topic or text
Listing, Ordering & Sorting (sequencing, ranking, classifying),
Matching, Comparing, Problem solving,
Sharing personal experiences/anecdotes, Projects and creative tasks.
4. Optimum conditions for language learning: Second Language Acquisition research
TBL provides learners with natural exposure (input), chances to use language to express what they want to mean (output), to focus on improving their own language and to analyse and practise forms.
TBL is more likely to keep learners motivated since it builds on whatever language they know in a positive way. Learners are actively engaged throughout the task cycle, and get chances to think for themselves and express themselves in the security of their group. They are more autonomous and feel empowered, gaining satisfaction from successfully achieving things through language. Focus on form is not essential, but can be beneficial if positively handled.
5.Activity Designing a task sequence: work with colleagues5.
Aim: to design a sequence of different types of task that will generate free language use and lead to an outcome that can be shared with others.
Your topic: ………………………………………………
- Listing: brainstorming or fact finding
e.g. things, qualities, people, places, features, things to do, reasons.
- Ordering and sorting: sequencing, ranking, classifying
e.g. sequencing story pictures, ranking according to cost, popularity etc.
- Comparing: matching, finding similarities or differences
e.g. comparing ways of greetings or local systems, matching phrases to pictures, playing ‘Spot the Difference’, contrasting two seasons.
- Problem-solving: logic puzzles, real-life problems, case studies, incomplete texts e.g. logic problems, giving advice, proposing and evaluating solutions, predicting a story ending.
- Sharing personal experiences: anecdotes, reminiscences, opinions, reactions e.g. early schooldays, terrible journeys, embarrassing moments, soap opera scenes, personality quizzes.
- Projects and Creative tasks: e.g. writing a story, doing and reporting a survey, producing a class newspaper, planning a class party.
Make sure each task has a goal and an outcome that can be shared.
Free lesson plans on www.willis-elt.co.uk
6. Task-based teaching: some ideas to try
- Aim at richer interactions in class – focus on meaning first, form later. Be positive!
- Use your text-books flexibly: ‘taskify’ them, add goals and praise achievements.
- Play back recordings of learners doing tasks and reporting outcomes and pick out all the GOOD phrases they use. (Learners can record themselves on their phones, and play them back They often notice their mistakes and correct them themselves.)
- Explore what happens when you use tasks: get learner feedback (Edwards & Willis)
- Collaborate with your colleagues – ‘collaboration is the key’ (Willis & Willis 2007)