Contributed by Mark McKinnon and Nicky Rigby
What is TBL?
How often do we as teachers ask our students to do something in class which they would do in everyday life using their own language? Probably not often enough.
If we can make language in the classroom meaningful therefore memorable, students can process language which is being learned or recycled more naturally.
Task-based learning offers the student an opportunity to do exactly this. The primary focus of classroom activity is the task and language is the instrument which the students use to complete it. The task is an activity in which students use language to achieve a specific outcome. The activity reflects real life and learners focus on meaning, they are free to use any language they want. Playing a game, solving a problem or sharing information or experiences, can all be considered as relevant and authentic tasks. In TBL an activity in which students are given a list of words to use cannot be considered as a genuine task. Nor can a normal role play if it does not contain a problem-solving element or where students are not given a goal to reach. In many role plays students simply act out their restricted role. For instance, a role play where students have to act out roles as company directors but must come to an agreement or find the right solution within the given time limit can be considered a genuine task in TBL.
In the task-based lessons included below our aim is to create a need to learn and use language. The tasks will generate their own language and create an opportunity for language acquisition (Krashen*). If we can take the focus away from form and structures we can develop our students’ ability to do things in English. That is not to say that there will be no attention paid to accuracy, work on language is included in each task and feedback and language focus have their places in the lesson plans. We feel that teachers have a responsibility to enrich their students’ language when they see it is necessary but students should be given the opportunity to use English in the classroom as they use their own languages in everyday life.
How can I use TBL in the classroom?
Most of the task-based lessons in this section are what Scrivener* classifies as authentic and follow the task structure proposed by Willis and Willis*.
Each task will be organised in the following way:
• Pre-task activity an introduction to topic and task
• Task cycle: Task > Planning > Report
• Language Focus and Feedback
A balance should be kept between fluency, which is what the task provides, and accuracy, which is provided by task feedback.
Tasks: Getting To Know Your Centre
Worksheet 1 & 2 | Worksheet 3 & 4
The object of the following two tasks is for students to use English to: a. Find out what resources are available to them and how they can use their resource room b. Meet and talk to each of the teachers in their centre.
Task 1: Getting To Know Your Resources
Pre-intermediate and above
It is assumed in this lesson that your school has the following student resources; books (graded readers), video, magazines and Internet. Don’t worry if it doesn’t, the lesson can be adjusted accordingly.
One of the tasks is a video exercise which involves viewing a movie clip with the sound turned off. This can be any movie depending on availability, but the clip has to involve a conversation between two people.
In pairs students discuss the following questions:
• Do you use English outside the classroom?
• What ways can you practise English outside the classroom? Stage One - Running...