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CAMBRIDGE DELTA COURSE

PRACTICAL TEACHING ASSIGNMENT 4

PART 1

FOCUS ON

EXPERIMENTAL TEACHING ASSIGNMENT

“Task – based learning as means of getting adult learners to


communicate basically in the target language”

Candidate’s name: Paraskevi Andreopoulou


Centre Number: GR 108
Candidate’s Number:
Number of Words: 2488

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Contents:

1. Introduction……………………………………………………………3

2. Professional interest in the area…………………………………………3

3. Class Profile – previous teaching situations……………………………..4

4. Rationale for Task-based teaching………………………………………..5

5. Aims of the Lesson………………………………………………………...5


5.1.Pre-Task Stage……………………………………………………..5

5.2.a. Task…………………………………………………………..........6
5.2.b. Planning…………………………………………………………….6
5.2.c. Report………………………………………………………………7

5.3.a. Language Focus……………………………………………………..7


5.3.b Analysis……………………………………………………………..7
5.3.c. Practice……………………………………………………………...8

6. Evaluation of the Experiment……………………………………………..8

7. Conclusion and Professional Developmet…………………………………9

8. References………………………………………………………………...10

1. Ιntroduction

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What would happen if we took a quite different approach in the classroom?
Instead of beginning with the grammar, we could begin by teaching words
and phrases and encouraging learners to make the best use they can of these. In
the early stages, they will string these words and phrases together with the
minimal grammar.

As this happens, we increase the demands on the learners, requiring them to


construct more complex meanings in a more listener / reader friendly way. As they
are exposed to more and more language, they will begin to construct and use a
more complex grammar, and we will try to devise activities to help them construct
this complexity. (Willis D. Etp 2004).

This essay will attempt to examine the use of task-based teaching in the EFL
classroom and more specifically to explore its effectiveness in a group of false
beginners of English for every day communication in their occupational contexts.
In this respect, a task-based cycle will be used to make our adult learners take
orders in a café, since the majority of them work for the catering industry.

2. Professional Interest in the area

My professional interest in the area lies in the fact that my students work in the
catering industry of the island where I live and occupy myself professionally; it is
a place, where it mainly deals in the hotel and catering industry. Therefore, they
need to be taught how to survive in an English-speaking work environment,
especially in the high season. Those people need to learn the target language by
picking useful words and phrases and only later to make sense of grammar (Willis
J. 1996).
When teaching beginners, we ought to give them a lot of exposure to the new
language, and to make that exposure comprehensible; a task-based approach
would possibly encourage them because it values what learners can achieve no
matter how little language they have. It differs from the standard frame work in
four main ways (Willis J, 1996):

Firstly, there is much more weighting given to exposure; one result of this will be
a longer pre-task phase (information-sharing) and a shorter task cycle (picture
prompt for discussion in group work).

Secondly, the cycle may well consist of sets of short tasks (listening and speaking)
rather a long one.

Thirdly, because there is less emphasis on public use of language until learners
have gained confidence, the planning and report stages are either omitted or very
short (short feedback sessions accompanied probably with questionnaires and
whole class discussions), with the teacher giving the first reports informally.
Finally, the language focus concentrates initially on words and phrases (food items
and prices), only gradually progressing towards grammar (Can I have……. , I`ll
have………, Yes, here you are…….., Is that all?)

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3. Class Profile- previous teaching situations

It is a mixed-ability class of seven adult beginners of English; three of them are


false beginners, although one of them would benefit more if she moved up to a
Pre-Intermediate level and the rest four of them are real beginners; all of them are
involved in the catering industry with the exception of an entrepreneur one
(dealing in fuels).
Real or false beginners in an EFL classroom may feel more vulnerable and shy
when attempting to use the new target language in front of other students, whose
language may be better than theirs, than if they were trying to make themselves
understood outside class to a native speaker. It is also true they are not in a
position of expressing fully and appropriately themselves in the target language
(Willis J., 1996). All of them were taught in traditionally communicative methods
of teaching in the past.

Therefore, it will be rather difficult for them to comply with a new method of
teaching, that is, pair and group work come into play from the beginning of the
lesson with a variety of tasks to be fulfilled in the target language with whatever
means of language students have at their disposal.

According to Wright 1987 and White 1988 (cited in Skehan 1998) the 3PS-based
approach has had an excellent relationship with teacher’s feelings of
professionalism, since it is very comforting and it places then in charge of
proceedings. The 3PS sequence is relatively easy to organize and comes bundled
with a range of techniques which, also demonstrates the power relations within the
classroom, since they are in charge of what is happening at all times.

A second reason for the continued importance of this approach is that it lends itself
very neatly to accountability, since it generates clear and tangible goals, precise
syllabuses and a comfortably itemizable basis for the evaluation of effectiveness.
The emphasis is on product, with the result that testing is seen as unproblematic,
since it can focus on sampling whatever “items” underlie the syllabus.

4. Rationale
A particular lesson is going to be chosen on the grounds that the majority of
students are engaged in the catering industry; the lesson deals with real authentic
and simulated pieces of language in the form of dialogues for taking orders in the
marketplace. Most of the students are engaged in that occupational field and need
the target language to communicate in their work environment, especially in
summer with customers arriving from every part of the world in the island.

Drawing upon the group’s speaking sessions, I could say that they are looking
forward to holding their posts in their work, since they fear they might lose their
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jobs, if they cannot speak English or might be relegated to another post in their
work; another important factor is definitely a salary increase. The task-based
lesson is expected to increase their language abilities, “to use language to achieve
a specific outcome” (McKinnon & Rigby, 2004) and help them further their
career.

5. Aims of the lesson


Most lessons seem to serve more than one purpose, including presentation and
practice of grammar, vocabulary and speaking development, further listening
practice in the topic unit, pronunciation practice, presentation and development of
functions and possibly cultural awareness at times. In a café was designed to be
exploited in a number of task-based ways.

This experimental lesson primary checks the effectiveness of task-based


session in comparison to the conventional ones our students are familiar with.
Furthermore, the lesson aims to consolidate in the learners` memory some specific
lexical sets, revision of numbers and to encourage vocabulary development within
their professional field. It also aids in using these authentic pieces of language in
group and pair work, promoting collaboration among group members as well as
developing their speaking skills through oral tasks-information sharing activities.

Therefore, students will hopefully perceive that tasks relate closely to their needs
and they will adopt an achievement orientation (Breen 1987:26 cited in Murphy
2003).

5.1 Pre-Task Stage


Skehan 1996:24 claims that cognitive complexity in balance with cognitive
familiarity will determine the extent to which active thinking is involved in doing
the task and how easily it can be completed by drawing on existing schematic
knowledge.

The teacher as a facilitator introduces the topic (a task sheet with food items
along with their prices), states the context (a café), and students perform the
dialogues in groups (as waiters and customers) with whatever language means
they own. The students will focus on language forms that will be useful in the up-
coming tasks; (Can- making requests, Will-spontaneous decision made at the
moment of speaking)

The teacher has ensured the text structure and vocabulary load are just beyond the
students` current knowledge, so that redundancy can be activated to fill in for
partial comprehension of certain parts of the text.

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5.2 Task – Planning - Report

5.2. A.Task:
During the task stage of the lesson, emphasis is placed on developing the
vocabulary and speaking skills of the lesson, since our adult learners are to
negotiate in groups about the outcome of the task (Willis 1988); they look at the
menu of Liberty Café’ and with 8$ they must choose what they will eat, but, not
exceed the specified sum of money; during the activity, the teacher circulates the
groups, making sure the task is on the right track, clears up any misunderstandings
and provides help with lexis and grammar.

5.2. B.Planning:
At this stage, the two groupings work through on the task given above; learners
look at the menu, once more, and try to guess , in teams, the price of each food
item; then, they listen to the waitress taking the order from the customer and fill in
the prices of the edible items; afterwards, each group member contributes to their
findings, the group reporter writes down their oral contribution, no matter how
correct or incorrect it is- at the same time, the group members develop their
listening and speaking skills. The teacher’s role is to co-operate closely with
students, aiding them in refining and polishing their language for their
presentation, afterwards.

5.2. C.Report:
At this stage, the reporter students from each grouping are invited to read out their
oral or written reports to the other group members; it is very important at this
moment, to provide the rest of the class with a reason for developing their listening
or reading skills. After their reading out their reports, the other group members
vote for the most successful presentation in terms of using proper English and a
better way of expression. In the meantime, the teacher, as a listener, is to highlight
some language regarded as central to the task& may ask for clarification or for
more detail. The important thing, at this point, is that it is a fluency activity
(reading out the report) which leads to accuracy (focus on the form of the
language).

5.3 Language Focus – Analysis – Practice

5.3. a. Language Focus:


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Skehan (1996:27) claims, at this stage, “It may lead learners to switch attention
repeatedly between accuracy and restructuring and fluency”. The language focus
stage of this lesson comprises a listening dialogue which highlights functions;
learners focus on stressing the difference in meaning in a listening dialogue, in
groups.
Learners are going to listen to a dialogue between two customers and a
waiter and need to find out what they will order; then, T hands out the tape script
and ask from the two teams to look at and highlight a) what they can have – in
green and b) what they will have – in yellow. They perform the listening activity,
which guides them to language functions, and they check it out in their team; in
this way, they are introduced to language functions, like a)can we have a large
coffee? And b) I`ll have a small tea with lemon.

5.3. B.Analysis:
Whilst at their feedback stage after the listening, students highlight language
function (Excuse me, can we have…., I’ll have a small tea with lemon) and
students work within their teams the use and functions of them (requests) - teacher
help is welcome at this point; later, they report as a team their findings in the class;
they develop their grammar inductively by practicing repeating polite/impolite
requests, in teams.
Next, they listen to some requests and they decide in teams, whether they are
polite /impolite, depending on stress.

5.3. C.Practice:
At this final stage of the lesson, learners going to take on the roles of the waiter
and customer and give/take orders, in different cafés authentic dialogues related to
their job-field, in pairs, which they role-play, quite a few times, by switching roles.
This time, they are to “activate the language they have learnt so far” (Estaire &
Zanon 1994) in a role-play, in the context of cafe`s .The teacher`s role is to instruct
clearly the tasks and to supervise the students, noting down any mistakes.

6. Evaluation of the Experiment

In this section, I will try to comment on the success of this experimental lesson,
evaluate the effectiveness of Task-Based Learning in the EFL classroom and to
comment on whether the lesson aims were achieved.

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Generally speaking, I would say that the lesson`s aims were achieved; the
students were able to use the phrases they were taught in the classroom, although
they seemed to recite them from their books, at least in the role-play situation
(practice stage) and in the dialogue performance (practice stage), without giving
any lively ways of expression and proper intonation in their performances.

On the contrary, they seemed to do quite well in the pre-task stage of the
lesson (the picture prompts with the prices), since they questioned and answered in
a rather comprehensible way – How much is the water? 10.25 & how many are the
apples? 10.75 - even though their communicative competence was insufficient- at
least, they kept the conversation going; their mistakes were corrected after their
presentation.

At the task stage of the lesson (the one with eight dollars) students felt free to
use any language means they owned in order to perform the task- they said { I take
an apple, a Cola and beer – the Cola is 0.60, the apple is1.20 & the beer is 2.50}
instead of “I get/ have”; at least, it made sense from the context- they also seemed
to work well in their teams, since four of them worked for the same restaurant and
the next three of them were friends.

Furthermore, they enjoyed performing the listening task where they had to
circle the appropriate edible item, because the conversation of the two customers
was humorous from the way they expressed functions- they also didn’t encounter
many problems with the prices of the menu.

On the contrary, in the analysis stage of the lesson, functions was a bit
problematic, since I had to wander around groups getting them to drill polite vs.
impolite requests. The intonation also of polite/impolite requests was rather
problematic for them to comprehend, since I had to play two- three times the tape
script, until they realized the speaker tone.
Finally, I would admit that task-based teaching worked for my students, since
they had the opportunity to speak fluently from the beginning and towards the end
of the lesson, they had to focus on accuracy.

7. Conclusion and Professional Development

It has been a novelty for me and for my students to use a new, alternative teaching
medium that it promotes learner autonomy; its format consisted of a pedagogic
dialogue in which the teacher’s questions were invitations to learners to

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demonstrate their language abilities and their responses were from their role as
learners, not assumed ones in simulated situations (Prabhu 1987).

Both I and students were engaged in a sequence of tasks that helped us to


express ourselves in the TL from scratch, develop social skills in teams and
communicate freely as if they were in their work field. This experience has taught
me that teachers should resort to other methods of teaching, if not completely
satisfied with the conventional ones. Task-based instruction is a way of learning
the target language spontaneously and freely from scratch.

Bibliography

Estaire S., and Zano`n J., 1994 “A task-based approach” Heineman


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McKinnon M., & Rigby N., “Task-Based Learning” {WWW Document}.
Retrieved April 27th 2007 File://A:\Task-based learning.htm

Murphy J., ELT Journal 57/4 October 2003 Oxford University Press

Prabhu N.S. 1987 “Second Language Pedagogy” Oxford University Press

Skehan P., 1998 “A Cognitive Approach to Language Learning” Oxford


University Press

Skehan P., (1994:190,191-192) “A new approach to Course Design: Task


Based Learning” {WWW Document}. Retrieved 27th 2007

File://A:\A New Approach to Course Design Task Based Learning.htm

Willis J., 1996 “A Framework for Task-Based Learning” Longman

Willis D., 2004 “Towards a new Methodology”-main feature-English


Teaching Professional , Modern English Publishing Ltd

Course book

Language-to-Go 2002 {Elementary Level} by Simon le Maistre & Carina Lewis


Pearson Education Limited - Longman

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