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Great results with

Task-based Language
Teaching

Jane Willis
Writer and ELT consultant
Honorary Visiting Fellow, Aston University, UK
TBLT True or False? What do you think?
No answers immediately: you will find out during the session

.. is designed to teach spoken rather than written


English.
.. is learner centred.
.. rejects rote learning as a useful activity.
.. does not allow the use of the first language in the
classroom.
.. does not provide learners with language input before
expecting them to engage in a communicative activity.
.. does not allow for the study of grammar.
.. does not allow drills and pattern practice.
.. requires a greater range of teaching skills and
techniques than traditional approaches.
Characteristics of effective tasks

Would the activity engage learners interest?

Is there a primary focus on meaning?

Does it have a clear outcome for learners to


achieve?

Is success judged in terms of outcome? Is


completion a priority?

Does it relate to real world activities?


Some examples of tasks & task sequences

Memory challenge objects on a tray (teacher led>pairs)

Guess what Ive got in my bag today! (teacher led>pairs)

Draw up your ideal school timetable (11-12 year olds)

Plan a class party for the end of term (mind map > group)

Describe in detail how to make your favourite food;


classify dishes, then compare recipes

Earthquake safety design a leaflet for overseas visitors


Things on a tray (1) memory challenge!

The teacher starts by collecting objects and talking about them


(useful teacher talk exposure to useful words and phrases)

Memory challenge test your teachers memory:


What things? And where?

---------------------

Now you will have 30 seconds to look at a picture of things on a


tray and try to remember what things were where Ready?
Things on a tray (2) Tray task
How many things can you remember? Work in twos, make a
list.
Possible task sequence for beginners:
Memory challenge, True / False game, Do your
own
1 How many objects can you remember? In pairs quietly -
tell each other and write / draw a list in English.

2. Where are they? Can you remember?

2.A Listen to your teacher is she/he right? Yes or No?

2 B Read the sentences and look at the picture - True or False?


The banana is on the right
The keys are between the money and the banana

3 Draw your own tray, then make your own true/false game - 5
sentences. You can play your game with other groups in class.
2B Tray task - true or false?
Designing tasks save time by

Using your text book Selecting a topic


and your learners like
adapting activities and
to make them more generating a
task-like task sequence
by
adding an outcome, Tip: work with
being more specific.. a colleague or two
From topic to task

You can choose any topic

(e.g. parties, school subjects, cats, cell phones,


transport)

and design a sequence of tasks using three or four


different types of task from this task generator:
Seven types of task

Listing Ordering & Sorting

Matching Comparing Problem solving

Sharing personal experiences

Projects and creative tasks


Task sequence topic: cats
How tasks can help

To learn a language, learners need


opportunities to communicate, engaging
in lots of meaning-focused interaction
using whatever language they have at
their disposal. Use it to learn it.

Effective tasks will generate meaning-


focused language use and help to
motivate learners
Using tasks to promote language development

Tasks are most effective when used flexibly within a


coherent Framework:

Priming & Preparation


(exploring topic, useful words & phrases)

Task Cycle
Task(s) >> Planning >> Report of outcome

Form focus
Analysis and Practice
CATS FEAT a text-based task - lesson plan

Priming and Preparation

Teacher might tell a story about a cat ;

Introduce a Newspaper News in Brief text - give title


Cats feat
and dictionary entry:
Feat /fi:t/ feats.
A feat is an impressive and difficult act or achievement.
EG He received a medal for his heroic feat. The construction
of this bridge was a brilliant feat of engineering.
Cats Feat: Task cycles 1 and 2

1 Task: (individuals, then in groups) think of a story that could


have the title: Cats feat

Planning: plan how to tell your story with maximum effect


Decide who will tell each part. Ask your teacher if any problems.
Rehearse your story.

Report: tell the class your story. Listen to the other stories do
any of them have similar themes?

2 Listening task: Listen to the story on the CD. Which groups


story was the closest? What similarities were there?
Cats Feat: Task 3 Read then write

Cats Feat Facts from this text

A sixteen-week-old >>How many short


kitten named Mor sentences can you write
jumped 200 feet from a in two minutes?
balcony of her 22nd floor e.g. The kittens
apartment in British name was Mor
Columbia to the street >>Compare sentences
and walked away with a partner. How
without a scratch. many have you got?
Writing task

Tell the class your sentences. Do not repeat any you


have heard before. How many different ones can you
get as a class?

Without looking at the text again, try to put all those


facts back into one sentence of exactly 30 words.
Work in twos. You have ten minutes.
(= Unpacking and repacking a sentence: M. Halliday)

>At home: write up your groups best cat story to.


Form Focus: based on text and/or transcript

Look at the transcript of the recording.

1. Circle 6 phrases with the word that or That. What do some


have in common? Think of 2 or 3 ways to categorise them.

Ah, thats amazing!


Something like that, anyway
Thats incredible!
Thats funny actually, because the other day
They are very good at that, yes.
Thats right!
2. Find in the spoken transcript 8 examples of words ending in
ly. Notice the phrases they are in. Try saying the whole
phrase out loud quickly.

I reckon it probably jumped out the window


Oh actually I think I read this somewhere
Thats funny actually because the other day
Because I recently heard of a similar story
But certainly its fairly common.

2. Test your partner say the phrase without the -ly word can
he /she remember the whole phrase? (You can say beep
instead of the word.) Try this with the next slide.
Oh .. I think I read this somewhere

I reckon it . jumped out the window

Thats funny , because the other day

Because I .. heard of a

But certainly its common.


When to work on language and focus on form?

Priming & Preparation


Key lexis & useful phrases

Task >> Planning >>>> Report of outcome


Language extension >> Prestige language
use

Form focus
Analysis & practice
of language features from
texts (written or spoken) that learners have read or heard
TBLT True or False?
If you have taken part in this whole session, you will realise
now that these are all false. They are simply common myths.
.. is designed to teach spoken rather than written
English.
.. is learner centred.
.. rejects rote learning as a useful activity.
.. does not allow the use of the first language in the
classroom.
.. does not provide learners with language input before
expecting them to engage in a communicative activity.
.. does not allow for the study of grammar.
.. does not allow drills and pattern practice.
.. requires a greater range of teaching skills and
techniques than traditional approaches.
What kind of results?

Willingness to have a go in lessons (Japan)

Learners develop a feel for language and for what sounds right

Increased confidence in speaking outside class (Hungary)

Students come to life during the task cycle (Japan)

Increased motivation among students (everywhere)

More autonomous learners who are likely to go on learning


after their language course.
Useful sites and reading see handout!

And now a final task for your homework:


Which is colder the North Pole or the South
Pole?

To find out, visit www.willis-elt.co.uk


- free lesson plans, articles and useful links

And try doing some Task-based Teaching with


your learners! All the very best!
www.willis-elt.co.uk

References
Edwards C. and J. Willis (eds) 2005. Teachers Exploring Tasks in ELT. Palgrave
MacMillan. British Council ELT Innovations Award 2006
Leaver B. and J. R. Willis 2004 Task-based Instruction in FLE: practices and
programs Georgetown University Press
Liria, P. (ed) 2009 L'approche actionnelle dans l'enseignement des langues SBL
Willis D. 2003. Rules, Patterns and Words: Grammar and Lexis in English
Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press
Willis D. and J. Willis, 2007 Doing Task-based Teaching Oxford University Press

Useful websites:
An excellent introductory article on TBL by Richard Frost:
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/a-task-based-approach
Four articles on TBL by Jane Willis can be found at:
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/articles/criteria-identifying-tasks-tbl
Free sample task-based lesson plans at http
://www.willis-elt.co.uk/taskbased.html
Extra slides follow
So why Task-based Learning?

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.

Learners become more independent and feel empowered, gaining


satisfaction from successfully achieving things through the FL.
Implementing and exploring TBL

Aim at richer interactions in class focus on meaning


first, form later.

Use your text-books flexibly: taskify them.

Explore what happens when you use tasks: get


learner feed-back, adapt tasks and try again.
(Edwards and Willis (eds) Teachers Exploring Tasks)
Teachers advice on TBL

Collaborate with your colleagues it saves


time and it makes teaching much more
rewarding

Collaboration is the key

Dont give up - it really works!

www.willis-elt.co.uk