Task Based Language Learning‏‎ in TEFL

How To Teach English

Multi-tasking label on Terrah MakeupTask Based Language Learning (TBLL) is basically geared towards the students performing a particular task. In the ELT classroom this might:

  • ordering a meal
  • asking directions
  • discussing a film
  • preparing a job application

It’s all about getting the students focused and using authentic language. The students are doing meaningful, practical and useful tasks which they may well come across in the real world.

Often those tasks have a clear purpose such as filling in a form, visiting the doctor, making a complaint, asking for directions, etc. and the lesson is assessed on whether the task was completed well rather than whether the language was correct. In other words, language accuracy is less important than successful task completion.

It is widely acknowledged that TBLL as a method of instruction in the field of language acquisition‏‎ encourages language fluency and increases students’ confidence.

The Practice

In order to achieve optimum conditions for language acquisition, and thus provide rich learning opportunities to suit different types of learners, Jane Willis from Aston University (UK) recommends teachers break TBLL into three sections:

  1. Pre-Task
  2. Task Cycle
  3. Language Focus

In the Pre-Task the teacher presents the task to the students by exploring the topic, highlighting useful words and phrases‏‎ and generally helping the students understand the task instructions and prepare. To help students understand you might present your students with part of a text, a recording or a video clip showing other people doing a similar task.

The Task Cycle consists of: Task > Planning > Report

  • Task – students do the task, in pairs or small groups whilst the teacher monitors from a distance, encouraging but not correcting.
  • Planning – students plan what to report to the whole class (how they did the task; what they decided or discovered, etc.) In this stage the teacher stands by to give language advice, if required.
  • Report – The reports are presented to the whole class and results are compared. The teacher acts as a chairperson and then comments on the content of the reports. In this phase part of a text, a recording or a video clip showing others doing a similar task may be used to compare it with what the students presented.

The Language Focus has two aspects: Analysis and Practice

  • Analysis – students examine and then discuss specific features of the text or transcript of the recording. They can enter new words, phrases and patterns in vocabulary books.
  • Practice – the teacher conducts practice of new words, phrases, and patterns occurring in the data, either during or after the Analysis.

The Task-Based Syllabus

A task-based syllabus is based on a communicative language teaching‏‎ approach.

Designing this type of syllabus involves first and foremost a needs analysis‏‎. Instead of basing the syllabus on a list of grammatical, functional and notional items, a needs analysis is conducted to identify the language functions‏‎, that is, the tasks that the students will need to accomplish outside the classroom, for example:

  • asking and understanding directions
  • completing a job application
  • ordering office supplies
  • checking into an hotel

Once the language functions‏‎ have been identified, the teacher will need to determine the appropriate language targets, that is, the language and skills that the students will need to acquire in order to carry out those tasks.

Next the teacher will need to sequence the functions logically and in order of difficulty, and then create exercises designed to develop the required knowledge and skills for each function.

Image © FabulousTerrah

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