Are you looking for some information about task-based teaching and learning, including activities, games, lesson plans and more? Then you’re certainly in the right place. Keep on reading for all the details you need to know about task based learning.
Task Based Language Learning: The New Way of English Teaching
Task based language learning is kind of all the rage these days as part of the overall communicative approach. This focuses on having students being competent communicators as opposed to some of the older models like grammar translation or the audio-lingual method. If you’re not familiar with task based language learning, here is a brief introduction to it.
Task based language learning can be an excellent choice for large classes. A class of 20+ students makes it impossible for students to get enough speaking time if it’s a teacher-centred classroom.
Why I Love Task Based Language Learning
There are a number of reasons why you might consider incorporating some task based activities into your English classes. However, here are two of my favourites.
#1: A Why
I personally love task-based activities because they give students a reason to do something as opposed to just using the language in a meaningless kind of way such as in a “repeat after me” activity. Students have to complete something, such as a presentation or some research about a country of their choice, including money and currency and then make a poster about it.
#2: Learn what you want to Learn
The second reason I like task based activities is because they give students a chance to explore the language they want to know. Instead of me telling them what grammar and vocabulary they need to learn, students discover what they need to know during the process, figure it out (with some help from me sometimes), use it and then often remember it for the long-term because it was something they sought out for themselves.
Three Examples of Task Based Activities
For example, if I assign a presentation topic in my class, I’ll usually make the topic choices quite vague. For example, any current event. That way, students are free to choose whatever interests them, instead of letting my own interests dictate their learning.
Or, for a persuasive essay that I assign for homework, I’ll give students freedom to choose any topic they want. They only requirement is that they check in with me before starting so that they don’t go down the wrong track and waste time on something that is either too basic, or too difficult.
Another common context is something like ESL directions. This works well because there is most definitely a reason why students have to talk to each other and a task to complete (finding a new location). More ideas here: Giving Direction ESL Activities.
How to Teach Speaking with Task-Based Learning
Do you want to find out more about task based learning ESL? Then you’re going to need to check out this short video below for all the details you need to know:
What are the Steps in a Task Based Learning Lesson Plan?
When you’re designing a lesson plan for this style of class, there are a number of important steps to follow. Here’s a bit of information about each of them:
In this stage, the teacher introduces the topic and gives instructions on what will happen at the task stage. Basically, the requirements of the project that students will have to complete. You could also introduce the language that may be useful to help complete the task, although students may have to discover more for themselves.
The goal of this stage is to make your expectations for the task clear and to give students some tips, language, ideas, etc. for how they can proceed (if necessary).
During this stage, students complete the task, either in pairs or groups. The teacher can monitor groups while offering a bit of feedback or encouragement if necessary.
During this phase, students can prepare a short report (written or spoken) about what happened during their task. They can practice what they’re going to say in their group and the teacher can offer some assistance if needed.
One of the keys of TBL is that it focuses on the process rather than the end result and this is the focus at this stage of the task.
Students report to the class about what happened during their task. The teacher can also offer feedback.
At this point, the teacher can highlight the language students used during the report phase. If you recorded the report phase, you may play this back for the students to notice any language used.
Based upon what you heard and saw, you may want to choose from areas of language for further practice. Design some activities around this.
6 Basic Task Types
The idea is that there is a topic that the class is based upon and then various tasks surrounding that are created by the teacher. This is the list of tasks, from easiest to hardest. I’ll use the topic of weather for my example.
- Listing. Various kinds of weather conditions.
- Ordering and sorting. Typical weather in spring/summer/fall/winter in a certain location.
- Comparing. Weather in country A vs. weather in country B.
- Matching. Weather condition pictures to the names.
- Problem solving. Pick a vacation destination. When will you go and why? What special things do you need to bring?
- Creative project. Research a natural disaster, make a poster about it and then do a presentation. Check out this Current Events Presentation I did with my students.
Even very low-level students can do task-based projects with numbers 1-4. These tasks might work well as a quick warm-up for your higher level students before you move into tasks 5-6.
As you can see, it’s easy to incorporate task based learning into any lesson and it’s a misconception that it needs to be a long drawn-out project of some kind over multiple classes. Of course, it can also be this, but it doesn’t have to be.
More Ideas for Task Based Learning ESL Activities
If you need some more ideas for how to do TBL with your students, here are just a few ideas:
- Making a phone call to make a reservation, or complain about something
- Write an email in English for work
- Visiting the doctor
- Conduct an interview to find specific information (see this activity: Just One Question)
- Gathering information to make a poster or advertisement
- Make a short movie
- Information gap activities where each student has only half the information (more details here: Information Gap ESL Activities)
- Plan a road trip
- Finding something in common icebreaker activity. It’s a nice activity for the first day of class (check it out here: Finding Something in Common).
- Plan a class party (ideal for countables and uncountables)
Task Based Language Learning Example
If you want to see task based learning ESL activities in action, then check out the following video:
What are the Advantages of Task Based Learning Over PPP?
Many EFL/ESL textbooks and teachers generally follow the PPP model (presentation, practice, produce). However, task-based learning had a number of advantages over this traditional model, including the following:
- Students control the language they learn and produce, rather than being restricted to something pre-selected by the teacher or text.
- Task based learning allows for a natural setting of context where students can base their learning on their own experiences. This makes learning far more personal and relevant to your students in many cases.
- TBL can expose your students to many more varied uses of English than PPP can. Think collocations, lexical phrases and patterns—the sky is the limit!
- Language learning can arise from student need, instead of what the next unit is in the textbook. This makes it more memorable for learners.
- In comparison to PPP, TBL is more student centered and communicative. This is where the trend is going in language learning and anything you can do to reduce student talking time, the better.
- Errors are a natural part of the learning process in TBL and are seen as a learning opportunity. In PPP, it’s something a bit more negative in that it’s a variation from the “correct” form the students were taught.
- Students are generally very motivated to complete the tasks because it’s something they’ve chosen to do and it relevant to them.
Need More Ideas for your ESL Classroom?
If you’re looking for even more ideas for teaching English to adults, then you’ll need to check out this book over on Amazon: 101 ESL Activities for Teenagers and Adults.
There are dozens of fun, interesting, and engaging activities and games that’ll help make your classes better, guaranteed. If it doesn’t, get it touch and I’ll refund your money.
The best part? Your students will be learning English while having fun at the same time.
The book is well-organized into sections so it’s very easy to use: speaking, listening, reading, writing, 4-skills, grammar, review, warm-ups/icebreakers, etc. Pick the section you need and you should be able to find an activity or game that’ll work in under a minute.
You can get the book in both digital and print formats. Keep a copy on the bookshelf in your office and use it as a reference tool. Or, take a copy with you on your phone or tablet for lesson planning on the go.
Ready for some ESL awesome in your life? Check out the book for yourself on Amazon:
Have your Say about Task-Based Language Teaching
What are your thoughts about task based learning and teaching? Have you tried any of the activities from this list, or do you have another one that you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment below and we’d love to hear what you have to say.
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