Close your eyes for a moment and visualise a class full of secondary schoolers. Yes, I know what you think of. Lots of teenagers, bored or restless, and not that keen to participate on today’s class! This is when the Task-Based Language Teaching methodology, or in short TBLT, jumps in to assist language teachers by immersing students into active learning by getting them to work on selected tasks.
Well researched language teaching methods, such as the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) and the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), as well as approaches that connect gaming with linguistic skills, have transformed the lessons of the last decade. Modern language classrooms have long left the traditional Grammar-translation methodology, where learning is based on translation from and to the language taught, leaving no space for speaking practice. This article aims to introduce another important language teaching approach, the Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT), that will assist your students to fully utilize their linguistic knowledge and boost their foreign language speaking and critical thinking skills.
What is Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) method?
According to Richards and Rogers, Task-Based Language Learning strategy focuses on communication through task completion. Students get engaged with a task they are truly interested in, and they aim to carry it out only using the target language and its taught elements. In other words, in the topic of recycling for instance, that is being taught for a couple of weeks, students are engaged in various tasks that could eventually lead to a presentation project, using the authentic language learned and the necessary tools, such as the internet. The key to this language teaching and learning methodology is not the correct and strict use of the language taught but the emphasis is given to the task’s outcome and to the steps followed for its culmination.
What are the types of tasks we see in Task-Based Language Teaching and Learning?
1.Information gap activities: as the name implies, this sort of TBLT activity allows students to exchange information or learn things about each other. For example, students in pairs should ask and answer questions so as to learn each other’s weekly schedule, aiming to find a common pastime such as going to the movies.
2. Reasoning gap activities: during this language learning activity, students are asked to convey meaning from something you have given to them. The trick is that sometimes what they understood and what they have to present to you in the end might be different. For example, you can ask your students to work on a timetable and on some variables and solve a problem.
3. Opinion gap activities: for creative students, this language teaching activity might be the most preferred, as they are asked to share their own opinions or feelings about a specific situation. For example, you could hand them a worksheet with six empty blocks and ask them to make a comic using the verbs you learned this week, or you could set up a debate on a current social topic.
See below what are the advantages and disadvantages of Task-Based Language Teaching and Learning method? Source: https://www.barefootteflteacher.com
How can you build your language lesson using Task-Based Teaching Method?
In essence, a language lesson based on the Task-Based Language Teaching method has three stages, the Pre-Task Activity, the Task and the Wrap-up or Review.
During the Pre-Task Activity, you introduce the task to the students, trying to motivate them and make them look forward to it. At this point, you also set your expectations and you show them a finished example of the same task as guidance as well as a method to avoid using the native tongue to answer the many questions students might have. You proceed to hand out stationery and other necessary materials, and form groups or pairs.
The Task stage is where you let your students shine. Focus on making them work in small groups so even the least motivated student can grasp the chance to work. Do not intervene, let them communicate on their own and only walk around the classroom monitoring the process. Assist them only if they do not know how to proceed.
When the task is over, it is time for the Review. Groups have the chance to present their work (video, poster, story) to you and to their peers and receive constructive feedback.
3 awesome Task-Based Language Learning activity examples (based on OnTesol)
- Plan a trip– Divide students into groups and after having an exciting travelling conversation, ask them to brainstorm on planning a trip. Prompt them to ask questions like how long the trip will last; what is the budget; what kind of activities they should do. Provide them with objects like a map, set a specific time, and let them pick a real or imaginary destination and create the travelling plan.
- Problem-solving– You could present them with various everyday problems they might face. For example, you could encourage them to brainstorm solutions to a certain school problem and create a poster to display that to the rest of the school community. For more advanced or older in age groups, you could set up debates on social issues.
- Story making– Give them a character or the beginning of an unknown story or fairytale to them and give them some minutes to brainstorm the story’s ending on their own before being paired. When the groups are formed they will have the chance to listen to their classmates’ ideas and decide on a specific ending after debating all the ideas.
If you are interested to try out the Task-Based Language Teaching method in your language classes, you will probably enjoy our next article that gives examples of how Sanako’s Virtual Classroom Software can be used to deliver TBLT lessons.
References used in this article:
Richards, J. and Rodgers, T (1986) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, CUP Cambridge.
Willis, D. and Willis, J. R. (2011) Doing task-based teaching. 5. print. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press (Oxford handbooks for language teachers).
N.S. Prabhu, Second Language Pedagogy, Oxford University Press; 1st edition (1 Oct. 1987).