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Why is doing tasks the best way to learn? (some thoughts on TBLT)

 

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When you think about the job of a librarian, the first thing that comes to mind is something to do with books: buying, cataloging, preserving, recommending books to students and teachers. In this post I wanted to show that an English language teacher-librarian is also a key pedagogical partner for teachers in school.

During this school year I talked with students about the books they loved, about how to learn effectively, how to find reliable information on the Internet, how to write well… I can remember many great moments, but the highlight of the school year was my participation in a few TBLL activities at the library. My main aim in the post was to illustrate how TBLT (task-based language teaching) was feasible, and effective in EFL/ESL secondary school classroom, and how an English language teacher – librarian could participate and help students do the tasks successfully.

In March this year a group of 4th year students (Milica, Dušica, Anastasija and Andrea) prepared a task and created a video clip for an ESP class. My participation in this task was in providing the students with the materials they needed, taking some photos, and giving them some help with pronunciation (of the words like: process, circumstances…). I was glad that they liked my ‘Aristotle philosophy box’, and that they used it while making the clip. And we had a lot of fun. 🙂

 

English for Specific Purposes TBLT Lesson:  A plan of evacuation of a building

A group of four 4th year students (B2 level) created a clip (about 8 minutes long) – A Plan of evacuation of Hogwarts (which was set on fire by Lord Voldemort). They told me that the idea came to their mind as their teacher Jelena J.M. loves Harry Potter books. That was a fabulous idea, and very funny, too!  They recorded the Hogwarts news at the library, and the commercials: magic wand & magic chalk, in the school corridor. Ministry of Magic presented an elaborate plan of evacuation of the building. (Unfortunately, I could not embed the clip in the post as my blog does not support it, but I really enjoyed watching it.)

Pre-task
The English language teacher introduced the topic by giving some explanations and helped the students to recall some language (key vocabulary regarding a plan of evacuation of a building) that might be useful for the task. The students took notes and spent time preparing for the task.

Task
The students completed the task using the language resources that they had.  The teacher-librarian assisted and offered encouragement while the students practised and rehearsed their roles. Then the students made a video clip with their smartphone at the library, and in the school corridor.

Planning
The students prepared a short oral report to tell the class what happened during their task. They then practised what they were going to say in their groups. The teacher-librarian helped the students to clear up any language questions they had.

Report
Before the English language teacher played the video clip to others in the classroom the students reported back to the class what had happened during their task.  The teacher gave the students some quick feedback on the content.

Analysis
The teacher then highlighted relevant parts from the text of the recording and the language that the students used during the report phase for analysis.

Practice
Finally, the teacher selected language areas to practise based upon the needs of the students and what emerged from the task and report phases. The students then did speaking and writing practice activities to increase their confidence and make a note of useful language.

 

What is the task-based approach?

TBLT is a strong communicative approach to language instruction which aims to provide learners with a natural context for language use. As learners work to complete a task, they have abundant opportunity to interact. Instruction is organized in such a way that students will improve their language ability by focusing on getting something done while using the language, rather than on explicitly practising language forms, as in more traditional methods of instruction. Content selection is based on the needs of the learners and they are encouraged to activate and use whatever language they already have in the process of completing a task. The most important tenets of the TBLT are: the provision of opportunities for learners to focus not only on language but also on the learning process itself, and the linking of classroom language learning with language use outside the classroom.

My thoughts on TBLT (regarding my TBLT experience)

  • TBLT is a learner-centred approach, and the focus is on collaborative learning.
  • The active involvement of the learners is central to the approach.
  • It offers learners a rich input of target language.
  • The students are exposed to a whole range of lexical phrases, collocations and patterns (the focus is on meaning as well as on form).
  • It is enjoyable and (intrinsically) motivating.
  • It can be used together with a more traditional approach.
  • It involves a high level creativity and dynamism on the part of the teacher.
  • It requires resources beyond the textbooks and related materials generally available in EFL classrooms.
  • Some students may object to task-based language learning in that this type of instruction is not what they expect and want from a language class.
  • Teachers (or facilitators) should take into account the learning context, and they need to negotiate with learners to ensure that they are motivated and happy to learn in that way.

As I don’t know much about TBLT, this was an interesting and useful experience. I’m interested in exploring TBLT in the next few months. I also hope to do a lot more collaborative projects with the English language teachers at my school (not only ESP, but General English, too).

 

Further reading on TBLT

Mike Long, Second Language Acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching, Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.

Real Tasks Guide Long’s TBLT by Geoff Jordan https://criticalelt.wordpress.com/2016/03/27/real-tasks-guide-longs-tblt/

Dave and Jane Willis, Doing Task-Based Teaching, OUP 2007.

http://www.willis-elt.co.uk/conferences.html

David Nunan, Task-Based Teaching, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

http://www.educ.ualberta.ca/staff/olenka.bilash/best%20of%20bilash/task-based%20language%20teaching.pdf

Rod Ellis, Task-based Language Learning and Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

 

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About ljiljana havran

English language teacher (General & Aviation English), passionate about learning and teaching. Curious, adventurous, a lifelong learner. Love: good books, music, lots of dance.

3 responses »

  1. Pingback: Task Based Links and News (sort of) | Freelance Teacher Self Development

  2. Pingback: Biblioteka je najlepše mesto u školi, proverite zašto… | Библиотека Ваздухопловне Академије

  3. Thanks for the post. Enjoyed it! I have a copy of Mike Longs SLA and TBLT open beside me. Thought provoking.

    Like

    Reply

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