word 'task' is used in a variety of meanings in language teaching.
One common use is in the sense of 'whole tasks', that is, a large
classroom activity in which the students may be doing a variety
of different things. In this sense, the optional Activity
Units are 'whole tasks'. The focus in 'whole task' work is usually
on meaning rather than the form of the language, although both are
important (see FLUENCY).
Many writers argue that teaching through 'whole tasks' is most effective
since students can learn the language through natural processes
CEWw, however, the word 'task' is used in the same way as
'exercise', to refer to any structured language-learning procedure.
'Task' in this sense will include everything from a gap-fill exercise
to a poetry-writing activity. Tasks may be 'small' and may only
take a few minutes (such as doing a word puzzle) or they may be
'large' and take a whole lesson or more (such as making a poster).
In actual fact, 'large tasks' are likely to be made up of smaller
tasks. Some of the key questions in language teaching are: 'What
are the most effective kinds of tasks for language learning?', 'What
makes a task more or less difficult for students?', 'How do different
kinds of tasks affect classroom interaction?', 'How do different
kinds of tasks shape LEARNING
STRATEGIES?' and 'What roles do different kinds of tasks place
on teachers and students?'
with different ways of doing similar tasks to see if that affects
student performance. For example, writing can be done individually
or in small groups, with or without planning and BRAINSTORMING,
or with or without dictionary support, and so on.
two or three tasks which seem to be very different in nature.
For example, a poster-making activity, a grammar discovery task
and a reading comprehension task. Then choose three or four students
in your class. When you come to those tasks in your teaching,
watch how the students respond individually to different kinds
of tasks. Do some students prefer to work in a particular way?
Do they seem to achieve more from particular kinds of tasks?
a lot of support initially in a particular area and then gradually
reduce that support to see when it becomes difficult for the students.
For example, if the students are doing listening work, you can
initially teach them the language they will hear, give them an
overview in their own language, let them listen with their books
open, and then listen several times. Gradually reduce the support
(for example, they can listen with their books closed) to see
at what point it becomes difficult for them. You can then discover
how much support you actually need to give.
the tasks that the students do in your lessons emphasise particular
STRATEGIES and classroom roles? When you are planning a lesson,
sometimes look back over your plan and analyse the main tasks
with the following questions: 1 What role will the students take?
Will they be initiating language or responding? 2 What mental
process will they have to go through? (E.g. repeating, analysing,
planning, recalling from memory.) 3 What is the task about? Where
does most of the subject matter come from? From the book, from
the students, from the teacher? If you continually get the same
answers to these questions, try to identify ways in which you
can change the focus of your lesson to create greater variety
and learning opportunities.