Do you feel you've fallen into a rut with your ESL class?
Are you and your students simply going through the motions? Well, if you want to spice things up and get their minds working, tasks are the way to go. Let me tell you why. Tasks offer ESL teachers an amazing alternative. When using tasks for learning the lesson is based around the completion of a task with a real-world goal and the language the students learn comes from this. With tasks, students learn by being forced to communicate with other students to solve problems. Tasks provide the learner with an opportunity to use the language they need for genuine communication, increasing student motivation and encouraging more speaking. Tasks involve thinking skills we use in our ‘real lives’. They are a successful way of teaching language since they bring meaningful communication into the classroom, as students work towards the goals of the task. It is important to include activities that prompt students to work towards achieving specific goals using thinking skills. They learn to use the target language meaningfully as they communicate with each other and the instructor in achieving the goals of the task. Using tasks has some great advantages.
- Tasks make lessons more fun. They provide an awesome change of pace.
- Tasks provide a natural context for using language, and they promote the use of language that is personalized and relevant to the students.
- The exposure to language is greater and more varied. The students are exposed to a whole range of phrases, vocabulary and structures in a natural context.
- The language used during tasks comes from the students' needs. The decision of what language is covered is not made by the teacher or the course book but by the students.
- Students spend a lot of time communicating during tasks and since most, if not all students, need to learn to communicate, it is a great way to achieve this goal.
- Students have control over what language they want to use and they have a wealth of language resources to choose from.
- Students develop thinking skills like: planning, comparing, listing, analyzing, ranking, ordering, sorting, deducing, comparing, classifying, problem solving and explaining.
So, how do we use tasks in our classroom. Do we simply pick one and throw it at our students. Of course the answer is no. Though they are in fact easy to implement, tasks should be done as a step by step process. Let's take a look at these steps.
Check the Proper Procedure for any Task
Prepare Your Students
You should never jump into anything without some type of warm up. Believe me, we all need warm ups and your students are not the exception. Here you need to introduce the topic, and give your students clear instructions on what they will have to do. If you wish, you could do a brainstorming activity with your students to recall some language that may be useful. Some teachers even like to provide their students with a model of what will be expected of them. They can take notes and spend a few minutes getting ready for the task.
At this stage students complete the task they prepared individually, in pairs or groups. They have to use the language resources available to them, and the teacher acts as a monitor and offers encouragement. Ideally you should intervene as little as possible at this stage and offer corrections later on. This is why it is advisable for the teacher to take notes on what needs to be corrected while students are working, which will be useful for the feedback phase.
Congratulate and Correct
Now that the task has finished, you need to praise and correct. First congratulate your students on a job well done. Tell them what they did well and ask them how they felt. After this, make all the necessary corrections. Highlight what things were not correct for the students to analyze. Ask them how they would say things differently.
Finally, you need to select language areas to practice based on your students' needs and also what emerged from the corrections. The students then practice using activities to increase their confidence and use the language they have learned.
Help your students develop the skills they need to communicate.
Prepare them for the real world and help boost their confidence bu using tasks.