DESIGNING TASKS FOR DEVELOPING
SKILLS IN THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM
FUNDACIÓN UNIVERSITARIA LUIS AMIGÓ
DEPARTAMENTO DE IDIOMAS
SEPTEMBER 11, 2010
One of the most challenging tasks constantly
facing language teachers is how to capture
the interest and to stimulate the
imagination of their students so that they
will be more motivated to learn.
WHAT A TASK IS - DEFINITION
Nunan (1989) defines “task” as: a
piece of classroom work which
involves learners in comprehending,
producing or interacting in the target
language while their attention is
principally focused on meaning
rather than form.
Skehan (1998) lists feature of “task” as
some work where:
meaning is primary;
relationship to comparable real-world
activities is important;
task completion has some priority;
assessment of tasks is in terms of
WHAT IS TASK-BASED LEARNING?
Task- based learning is an overall approach
to language learning that views the “tasks”
learners do as central to the learning
The learning process is seen as a set of
communicative tasks that are directly linked
to curricular goals.
Nunan (1991: 279) outlines five characteristics
of a task-based approach to language
1. An emphasis on learning to communicate through
interaction in the target language.
2. The introduction of authentic texts (teaching materials)
into the learning situation.
3. The provision of opportunities for learners to focus not
only on language, but also on the learning process
4. An enhancement of the learner’s own personal
experiences as important contributing elements to
5. An attempt to link classroom language learning with
language activation outside the classroom."
KINDS OF TASKS
Today, many researchers make an
important distinction between target
tasks, which students need to
accomplish beyond the classroom,
and pedagogical tasks, which form
the basis of the classroom activity
during the learning process.
- Filling out a form,
- Buying a pair of shoes,
- Making an airline reservation,
- Borrowing a library book,
- Taking a driving test,
- Typing a letter
- Making a hotel reservation,
- Writing a check,
- Finding a street destination
- And so on….
TARGET TASK - DEFINITION
So by target task is meant the hundred and
one things people do in everyday life, at
work, at play, and in-between. These are the
kinds of things that individuals typically do
outside of the classroom. The ultimate
rationale for language teaching is to enable
learners to accomplish these activities
successfully in the real world using the target
PEDAGOGICAL TASKS - DEFINITION
Actions carried out as the result of processing or
understanding language. It is any structured
language learning endeavor which has a
particular objective, appropriate content, a
specified working procedure, and a range of
outcomes for those who undertake the task.
Drawing a map while listening to a tape, listening
to an instruction and performing a command.
These tasks may or may not involve the production
of language. A task usually requires the teacher
to specify what will be regarded as successful
completion of the task. The use of a variety of
different kinds of tasks in language teaching is
said to make language teaching more
TARGET AND PEDAGOGICAL TASKS
For instance, a target task might be:
The learner will listen to a movie review and
decide whether or not to if s/he likes to see
Its related pedagogical task might be:
The learner will listen to an aural text about a
movie and answer questions afterwards on
whether given statements are true or false.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
A task-based curriculum then, with its supporting
instructional materials, specifies what the learner
needs to do with the English language in terms
of target tasks and organizes a set of
pedagogical tasks intended to reach those
goals. According to Brown (1994), in task-based
instruction, the priority is not the bits and pieces
of language, but rather the functional purposes
for which the language must be used.
ROLE OF TEACHER
Task-based language teaching requires
the teacher to organize classroom
activities around those practical tasks
that language users will engage in
when they are “out there" in the real
WHAT IS NEEDED?
It has been argued that it is important to
incorporate authentic data into the classroom.
However, if learners only ever encounter unnatural
dialogues and listening texts, the task of learning
the language will be made more difficult.
The reality is, that in EFL contexts, learners need
both authentic AND non-authentic data. Both
provide learners with different aspects of the
SEQUENCING AND INTEGRATING
Even tasks can be sequenced in a number and
variety of ways, it is also important to
integrate the tasks with other exercises or
activities which are designed to help learners
to develop the enabling skills they need to
communicate successfully , or to develop
skills or strategies on how-to-learn.
Nunan (1985) suggests that tasks and
activities can be graded according to the
cognitive and performance demands made
upon the learner.
In order to achieve the objectives of a given
task, activities can be made progressively
more demanding, for example moving from
comprehension based activities to controlled
production activities and then engage learner
in real communicative interaction.
Listen/read no response
Listen/read non verbal response
Listen/read verbal response
Listen/read carry out drill
Listen/read respond meaningful
Listen/read role play
Listen/read solve problems/come to conclusions
Chaining activities together to form a sequence,
where successful completion of previous
activity is a pre-requisite for succeeding ones.
Activities, then, are sequenced not only
according to their complexity, but also by
learning themes and learning pathways.
Check the following example:
A PLACE TO LIVE
Step 1: Learners listen to a taped telephone
conversation in which the line is not working
properly and the callers have to use the
language to show that they have not heard
correctly what the other person on the phone is
saying. As a result, the callers have to repeat
some expressions, and, in doing so, they
expresss lack of understanding in different ways.
Step 2: Learners can do a True/False exercise to
make sure that they have caught the gist of the
A PLACE TO LIVE
Step 3: Learners can do a listening and note-
taking exercise in which they show what they
Task: Learners are then given a partial or
“defective” dialog in the form of a telephone
conversation of the same kind they have
already experienced. Here they can make
use of expression to show they haven’t heard
and to ask for repetition, using the notes they
have taken down.
A PLACE TO LIVE
Step 1: Reading “Renting an Apartment”- provides
Step 2: Questionnaire – learner scan previous reading to find
or infer specific information.
Step 3: Writing – gap filling exercise related to reading.
Step 4: Reading – Learners read some renting
Step 5: Note-taking – Learner is required to extract specific
information and list it in a table.
Task 1: Discussion – Learners express their own preferences
for one or other of the apartments.
Task 2: Controlled writing task – Using the previous
advertisements as model, learners are required to write
their own advertisement.
INTERACTIVE PROBLEM SOLVING
Two approaches in which communicative tasks are
sequenced around problem situations:
Socio-drama and strategic interaction. Both
approaches allow the teacher to build in
exercises, which enable the learner to develop
vocabulary, structures, and discourse as well as
SOCIODRAMA - STEPS
1. Topic is introduce by teacher.
2. Presentation of new vocabulary.
3. Presentation of dilemma – focus on a conflict.
4. Discussion of situation and selection of roles.
5. Audience preparation – specific tasks.
6. Performance – role-play solutions suggested.
7. Discussion of situation and selection of new role-players.
8. Next performance – solutions using new strategies.
9. Summary – teacher guides students to summarize what
10. Follow-up – written exercise, extended discussion, aural
comprehension exercises or reading exercise.
TASK BASED LEARNING VIDEO
Here in this link there is an example of
a task work in a language classroom.
As already discussed, the starting point for
a design should be the goals and objectives.
The next step is selecting or creating input for learners to
Consider the roles of teacher and students during the task.
Organize setting to improve classroom management skills.
When monitoring the task it is a good idea to keep record
of the groups interactions and use these notes not only
for corrections, but also for assessing the process of the
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!