Definitions are important--the book clarifies the same on p. 30

Tasks

Operationalizing Communication

✔ extended - beyond simply sentences. We don’t talk this way all the time, so learner speech should also include longer discourse

✔ information gap - goes back to negotiating meaning. If we have all the same information, we aren’t communicating

✔ uncertainty - unrehearsed - we must navigate unknown discourse and work towards real communication

✔ goal orientation - speakers should have a goal in mind; why do we communicate?

✔ real time processing - when we speak, we often deal with multiple factors → unknown speech, explaining, asking questions, interruptions, etc.

Approach to creating tasks

DON’T

DO

Structuring activities

  1. Identify a desired informational outcome: need a purpose for having discussion in the target language other than simply having learners speak
  2. Break the topic into subtopics: identify the subcomponents to the topic and create activities to lead the learners to the desired discussion
  1. build up -- invisibles activity → write single sentences, get in a group and draw, put sentences together and build a story, teacher read stories, students draw individually, discuss and compare
  1. Create and sequence concrete tasks: what tasks will let the learners explore the subcomponents. This is where you build linguistic support; tasks give a concrete linguistic focus and a formula for interaction that is not contrived--it has a purpose.
  1. see above (2.a)
  1. Build in linguistic support (lexical and/or grammatical): teacher is facilitator
  1. safety net > dictionaries?

Examples from the book:

(I am guilty of some of the questions--but not sure they are all bad)

I like the way the analysis broke down how each section of the examples relates to the criteria for structuring activities (1-4 above). Since we’re limited on time, I want to discuss the second activity, because it really struck me with its depth.

Activity A.1 (37): This is the activity that BVP released prior to his show on tasks Episode 42)

Activity B.1 (p. 39-40): The Best Shows on TV (instead of series of questions on p.36)

Description: students in groups finish sentences like “The best TV shows do not present women as ____,” present their ideas to the class and take notes over the other groups’ answers while being ready to disagree with other groups’ opinions or add to them. Finally, groups discuss what TV shows fit the compiled class descriptions. Are past shows or present shows more likely to qualify as “the best”?

1. informational outcome: create a framework and perspective (criteria) for discussing the best shows on TV (the treatment of groups of people)

2. subcomponents: class creates a common reference point; in step 1, specific categories are identified which students will then use to complete the rest of the activity.

3. tasks:

        a. complete sentences asking about treatment of various minority groups in television

        b. present the completed sentences

        c. note the completed sentences and thus opinions of other groups

        d. add their own comments to these completed sentences

        e. list TV shows that meet the criteria for best TV the class has created

4. linguistic support: step 1 offers grammatical support (“do not”), so the means to express their ideas and concepts (might be worth looking at A.1 just long enough to compare that to the lexical support in its beginning)

Bringing it to my classroom: I did it! Inspired me to take the White Elephant activity by Justin Slocum-Bailey and give it purpose and break it down into tasks.

1. informational outcome: create criteria to describe animals and why a group may prefer one animal over the other.

2. subcomponents: class categorizes animals into types, so creates a basis for evaluating them, then groups can use this to choose their preferred animals.

3. tasks:

        a. groups put animals into categories by consensus

        b. groups contribute their answers to a class collation of the categories

        c. groups use the categories to identify which animals they prefer and why

        d. groups choose animals which they may lose via White Elephant rules (facilitated by the teacher)

4. linguistic support:

        lexical: students are given descriptors for the animals

        grammatical: students are given a structure to express their preferences

So now they are choosing an animal for White Elephant as a group and this animal matters because it will be used in an activity the next day. They are given all of the supporting steps to choosing the animal and explaining why and this provides me with a jumping off point to facilitate a compelling discussion about which animals are being chosen and/or stolen from other groups.

My handout

Blog Post over this modification