IH Journal of Education and Development

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Doing Task-based Teaching

Reviewed by Neil Preston, IH Brisbane

 

Doing Task-based Teaching offers a great way in for teachers who are interested in incorporating task-based activities into their lessons, but also has a lot to offer for those people who are already familiar with, and using task-based teaching. The main strength of this book is the sheer amount of examples; and wherever possible, they have given a whole task-based cycle.

 Task-based for me has always brought visions of octagons, with pre-task, task, planning, report and language stages; and snippets of staff room conversations on whether this really does count as a task in task-based learning. This book provides help with this task cycle, and shows how easy it is to apply it.

The book’s layout is standard for teacher handbooks, with reader activities that engage and help you get the most from what you have read, and good commentaries and sample answers, but what sets it apart is the examples.

Drawing from over 30 teachers, scattered around the world in 12 countries, each section or chapter is illustrated with an example that the reader can pick up and use in their environment (I’m looking forward to giving my students the ‘Crumbled paper’ jigsaw reading). It is very easy to read, and the table of contents is well laid out, making it easy to read from cover to cover, but also to dip into as and when you have time or need.

The book has 10 chapters, starting with debunking the myths of a task-based approach, and debating if a focus on form or focus on meaning is the way to go (Chapter 1 – The basis of a task based approach), before moving on to what a task-based sequence is (Chapter 2) and gives some good examples to help anybody understand the theory underneath.

Chapter 3 moves on to how we can create tasks based around written and spoken texts, before the types of tasks are fleshed out in chapters 4 and 5, starting with a look at what topics have been used for task-based lessons and culminating in a very useful task generator that serves to remind you of your options quickly. All the way through, you get real examples from teachers who have used them; it makes it much easier to get to grips with.

Chapters 6 and 7 deal with ‘language focus and form focus’ and ‘the task-based classroom and the real world’ respectively; both help any teacher keep the balance in the classroom, with tips on how to move from your task-based sequence into a focus on form, and how to make sure that your tasks keep relevance outside of the classroom door (showing how much better task-based can be here).

Chapter 8 was my favourite, with the all the questions to ask yourself about if your task matches your learners, and the process of thinking to make it work better – all stemming from an easy to read ‘task parameters’ mind map.

Chapter 9 offers up some great help for the course designers among us as well, but still has use for all – the section on grading tasks and linking to can do statements make for interesting reading, and give you something good to keep in mind when designing your own tasks.

Chapter 10 (Frequently asked questions) is almost worth starting with, as it does a great job of answering all the questions that nag at the back of your mind as you work through the rest of the book, but is best viewed with the knowledge you gain in each chapter. Regardless, it answered all of the questions I had – including a very well written section on ‘tweaking’ activities that is making its way round our staff room.

The practical nature of the book, with the wealth of examples and appendixes, and the clear visuals that accompany every aspect are the strengths I keep coming back to. You can benefit from the rational provided to start thinking of how to make your own, but still go and try out theirs the next day.

From the post-CELTA teacher just getting started in teaching to the DOS or teacher trainer looking for workshop ideas (they even provide a workshop handout in Appendix 4), this book has plenty of things in it for everyone, and I heartily recommend it.

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