TBL with my Ielts students

Using TBL with my IELTS  academic English class
As part of my Delta course I had to experiment with instructional frameworks and try new approaches. I chose Task Based Learning and designed a lesson based on information I found in the Willis ELT website ( http://www.willis-elt.co.uk/ ).
My class
My students were attending English classes as part of their preparation for the Ielts academic English exam. The lessons we had done so far were particularly exam oriented and focus was mostly on writing and speaking. There was no time for fun and all the lessons focused on gaining skills/strategies that would allow my learners to succeed in this exam. The lessons were quite dry so I thought this would be a great opportunity for something fun.
The lesson
The lesson was based on a video of a true story about a five year old who used his knowledge of the ABC to help save his father’s life (http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/New-Jersey-Kindergartener-Saves-Father-Life-Spelling-Letters-Dad-Seizure-Car-206971791.html). The tasks followed the TBL framework so I started with a warmer that made use of words from the story and asked my learners to quickly guess what they thought the story was about. I then asked questions and generated discussion that would get them to think more carefully about emergencies and what young children can do in such cases. Students then concocted a story and afterwards reported to the whole class. After the reporting stage, my learners watched the video and found out what had actually happened. We then talked about genre features specific to story telling and focused particularly on past tenses and extreme adjectives. The new language was presented and students used the structures whilst answering questions like ” What kind of emergency have you ever faced? How did you deal with it?” As homework, my students were asked to watch the video again and tell me the story again.

Samples from the lesson
What is the story? What connections can you make?

The setting

New Jersey

The characters

A father

A five year old son

A grandmother

The paramedics

Some phrases from the story

“use your active listening skills”

FURNITURE

School shoes

Paralysed

Route 22

1. In an emergency, what can a five year old do?

2. In an emergency, what can a grandma tell her five year old grandson to do?

3. What do you think happened in this story?

4. In pairs, try to guess what happened in this story.

5. Now, prepare a report of the story. One of you will tell the rest of the class what happened in this story. Let’s see if you have the same stories.

6. Now listen to the story. Where your predictions correct?
Feedback from my students
They loved the lesson!
  • They had a chance to talk about something that allowed them to use their imagination.
  • They got to watch an authentic video and see how close they were to the real story.
  • They noticed linguistic features which they made use of in later stages of the session.

 My thoughts

This was a memorable session and highly motivating one. There was a lot of noise during the session and the grammar facilitated the realization of the intended outcome. unfortunately though, I was unable to predict all the grammar and structures my learners may have needed to complete the task.
The thing my learner said and put a smile on my face
So, my students did take the IELTS exam in December and when they called me the first thing my learner said was, ” I used lots of extreme adjectives when I did the speaking task”. Out of all the sessions we had the most memorable one, the least exam oriented one, was the one that she remembered and mentioned after having taken the exam. This makes me rethink about lots of the material I use in class!
 I will follow up with a twist… I used this lesson with my BE students too! Till next time!

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2 thoughts on “TBL with my Ielts students

  1. Hi there, I couldn't agree more with you Joanna in that students love and remember lessons that they keep them engaged, have fun and are personally involved!! Here is my experience with TBL which was part of my PD while doing my Module 2 DELTA.
    I would like to start with something that surprised me in this lesson; although I had been expecting that the students’ reaction to the change of approach would not be so welcoming and that they would have difficulty adjusting to it, they in fact loved it! I think it had to do with the fact that they were involved in it from the beginning. This particular class is so keen to learn a foreign language and prove themselves that we could say TBL is for learners who want to speed up their learning. Even weaker students produced some work, again to my surprise.
    At this point, I would like to comment on the tasks designed and how the learners got involved in them. From the very beginning I forged a relaxing atmosphere, a ‘not have to’ sense to lower their anxiety and make them feel comfortable and that their teacher was one of them. To this end I introduced three sentences about me and asked students to find out which one was true. Following this, the purpose of the lesson was explained and an outline of the lesson was given. As scaffolding I asked them to listen to a recording and underline the functional language – the expressions they would use later on in their task. I made sure that students knew all these expressions or had them explained by asking concept check questions. The next step called for the students to collaborate to work on the questionnaire first do control practice of the new language and then produce a freer task. The personalization of the task, I found , motivated them a lot and gave them the chance to use all the language and all the linguistic ability they had in store to achieve their task. There was a deviation in the lesson in that in the report stage they did not want a reporter to tell the class what he found out but preferred to talk about themselves.
    I got very good feedback from the students; they liked TBL because of the fact that they were actively engaged in the lesson from the very beginning to the end and therefore it was a rather student-centered lesson. This involvement tested their linguistic ability and at the same time allowed them to identify what knowledge they lack and what they need to improve. They tried a real-world like conversation and connected it with the outside world. All in all, students evaluated TBL very positively and definitely plan to use it in my future lessons because it has surrender value for the students in that it helps their fluency, and their becoming autonomous, gives them the opportunity to check their abilities and weaknesses as well as stretch to their full potential to complete the task.
    8. Conclusions
    After having designed and taught a task-based lesson, I came to the following conclusions:
    • The role of tasks is to encourage learners to activate and use whatever language they possess to comprehend, write, and speak.
    • The aim of task-based teaching is to stimulate language use and provide a range of learning opportunities for students of all levels and abilities
    • TBL provides an environment of natural acquisition with rich exposure to spoken and written language based on texts and recordings
    • The role of the task planning report stimulates the natural desire to improve the language
    • Teachers should to take into account the desired level of difficulty and complexity when designing tasks
    • Adults like activities through which they can use much of what they know
    • Authentic material is very popular with adults
    • TBL can be implemented at all levels and promotes students’ awareness and self-directed development from a very early stage

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