Quick task out of nothing!

Updated: Oct 14

I was greatly inspired by my CELTA and DELTA trainers' amazing blog, including hands-on TBL (Task Based Learning) activities, and today, during a lesson I had a quick spur-of-the-moment idea to create such a lesson myself! Have you ever redesigned your own wedding?


Let me introduce you to my one-to-one student. She's around A2/B1, and she wishes to improve her writing and speaking skills to be able to perform better at her workplace. She's in charge of organising artistic events, and frequently has to write emails and call people. By the way, she's also getting married in a month.


So, as we were chatting at the beginning of the lesson about the wedding preparations, I had a quick idea - let's imagine that the whole ceremony has to be relocated to England for some reason, and she has to:

  • ask for information

  • settle new arrangements

  • find new solutions

  • be polite and courteous

These were basically the functions we had been practicing up to this point, but having a more realistic scenario made it much more motivating in my opinion.


The task


I decided to give my student 3 tasks, each of which had to use a different channel of communication to practice all at the same time. We had an online lesson, so we used Google Docs and Zoom.

  1. Write an email to the manager of the newly found accommodation to check if they are really the right fit for your needs - you have to ask 3-4 indirect questions

  2. Have a video call with the newly found caterer to discuss the menu and other details

  3. Have a call (without video) with the priest to tell him that he has to travel to England with you

Procedure


Since I like playing different roles, I was happy to play all these characters :)

  1. We both logged in to our shared Google Doc, where we keep all previously done email tasks. I was silently following her writing process (since you can do that in Google Drive), providing help in case she was looking for an expression. After she finished, I highlighted sections in different colours - green for nice work, red for mistakes, yellow for style, and purple for hard to understand parts. We went through all the things together and upgraded the email. The main foci were indirect questions and politeness.

  2. This task was quite straightforward. All I tried to do was to throw in a couple of difficulties so that my student had to work a bit harder! During the call, I was taking notes of well-used phrases and things to discuss later. After the call, we went through both as she was looking at my shared screen with my notes.

  3. For this task, I switched off my camera to imitate a real phone call which has the added difficulty of not being able to see the other person's face and lip movement. I repeated the same process as in task 2 after we finished the call.

Please note that the usual TBL setup also includes some authentic exposure to somebody at a higher level doing the exact same task so that students can notice some of the language they will be asked to use later on. And after finishing the task, there's some upgrade in language and students get to redo the task.


Since we had been practicing email and video call phrases for a while now, I decided to skip the exposure stage. As for repeating the task, we'll have to do it next time because our lessons take 60 minutes.


Result


All in all, it was a pretty good experience for both of us. My student really liked the variety of the lesson and how it connected to her own life on many levels. She is also now used to my colouring scheme, so rewriting and upgrading the email didn't take a lot of time.


I personally really liked the chance to play several roles :D But from a more professional point of view, it was a great mixture of all the different task types she has to do on a daily basis, and it was as spontaneous and "live" as it can get in real life as well.


Let me know what you think of this idea! And thanks once again to Neil Anderson and Neil McCutcheon for their TBL lessons which you can find here and here!

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