#TBLTChat 5: Practical ways to Focus on Form during the task cycle – Summary

What a corker this chat was. Myles kicked us off with a spot of pre-reading by Michael Long on Focus on Form (and FormS, and the difference).

You should basically know that a Focus on Form is: a focus on the form of language that is troublesome, it is not predetermined, though teachers might have a good idea at what is likely to be focused on because some tasks cause certain types of language to be more probable than others. It is done either during the task or after the task. Focus on FormS is a predetermined focus on teaching aspects of language before tasks.

Marc noted that it was not just grammar, though this is often mistaken in research literature: it could be pronunciation, vocabulary, pragmatics, discourse management, and more. Helen said this was important as there is a tendency to associate ‘form’ with grammar.

Marc said that he sometimes draw sagittal diagrams (cutaway diagrams of the mouth) on the board to show minimal pairs or confused sounds.

Helen said she highlights prefix-meaning relationship and synonyms relevant to the task, which is good for standardised tests. Myles asked if this was done post-task or reactively, and Helen said post-task due to class size. Myles said that perhaps recasting reactively and then post-task form focus might be good practice.

Marc also said he asks learners to make requests longer so that they resemble requests and not commands.

Myles quoted or paraphrased Long with:

 FonF is not carried out as a separate activity, as an end in itself, but during (and if necessary after, but not before) task.

Maite said she wanted to know how FonF could be more real and communicative. She said she preferred having students invent grammar rules based upon evidence as opposed to just giving a rule (i.e.inductive vs. deductive grammar teaching). Marc said this was authentic because in real-world situations he analyses what went wrong, or not well, in his own L2 use. Mura said it was often recommended to be contingent on the type of error produced. Marc then gave links to Steve Brown’s blog on ‘preflection’ and Cult of Pedagogy on ‘dogfooding’ or doing your task yourself.

Myles went on to give an example of correcting an error (missing to in an infinitive) by teacher response, on topic with the correct form. Mura wondered if it would be considered an error rather than a slip of the tongue. Marc said he would let it slide first time and focus on it if it came up again. Myles then found a great quote by Mike Long (2015) “A student’s attempt to produce a form is not always, but often, an indication of his or her developmental readiness to acquire it.”

Liam went on to say that there are different ways to go about FonF, “text-based, guided discovery, upgrades, student presentation, etc.” Myles linked to Scott Thornbury and asked “Retrieve (for post-task), Recast (on the spot), Report (by the Ss themselves). 3 R’s here apply to TBLT?”

We then basically tailed off and Maite told us that her presentation at the TBLT Conference in Barcelona 2017 has been accepted. If you can go, you should. I would love to but short of a lottery win I don’t have a cat in hell’s chance!

Till next time!





About Marc

I teach in Tokyo.
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3 Responses to #TBLTChat 5: Practical ways to Focus on Form during the task cycle – Summary

  1. Matthew says:

    Love the “dogfooding” concept; hadn’t heard of that term or the connection to app development but the idea of doing lesson tasks during planning has become a central plank in how I guide trainees on a short course in their lesson planning. I tell them to keep their ‘teacher hat’ on the rack and only take it down and put it on ONLY AFTER sitting down and mindfully moving through all the lesson tasks with their ‘student hat’ on.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marc says:

      It’s a good one, but admittedly one I am not always thorough with. I fall down in checking how many ways instructions can be interpreted. It’s often easier to dogfood other people’s work, too.


  2. Helen L says:

    I just read this again – so useful!

    Liked by 1 person

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