#TBLTChat 7: Needs Analysis & Syllabus Design

OK, teachers. Looks like we’re looking at the big picture tomorrow. 

Needs analysis and syllabus design. 

Time: 0:00 – 23:59 GMT. Don’t forget the #TBLTChat hashtag. 

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#TBLTChat 7: Vote for the topic

So, two topics for the poll today. Vote for the topic for Tuesday 0:00-23:59 GMT.

Get voting and see you on Tuesday.

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All Seven and we watch them fall: #TBLTChat 7

I know, I know, you’ve been waiting for it. Well, the next #TBLTChat needs your topics.

When: 7th February 2017 (Tuesday), 0:00 GMT until 0:00 GMT on the 8th. 

Topic: propose it in the comments. Poll on Sunday till Monday. 

Who: #TBLTChat’s trained Task Whisperers and you! 

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#TBLTChat 6 – Misconceptions – Summary

This was a special chat and the original premise was suggested by Mura. There was a bit of pre-reading, too.

Before the chat started, Marc as The Voice of #TBLTChat tweeted “There’s no grammar teaching, you can’t do it with beginners and it takes ages to write lesson plans. Hmmm.”

Maite then questioned that writing a TBLT lesson plan takes her longer, perhaps due to lack of materials.

I (Marc) think this is another issue itself and could easily take up another chat and could be collective homework for our #TBLTChat community. But, I digress.

Sarah agreed with Maite and Helen said that if you have a task and Language knowledge you have a plan, essentially. Helen says she thinks planning TBLT lessons takes less time to ‘do’ but more thought pre-lesson. Myles said finding the input source took more time than actually planning (in a Mike Long model of TBLT). He also linked to his excellent blog post about how a materials bank can help save time in planning. Maite said that her school had grammar requirements.

Helen said she deals with the misconception that students don’t learn much. Teachers need different perspective on measuring progress no longer measured in grammatical units but in wider, more meaningful communicative task achievement. Sarah added that stakeholders need to shift their mindsets away from the structural syllabus (i.e. grammar or lexical syllabi).

Leading on from this, Sarah said that teachers lack confidence and support in using TBLT and then asked (rhetorically?) how many ELT organizations offer training and support in this area. Helen questioned how many go beyond PPP (Present-Practice-Produce, or the default CELTA/Cert TESOL method). Maite added that some primary schools are giving importance to collaborative learning and offering courses, as well as companies promoting communicative approaches and methodologies, though TBLT is still unexplored. Sarah said this means the onus is on (individual) teachers to explore and experiment, and wondered when teacher-training certificates would catch up. Myles said they wouldn’t because teachers are not linguistically prepared for recasting or incidental Focus on Form after one month of training. He wondered whether having trainee teachers teaching TBLT off the bat to the students who are usually there for free would be possible, saying that experimentation should happen. Marc said it would be undesirable (and I meant for the institution and maybe students but not sure about the latter) for the to be students to be more knowledgeable about grammar than the teacher. Helen said perhaps the teacher could provide just the parts of language students were missing in the task, and Myles agreed, with pre and post-task stages being the easiest for new teachers to teach language in.

There was a bit of to and from about not being able to teach strong communications approaches in Diploma-level training (Myles and Marc regarding TBLT and Dogme). Gerard said this has changed on the DELTA he runs.

Sarah said that her misconception (one that many of us shared) was that we thought we were doing Task-Based Language Teaching but were actually doing Task-Supported Language Teaching, essentially something advocated by many scholars who talk about integrating language items into the syllabus instead of approaching them as a reactive Focus on Form. In a similar note, Shona said that a misconception she sees is that “any classroom activity counts as a task, since they’re all just a pretext for teaching rules or vocab”. Helen said that TSLT is a good bridge toward TBLT and that most of her school materials are TSLT-based. Shona further added that TBLT is not TBLT if teachers are adding parameters such as ‘include five examples of present perfect”.

Shona mentioned that another misconception was that TBLT is not suitable for young learners. She posted this blog post with video of young beginners doing a story retelling task. This shows it can be done. 

Marc said that one of the misconceptions that bugs him is Focus on Form is just grammar. It is a focus on language that can result in more successful task completion. It can cover grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, discourse management, pragmatics, semantics and probably more. He gave a couple of examples of “talk about your holiday and keep the small talk going” being a task, and “talk about your holiday using three phrasal verbs”. Chris and Ben couldn’t see why the former was a task, saying that it needs clearer purpose. Marc said that phatic communion is often difficult for learners, as is changing the subject when an initial topic runs out of steam.

And then, that was that. Thank you everyone for your contributions and Happy New Year!

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#TBLTChat 6 – Special – Misconceptions 

Hello again. It has been a while, hasn’t it?

The next #TBLTChat on Twitter is scheduled for Tuesday 13th December from 0:00 GMT until 0:00 GMT on the 14th. 

This topic was suggested by Mura Nava, and there is a bit of pre-reading, too. 

What are some misconceptions about TBLT you have encountered? Do you think you have misconceptions? 

See you next Tuesday! 

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#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!




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

It was decided! We are going with Focus on Form (what learners are trying to communicate) not Focus on FormS (pre-planned teaching of discrete language points, usually prescriptive grammar).
See you 18th October, midnight till 18:00 GMT. 

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