Tasks are becoming popular these days, though I’m not a fan.
The way I see it, a task itself must be so well-constructed that something else—something probably more beneficial—could’ve been done in the same amount of prep time as well as class time. Otherwise, low-prep simple and short tasks tend to lack compelling purposes. After all, there are purposes, and there are compelling purposes, right? For example, most of the Tasks that Bill VanPatten mentions on Tea with BVP are appropriate for self-selecting college students, yet leave the K-12 public school student saying “who cares?” Still, if you’re interested in early input-based Tasks, try using this template…
This task focuses on all conjugated forms of the verb “to be” in the present, and possibly other tenses. It answers the general questions “who am I?” and “who are we?” and could be used to determine a number of qualities shared in the class, and then to compared to some other source, like a target language-speaking culture. Get creative! In the first few steps, students pair up and rotate briefly to get some data. Then, the teacher elicits data in the final steps, compares, and summarizes the findings. Note how students aren’t speaking in the Second Language Acquisition (SLA) Output sense. They’re saying words, sure, but all the words are provided, and any response options are listed. This is not Output since students aren’t generating any of the ideas, which means it could be done very early on given the appropriate level of scaffolding. The first few steps of input-based Tasks are designed to get information, NOT to “practice speaking” like some might refer to, though it will look similar to observers if you are being asked to have students speak more, or interact more. Most of the input will be provided by the teacher in steps 4+.
1) Student A asks:
Quis es? Who are you?
Quālis es? What are you like?
2) Student B replies:
sum [ ] I’m [ ]. **chosen from a provided list of words—the only prep**
3) Students record responses, switch partners party-style, and get more data:
Student B est [ ] Student B is [ ].
4) Teacher asks students to share details::
Student A, esne [ ]? Student A, are you [ ]?
Student A, estne Student B [ ]? Student A, is Student B [ ]?
5) Teacher tallies/graphs results, and makes statements:
discipulī trēs, estis [ ] You 3 students, you are [ ].
discipulī quīnque, estis [ ] You 5 students, you are [ ].
quattuor discipulī sunt [ ] 4 students are [ ].
duo discipulī sunt [ ] 2 students are [ ].
ūna discipula est [ ] 1 student is [ ].
6) Teacher compares class to something:
multī Rōmānī erant [ ] Many Romans were [ ].
7) Teacher summarizes results:
discipulī, sumus [ ] Students, we are [ ].
Again, I don’t necessarily think students care a great deal about these kinds of Tasks, but if you find that something piques their interest, say, who is the closest to turning 18, or who takes the longest naps, break out this task template and see how it goes!