On Episode 61 of Tea with BVP, Bill explained Tasks a little bit more. He said that Tasks are usually longer term goals, but also added that level-appropriate and input-based Tasks could be given right away. They certainly could be given right away, but they’re also unnecessary. Considering how hard it is to get multiple concrete examples of Tasks, the amount of planning that needs to go into an assortment of Tasks makes me want to set up a retirement countdown timer and hope it goes by in a blink.
Bill uses the terms “Exercises, Activities, and Tasks” to categorize what we do in class as they relate to communication. Exercises are drills, practicing language for language’s sake, which haven’t been shown to significantly contribute anything to a student’s acquisition or learning experience other than anxiety and frustration for most, so I don’t recommend spending any amount of time on them whatsoever. Instead, the majority of time would be best spent on Activities and Tasks, and there’s one major difference between them…
A Task is an Activity that has a purpose.
We’ve heard from Bill VanPatten that true communication has a purpose (i.e. cognitive-informational, and psycho-social). In the latest Tea with BVP, Bill stated those two purposes more clearly in teacher-friendly terms in that “we communicate in order to learn, build, create, entertain, and socialize.” My students love creating, entertaining, and socializing, so those are the three main purposes in my classroom.
Dictation, however, can easily have NONE of those purposes, lowering it down to the acceptable “activity,” but possibly the unacceptable “exercise” level, thus, rendering it non-communicative. Many of us have used Running Dictation (see an overview at the end of this post) to keep students moving and engaged, but in order to give dictation more of a social and entertaining purpose, I’ve combined it with the competitive Trashketball.
After attending Michele Whaley’s presentation on Embedded Readings at NTPRS, I was convinced that we’ve been playing a game of Telephone since she and Laurie Clarcq began sharing the concept back in 2012. It turns out that it’s “yes and no,” but there is an important distinction that is being made in current Embedded Reading practice. Whereas many of us THINK we’re creating Embedded Readings, most of us might be just adapting authentic texts, class stories, or textbook narratives. Those products are fine, but aren’t necessarily Embedded Readings. Most of us are missing two key features in our adapted readings that make them better:
- Parallel Stories
- Withholding New/Tantilizing Information (not just more words)
I’ve been following (and calling into) Bill VanPatten’s Second Language Acquisition (SLA) show since its debut last Fall. I’m proud to say that I have the honor of being the first SLA Quiz winner. Yes, it’s on my CV, and yes, the first prize was a branded bag of tea. I edit the episodes so busy people who don’t have an hour to listen still get some nuggets of wisdom. This past week’s episode was important. I had to listen to the show again (even AFTER I edited it), as well as send Bill VanPatten two or three emails to clarify a few points. Here are some takeaways with major implications for teachers who facilitate acquisition in their classrooms: