While teaching a foreign language in primary school, teachers often come across some problems in choosing a suitable approach. Taking into account the learners’ age, teachers should keep in their mind that they can get bored with the lesson very easily. To prevent it, you must select an interactive approach, which will absorb the pupils’ attention in the process of learning. In this regard, I would highly recommend using task-based learning. What is it and how can teachers apply it in primary school? The answers to these questions and also some recommendations you can find in this article.
Task-based teaching (TBT) is believed to be one of the approaches that emphasize real life and creative language use. It offers students an opportunity to do something in the classroom that they in everyday life. This approach is aimed at using a foreign language naturally without any force or feeling of «have to». The main focus of the classroom activity is the task and a foreign language is just a tool used by students to do it. During this activity, students don’t recognize that they are learning a foreign language, they just do some tasks connected with everyday situations.
Here is a webinar on task-based learning made by Norquest College.
Tasks Used in the Task-based teaching
There is a bunch of tasks which can be applied in primary school. Among them are opinion gap, real life, solution, creativity tasks.
Opinion gap tasks are used to engage students in creating new meanings. In most of those activities, students have to complete a story and compare the ending or give opinions on social issues. In those tasks, various materials could be used (maps, pictures, charts, pieces of literature, etc.), where each person had access to only a part of the information either the beginning or the end, another part of the information is required to achieve. Learners complete the task predicting or guessing the missing information as well as negotiating and sharing the information they have with the others. A nice example of this activity can be the game with flashcards and interesting pictures. You can cut into four pieces the picture given below, take one of them and give to the first student. The next piece give to the second student, and so the others.
The students must make a story each having only one piece of the picture. They must fill in the gaps with the sequence of events, asking each other the question: “What does he do?”. Let’s imagine one of your students has the flashcard with a boy “get dressed”. He can make the following story: A little boy gets up at 8 o’clock in the morning. Then he washes his hands and face, gets dressed and goes to school. Accept any answer given by your students, as the main aim of this task is to practise questions and answers in the Present Simple Tense.
Ask students to find out how to make a paper aeroplane and do the task during the next lesson. Give the following instructions — find the instructions on how to make an aeroplane out of a paper on the YouTube, bring all necessary tools for implementing the task to the classroom. Explain and show how to make it step by step.
During this activity, students find all necessary information on the YouTube, learn the vocabulary automatically, watch the procedure and then do the same thing in the classroom using the newly learnt words and showing everything in real life.
Everyone should learn problem-solving, as it is important in both our personal and professional lives.
There are four basic steps in problem solving:
- define the problem
- generate possible solutions
- evaluate and select possible solutions
- implement solutions
The purpose of problem-solving activities for kids is to get kids to think about a problem in a different way and have fun while solving it. Children will develop their creativity as they seek to implement a solution.
For example, you can give the following solution task to your s:
“You have 20$, and you are going to buy some vegetables and a box of chocolate. Role play with your classmate. Here is an example of a dialogue:
- Hello, can I help you?
- Hi, how much is the tomato?
- It is 3$.
- Give me 2 kilos, please.
- Here you are.
- And how much is the cucumber?
- It is 4$.
- Give me 3 kilos, please.
- Here you are.
- Thank you.”
The aim of this task is to engage learners in shopping procedures, to learn new words and collocations and have a dialogue with their classmates. Use some flashcards with different pictures of vegetables and toy money.
Another task which can be suitable for younger students is making them play together. Ask one of them to keep a word, a simple one, in his mind. The other students must ask questions to guess the word.
A similar task to it is to ask one of the SS to keep a verb in his mind. His friends can ask questions like «Do all people do it?», «Do you do it?», «How many times a day do you do it?». The aim of this task is to practise question formations and, why not, to play a game with classmates.
Another interesting game to be mentioned in this regard is “Animals”. Prior to playing this game, write on individual slips of paper the names of animal pairs, one name on each slip. Distribute the slips of paper to each group, instructing them not to share which animal name they received. The kids then move around performing activities their animal might do. The goal is for the kids to get into pairs successfully in a set amount of time without talking or making any noises. Suggest the following activities: сleaning, eating, drinking, fighting, sleeping, walking or running.
The following task is more appropriate to perform in the beginning of the lesson, which will also break the speaking barriers. After greeting SS, you can start a warm conversation with them: «I was on my way to school when suddenly I saw…”. Ask your SS to continue your story, to develop creativity, share opinions and ask questions to you to find out what happened to you. Some great creative tasks you can find in this article.
In this video you can find a nice example of task-based learning in the classroom.
Task-based learning in primary school demands scaffolding SS while pre-task stage, developing independence and creativity during the task and further working on grammar and vocabulary issues at the post-task stage. Discipline problems can be solved by class rules and precise instructions.
To sum up, we can say that the role of the task-based teaching approach in learning English as a foreign language is tremendous. Students should be given the opportunity to use English in the classroom as they use their own languages in everyday life.