There are many different types of activities that we create for our foreign language students. In the communicative language classroom there are two broad categories of activities: exercises and tasks.
What is a task?
- A task requires the use of the target language in order to complete a task. The goal is the completion of the task, though the expectation is that the target language is being used to complete it.
What is an exercise?
- Bill Van Patten describes “exercises” as activities that focus on language mechanics and often use language out of context.
- “Tasks,” in contrast, are activities that have a product, goal, objective or outcome that require using the target language to achieve it, but are not focused on mechanics.
With tasks the goal is independent of language. Research overwhelmingly shows that language used in context is most beneficial to language acquisition. Tasks are an effective way of providing communicative activities to students.
Is the activity an exercise or a task?
Consider these aspects of activities when determining if it is an exercise or a task:
The Activity is an exercise if it…
- focuses only correct examples of language.
- uses language out of context.
- focuses on producing small amounts of language.
- doesn’t focus on meaningful communication.
- dictates language structures and vocabulary.
The Activity is a task if it…
- focuses on achieving communication.
- focuses on meaningful use of language.
- employs communication strategies.
- does not use predictable language.
- links language use to context.
- does not dictate language structures.
How do I design task?
- Choose a theme and a goal. Keep in mind particular vocabulary themes or language structures that you would like students to use and craft the activity accordingly.
- Explain the task and desired outcome.
- Pairs/groups engage in task. Teacher engages as necessary to keep task on track.
- Pairs/groups share out their goals with other groups or as a whole class.
- Teacher provides an individual extension activity.
Take a look at this SlideShare that explains the difference between exercises, activities and tasks.
Also have a look at this post with lots of task-based activities for the French and Spanish classroom.
Posted in Activities and Games, Classroom Procedures, Speaking, Teaching Methodology and Research
Tagged ACTFL, activity, comminicative, french, spanish, task, teacher, teaching
El Camino/Le Chemin is an engaging and interactive speaking activity that students can do in pairs or small groups. Very quick set-up with no prep needed. Just print out the two pages that make up the game board and students are ready to go.Students can do this activity in groups of 2 or 3. Each player needs a game piece to move around the board. They can use a bingo chip, a coin or any object of similar size. One die is also needed for the activity.
All players start at “Début” or “Comeinzo.” Taking turns, each player rolls the die and moves the number of spaces rolled. The object is to land on the numbered boxes in the correct order (1-12). They can move in any direction, but they can’t use the same box twice in a turn. They can share a box with another player. The winner is the first player to land on square #12. The game can be made longer by having players return to “Début” or “Comienzo”and work toward #12 a second time.
Each time a player rolls the die and moves closer to the next number, he/she must say the verb, number, time, category word, etc. of the square he/she lands on. They can also be required to say a complete sentences.
You can download these activities here:
This is a fun and engaging way for students to practice verb forms or any type of vocabulary. I call this shipwreck (Naufrage, Naufragio, Hǎinàn-海难, Schiffbruch, Naufragium). The board has 1oo squares, you can use fewer or more depending on the level of your students.
In the example below there are subjects and infinitives in each box. Students play against an opponent and choose a box. He then says or writes the correct verb form. The example below has the student put the verb in the past tense in French. If the opponent agrees that it is correct, the player gets to color in the square with his color, then it is the opponent’s turn. If the opponent does not agree with the response the teacher is summoned to verify. If the answer is not correct the player loses that turn. When a player gets three boxes in a row of his color he gets a point, which is recorded on the bottom. Each play has a different color and employs a blocking strategy to try to prevent the opponent from getting three boxes in a row. This works well with vocabulary (students either translate or use the word in a sentence) or adjective/adverb forms as well.
You can make these activities in a WORD Document or you can download these activities that are ready to use: