Sanako is a Finnish Educational Tech company helping schools and language teachers to improve language teaching efficiency and results.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to language teaching. Every educator has their own unique approach to teaching each class and every student. For Sanako, it’s important that our products and solutions are highly flexible and can support the widest variety of different teaching styles.
To that end, we’ll be using this blog to highlight how Sanako’s products can be used to deliver different pedagogical approaches. This post explores how our solutions can support Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT), which is particularly well suited to online delivery, according to feedback from educators and institutions.
So what is Task-Based Language Teaching?
According to Richards and Rogers*, TBLT focuses on building communication skills through task completion. Fundamentally, this approach recognises that language is a tool that we use to communicate in order to get things done. So TBLT focuses students on solving tasks which involve the realistic use of language, rather than simply concentrating on grammatical and linguistic concepts or communicative functions.
OK, but what is a task?
Successful TBLT lessons require a specific kind of task - typically one that involves realistic and meaningful communication between students.
In a recent post on the Sanako Language Ambassadors blog, Stavroula Aktypi identified three types of tasks that are commonly seen in TBLT. Students can choose how to complete each type of task and the language/vocabulary forms to do so. There’s also a clear goal or output, so students know when the task is completed.
1. Information gap tasks - such activities require students to communicate with each other to share information and broaden their understanding.
Sanako Connect enables students to work in pairs from different locations to practice live conversations and other role play activities. Teachers are easily able to collect and review students’ audio recordings and provide feedback for work in real-time or via voice recording.
2. Reasoning gap tasks are those in which students are asked to solve a problem or grasp a concept from a resource or stimulus the teacher has provided.
Through Sanako Connect, teachers can easily upload a wide variety of source material (a local language calendar or timetable, for example) and then get students to find solutions to particular problems or requests.
3. Opinion gap tasks give students the opportunity to share their own opinions or feelings about a specific situation.
Sanako Connect focuses on maximising the time students are able to actively practice their language skills during classes. The Voice Insert feature, for example, allows students to answer pre-recorded questions at their own pace alongside independent role play practice. As above, students are easily able to use Connect to record voice content, such as debating topical issues, undertaken in pairs or small groups.
Sanako’s technology can be hugely powerful to help educators to differentiate their instruction when using TBLT. Organizing a course around tasks allows educators to have learners at higher proficiency levels working with learners at lower proficiency levels on the same task. Sanako Connect not only enables educators to provide learners with materials that are relevant to their needs and their interests. It can also help them to promote cooperative learning as students need to speak and learn with each other to successfully complete the task. Connect can also help educators to provide feedback when students need assistance with specific words or concepts.
How can I use this approach in my classroom?
In essence, as Stavroula Aktypi outlines in her post, a lesson based on the TBLT pedagogical approach typically has three stages - the Pre-Task Activity, the Task and the Wrap-up or Review.
1. The Pre-Task
This stage is vital to the overall success of any TBLT lesson. Delivered correctly, this stage enables educators to set the scene for the lesson, enthusing the students about what is to come and providing them with clear expectations and instructions.
Sanako Connect makes this easy for teachers, enabling them to circulate detailed notes and any relevant resources via the platform to all students in advance of the lesson. These instructions can be provided as text or as a piece of audio.
2. The Task
Students can now work on the task in hand, typically in pairs or small groups. The aim for this stage is for the learners to build their fluency and the educator should only step in if students stop and don’t know how to proceed.
Educators can easily use Connect to divide students into pairs or groups for conversation practice. Each group can work/talk simultaneously without distracting each other. Teachers can listen in or talk with different groups to assist as required. They can also save time and effort by using resource templates to create tasks for students including imitation, video or gap-fill exercises.
3. The Review
Once the learners have completed their task, the final stage of the lesson is to review what they have completed. In TBLT, students usually learn by doing but they should also be given the opportunity to reflect on their learning and outcomes.
By working in pairs or small groups through Sanako Connect, students are able to offer peer feedback on each other’s work. Furthermore, educators are also easily able to feedback and comment on students’ output.
Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) can therefore be an incredibly powerful way to engage students and to help them to achieve their learning objectives. After all, students have to communicate in order to complete the task so their interaction and engagement should come naturally as part of the lesson. Furthermore, given that the tasks usually mirror real life situations, it’s likely that students’ understanding and motivation will also improve.
If you’d like to try TBLT in your classroom, then Stavroula Aktypi’s blog post has three awesome activities for you to use.
* Richards, J. and Rodgers, T (1986) Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching, CUP Cambridge