Thursday, September 20, 2007

Doing Task-based Teaching: A Book Review

I recently read Dave and Jane Willis's "Doing Task Based Teaching" and found it immensely helpful in getting me to generate a lot of different kind of language learning tasks. They divide tasks into the following categories based on a classification of cognitive processes
1) Listing
2) Ordering and sorting
3) Matching
4) Comparing
5) Problem solving
6) Sharing personal experiences
7) Projects and creative tasks
and also give concrete examples for each kind of task.

So far, I have found this taxonomy helpful for planning tasks with advanced learners (high school and university). In other words, I think that their tasks will work well with learners who have some linguistic knowledge but do not know how to use it.

I have even found this taxonomy helpful in planning workshop discussions in Japanese. Today, I went to a high school and gave two 1.5 hour workshops in Japanese to 87 and 29 students respectively about "University life". We had a discussion about effective language learning methods where I had the high school students do a listing task and then discuss the results with each other. I think discussions work best when participants have some kind of concrete outcome to attain (for example an individual makes a list, he then compares his list to another person's list, they then make a new list and then share their results with the rest of the class).

I also found their suggestions for how to facilitate certain tasks as well as accounts of real tasks from teachers across the world to be very helpful. For example, one thing that I learned is to always have students do a task individually at first and then work with others after they have made some progress by themselves and understand the task.

For me, one drawback of this book is that Dave and Jane Willis fail to show that their teaching methodology can be used with beginning learners in EFL contexts who have very little knowledge of English or exposure to English outside of the classroom.


Anonymous said...

I'm an English teacher from Neuquen in Patagonia Argentina. We are trying to implement TBL at our institute and I found your blog very useful.

JH said...

Thank you for the comment. I would be interested to know what kind of TBL you experiment with at your school. If you make that information available, please let me know.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I found your website by accident when I was looking for some articles about 'doing task-based teaching'by Ellis.

Yes, this book provides language teachers loads of practical ideas on how to implement a task-based approach in real classrooms.

TBLT is also suitable for beginners. It depends on how you are going to design your lesson, whether you allow students to use their L1 during task performance....

I use TBLT with my students at beginning level and it works brilliantly. For example, even with a very limited range of vocabulary, they can still do a role play of being waitress and customers. And they enjoyed it and found it very helpful. Other TBLT activities for beginners include drawing a picture, listing items, filling a gap, which have been mentioned in the book by Ellis

Good luck with your work!

xu geng at

Anonymous said...

I´m an English teacher from Bs. As. I totally adhere to TBL i have always tried to plann my lessons around this approach. "Learning by doing" I have come across a website which is extremely useful in that sense, lots of activities which involve the learner using the language from the every start.They even have very funny treasure hunts for all ages. The address is