Lesson 3: Designing Communicative Tasks

Unsuccessful Tasks

Sometimes it is easier understand what works by analyzing what doesn't work. For example, a communicative task that leads to little or no real communication is often simply poorly-designed. In this part, we will look at three tasks that fail largely because they violate principles of good design.

Consider the following example task:

Teacher: "What do you all think about the current situation in Gaza? Do you think that Israel has the right to invade Gaza? Are you in support of Israel's action? Is it self-defense?"

[Silence...]

Teacher: "Well, do you think that Hamas has the right to bomb Israel?"

[Silence...]

Teacher: "Uhm, does anybody listen to the news?"

[A few heads nod.]

Teacher: "OK, but you don't have an opinion?"

[Silence...]

Play

Language teachers analyze the unsuccessful task.

Duration: 02:57

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Consider the following example task:

The teacher put the students in small groups of four. Next, she gave each group a handful of cards with questions on the cards. Finally, she told them to take turns discussing the following questions:

  • What kind of music do you like?
  • What kind of music do your parents like?
  • What kind of music do your grandparents like?

The teacher was surprised when the room grew quiet after a minute or two. Why didn't the students "discuss" the questions?

Play

Language teachers analyze the unsuccessful task.

Duration: 01:38

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Consider the example following task:

The teacher gave the students a paper with a paragraph that was to serve as the springboard for discussion:

"I want you to read the paragraph. Circle words you don't know and underline grammatical structures that we've studied in this chapter. After that, find a person in the room who you haven't worked with before. Work together to understand the paragraph. Next, find another partner to discuss the paragraph. You are going to write two statements on the board. One statement agrees with the content of the paragraph and the other contradicts the paragraph. Make sure to include as many circled words and underlined grammar points."
Play

Language teachers analyze the unsuccessful task.

Duration: 00:42

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