Sometimes we teachers just flat out over think things when we design learning experiences for our students. At times we need to purposefully slow things down and allow our students to practice a learning target or language structure in isolation for the sake of building their confidence in using it on their own. This is especially true when the structures become more challenging and less like L1.
This week's post was inspired by @ProfeKing who asked me in a tweet to give her an example of task cards, a beautifully simple strategy for isolating a learning target to allow students to get comfortable with it. One of the most attractive features of task cards is that they work for any language and any level and even better, their complexity can graduate from the most simple of tasks to integrating several smaller tasks into a larger one.
First, let's take a look at some examples of learning targets that we want our students to meet in a performance based classroom:
- describe myself, others and objects.
- talk about an event that happened in the past.
- narrate a story that happened in the past.
- give advice and suggestions to others as well as ask for their advice and suggestions.
- tell others what to do and not do.
- tell others about things I have done and ask about what they have done.
These will be the learning targets we tinker with here to see how to develop task cards for our students from different levels. The task cards should be directly connected to those learning targets, but the learning targets should not "be" the tasks. For each level I am creating a scenario or the reason why my students are talking about these things in the first place. Then, I will give examples of tasks they can perform based on that scenario.
- Ask your partner about his/her family and friends. Find out their names, ages and descriptions.
- Tell your partner what you did last weekend. Use as much detail as possible.
- Ask your partner if he/she has ever done some of the things you have done.
- What is something you do well? Give your partner advice and/or suggestions for how to do that thing well.
- You partner is a new student to your school. Tell him/her what to do and not do in order to fit in well at your school.
Level 1 Examples
In the course of participating in the mentoring program you joined to help ESL students connect to students native to the area you have the opportunity to get to know the student you are mentoring by using the second language you are learning to communicate with him/her.
Examples of Tasks:
Level 2 Examples
You are traveling abroad with an educational travel company and you were allowed some free time to explore the city with some of your friends and while you were out experiencing the city on your own a tragedy occurred!
Examples of Tasks:
Thoughts & Logistics
Creating Your Task Cards / Lesson
1. Know what learning targets you want your students to master. List them out for yourself so you know what your goal is for the lesson.
2. Provide a scenario (or reason why) to perform the tasks. I do this using a simple power point presentation. The scenario helps your students with the creative aspect of using a language. It provides the bit of scaffolding they need in order to pull from vocabulary groups they are studying presently and groups they might have previously studied. You could even prepare more than one scenario for your set of task cards so that students can practice the same tasks in a different context or mood.
3. Create the tasks you want your students to perform. I do this using a word document and a simple table. I type the tasks into the table, print them on card stock and cut them apart. Sometimes I color code the cards because I have different learning targets I want the students to practice during the same lesson. When writing the tasks you have a lot of creative license, but remember to keep each task focused on a single learning target. Don't over complicate the tasks because remember, you are building your students' confidence.
Again, this strategy is so simple, but has so much potential. If you come up with a good set of task cards or a great lesson using them, let me know. I would love to hear about it!