Using tasks in the EFL classroom is great because once they get rolling the teacher can just sit back and watch. However, there’s a lot that must go into the preparation for the puzzle pieces to fall into place.
Let’s first of all consider the problems we are asking the students to solve. My suggestion is to conduct a bit of problematization, i.e. find out what issues are facing the students’ community and address those issues. Your learners will be most engaged in those issues and find the facilitative language more relevant.
When you’re stating the problem, don’t forget to mention what type of outcome you would like to see, as well as any guidelines or restrictions. The outcome will keep them focused and the requirements will make it challenging and realistic.
These guidelines, restrictions, and requirements need to be communicated clearly to the participants, but consider how you disseminate the information. You could give all the learners all the information. The other option is to divide up the information and give each student a unique piece. Give the students a chance to read and memorize the information, and then take it away. We don’t want them too reliant on the information sheet while having the discussion.
If some information is harder to understand, give it to the more proficient learners, and more basic information can be given to lower level students. This is, in fact, another consideration to be made: do you want similar or cross-proficiency groups? There are too many pros and cons to discuss here (I’ll tackle this in a future blog, I promise).
As long as you’re giving everyone different information, you may as well assign them various roles. These roles can have personalities and opinions. They can also be used to facilitate the conversation. One learner can be responsible for making sure every student participates while another is responsible for summarizing the main points of each statement. If you have more than one group participating on the same task, put students with the same role together and have them discuss how to best carry out their responsibilities in their respective teams.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the organization of the tasks. However, once you’ve mastered the arrangement, the task can be duplicated time and again as long as the problem persists.