The official website of educator & arts patron Jack C Richards

Task-based teaching in primary school

Question:

Submitted by Danfer,  China

Can task-based teaching be used in primary school?

Dr Richards responds:

Young learners are more likely to learn through the experience of using the language rather than through studying rules and practising them. This means that their learning will be based on activities and using language that is linked to behavior, actions and the classroom context. They learn language as it occurs as a part of doing things. Young learners enjoy learning socially useful language, including phrases and longer utterances without understanding exactly what they mean. They learn language in chunks or whole phrases and may have little interest in knowing how the phrases were constructed and what their grammatical components were. Tasks are one kind of activity that can be used successfully with young learners, but many other kinds of activities will also be useful (songs, games, skits and play-related activities). Activities are needed that are engaging and purposeful and the teacher finds ways of linking language to activities. Tasks such as drawing a picture from oral instructions or working in pairs or groups and sequencing a series of pictures to complete a story are effective with young learners. For example if 9-year-old pupils carry out a survey on the color of eyes and hair among children in their class (and their parents), the language point could centre on have/has:

Ten children have brown eyes.

How many children have green eyes?

Here, the activity-based approach offers the opportunity for children to work on a practical task, and succeed at their own level, incorporating their own abilities and experiences. The results, created by the children, of this practical task can be used as the context within which language practice can take place. This contrasts strongly with language-based starting points, such as This is a pencil. Is the pencil green or red?