The extract above illustrates some of the mod- ification strategies that teachers can use. One is repetition. The key word in the stimuli that initiates this exchange is ‘squirrels’. The students fail to understand it. The teacher’s response is to repeat it – altogether ‘squirrels’ is repeated six times.
The aim of input-based tasks is to expose learners to the target language. For this reason, the teacher should make maximal use of the target language and minimal use of the learners’ L1
Willis (1996), for example, has a chapter addressing how to teach beginners that includes activities like Yes/ No and Memory Games based on pictures. Ellis (2003) included a chapter on tasks and listening comprehension. Long (2015) includes examples of what he called ‘building block’ tasks, which involved no or minimal produc- tion. So input-based tasks have always had a place in TBLT.
here is, however, a case for the teacher making selective use of the L1. The extract below from the very first Eng- lish lesson with the Helping the Zoo Task illustrates how this can be done.
1. T: okay next one. okay? next one. please take the squirrels to the zoo. 2. S3: dobutsu [animal]? 3. T: squirrel to the zoo. 4. S5: squirrel 5. T: yes, that’s right. that’s right. 6. S2: dobutsu [animal]? 7. T: yeah (.) I said zoo right? zoo. dobutsuen ni iku to iukotowa [going to the zoo means]. otosanaide [don’t drop it]. okay. squirrels. squirrels. ready? three (.) two (.) one (.) go. 8. Ss: (showing their cards but no one was correct) 9. T: squirrels. squirrels. that’s a crocodile. squirrels are this one. listen. squirrels are (Shintani, 2012)these ones. put them into the rubbish box.
This extract also illustrates the learners’ use of the L1. Complete beginners – such as these learners – will not be able to speak in English at the start but they need to participate actively in the task and can only do so using their L1.
Shintani found, however, that over time, the children automatically reduced their use of the L1 and began to speak in English.
The whole extract serves to focus learners attention’ on whether the noun is singular and plural. It demonstrates two important points: the need for the learners to persist in nego- tiating until they do understand and the teacher’s use of a variety of strategies to draw attention to form (e.g. use of numerals; contrasting singular and plural forms; signalling meaning mimetically). Extract 2. 1. Teacher: Okay, next one. Please take the toothbrush. Toothbrush. 2. Student 2: One? 3. Teacher: Toothbrush. One toothbrush, two toothbrushes. 4. Student 2: Two? 5. Teacher: No, no, no. Toothbrush, toothbrush. 6. Student 1: (Indicating two with fingers) two-thbrush? 7. Teacher: Not two. One toothbrush. 8. Student 2: Eh? One, two, brush? 9. Teacher: No, no (indicating ‘one’ with fingers) toothbrush. One toothbrush. Ready, ready? Three, two, one. Go. One toothbrush. 10. (Shintani & Ellis, 2010, p. 632)All students: (Showing correct cards).
With output-based tasks, focus-on-form typically involves corrective feedback (i.e. feedback directed at showing learners they have used a linguistic form incor- rectly). With input-based tasks, feedback functions differently. Its main function is to let the learners know when they have successfully understood the input stimulus and when they haven’t
Guessing plays a major role in learners’ responses to the input stimulus and neither comprehension nor learning can occur without feedback
Guessing plays a major role in learners’ responses to the input stimulus and neither comprehension nor learning can occur without feedback.
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