1. Task Cycle
1.1 Theoretical Background
1.3 Task Cycle
2. Reflection of the Course
3. Works Cited
1. Task Cycle
The topic of our task cycle was Teaching Speaking, with the language focus on wh-questions. We chose the cycle by Samuda.
1.1 Theoretical Background
Regarding the topic of Teaching Speaking, we first need to differ between L1 and L2 speaking. L2 speaking is of course more difficult for the students, since they usually lack a great amount of vocabulary and also grammar. Moreover, they have less practice than in their L1 language. This leads to a fear of speaking and a tendency to translate from L1 to L2, which does not help at all (cf. Thornbury 2013).Regarding the topic which methods should be used in order to teach speaking, one can differentiate conventional approaches and recent changes in that area. The conventional approaches involve looking at and describing pictures, the teacher asking questions which are answered by the students, correction of the students’ pronunciation by the teacher and also very little exchange of information. The recent changes, however, include small-group interaction, interesting and familiar topics and, above all, the speaking of the students (cf. Benati 2013, ch. 4). The recent research also supports the use of authentic material, the focus on spontaneity and the selection of different aspects of spoken language to focus on (cf. McCarthy&O’Keeffe 2004). The mostly used method hereby is the role-play to practice conversational competences (cf. Long, Adams, McLean and Castanos 1976). Disadvantages of role-plays, however, include them being too artificial and the lack of proper feedback (cf. Richards 1985). Another important factor in teaching speaking is the correction of pronunciation and how effective it is. Does correction even lead to a long-term improvement? The question is raised whether one ought to focus on larger segments of words rather than on single sounds (cf. Kendrick 1997).
The language focus of our lesson were the wh-questions. To form them, a wh-question word needs to move to the clause-initial position: What will you buy? This is also the case in German: Was wirst du kaufen? In German, however, there are two restrictions regarding the movement of wh-questions. First, a noun phrase may not be moved out of another noun phrase. This is the same in English. Second, a noun phrase may not be moved out of a prepositional phrase, which is indeed possible in English. Furthermore, wh-questions use do-support in most cases in English. One exception is when one asks for the subject of the sentence: Who walked down the street? This can be compared to asking for adverbs: Where did a man walk? (cf. König&Gast,ch. 11).
For the purpose of our lesson we chose the task cycle by Samuda (2001). The most important difference to the task cycle by Willis (1996) is the fact that the language focus is placed in the middle of the lesson and not at the end. This has a lot of advantages; the students are able to revise their work and talk about problems that may have occurred. Also, the teacher can spot mistakes students make easier and earlier and is able to help them more precisely. A disadvantage is that the students are not fully able to work on their own until the end, which may decrease their motivation. We chose the task cycle by Samuda, because our goal was to revise the wh-questions with the students and practice speaking and not to introduce a new topic. This means that the students already had a basic knowledge of the grammar rules and were also familiar with speaking English to each other to some extent. The only downside is that the students might get bored while doing the role-play for a second time.
The class takes place in a 6th grade at aAllgemeinbildendes Gymnasium (Grammar School). The lively, smart and vivid class involves 16 girls and 10 boys. The topic of the lesson is a role-play concerning a car crash. The advantage of this topic is that the students don’t need a lot of pre-knowledge in order to fulfill the task. Furthermore, the lesson can be placed freely within the curriculum. The teacher should consider at least three 45-minute lessons for this topic. Our task cycle already takes up 90 minutes, so there will be one 45-minute lesson for practicing. In the class, the students ought to practice their speaking as well as the use of the wh-questions. The lesson takes 90 minutes.
Regarding the Bildungsstandards, the lesson focuses on KommunikativeFertigkeiten, such as speaking (being able to take part in conversations and to speak without interruptions) and on the ability to use linguistic terms (grammatical competence) (cf. Bildungsstandards BW).
1.3 Task Cycle
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The goal of our lesson is for the students to practice their speaking skills and also to revise the wh-questions. The method that is used is role-play, because this is seen as one of the best methods to get everyone speaking. In contrast to normal group work, role-plays are more authentic and therefore motivate the students to speak. Everyone needs to take part, since everyone has a different role that is needed for the whole role-play. On the other hand, the students are not on their own in front of the class, but can always rely on their partner while presenting the role-play. This might take away insecurities the students might have. In our class, we chose a picture of a car accident and let the students describe it first. This activates their pre-knowledge and also supports the students’ speaking skills. Meanwhile, new vocabulary is introduced. This has the advantage that the students immediately relate the vocabulary to the content, namely the car accident. After having talked about the picture and possible car accidents the students might have seen, the teacher introduces the role-play. The role-play includes wh-questions, so that the students are forced to use them during the task. Since they have already talked about car accidents and the fitting vocabulary beforehand, the students should be able to translate the cards. They are allowed to take notes on their role cards. After about 15 minutes, the teacher interrupts the ongoing action and revises the rules of the formation of the wh-questions on the board. This is really helpful for the students, especially for the weaker ones, because they can see what mistakes they made and why. For the better ones it is also a good idea to revise the questions, because they may have lacks in their knowledge and will also be able to write the rules down again for further reference in the end of the lesson. Afterwards, the students are given the opportunity to look at their role cards again and correct them, if necessary. This helps weaker students to feel more secure about their work and might make it easier for them to present in class. Also, a further look at their work helps them to understand and remember the grammatical rules better. Subsequently, a few pairs of students ought to present what they have worked on previously. After each pair, the teacher gives a small feedback to them. This feedback can involve the correction of grammar mistakes, but also of pronunciation errors. However, the focus of the lesson is the formation of wh-questions, so the feedback should refer to these rules a little bit more detailed. What might motivate the students is the fact that the people who present their role-play are given props to make the dialogue more authentic. The police officer gets a police hat and the witness gets a pair of glasses.In the end of the class, the students are able to copy the writing on the board into their exercise books. We also included a buffer of 13 minutes, in case some tasks take longer than planned. A possible next lesson, maybe on the next day, could involve exercises that focus specifically on the formation of wh-questions. Moreover, the students could form questions using the question words on their own.
During our presentation in the Fachdidaktik class, a lot of issues arose. These issues mainly concerned the language focus of the lesson. It was argued that the teacher didn’t give clear enough instructions during the introduction of the role-play. This was mainly due to the fact that the cards got mixed up by accident and it was therefore harder to distribute them to the students. It was claimed that the task wasn’t understood correctly. To solve this, the teacher could have either let a weaker student repeat the task or the teacher could have repeated it in German. Putting the instruction on the exercise sheet could have helped as well. Another problem occurred during the interaction between teacher and students when the teacher revised the grammar rule. Here, the teacher wanted to hear a specific question word but the students just kept on not mentioning it. The university students proposed that the teacher should reformulate the question or ask for the missing word specifically. It was also criticized that the teacher only wrote down the wh-words and not the whole questions, which was made to save time. Regarding the feedback after the presentation of the role-plays, the teacher could have asked the fellow students if there occurred any mistakes. This increases the speaking time of the students. The teacher also had problems encouraging the students to present their dialogue. For this purpose, it can be helpful to hold up the props and ask for the roles specifically (“Who wants to be the police officer?”). Another way to choose a new pair of presenters could be to make the former group select the new one. Regarding other aspects of the task cycle, it was argued that the new vocabulary could have been introduced better. To ensure that it is understood well, the teacher could have written in on an overhead foil next to the picture of the car accident, used a different sheet of paper, or made a poster. All of these suggestions would have made sure that there is enough space on the board, which wasn’t actually the case during the task cycle. The writing on the board could have been in color in order to differentiate different parts of the writing. Headlines would have been helpful, as well as a clear distinction. Furthermore, students should always repeat (i.e say out loud) the new words on their own.
We also discussed in class whether the lesson was appropriate for 6th graders or not. Almost everyone agreed that it was appropriate, because younger students have fun and get motivated when they are able to do something interactive, especially with fun props. For older students, however, the role-play must be altered a bit. One could use a different topic that suits their needs, for instance a job interview or an interview with a celebrity. Here, the props need to be changed as well, for example by using an Oscar figure or a shirt and a tie. In older classes, the language focus could also be a little more advanced, for instance by revising tenses such as the present perfect.