Task-based activities are activities that require the use of the target language in order to complete a task. The goal is the completion of the task and not the use of the language, though the expectation is that the target language is being used to complete the task. This sort of activity does not focus on drilling grammar or vocabulary, but rather on how the task cannot be completed without using the target language.
Here are some examples for beginning-level classes.
In this activity focused on food vocabulary, students are given a grocery list (in the target language) of as many items as there are students in the class. They are also given a page with various photos of some of the items on the list. In an effort to “figure out” who is bringing what to the party, students go around and check in with each other and ask if they are bringing in certain items on their list.
A sample question will most likely need to be given to students as a model or it can be generated by the class. When a student answers yes, the one asking the questions writes down the name of the student who has the picture of the object. Once someone has a full list, the group comes back together and the teacher creates the master list with the class.
There are many possible follow-up activities, including the actual planning of a party, some form of a writing assignment involving all of the information gathered, or pair-work in which students compare their lists. This task-based activity gives students the opportunity to say the vocabulary many times and also to hear it numerous times within a meaningful context.
This task-based activity focuses on prepositions and can incorporate any other vocabulary theme. This example uses furniture vocabulary, but geography or places in a town could also be used quite easily. To diminish some work on the part of the teacher, the students can create the visuals that are necessary. To begin the activity, the teacher informs the class that their help is needed to find some extra-terrestrials that have been spotted.
Half the class will be given a picture (different one for each student-this is where the artistic skills of students will come in handy in the form of a homework assignment the night before) of a piece of furniture with an extra-terrestrial near it, above it, below it, under it, to the left of it, to the right of it, next to it, etc. The other half of the class will be the detectives and will have a sheet of paper with various pictures of furniture. The “detectives” then walk around and mingle with the witnesses and ask where they saw the extra-terrestrial. This question will mostly need to be given to the students or can be generated by the class. Witnesses will simply answer “under the bed,” “behind the refrigerator,” etc. and the detectives mark an X in the location near the furniture on their sheet.
After about 10 minutes the teacher can bring the group back together and help to create a master list of the places there were sightings. Follow-up activities might include pairing students up to figure out which rooms the extra-terrestrial is most likely to be in based on information they received or a writing assignment in which pairs or individuals write a “police report” that indicates all the places there were sightings.
These activities can easily be modified and hopefully serve as some inspiration to create additional task-based activities that require students to use the language as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. These do not have to be highly complex activities and the range of vocabulary can be as limited or vast as appropriate to the group.