I was trying to plan a lesson the other day, by which I mean I was sitting there with a course book, a biro and the back of a discarded handout (which I find is the most efficient way of planning – the more elements you add to a process, the longer it takes!), staring at the book and thinking “Well what on earth am I supposed to do with this?”. This at least is usually the starting point for my planning process…
As is often the case with course book materials, they need a little tweaking here, a little twisting there and occasionally the outright replacement of one or two components – and in any case I thought it might be nice to reframe the lesson in a task based cycle. So that’s what I sketched out on the back of my bit of paper. And then I looked at it again and I realised that it wasn’t a task based cycle, it was more of a “TBPPP”…
The typical diagram of an ideal PPP lesson is something like the pyramid type structure on the right: at the top, a relatively small amount of language presentation, followed by a larger amount of time dedicated to (controlled) practice of the target language and finally a productive stage, which is probably also basically a “freer” practice stage.
I also suspect that the reality of most PPP lessons is slightly different, certainly there are any number of course books where the PPP paradigm is represented as an inverted version of the pyramid – the presentation and practice of the target language taking up the lion’s share of the course book page, and consequently the lesson, with very little time left over for actual use (in however limited a fashion) of the language, which is a shame.
The thing is, that when you look at the famous task based cycle hexagon, the PPP process actually fits in quite well to that bottom section – which would make it a ‘hexagamid’? Personally, I’ve never really liked the way the task based cycle was diagrammed in Jane Willis’s “A Framework for Task-Based Learning” (1996) as for me at least the hexagon doesn’t reflect the cyclical nature of the process, and also because the big hexagon on page 38 omits (at least in the version of the book I have) the phrase “Review and repeat task”.
So here’s what I think TBPPP looks like:
In this model, PPP and TBL are not defined by their opposition to each other, they are not contrasted to highlight each other’s faults, rather they work together in a complementary helix. Thus the focus on language which follows the task in the Willis hexagon, and which is essentially PPP anyway (see Willis 1996:138), is made more integral and given more focus, but without losing the spontaneity of language input and output that the task based cycle promises.
Caveat: I’m not suggesting that anybody else take this one up particularly, it came about simply because I planned what I initially thought was a task-based lesson but then realised it wan’t quite. But I don’t see why TBPPP can’t move on from here…. Of course, when you’ve spotted the glaring errors in the theory that I’ve missed, do please let me know what they are!
Tuesday 17 April 2012 at 14:13
It’s an interesting mixed-approach, and I think you’re right–the PPP and TBLT do complement each other nicely. Also, I plan exclusively on the back of discarded handouts, and seeing that someone else does also made me chuckle. Thanks for the post–I enjoyed it!
Tuesday 17 April 2012 at 14:56
Discarded handout planning is the way forward. If you’re really lucky you discover a handout you can actually use with your class! Plus if you re-use handouts you get those great moments when your FCE class think they’re supposed to be doing the primary picture matching task! Always fun!
Thanks for the comment,
Tuesday 17 April 2012 at 16:57
The sheer elegance of this theory left me giddy with the possibilities. I was wondering if you hadn’t considered binding a FF (focus on form) to the p-shell of the “language production (freer)” electron?
Thursday 19 April 2012 at 12:31
Kevin, you lost me with p-shell…. I had to look it up – electron orbits? But anyway, wouldn’t the FF orbit the controlled practice rather than the freer practice? I guess the electron metaphor would work well with an “atomistic” approach to language teaching!