[xmca] Re: the V-Task

From: jose david herazo <jherazo4 who-is-at hotmail.com>
Date: Wed Jul 18 2007 - 12:00:43 PDT

Dear Mr. Rivera,

Thank you for your e-mail. and thank you for your questions. I am intrigued
that you have an interest in this!

Question 1:
The V-task parameter number 6 yes, states that the students determine the
language they want or need through questions. You have a valid point in
that the task in some ways determines to some extent the language required
but this is not necessarily the case. As with TBL there always seems to be
a central theme, having students ask each other questions etc, but with the
V-task the work is individual. In some cases (and most of my students to
this point have been children) the task is set so the language is less
restricted, yet, as in our everyday life, if we are set out to do a task,
then there is going to be some rigidity to the language involved. In this
case the students made up their school schedules, which in the coursebooks
they offer here in Japan, all the components of that V-task were all
individual chapters focussing on one chapter a month, and through PPP.
The problem that we encounter here with TBL is that it is too vague and not
specific enough in its direction. Students go home not knowing what they
learned and parents also need to see steps in progress. One of the points
of the paper was to show that TBL can be structured to some extent and
still bring in the language needed to the lesson to satisfy the parents
demands, yet, it is more real world use, the students don't get taught the
material, they have to ask for it. In asking for it, we don't necessarily
teach it to them, we use the classroom as the teacher, other students pitch
in to assist each other and the classroom becomes a autonomous learning
So yes the language required to some extent is determined, yet the student
determines what components of that language they want.

For example. In a PPP environment, lets say that the lesson is to do with
past tenses. So in the textbook they have the set question

Did you ..... on Saturday?
The preset vocabulary might be
bake cookies
brush the dog
watch TV
and so on.

So asking a student,
Did you brush the dog on Saturday?
the answer invariably would need to be Yes, I did or No, I didn't, since
the structure of the lesson points students to those two answers.
But, many students don't have dogs, so the answer should be: I don't have a

In a V-task setting though, without pairwork (that can come later) The
students give me a list of 10 things they did on Saturday, then the lesson
language is less restricted, but it focuses on the past tense. We all have
our coffee time questions with other staff about what we did on the weekend
come monday morning... how is my lesson different?
But the students need to find out what they did because they don't know it
in English, they need to ask questions to get the information so they can
write it down. They determine what they want to write, because it pertains
to them, not to a textbook answer which may have no relevance. They may
learn it from another student, when it comes time for pairwork. Hey, what
did you do on Saturday? to complete the task.

Question 2:
Good question and valid.
Yet, in this instance, the students are in the early stages of 'learning
how to learn' and knowing how to get information is one of them. Learning
how to ask for information here in Japan is a big step for some students.
Its a very Confucius type society in its teaching methods. Students don't
ask, and then certainly don't ask each other.
Yet in asking for spelling, there are a number of factors involved.
1. They may not have the confidence to spell the entire word, so instead of
checking, they ask. My role would be to determine how much they know and to
help them from there. So if they ask for spelling and it requires
scaffolding then I will proceed in that direction. I have included an
article in this mail which shows how scaffolding might help in the V-task,
based on the levels of scaffolding that may be required from the teacher.
These are valid scaffolding parameters as well. Now I must make it clear
that the scaffolding and the zone which is discussed in my paper is still
in its preliminary stages.

My main reason for writing this paper was to find a link between TBL and
Vygotsky. In my initial research, there was no link, since TBL didn't take
into account any Vygotskian type thinking at all. Which is why I revised
the definition of TBL to bring in Vygotsky. You can't change Vygotsky, but
you can change TBL. So by revising TBL, I was able to come up with a method
(V-task) which seemed to satisfy the requirements of TBL and Vygotsky. Yet
very importantly provide a learning environment which made students
autonomous learners.

In my essay I cited Ohta: In the V-task, developing learner autonomy is a
key issue and ‘increasing autonomy is evidence of increasing
internalization’ (Ohta 2001: 74). Even something as simple as asking for
spelling, which in my case with children is a very big part (EFL) and a
necessary step for later on.

Question 3.
Yes I have tried this in more complex settings. Initially, when I started
this research I chose a lesson where the students used a set of components
(called SciTek) similar to Lego, but much bigger and more centered around
technology. The lesson was to work together to gather the inventory and
using the V-task parameters (at that time the parameters of the V-task were
not yet defined, but well on their way) were to build whatever they were
building. In my case they built a car and an airplane. So they had to
negotiate for parts, determine which parts they needed, what they looked
like, etc and the final product was the car. The language used was free -
but in this collaborative learning environment, simple phrases that one
student knew, were passed onto other students.

I recently did a talk on this same concept in Sapporo in Japan and I'm due
for a talk on this in November at the JALT national conference in Tokyo. I
still use SciTek, but SciTek doesn't need to be used. The concept is what
defines the task, what you choose to use to teach this kind of task is up
to the teacher.

Question 4
TBL in an EFL setting is not effective as it stands. Yes, it teaches the
students real world use of the language, but still, its focus on pairwork
and figuring out something in pairs really doesn't help in the EFL
setting, especially since there really is no target in a TBL lesson.
Students still haven't been taught how to ask the questions they need to
ask to understand what they are doing. TBL focuses too much on the use of
real English, which understandably in an ESL setting might be ideal.
But TBL also assists in the development of the interlanguage, which in my
setting is very important and necessary. PPP teaches structures but there
is not allowance for interlanguage. TBL focusses on interlanguage, yet
there is no structure and the students may not see the short term benefits
after they have walked out of the lesson. The V-task, having a little more
structure, yet focussing on interlanguage gives the students something to
'get' and as I mentioned, it gives the students the necessary skills for
learning how to access the language they need. As stated above ---
‘increasing autonomy is evidence of increasing internalization’ (Ohta 2001:

In Japan, this kind of lesson would be ideal, since still in many
classrooms, PPP is widely used, and students don't learn really how to
communicate. They learn set phrases, yet when they go to a different
country, they haven't got the confidence to ask questions or speak the
language because PPP is so rigid in its method, that anything outside of
the set phrase taught to them is considered to be incorrect. The teacher
focuses on the set phrase, and not the negotiated meaning. Pairwork also
has its good points and bad points, but in the V-task it is not required,
since the idea is for the students to get the language they want. In
pairwork it is just the automatic gamesay of asking questions and answering
them. The V-task goes beyond that, saying if you need information to
complete the task, then learn how to ask for it and in doing so learn how
it works. So to answer your question, TBL doesn't focus on the language
that the student wants or needs at that particular moment. But in the
V-task, the language that they want or need, needs to be accessed to
complete the task, but the objective is not the final product, it is the
language needed to get to the final product. In TBL, the focus is on the
final product. Hence the acquisition rate is potentially higher for the
V-task since the gap created using the V-task is a learning gap, not a

Please, there is no need to apologize to me about reading the article.
Thank you so much for your questions. I hope I have answered them for you.
This paper is due to be published in TESOL this year, in a TBL series they
are producing. My dissertation is still a little ways away, but this will
be the focus of my dissertation.

And in any future correspondence, please call me Mark!
Also, this e-mail may be posted through to the xmca, I think it is a good
set of questions and especially question 2 and 3. So if you would like to
post this to the xmca, then I'm OK.

Thank you and Best Regards,


On Jul 18, 19 Heisei, at 12:53 AM, jose david herazo wrote:

                 Mr. de BOer

I am aware that your research paper was not intended for everyone in the
xmca-discussion, but I have not resisted the temptation to read it. Having
done so, I have a few questions I would like to ask. It is no problem if
you are too busy and cannot answer at the moment.

For sometime now I have been looking for a way to implement TBL as from the
very beginninng of a unit sequence. usually what I have done is some
pre-task work, as suggested by different authors, consisting of controlled
tasks or excercises. I think the V-task might be very helpful in this

1. Concerning the V-task parameter number 6: how is it possible that
students decide the language they need or want if the task, to some extent,
determines the language that is required?

2. We are usually tempted to believe that the creation and occurrence of
ZPDs in the EFL class is a very complicated and complex event, and we feel
kind of frustrated when we see that the act of giving help in spelling a
word, like in your example, is accounted for as interaction within the zoe,
or scaffolded interaction. What's your opinion about this? Do you have
examples of other assisted or scaffolded performance that have occurred in
your lessons?

3. In the lessons you present students it is very clear the negotiation of
meaning, or negotiated dialogue, as Swain calls it. have you tried this
type of task in more complex settings where the task product is not

4. TBL has been criticized on the grounds that the communicative
performance that occurs through it does not necessarily lead to
acquisition. HOw does the V-task seem to overcome this critique?.

I would finally like to apologize for having commented on a paper that was
not intended for me to read.

Kind regards,

Universidad de Cordoba

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Received on Wed Jul 18 12:02 PDT 2007

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