After a whole term of thinking about TBL, I have now started experimenting with it in practice. Here is an account of a lesson which I taught to adult German Elementary students.
Topic: flats and furniture.
Pre-task: Look at floorplan (with furniture already in) in coursebook to get language input; from a list of items, choose which room they should be in. (In the coursebook, this was pretty much “the task”.)
Language input: Some prepositions (and whether, and when, they take the Dative or Accusative case)
Task: in pairs/threes, take an empty floorplan (provided by teacher) and furnish yourselves a nice flat. Decide what furniture to put in, where to put it, which room has what use; negotiate the nature and placement of the furniture. Draw the furniture in.
Preparation stage: Decide how you present your flat to the class; what are you going to say, who says what, what language are you going to use etc.
Presentation stage: floorplans on visualizer so everyone could see them (one at a time) and the group walked us through their flat.
During the Presentation stage, I collected language errors but then couldn’t decide on the spot how I wanted to do a language focus. I thought about tearing the paper up so that each student could get a slip and correct the mistake on their slip, but didn’t have enough for it. I thanked the students and moved on. So there was no “language focus” at the end of the task cycle; instead, there had been language input before the task, which in a strict sense would disqualify this session as a “TBL task”.
During the Task and Preparation stages, students really asked me language-related questions, and they mostly used German throughout and corrected themselves and each other and looked up words and correct forms. They also learned new words they were interested in, and they learned things about themselves (or at least they discussed their assumptions and opinions with others: “Was? Die Pflanze ist auf dem Regal?… Now I feel in the minority!”)
The Presentation stage got dull after the third (of five) presentations, so next time I might only ask three groups to present.
In the next lesson, there was a delayed language focus. I had typed the errors and printed them twice and cut them up. Each pair of students got a couple, and they were required to correct the chunks of language they got. We then had the error versions on a slide (IWB) and the students corrected “their” sentences (not the errors they had made but the ones I gave them) with the help of the whole class, moderated by the teacher to ensure accuracy. This worked really well; there was recycling of the language, a meaningful focus on accuracy and the opportunity to work together in a pair and as a whole class, without anyone being put on the spot or any errors identified as made by an individual student.