Widgets Inc.: Teach Outside the Box
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The online JALT 2020 conference was held this past weekend. Widgets Inc. co-author Marcos Benevides presented on TBLT assessment, in a workshop titled "A Universal Rubric for Task Outcome Assessment". Although it is not directly on the Widgets course, it may be helpful to teachers who are looking to improve how they assess task performance in the classroom. It also illustrates some upcoming features of the upcoming Moodle LMS.
You can watch the entire presentation at the link above. The abstract follows:
This workshop introduces a universal assessment rubric for teachers to easily grade speaking, writing, or mixed-skills task performance in the classroom. The tool conforms to TBLT assessment principles, has good reliability for classroom use, and allows for instructional feedback. It is compatible with language descriptor systems, and can be applied to many types of communicative tasks at any level.
The Widgets team is currently developing a Moodle-based learning management system (LMS) to support the course for both fully-online and blended in-person/online classes. The courses will be available for limited beta-testing from September 2020. If you are a teacher who is already using the course and would like to participate, please contact us. When the courses are ready, we will announce it here and at the LMS site, which is linked above.
Then, from April 2021, the Widgets LMS on Moodle will go live for all users. We plan to offer a no-frills course that will be open to all (with registration), as well as various course options to suit different class and institutional contexts. Those who purchase the print edition of the book will have access to a Moodle course upon request. There will also be a fully-online version that can be purchased separately.
A digital edition of Widgets Inc. is now available for purchase via the Issuu platform. It includes embedded links to course video and other useful links. We will be adding more features over the coming weeks. Users who have purchased a print edition of Widgets Inc. are eligible for one year free access to the digital version. You can claim your access code by emailing us at the email listed at the bottom of this page, in the yellow "Atama-ii Books" logo.
At many institutions, teachers are required to submit syllabus outlines for their courses. If so, they can download our free PDF syllabus templates. They were made for a Japanese university course, but include universal sections such as: Course Description, Course Objectives, Textbook Information, Assessment Criteria and perhaps most importantly, a weekly Lesson Schedule.
We currently have a 14-lesson x 100-minute period option, and a 28-lesson x 100-minute period option. If you write up your own syllabus and would like to share with other Widgets users, please contact us at the "publisher" email address at the bottom of this page.
Widgets co-author Marcos Benevides will be leading an iTDi Advanced Skills Course for teachers who are interested in developing their expertise in task-based language teaching. The course will be held during four consecutive Sundays in March 2020: March 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd, from 13:00 to 14:00 GMT.
This course aims to clarify the definition of tasks, to outline the major principles of the approach, and to demonstrate how to select, sequence, and assess meaningful tasks by using authentic examples from the classroom. We will focus on the practical aspects of instruction, assessment, and syllabus design, and participants will leave with a clear and practical understanding of the approach.
At a ceremony overlooking the Thames in London on June 10th, Widgets Inc. edged out four worthy finalists to be awarded the 2019 British Council ELTon for Course Innovation, the most prestigious coursebook award in the industry.
It was an outstanding achievement, given the impressive competition. Among the final five was On Task (Tokyo: Abax ELT Press), another excellent task-based book produced in Japan. The Widgets team was thrilled to be nominated, but to receive the top prize was truly an unexpected honour.
Thank you to all of the incredible staff at the British Council who produced a great event, and to the host, poet Benjamin Zephariah. The evening was also made memorable by the presence of author Michael Rosen, who presented linguist David Crystal with a lifetime achievement award.
ABOUT WIDGETS INC.
Widgets Inc. is a business themed English communication course using a task-based approach to language learning. It is designed for classes of 12 to 40 young adult or older students who are placed into teams and must complete a series of connected projects.
Students simulate being interns at a startup company called Widgets Inc., where they brainstorm product ideas, pitch their ideas, perform market research, design ad campaigns, participate in a job interview, and more.
Widgets Inc.: A task-based course in workplace English (120 pp., A4 paperback) is available from the following distributors: englishbooks.jp . It is published by Atama-ii Books (2018) and was written by Marcos Benevides and Chris Valvona. ISBN: 9781941140000
Widgets is great for mixed-ability classes from pre-intermediate to high-intermediate.
- CEFR B1 and above: students are engaged and challenged at their own level of achievement even while working together in mixed-level teams. Task situations provide useful language and excellent incidental practice for TOEIC speaking and writing components.
- Integrated skill development: students develop fluency and confidence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing via discussions, presentations, self and team evaluations, report writing, viewing video instructions, and many more highly-contextualized tasks.
- Meaningful assessment: students are assessed primarily by task outcome in accordance with Communicative Language Teaching and TBLT principles; a secondary focus on the use of language forms is also possible.
Widgets is arranged by task complexity, not language complexity.
The course starts with easy tasks, and quickly builds to more complex projects. This puts the focus and the challenge of the course on the practical use of English, rather than on passing language tests. It also encourages students to develop fluency and confidence in using English in ‘real world’ situations.
The Widgets project sequence, in order of increasing task complexity:
- Stage 1 Interns join the company orientation
- Stage 2 Teams prepare and pitch new product proposals
- Stage 3 Teams discuss and evaluate new product proposals
- Stage 4 Teams perform market research on the selected product
- Stage 5 Teams plan and present a multimedia advertising campaign
- Stage 6 Interns prepare a resume and cover letter, and interview for a job