I often attempt to stem any ‘this activity or technique won’t work in my classroom’ talk by having teachers come up with ways to adjust activities so they can use them in their own classrooms. This week, during many of these discussion, the concept of access to input popped up on a regular basis. This is a concept, when talking the nuts and bolts of activity implementation in the classroom, that causes a bit of confusion for teachers while at the same time arousing interest. Perhaps teachers see the potential, but they are just not too familiar with how to make the best use of it.
Access to input has been labeled as a task parameter, a task feature, a main task option, and probably a myriad of other terms in training sessions, teacher offices, and conferences. However you choose to categorize access to input, it is certainly an effective tool when planning lessons as well as syllabus task progression.
Access to input (information)…
- supports task performance in a meaningful way- a focus on meaning over language.
- focuses on content that students can use. Language support is incidental.
- exists on a continuum.
I am sure you noticed the emphasis on meaning over language support. Access to input for the most part should really be about context clues or information that is pertinent to task success. That is the easy part to understand. The part that teachers often struggle with is finding ‘just the right amount’ of access that is appropriate for their students. Sadly, there is not a standardized answer to this question. Each classroom is a separate living organism. It is up to the teacher to play with the degree of access to input for specific tasks. The link below shows how access to input can be embedded into an information gap.
Some advice I give teachers is that when you introduce an activity (or task) for the first time, it is beneficial for everyone, teacher and students, to allow high access to input. And once students understand the task and how to complete it successfully, you can start to decrease the amount of access to input that the students have. This is a very useful tool for organizing a task-based syllabus as well. I have often recycle tasks with only small adjustments to the degree of access to input, and the students stay on task and don’t display any boredom with task repetition.