Review: Activities for Task-based Learning: Integrating a fluency first approach into the ELT Classroom by Neil Anderson and Neil McCutcheon, Delta Publishing

Review: Activities for Task-based Learning: Integrating a fluency first approach into the ELT Classroom by Neil Anderson and Neil McCutcheon, Delta Publishing

Reviewed by Stephen Tarbuck


The authors of this book state that its purpose is to address the issue that: “In Task Based Teaching there has always been a lack of a single go-to resource both for varied and motivating class tasks” (Anderson and McCutcheon, 2019)

They attempt to address this by providing a range of photocopiable tasks with suggestions for their use in the TBT (Task Based Teaching) framework and practical guidance on integrating TBT into your teaching.

I have had the book for a few years, which is a little longer than most reviewers wait before offering a critique; still, I think that, as the book has become a key part of my own teaching, it is nonetheless worthwhile spreading the word about this excellent volume. 


The book has 152 pages and is part of DELTA publishing’s ideas in action series. The book consists of 8 chapters, which include digital resources, a handy index of language areas, and a compact list of further TBT reading.

The first two chapters, which are called Introduction to task-based learning and Micro-strategies and tools, provide guidance on the principles informing TBT and tips for its utilisation in class. 

The remaining chapters consist of the photocopiable tasks and are titled by their task type: categorising, opinion gaps, problem-solving, sharing personal experiences, creative (design) tasks, and the whole class.

The introduction to task-based learning chapter is an overview of TBT and provides a concise overview of the background of the methodology and research. It also addresses some questions about starting to use TBT.

The micro-strategies and tools chapter offers guidance on using TBT. It takes you through: designing your own tasks, strategies for the stages of the task phases, and a system for capturing emergent language, called ICE, which includes some convenient examples of photocopiable feedback templates for different classes.

The photocopiable section is where the meat is, presented in that copy-and-go style that teachers will love though with comprehensive guidance for their set up, recommendations for language focus, and how the task can be adapted to the needs of a variety of classes.

Example Tasks

The book has 36 tasks in total and I would like to focus on three. I’ll do this by briefly describing them and their use, and then I’ll offer a short commentary.

To be clear, I have not used all of the tasks exactly to the Task Framework specified by Willis (1996). Instead, they have been shortened to fit the needs of the class at the time, which sometimes meant last-minute photocopying.

In the categorising chapter there’s an activity called: Me not Me. Essentially, it is an opinion cline into which you can feed a variety of lexical sets, and it wraps up with a built-in productive task. 

I used it with an elementary adult communication class as a communicative lead-in to the topic of free time activities. First, I dictated the activities and the students copied them. Next, they arranged the free-time activities along the cline, based on the frequency of which they were done in a week.

After a little feedback, the students performed an information gap mingle activity where they tried to find people who had similar and different frequencies. 

This activity is very efficient, being intuitively designed and so intrinsically adaptable that you can anticipate using it in any unit, with any vocabulary set. 

From the problem solving chapter, there is: Pictures and Lies. This is a two-group activity that requires one group of students to describe a picture from a connected picture set (for example, different groups on holidays) but one is blank! Instead, it has some prompt sentences to help to describe an imaginary picture. 

The other group tries to guess who has the blank by interviewing the other group members about the details of their pictures.

Most recently I used the activity with A1+  young learners as the productive stage of a will for future predictions lesson, where students would ask each other the question: ‘When you grow up, what will you be?’ and talk about their imaginary future job.

It was a simple process to adapt the original material for the class's needs. To do this I changed the picture set to recycled job vocabulary and simplified the prompt sentences. I also provided appropriate scaffolding for the target language. 

This activity has proven to be an easily adaptable and communicative choice that has become a standard of my activity bank. I have found it usable with a variety of ages, with functional language, and as both an introduction or entertaining review of speaking for Cambridge B2 First and C1 Advanced.

The final task, Domestic Robot from the categorising chapter, is a pyramid discussion, wherein students choose from an extensive list of household task apps and work together to decide which should be installed on a new house helper robot.

I used this on an experimental basis, to introduce comparatives and superlatives to an A2 class of young learners. This was done without adaptation and strictly following the Willis Task framework..

This task was not successful and this was very much my own fault for not adapting it. Ultimately, I want to emphasise that the photocopiable resource itself was solid: the book's suggestions for using it in class were sensible, the topic itself was engaging and the suggested language focus appropriate. My experiences, though, underline how difficult it is for resource writers to design materials that will work universally - so although I didn’t benefit enormously from this particular activity, I know that with a few tweaks, or with a different set of students, I may very well benefit next time. 


If you are interested in experimenting with Task Based Teaching in your classroom then I recommend this book, and here are two key reasons.

First, the ease of finding suitable material. The resources are just a photocopier away and the suggestions don’t restrict you to using the TBT methodology. Instead, they give multiple language focus options and are filled with ideas, not rules. Also, the index is really efficient when it comes to planning by being organised by potential language focus.

Finally, adaptability. Thanks to the variety of tasks, you can comfortably fit the material into a syllabus based course, or adapt the material to suit your learners needs and, as I have done, you can use the tasks as purely communicative; great for a low prep conversation class. 


Anderson, N and McCutcheon, N, 2019, Activities for Task-based Learning: Integrating a fluency first approach into the ELT Classroom, Delta Publishing.

Willis, J. 1996,  Framework for Task-Based Learning, Longman.

Author Biography

Stephen entered the TEFL world in 2015 and is currently teaching at International House Toruń. In 2023 he started writing articles on TEFL subjects and has been published in International House Journal and Humanising Language Teaching. 

During the 2023/2024 academic year he will be studying the International House Teaching One-to-One course and finding a way to organise the awful mess that is his boardwork.