An activity with task dependency: Apartment-hunting

Ideally activities in class often build upon each other, so that one activity is necessary for the next one to be carried out. In this way the activities in class are not just a string of unrelated tasks, but rather part of a larger, more holistic enterprise.

One of the activities I had students carry out was authentic in the sense that such a scenario and set of conversations could plausibly occur in real life. I divided my students into pairs. Half the pairs were to be business partners in real estate–agentes de inmobiliaria–here in New York. I gave them instructions similar to the following, using PowerPoint:

Ustedes tienen un apartamento en Manhattan que quieren alquilar. Describan el apartamento:

  • ¿Dónde está ubicado?
  • ¿Cómo es? Usen por lo menos [at least] cinco adjetivos y mencionen por lo menos cinco muebles o electrodomésticos y dónde están (ej. Tiene un sofá en la sala)
  • ¿Qué tipo de inquilinos [tenants] buscan?

The other half of the pairs were to be friends looking to live somewhere together in New York. I provided with a version of the following instructions:

Describan el apartamento que quieren:

  • ¿Dónde está ubicado?
  • ¿Qué tipo de apartamento quieren? ¿Qué cosas quieren, y dónde? Usen por lo menos [at least] cinco adjetivos y mencionen por lo menos cinco muebles o electrodomésticos y dónde los quieren (ej. Queremos un sofá en la sala)
  • ¿Qué tipo de compañeros buscan?

Students first consulted with each other to answers these questions. This task required collaboration and compromise, and effective communication was crucial for them to negotiate between each other’s imaginations and desires.

For the second part of this activity, I had the pairs meet up in groups of four–agents with prospective tenants. Agents needed to be able to describe the apartment they had to offer, and prospective tenants needed to be able to express what they were looking for. The students also gained practice formulating questions.

I had the pairs switch so that in the end all the prospective tenants had spoken with all the real estate agents. I then asked them to come to an agreement and tell me which apartment each pair of tenants was going to live in.

In this activity, each task was dependent upon the one before it. Not only that, but the key vocabulary and constructions of the chapter were used, as well as some from earlier in the course. Moreover, the activity was contextualized: my students were familiar with Manhattan, since they live here, and therefore were able to discuss things like area and location in relation to their real environment outside of class. The activity also provided an opportunity for students to interact and practice their oral and auditory skills with different people in the class, and in different configurations, for an extended period of time.

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