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Upper School ESL Workshop: Unit 3 Slide 4 of 8
Presenter: Paul Shoebottom

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Model for assessing task difficulty


Click in the quadrant to see task examples
Clear examples

Explanation: According to this model (first devised by Professor J. Cummins) classroom tasks can be categorized in two ways:
  • according to the cognitive demands they make on students
  • according to the degree of contextual help available to the students.
Most difficult for ESL students will be tasks that are both decontextualized and cognitively demanding. (Quadrant D)

Teachers of beginning ESL students should aim to increase the contextual help without reducing the cognitive quality of a task.

More on Cummins' model and its implications for teachers.
- face-to-face conversation
- classroom yes / no questions
- PE / art tasks
- math tasks with manipulatives
- visually-aided instruction
- graphic organizers (Venn diagrams)
- telephone conversation
- copying from the board
- filling in worksheets

- "busy work"
- explanation of abstract concepts
- lectures
- written texts with no illustrations