You can download a free copy of Dave's 1990 book The Lexical Syllabus on the Birmingham University website at


Doing Task-based Teaching

Dave Willis and Jane Willis 2007, Oxford University Press

More and more teachers are getting interested in task-based learning and how to teach using tasks. Some have been doing it successfully for years, but some are still unsure of how to put TBL into practice. This book gives examples of a range of task sequences suitable for all levels of learners, using both written and spoken English. It illustrates ways of integrating a focus on grammar in a task-based cycle. There are chapters on syllabus design and responses to frequently asked questions. The advice is based firmly in the classroom and includes contributions from over 30 teachers from around the world who are enthusiastic about task-based teaching. It takes account of research into language learning, and is ideal for both practising teachers and those on TEFL/TESOL courses.

Read more on the OUP website.

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Rules, Patterns and Words

Dave Willis 2003

This book takes a new look at grammar and vocabulary from a teacher's point of view. Three key features make the book an important part of any teacher’s library:

  • It shows clearly how grammar and vocabulary are connected and how they interact with one another.
  • It looks in detail at the importance of lexical phrases in language teaching., offering a clear description, which is supported by sample classroom activities.
  • It offers  clear description of key features of spoken English and shows how informal conversational English can be taught.


Numerous interactive tasks are provided to guide readers. Over 40 examples of teaching exercises are included to illustrate techniques which can be applied in the classroom immediately.

Read more on the CUP website

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English for Primary Teachers

Mary Slattery and Jane Willis 2004, Oxford University Press

Winner of The Frank Bell Prize | Winner of the English-Speaking Union’s Duke of Edinburgh Book Competition | Shortlisted for the Ben Warren Prize

This book, which has already been translated into six foreign languages, aims to build teachers' confidence in their ability to use English effectively, at the same time as providing advice and techniques for primary English teachers. The book is written in an accessible, easy-to-follow style and encourages a positive attitude towards using English in the primary classroom.

Read more on the OUP website.

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Teachers Exploring Tasks in English Language Teaching

Corony Edwards and Jane Willis (eds) 2005, Palgrave Macmillan

Winner of British Council ELTON award, 2006

This book was written for language teachers by language teachers, with a view to encouraging readers to use more tasks in their lessons, and to explore for themselves various aspects of task-based teaching and learning. It gives insights into ways in which tasks can be designed, adapted and implemented in a range of teaching contexts and illustrates ways in which tasks and task-based learning can be investigated as a research activity. Practising language teachers and student professionals in graduate TESOL and Applied Linguistics programs will find this a rich resource of varied experience in the classroom and a stimulus to their own qualitative studies.

Visit the Palgrave Macmillan website.

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Task-based Instruction in Foreign Language Education: Practices and programs

Betty Lou Leaver and Jane R Willis (eds) 2004, Georgetown University Press

This book begins with a theoretical background to task-based instruction and contains chapters written by highly-experienced successful TBI practitioners who describe a range of task-based foreign language programmes covering 11 different languages. Each of these can serve as a generic model for other task-based language programmes.

'Full of concrete, adaptable models of task-based language teaching drawn from a number of countries and eleven different languages—including Arabic, Chinese, Czech, English, French, German, Korean, Spanish, and Ukrainian—Task-Based Instruction in Foreign Language Education presents proven, real-world, practical courses and programs; and includes web-based activities. It demonstrates useful and practical ways to engage students far beyond what can be learned from reading textbook dialogue. TBI involves the student directly with the language being taught via cognitively engaging activities that reflect authentic and purposeful use of language, resulting in language-learning experiences that are pleasurable and effective.'

Visit Georgetown University Press.

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English Through Music

Anice Paterson and Jane Willis 2008, Oxford University Press

Jane teamed up with music specialist Anice Paterson to write this CLIL title, working with recordings made in local schools.

English Through Music is a collection of over 50 activities in 36 lessons which help children to absorb English naturally as they enjoy making music together. The combination of English with music develops children's listening and speaking skills and promotes a motivating and positive learning environment. It is written for non-specialist teachers of children between the ages of 4 and 12 - you need no prior knowledge of music at all.  The book contains step-by-step descriptions of each activity and comes with an audio CD of teachers setting up and doing the activities in their classes.

For more about this book click here


...and an old book

The Lexical Syllabus

Dave Willis 1990, Collins Cobuild

This book pre-dates Michael Lewis’s The Lexical Approach (1993) by three years and covers much of the same ground.

Download a free copy at the resources section of the Birmingham University Centre for English Language Studies.

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Dave Willis

Learning Processes and Teaching Strategies

This short article argues that language learning is a complex process involving several stages. It explores the English verb system to show that different aspects of the system involve different kinds of learning and therefore require different teaching strategies. Click to download.

Focus on Meaning, Language and Form (forthcoming) 

Many models of learning make a two-way distinction between form and meaning, or accuracy and fluency. But learners are often concerned with both form and meaning at the same time. This paper looks at a three-way distinction which takes account of this within a task-based framework. It illustrates the value of this model by looking at a task sequence built round a discussion task, arguing that learning is most likely to take place when learners are concerned with formal accuracy within a communicative context. Click to download.

Fluency, Conformity and Accuracy: A three-way distinction

A second article dealing with a three-way distinction, shorter and more accessible than ‘Focus on Meaning, Language and Form’, and illustrating the argument with a lesson based on written, rather than spoken, language. Click to download.

A Functional View of Language Teaching
published in the Proceedings of the Greek Applied Linguistics Association, Volume 9, 2006

This paper looks at language learning from a functional perspective. It argues that communication is basically lexical and that learners begin by acquiring a predominantly lexical system which they then go on to ‘grammaticise’. Click to download.



Jane Willis 

Task-Based Learning – What kind of adventure?
published in The Language Teacher, 2005

This short paper looks at ways of designing tasks and suggests a framework for lesson planning to implement them effectively in class. Click to read online.

From Challenges of the Past to Waves of the Future
presented at the 20th APPI Conference 2006
published in ‘In English’ The British Council magazine for Teachers of English in Portugal, Winter 2006

Click to download.

Activity-based Language Learning at Primary Level
report of presentation at the Al Ain Nord Anglia E2L Project Event, 13 December 2006

This paper, written with the less confident English teacher in mind, expands on some of the principles behind activity-based learning in the English classroom and summarises activities that can be done with young learners. It then goes on to outline ways in which new teachers and non-native speaker teachers can develop their own classroom language and interactive skills. Click to download.

Dave and Jane Willis

Consciousness-raising activities. Originally published in Challenge and Change in Language Teaching (Dave and Jane Willis eds. 1996, Macmillan)

This article outlines techniques for encouraging learners to look at and analyse language for themselves. It also gives hints on how best to exploit texts for language study.

Click to download

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