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Content-Based Instruction

• It is an approach to second language teaching based on content/

information that students will acquire.
• Use of meaningful content.
• Students learn the language as a by-product of leaning about a real-
world content.
• Communicative Language Teaching (1980s) Content Based
The role of content in other
curriculum designs

• Language across the curriculum (mid-1970s): a proposal for native-language

• Immersion Education.
• Immigrant On-Arrival Programs.
• Programs for Students with Limited English Proficiency (SLEP).
• Language for Specific Purposes (LSP).
• English for Science and Technology (EST).
• English for Specific Purposes (ESP).
• English for Occupational Purposes (EOP).
• English for Academic Purposes (EAP).

• Language is seen as a vehicle for learning content/ information.

• Theory of Language:
• Language is text and discourse-based.
• Language use draws on integrated skills.
• Language is purposeful.
Theory of Learning

CBI: second languages are best learned when the focus is on mastery of content rather than on
mastery of language per se contrasts with traditional language
teaching approaches.

Additional assumptions that derive from CBI:

• People learn a second language most successfully when the information they are
acquiring is perceived as interesting, useful, and leading to a desired goal.
• Some content areas are more useful as a basis for language learning than others.

• Students learn best when instruction addresses student’s needs.

• Teaching builds on the previous experience of the learners.


In CBI, language learning is typically considered incidental to the learning of

content. Content is important:

1. To activate and develop existing English language skills.

2. To acquire learning skills and strategies that could be applied
in future language development opportunities.
3. To develop general academic skills applicable to university studies
in all subject areas.
4. To broaden students’ understanding of English-speaking

Examples of Topical Themes (from the Free University of Berlin):

1. Drugs 7. Microship Technology

2. Religious Persuasion 8. Ecology
3. Advertising 9. Alternative English
4. Britain and the race question 10. Nuclear Energy
5. Native Americans 11. Dracula in Myth, Novel and Films
6. Modern Architecture 12. Professional Ethics

Types of learning and teaching activities:

- language skill improvement;

- vocabulary building;

- discourse organization;

- communicative interaction;

- study skills;

- synthesis of content materials and grammar.


The role of teachers

Instructors must be more than good language teachers. They must be
knowledgeable in the subject matter and able to elicit that knowledge from
their students. (Stryker and Leaver 1993:292)
Teachers are responsible for:

- selecting and adapting authentic materials for use in class;

- create truly learner-centered classrooms;
- keep context and comprehensibility foremost in their planning and

- contextualize their lessons by using content as the point of departure.


Essential skills for an instructor (by Stryker and Leaver 1993:293):

1. Varying the format of classroom instruction;

2. Using group work and team-building techniques;
3. Organizing jigsaw reading arrangements;
4. Defining the background knowledge and language skills required for
students success;
5. Helping students develop coping strategies;
6. Using process approaches to writing;
7. Developing and maintaining high levels of students’ esteem.

The role of materials

• Materials must contain the subject matters of the content course.

• Materials must be “authentic” – like the ones used in native language instruction.
• Examples of sources (and of realia): newspapers, magazine, any media
materials, tourist guidebooks, technical journals, railway timetables,
newspaper ads, radio and TV broadcasts, etc.
• Linguistic simplification to adapt texts and promote comprehensibility.
• CAUTION: textbooks are contrary to the very concept of CBI.

Learner Roles

• become autonomous;
• support each other in collaborative models of learning;
• “learn by doing”;
• be active interpreters of input;
• be willing to tolerate uncertainty along the path of learnship;
• be willing to explore alternative learning strategies;
• be willing to seek multiple interpretations of oral and written texts.
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction

CBI principles can be applied at any level of language learning:

 University level;
Theme-based instruction
Sheltered content instruction
 Elementary and Secondary level; Adjunct language instruction
Team-teach approach

 Private language institutes.

Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the University level
Theme-based language instruction:
• Syllabus organized around themes or topics;
• Language syllabus is subordinated;
• Its analysis and practice evolve out of the topics that form the
course framework;
• Materials are generally teacher-generated;
• The treated topic crosses all skills:
- Reading introduces a topic;
- Audio or video material are used for listening comprehension;
- Vocabulary developed through guided discussion;
- Written assignments integrate information from the several sources;
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the University level
Sheltered content instruction :
• Content courses taught in SL for ESL learners;
Appropriate level of difficulty
• Comprehensible content + (language and tasks)

• Accommodate learners’ • Choose adequate course texts;

language capacities • Adjust course requirements;

• Examples: Ottawa: Psychology (English and French);

Oregon State: English for business and economics;
Western Illinois: ESP courses in English for business, economics
and computer science.
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the University level
Adjunct language instruction:

• Two linked courses: CONTENT LANGUAGE

• Shared content;

• Mutually coordinated assignments;

• Require coordination to ensure curricula interlocking;

• It may require modification in both courses;

Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the University level
Team-teach approach :

• Variation of the adjunct approach;

• Birmingham example:
- focus on lecture comprehension and writing of examination questions;
- both teachers help students;
• Singapore example:
- English-for-occupational-purposes writing course: prepare students for future jobs;
- both teachers act as consultants;
- subject teacher: authentic/realistic situations report assignments
- discussion of models.
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the University level
Skills-based approach:
• Focus on a specific academic skill area linked to current study
of specific subject matter in one or more academic disciplines;
- write about what is being studied;
- language/composition course simulates the academic process;
• variety of forms to demonstrate understanding of the subject matter
and to extend their knowledge to new areas;

• Writing integrated with reading, listening and discussion about the

content and about collaborative and independent research;
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the Elementary and Secondary level
Theme-based approach:
• Common model: theme-based modules designated to facilitate entry
into regular subject-areas classroom;
• Not a substitute for mainstream content classes;
• Focus on learning strategies, concepts, tasks and skills needed in
subject areas in the mainstream curriculum;
• For language proficiency and academic content developed in parallel:
- integration of second language development into regular content-area instruction;
- creation of appropriate conditions for providing input.
• Cooperative learning in heterogeneous small-group settings:
- grouping strategies;
- alternative ways for providing input;
- techniques for making subject matter comprehensible;
- opportunities to develop language proficiency for academic purposes.
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the Elementary and Secondary level

• “Preparing ESL students for mainstreaming is a responsibility not only

for ESL teachers but also for content teachers”;
• Acknowledges the crucial role language plays in content learning;

• Australian high-school example:

- topics from mainstream subjects: basis for the course and transition to mainstream;
- cater students’ needs and interests;
- linguistic appropriateness (technical terms and complex grammatical constructions);
- relevance to sociopolitical and cultural climate

• Topics that fulfilled these criteria: multiculturalism, nuclear age, sports,

the Green movement, street kids, and teenage smoking.
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses at the Elementary and Secondary level
Adjunct approach:
• parallel to the theme-based component;
• described as an adjunct course focusing on science;

• ESL teachers and science teachers involved;

• “learning science through English”;
- Understanding specialized science terminology and concepts;
- Report writing skills;
- Grammar for science;
- Note-taking skills.
Contemporary models of
Content-Based Instruction
Courses in Private language institutes

• Theme-based courses provide framework for courses and materials;

• Set of themes may be selected as the basis for a semester’s work;

• Each theme used as the basis for 6 or more hours of work;

• Four skills and grammar are taught drawing on the central theme;

• The approach also provides the basis for many published ESL texts.
(e.g. Richards and Sandy, Passages. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1998)
• CBI refers to an approach rather than method;
• No specific techniques or activities associated;
• “Teaching materials and activities are selected to the extent to which they
match the type of program it is”;
• Typical sequence of classroom procedures: Spanish lesson (built around film)

1) Preliminary preparation: reference material; 7) Video-taped interview:

2)Linguistic discussion: grammar and vocabulary; matter again discussed;
3) Preparation for film: activities previewing 8) Discussion on the matter;
vocabulary; 9) Preparation of article:
4) Viewing a segment of the movie; related articles;
5) Discussion of the film: teacher leads; 10) Presentation of articles;
6) Discussion of the reading; 11)Wrap-up discussion.

• CB approaches widely used in a variety of settings since the 1980’s;

from ESP, EOP and immersion programs to ESL programs, university
foreign language programs, business/vocational courses EFL;
• It leads to more successful program outcomes;
• It offers unlimited opportunities for teacher to match students’ interest
and needs with meaningful content
practical advantages

• “stimulate students to think and learn through the target language”;


• Lends itself naturally to the integrated teaching of the four skills:

- authentic reading material that require not only understanding of the information
but interpretation and evaluation as well;
- forum: respond orally to reading and lecture materials;
- recognizes that academic writing follows from listening, reading: synthesize facts
and ideas from multiple sources;

• Students are exposed to study skills and learn a variety of language skills;
prepare for a range of academic tasks they will encounter;

• Critics:
- teachers trained to teach language as a skill rather than to teach a content subject;
- may be insufficiently grounded to teach subject matter;
- team-teaching is unwieldy and likely to reduce efficiency of both.

• CBI based on broad principles that can be applied in many different ways;

• Many successful language programs.


 Questions on CBI.
Thank you!

Group 5:
Juliana Meres Costa
Lilian de Melo Fernandes
Marina Lee Colbachini
Sindy M. G.-B. Sato