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Content-Based Instruction

:Presented by
Khalid AlMutairi
• It is the teaching of content or information
in the language being learned with little or
no direct or explicit effort to teach the
language itself separately from the content
being taught. (Krahnke, 1987: 65)
• The term content refers to the subject
matter we learn through language rather
than the language used to convey it.
• It has had many proponents at different times in
the history of language teaching.
• Meaning-based proposals have been introduced
and encouraged by many approaches. (Kelly
• It draws on the principles of CLT, and many
educational initiatives like Language across the
Curriculum, Immersion Education and LSP are
modeled for theory and practice.
The role of content in other
curriculum designs
• Language across the Curriculum: in the
mid-1970s, a British governmental
commission recommended a focus on
reading and writing in all subject areas in
the curriculum. American education was
influenced by this cross-disciplinary
proposal and a similar attempt was tried in
American schools. However, both
experiments did not give the hoped-for
…The role of content
• Immersion Education: the regular school
curriculum is taught through the medium of
the target language. The target language is
the vehicle for content instruction.
• The first immersion programs were first
developed in Canada in the 1970s to teach
French. They have been adopted ever
since in the USA to teach many languages.
…The role of content
• Immigrant On-Arrival Programs: designed
to teach newly arrived immigrants some
basic real-world content for social survival.
The Australian courses were among the
first courses that provided integrated
notional, functional, grammatical, and
lexical specifications built around
particular themes and situations.
…The role of content
• Programs for Students with Limited
English Proficiency: originally designed as
mandatory programs for children whose
parents are given on-arrival programs, but
also used to help any school children who
have insufficient linguistic competence.
Their early versions were grammar-based,
but the current ones focus on language
skills needed for school curriculum.
…The role of content
• Language for Specific Purposes (LSP): it
is a movement that seeks to provide
learners with the language skills they need
for specific roles (e.g., student, engineer,
…etc). There are courses that focus on
scientific and technical content for
specialists ( ESP, EAP,…etc).
• The Principles of CBI:
1- People learn a second language more
successfully when they use it as a means of
acquiring information, rather than as an end
in itself.
2- Content-Based Instruction better reflects
learners’ needs for learning a second
• Theory of Language: the assumptions:
Theory of learning
1- people learn a second language most
successfully when the information they are
acquiring is perceived as interesting, useful, and
leading to a desired goal.
2- Some content areas are more useful as a basis
for language learning than others.
3- Students learn best when instruction addresses
students’ needs.
4- Teaching builds on the previous experience of
the learners.
• In CBI, language learning is incidental to
the learning of the content. Accordingly,
objectives of a CBI course are the
objectives of the content course.
• However, a theme-based model of CBI is
an exception to this generalization.
• Objectives in a theme-based CIB course: the ILC
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
(Brinton et al., 1989:
• In most CBI courses, the syllabus is derived from the content.
• Only in theme-based CBI courses the content and instructional
sequence are chosen according to language learning goals. The
syllabus is usually topically organized. ( Drugs, Advertising,
• In such a course, a yearlong macro- and micro-structuring of the
syllabus can be found.
• Modules are in an orderly fashion to achieve cohesive transition of
skills. (macro-structuring)
• Modules and exercises aim at developing students’
comprehension and ability to use the language. (micro-)
Types of learning and teaching activities
• Instructional focus:
1- language skills improvement
2- vocabulary building
3- discourse organization
4- communicative interaction
5- study skills
6- synthesis of content materials and grammar
(Stoller, 1997)
• Mohan’s knowledge framework(1986):
1- Practical elements( Description, Sequence, and Choice)
2- Theoretical elements( Concepts/Classification, Principles, and
Learner roles
• Learners support each other.
• Learners are active interpreters of input.
• Learners are a source of content and
• Learners should commit themselves to
• Learners should be psychologically and
cognitively prepared.
The role of teachers
• Teachers are analysts of students’ needs.
• Teachers must be knowledgeable.
• Teachers must create learner-centered classrooms.
Essential skills for CBI instructor:
1- Varying the format of classroom instruction.
2- Using group work and team-building techniques.
3- Defining the background knowledge and language skills required for student
4- Helping students develop coping strategies.
5- Organizing jigsaw reading arrangements.
6- Using process approaches to writing.
7- Using appropriate error correction techniques.
8- Developing and maintaining high levels of student esteem.
(Stryker and Leaver 1993: 293)
The role of materials
• Materials should be authentic and diverse:
 materials used in native-language instruction.
 realia; like tourist guides, railway timetables,
newspaper ads,…etc.
• Materials should be comprehensible:
 Some authentic materials might need
modification to ensure maximum
Contemporary models of content-
based instruction
Courses at the university level
• Theme-based language instruction:
 A general theme, like ‘’business and
marketing’’, subordinates a language
syllabus. The syllabus is organized around
the theme or topic. All skills are involved.
 Materials are teacher-generated.
• Sheltered content instruction
 A content area specialist teaches a group of
ESL learners.
 The content is tailored to suit the level of the
 The course requirements are adjusted to
accommodate the learners’ language
• Adjunct language instruction
 Students are enrolled in two linked courses, one a
content course and one a language course, with both
courses sharing the same content base.
• Team-teach approach
 A variation on the adjunct approach.
 Language teacher and subject teacher work together in
assisting learners overcome problems.
• Skills-based approach
 Focus on specific academic skill area (e.g., academic
Courses at the elementary and secondary level
Variations on the aforementioned approaches
• Theme-based approach
 A preparatory course prior to the mainstream
• Adjunct approach
 Parallel to theme-based course.
 Focus on science and science terminology.
Courses in private language institutes
• Popular theme-based summer courses.
• CBI refers to an approach, not a method.
• Teaching materials and activities are
selected in accordance with the type of
• CB approaches have been widely used
since the1980s. They are now used in
many ESL and EFL programs.