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Content Based Instruction

The Giving It stage of B-SLIM contains two sections; one that describes HOW the information should be presented, and one that describes WHAT should be presented. In the WHAT to Present section, an important aspect is the content that is being presented. However, the question of how the content is to be presented in a language classroom must still be addressed. In this section we will examine a Content-Based Instruction approach to language teaching, and how it can be used in the classroom.

What is Content-Based Instruction (CBI)?

Content-Based Instruction is an approach to language teaching that focuses not on the language itself, but rather on what is being taught through the language; that is, the language becomes the medium through which something new is learned. IN the CBI approach the student learns the TL by using it to learn sme other new content. For example by studying the French Revolution while using the French langauge. The language being learned and used is taught within the context of the content. The theory behind CBI is that when students are engaged with more content, it will promote intrinsic motivation. Students will be able to use more advanced thinking skills when learning new information and will focus less on the structure of the language. This approach is very student-centered as it depends entirely on the students’ ability to use the language.

What can be considered ‘content’?

There are many things that can be considered ‘content’; what is important is that what is being taught or discussed through the language not be language instruction related. Aspects of the curriculum, discussions about current events and world cultures or even general topics of interest are all valid ‘content’ options.

Imagine you are teaching the past tense to your students. Brainstorm and write down 10 'content' subjects that are related to your target language that you could use to practice this grammar concept (i.e. Teaching about a historical event).

How can CBI be used in the language classroom?

It is not enough to simply integrate content into the language classroom, it must be done effectively. Stoller (2002) lists eight practices that allow for natural content integration:

  1. Extended input, meaningful output, and feedback on language and grasp of content
  2. Information gathering, processing, and reporting
  3. Integrated skills (using reading, writing, speaking and listening in natural classroom activities)
  4. Task-based activities and project work, enhanced by cooperative learning principles
  5. Strategy training (to produce more metacognitively aware strategic learners)
  6. Visual support (ie. Images, graphic organizers, language ladders etc.)
  7. Contextualized grammar instruction
  8. Culminating synthesis activities (knowledge is displayed in writing and orally)

For more information click visit the website below:

Stoller, F.L. (2002). Content-Based Second Language Instruction: What is it? TESOL. Retrieved July 7, 2009, from http://www.carla.umn.edu/cobaltt/CBI.html

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Copyright © Olenka Bilash May 2009 ~ Last Modified January 2011