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Teaching Language
through Content
STARTALK Presentation: A Sample Thematic Unit
Russell Frank, Ph.D.
Languages Division
Pasadena City College
29 May 2012
Presentation Outcomes
• Participants understand the approach and goals of
thematic (content-based) units.
• Participants understand and the steps in developing
theme based units.
“Content-based”
• Content-based instruction integrates language content with content
from another discipline.
• “Language across the curriculum”
• Includes both clear language objectives and clear content objectives.
• The selection and sequence of language items comes from the
content, not a predetermined syllabus.
• Learners deal with authentic texts and language.
Benefits of using thematic CBI
Stoller (2002) notes that:
• Thematically organized materials …are easier to remember and learn. (Singer, 1990)
• The presentation of coherent and meaningful information…leads to deeper processing and better
learning (Anderson, 1990).
• Relationship between student motivation/ interest and ability to process challenging materials,
recall information, and elaborate (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Jetton, 1994).
• Expertise in a topic develops when learners reinvest their knowledge in a sequence of
progressively more complex tasks (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993).
CBI continuum
Content-driven approaches
• Strong content-
learning objectives.
• Immersion
• Partial immersion
• Sheltered subject area
courses
• Adjunct model classes
Language-driven approaches
• Strong commitment
to language-learning
objectives.
• Content is a
springboard for
language practice
• E.g., theme-based
curriculum.
Language-Content-Task Approach
Task
• Procedural knowledge
Content
• Determined by
student needs &
interests &
program goals.
Language
• Semantics, syntax,
pragmatics,
functions,
acquisition of
language skills
Stages in content-based
lesson/curriculum
• Learners are immersed in a main theme through their personal
engagement with the topic.
• Learners gather information on the theme from multiple
information sources.
• Learners receive language and learning strategy instruction to
assist with comprehension.
• Learners engage in project work, leading to a product that
demonstrates what they have learned.
Goals in using thematic units
• To encourage students to use language to learn something new about topics
of interest.
• To prepare students to learn subject matter through English.
• To expose students to content from a variety of informational sources to
help them improve their academic language and study skills.
• To provide students with contextualized resources for understanding
language and content.
• To simulate the rigors of academic courses in a sheltered environment.
• To promote students self-reliance and engagement in learning.
• (Adapted from Stoller, 2002)
Example: ESL Corporate social responsibility (CSR) unit
• Target audience:
• ESL 33A: College low-advanced ESL students in an integrated skills (reading-writing focus) class.
• Outcomes
• Students will critically analyze and evaluate company’s claims of corporate responsibility.
• Students will find and evaluate information from company websites.
• Students will orally present the information they have researched in small groups, visually present
the information on a class wiki, and write an in-class argumentative essay related to the unit theme.
• Rationale
• Student interest
• Relevance: Important theme in college education
• Critical thinking skills.
• Information competency
Corporate responsibility: Overview
• Readings from Rethinking America 3 (Sokolik)
• “Making Customers Come Back for More: How Starbucks Created a Brand on a Budget” (excerpted from Fortune magazine)
• “Ben & Jerry’s: Caring Capitalism” (excerpted from Personnel Journal)
• Sample videos
• Intelecom videos on CSR
• Howard Schultz presentation at UCLA Anderson School of Management
• “Story of Stuff” videos
• Tasks
• Jigsaw report to a small group on a video viewed as homework.
• Research and summarize a company’s CSR/sustainability policies and programs.
• With a small group create a wiki page highlighting one company’s policies and programs.
• Culminating project
• Write an argumentative essay of 5-6 paragraphs using examples from two or three companies, about corporate responsibility in one of
the three key areas (treatment of workers, environment, community engagement).
Corporate responsibility: Developing 1
• Development of theme
• Pre-reading #1.1: Visit Starbucks website & view video/citizenship page on their
stated commitment to communities.
• Pre-reading #1.2: Front-load academic vocabulary for reading and for discussion.
• During reading discussion: Mini-lecture on the nature, goals, and effects of capitalism
on work, workers, and the workplace.
• Post-reading: Journal about Starbucks stated goals of community engagement and the
effect of their rapid growth.
• Optional: Students view a YouTube.com video of Howard Schultz at UCLA Anderson
School of Management (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kAiEO6jP48)
Corporate responsibility: Developing 2
• Development of theme
• Pre-reading #2.1: Visit Ben & Jerry’s website. Students journal on one part of Ben & Jerry’s
mission statement (social, product, and mission - http://www.benandjerrys.com/activism/mission-
statement)
• Pre-reading #2.2: Frontload academic vocabulary for reading and for discussion.
• Post-reading: Students journal about their thoughts about whether companies should be
socially active, like Ben & Jerry’s.
• Optional jigsaw: Viewing of a “Story of Stuff” video (e.g., “The Story of Electronics:
http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-electronics) or Intelecom videos on CSR.
• Optional: Students search for recent publications on CSR from the Harvard University
Business School CSR website
(http://www.hks.harvard.edu/m-rcbg/CSRI)
Corporate responsibility: Task 1
• Task 1
• Each student researches the corporate responsibility policies and programs
of one company of their choice
• Students summarize their findings on a corporate responsibility worksheet.
(http://esl.frank-ed.com/33a/files/sustainability_worksheet.pdf )
• Post-task
• In class, students share their findings in small group of students who
researched similar companies. The groups evaluate all of the policies and
programs and select the one they believe has the most reasonable and
effective approach.
Corporate responsibility: Task 2
• Task 2
• Students in groups create a wiki page providing an overview of their
company’s policies for the rest of the class to share.
(http://esl33a.wikispaces.com/MS)
• Post-task
• Students choose one other group’ and complete another section of
the corporate responsibility worksheet.
• Small group and class discussion the concept of stakeholders
(http://frank-ed.com/esl/33a/files/stakeholder.pdf)
• Online threaded discussion where students evaluate companies’
commitment to various stakeholders.
(http://bb-pcc.blackboard.com)
Example Unit: Corporate
responsibility
• Culminating task/project
• Students write a 4-6 paragraph argumentative essay, using
examples from three companies, about corporate
responsibility in (one of) the three key areas: responsibility
to workers, to the environment, or to communities. The
class discussion of stakeholders should inform the students
development of ideas.
• Students use the Corporate responsibility worksheet as their
only notes for their composition.
Challenges in using CBI
• Identifying and developing appropriate content.
• Selecting and sequencing language items dictated by content sources rather than a
predetermined syllabus.
• Aligning content with structures and functions that emerge from the subject matter.
• Choosing appropriate materials and the decision to use (or not to use) textbooks.
• Faculty development that assists language instructors in handling unfamiliar subject matter.
• Assessment to demonstrate students’ language and content learning.
Steps in planning themes & projects
1. Decide on a theme.
2. Determine the final outcome. Consider the standards to
be addressed.
3. Structure the project.
4. Prepare students for the language demands of step 5.
5. Gather information.
6. Prepare students for language demands of step 7.
7. Compile and analyze information.
Steps in planning themes & projects
6. Prepare students for language demands of step 7.
7. Compile and analyze information.
8. Prepare students for the language demands of step 9
9. Present the final product.
10. Evaluate the project.
(Adapted from Stoller, 2002)
Selected References
• Gillmore, Alex. “Authentic Materials and Authenticity in Language Teaching.” Language Teaching 40
(2007): 97-118. Web. CUP.org.
• Grabe, William, & Stoller, Fredericka.L. "Content-Based Instruction: Research Foundations." In
Snow, M.A. & Brinton, D.M. (eds.), The Content-Based Classroom: Perspectives on Integrating Language and
Content NY: Addison Wesley Longman, 1997: 5-21. 2012. Center for Advanced Research on
Language Acquisition, the University of Minnesota. Web.
• Snow, Marguerite Ann, Myriam Met, and Fred Genesee. “A Conceptual Framework for the
Integration of Language and Content in Second/ Foreign Language Instruction.” TESOL
Quarterly 23.2 (1989): 210-217. Print.
• Snow, Marguerite Ann, Donna Brinton. “Content-Based Language Instruction: Investigating the
Adjunct Model.” TESOL Quarterly 22.4 (1988): 553-574. Print.
• Stoller, Fredericka. “Project Work: A Means to Promote Language and Content.” In Jack Richards
& Willy Renandya (eds.), Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice. CUP,
2002: 107-120. Print.
• Stoller, Fredericka. “Content-Based Language Instruction: Perspectives on Curriculum Planning.”
ARAL 24 (2004): 261-283. Print

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Teaching Language through Content (CBI)

  • 1. Teaching Language through Content STARTALK Presentation: A Sample Thematic Unit Russell Frank, Ph.D. Languages Division Pasadena City College 29 May 2012
  • 2. Presentation Outcomes • Participants understand the approach and goals of thematic (content-based) units. • Participants understand and the steps in developing theme based units.
  • 3. “Content-based” • Content-based instruction integrates language content with content from another discipline. • “Language across the curriculum” • Includes both clear language objectives and clear content objectives. • The selection and sequence of language items comes from the content, not a predetermined syllabus. • Learners deal with authentic texts and language.
  • 4. Benefits of using thematic CBI Stoller (2002) notes that: • Thematically organized materials …are easier to remember and learn. (Singer, 1990) • The presentation of coherent and meaningful information…leads to deeper processing and better learning (Anderson, 1990). • Relationship between student motivation/ interest and ability to process challenging materials, recall information, and elaborate (Alexander, Kulikowich, & Jetton, 1994). • Expertise in a topic develops when learners reinvest their knowledge in a sequence of progressively more complex tasks (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1993).
  • 5. CBI continuum Content-driven approaches • Strong content- learning objectives. • Immersion • Partial immersion • Sheltered subject area courses • Adjunct model classes Language-driven approaches • Strong commitment to language-learning objectives. • Content is a springboard for language practice • E.g., theme-based curriculum.
  • 6. Language-Content-Task Approach Task • Procedural knowledge Content • Determined by student needs & interests & program goals. Language • Semantics, syntax, pragmatics, functions, acquisition of language skills
  • 7. Stages in content-based lesson/curriculum • Learners are immersed in a main theme through their personal engagement with the topic. • Learners gather information on the theme from multiple information sources. • Learners receive language and learning strategy instruction to assist with comprehension. • Learners engage in project work, leading to a product that demonstrates what they have learned.
  • 8. Goals in using thematic units • To encourage students to use language to learn something new about topics of interest. • To prepare students to learn subject matter through English. • To expose students to content from a variety of informational sources to help them improve their academic language and study skills. • To provide students with contextualized resources for understanding language and content. • To simulate the rigors of academic courses in a sheltered environment. • To promote students self-reliance and engagement in learning. • (Adapted from Stoller, 2002)
  • 9. Example: ESL Corporate social responsibility (CSR) unit • Target audience: • ESL 33A: College low-advanced ESL students in an integrated skills (reading-writing focus) class. • Outcomes • Students will critically analyze and evaluate company’s claims of corporate responsibility. • Students will find and evaluate information from company websites. • Students will orally present the information they have researched in small groups, visually present the information on a class wiki, and write an in-class argumentative essay related to the unit theme. • Rationale • Student interest • Relevance: Important theme in college education • Critical thinking skills. • Information competency
  • 10. Corporate responsibility: Overview • Readings from Rethinking America 3 (Sokolik) • “Making Customers Come Back for More: How Starbucks Created a Brand on a Budget” (excerpted from Fortune magazine) • “Ben & Jerry’s: Caring Capitalism” (excerpted from Personnel Journal) • Sample videos • Intelecom videos on CSR • Howard Schultz presentation at UCLA Anderson School of Management • “Story of Stuff” videos • Tasks • Jigsaw report to a small group on a video viewed as homework. • Research and summarize a company’s CSR/sustainability policies and programs. • With a small group create a wiki page highlighting one company’s policies and programs. • Culminating project • Write an argumentative essay of 5-6 paragraphs using examples from two or three companies, about corporate responsibility in one of the three key areas (treatment of workers, environment, community engagement).
  • 11. Corporate responsibility: Developing 1 • Development of theme • Pre-reading #1.1: Visit Starbucks website & view video/citizenship page on their stated commitment to communities. • Pre-reading #1.2: Front-load academic vocabulary for reading and for discussion. • During reading discussion: Mini-lecture on the nature, goals, and effects of capitalism on work, workers, and the workplace. • Post-reading: Journal about Starbucks stated goals of community engagement and the effect of their rapid growth. • Optional: Students view a YouTube.com video of Howard Schultz at UCLA Anderson School of Management (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kAiEO6jP48)
  • 12. Corporate responsibility: Developing 2 • Development of theme • Pre-reading #2.1: Visit Ben & Jerry’s website. Students journal on one part of Ben & Jerry’s mission statement (social, product, and mission - http://www.benandjerrys.com/activism/mission- statement) • Pre-reading #2.2: Frontload academic vocabulary for reading and for discussion. • Post-reading: Students journal about their thoughts about whether companies should be socially active, like Ben & Jerry’s. • Optional jigsaw: Viewing of a “Story of Stuff” video (e.g., “The Story of Electronics: http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-electronics) or Intelecom videos on CSR. • Optional: Students search for recent publications on CSR from the Harvard University Business School CSR website (http://www.hks.harvard.edu/m-rcbg/CSRI)
  • 13. Corporate responsibility: Task 1 • Task 1 • Each student researches the corporate responsibility policies and programs of one company of their choice • Students summarize their findings on a corporate responsibility worksheet. (http://esl.frank-ed.com/33a/files/sustainability_worksheet.pdf ) • Post-task • In class, students share their findings in small group of students who researched similar companies. The groups evaluate all of the policies and programs and select the one they believe has the most reasonable and effective approach.
  • 14. Corporate responsibility: Task 2 • Task 2 • Students in groups create a wiki page providing an overview of their company’s policies for the rest of the class to share. (http://esl33a.wikispaces.com/MS) • Post-task • Students choose one other group’ and complete another section of the corporate responsibility worksheet. • Small group and class discussion the concept of stakeholders (http://frank-ed.com/esl/33a/files/stakeholder.pdf) • Online threaded discussion where students evaluate companies’ commitment to various stakeholders. (http://bb-pcc.blackboard.com)
  • 15. Example Unit: Corporate responsibility • Culminating task/project • Students write a 4-6 paragraph argumentative essay, using examples from three companies, about corporate responsibility in (one of) the three key areas: responsibility to workers, to the environment, or to communities. The class discussion of stakeholders should inform the students development of ideas. • Students use the Corporate responsibility worksheet as their only notes for their composition.
  • 16. Challenges in using CBI • Identifying and developing appropriate content. • Selecting and sequencing language items dictated by content sources rather than a predetermined syllabus. • Aligning content with structures and functions that emerge from the subject matter. • Choosing appropriate materials and the decision to use (or not to use) textbooks. • Faculty development that assists language instructors in handling unfamiliar subject matter. • Assessment to demonstrate students’ language and content learning.
  • 17. Steps in planning themes & projects 1. Decide on a theme. 2. Determine the final outcome. Consider the standards to be addressed. 3. Structure the project. 4. Prepare students for the language demands of step 5. 5. Gather information. 6. Prepare students for language demands of step 7. 7. Compile and analyze information.
  • 18. Steps in planning themes & projects 6. Prepare students for language demands of step 7. 7. Compile and analyze information. 8. Prepare students for the language demands of step 9 9. Present the final product. 10. Evaluate the project. (Adapted from Stoller, 2002)
  • 19. Selected References • Gillmore, Alex. “Authentic Materials and Authenticity in Language Teaching.” Language Teaching 40 (2007): 97-118. Web. CUP.org. • Grabe, William, & Stoller, Fredericka.L. "Content-Based Instruction: Research Foundations." In Snow, M.A. & Brinton, D.M. (eds.), The Content-Based Classroom: Perspectives on Integrating Language and Content NY: Addison Wesley Longman, 1997: 5-21. 2012. Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, the University of Minnesota. Web. • Snow, Marguerite Ann, Myriam Met, and Fred Genesee. “A Conceptual Framework for the Integration of Language and Content in Second/ Foreign Language Instruction.” TESOL Quarterly 23.2 (1989): 210-217. Print. • Snow, Marguerite Ann, Donna Brinton. “Content-Based Language Instruction: Investigating the Adjunct Model.” TESOL Quarterly 22.4 (1988): 553-574. Print. • Stoller, Fredericka. “Project Work: A Means to Promote Language and Content.” In Jack Richards & Willy Renandya (eds.), Methodology in Language Teaching: An Anthology of Current Practice. CUP, 2002: 107-120. Print. • Stoller, Fredericka. “Content-Based Language Instruction: Perspectives on Curriculum Planning.” ARAL 24 (2004): 261-283. Print