Applied Linguistics

What is content based instruction/criteria/planning/roles

Content-based instruction

The teaching of foreign languages ​​through content emphasizes the integration of the contents of the school curriculum in the teaching of the language. It is based on the belief that the teaching of languages ​​can no longer be considered as a separate curriculum taught by specialists but that the language under study becomes the vehicle for learning content and it is through the negotiation of these contents as the students are learning. What is content-based instruction?

CBI (Content-Based Instruction) is “… an approach to language teaching that integrates the presentation of subject matter or class assignments (for example, mathematics, social studies) in the context of teaching a second language or foreign language ”(Crandall and Tucker, 1990, p. 187).

This pedagogical approach emerged from the 1980s, driven by the results obtained in immersion programs, in which all or part of the curriculum is taught in a second language. This teaching model was specially designed to support immigrants who, wanting to join local schools, faced the challenge of having to learn curricular subjects and a second language at the same time. This model began to be developed by being based on immersion programs in countries such as the United States and Canada, obtaining satisfactory results.

By integrating language teaching and curricular content, an adequate context is created for the development and satisfaction of the formative and academic needs of the learner, who advances not only in the development of linguistic and communication skills but also in the academic and cognitive ones. In this simultaneous learning, the contents serve to provide new experiences and knowledge, and also to expand and reinforce the knowledge that has already been worked on in the mother tongue.

Content selection and planning

 In the integrated teaching of language and content, not only the criteria around which the content is selected and its planning must be defined, but also how these are articulated in the context of the program as a whole.

The teaching of the language through content raises the need to carry out a significant number of both linguistic and content adaptations, especially when it is aimed at beginning students who join the educational system at any time during the school year. These adaptations are more complex the older the learners are since their cognitive demands and interests do not match the language skills needed to negotiate them.

The role of the teacher

It is up to you to clearly define the content and language objectives and ensure that they are appropriate for the particular student body. It must also adapt the contents to the academic-linguistic needs of the students through the use of complementary material. It is important that you emphasize the keywords and the links between the personal experiences of the students and the content they are going to learn (the motivation of your students depends to a large extent on this). Like other of its functions, it also highlights the need for the teacher to clearly explain the tasks, use visual aids and gestures and adapt the explanations to the level of knowledge of the students.

Role of the student

Must participate in an active way, to get closer to the new language, delving into academic issues with which they are able to establish a relationship in their native language. He must master the skills of reading, listening, speaking, and writing on topics of interest that motivate him to express himself in the second language. Content based instruction and criteria

Presence of grammar

 This methodology does not deny the importance of grammar but instead changes the focus to one where grammar is seen as the mechanism through which people can communicate what they want to say and can understand what others are saying, already be it orally or in writing. It is about conscious and transferable learning.

The concepts are the organizing axis of the unit. All activities are related to these and are designed in a way that supports the content and linguistic objectives.

Furthermore, vocabulary and key concepts should be reviewed using different instruments. The same goes for understanding and learning goals. In other words, evaluation tests that include two sections should be done: one to assess knowledge of the subject (structured like a test, for example) and another to assess the linguistic aspect, with open questions.

 Criteria What is content-based instruction?

According to Met, the contents to be taught must be selected according to linguistic, cognitive, and motivational criteria: Content based instruction and criteria

 Linguistic criteria

The linguistic criteria must take into account the level of competence of the learner and the objectives pursued: it is not the same to teach content to beginners than to students with an intermediate level of language. When working with low levels of language proficiency, it is better to choose areas that require less content in this area, regardless of cognitive demands. Areas such as calculation, geography, physical or artistic education can allow a more inclusive approach, especially if the activities proposed are of a more manipulative and motor nature (measuring, weighing, experimenting …) What is content-based instruction?

 When choosing a discipline, it must be borne in mind that different uses of language can be learned. A distinction can be made between human sciences, on the one hand, and scientific and technical subjects, on the other. The language of the first group is more often close to general language: the semantic fields in which the language of the first group is inscribed coincide more closely with those used in everyday life. In technical and scientific language, on the other hand, much more specific and restricted semantic fields are used.

Cognitive criteria

When establishing the criteria that advise on the selection of content, the cognitive demands that these entail must be considered:

It should not be excessive.

        It must be an interesting and motivating intellectual proposal, which is challenging.

        It must contribute something new and not be repetitive.

        It must be adapted to the linguistic level of the students.

        It should be graded carefully with respect to prior knowledge (if it brings something new, if it is stimulating, or if it can be processed according to the learner’s linguistic competence).

Motivational criteria What is content-based instruction?

        It is a question, at all times, of adapting to the “interests” of the apprentices. These interests may be intrinsic, but there will be times when the teacher will be responsible for ensuring that educational proposals seek that interest. It is convenient to take into account the differences that are established in the different stages of life with respect to the interests and organize the interventions according to them. For the youngest, the activities that must be provided are those that promote play, imagination, and manipulation in highly regulated and organized contexts. An adolescent may be more interested in solving problems, in satisfying specific needs and interests of an intellectual or linguistic nature, so these should be considered and the practice organized according to the different demands.

        Among the “compatible linguistic learnings” it is important, especially at a beginner level, to consider “organizational language”, that is, those expressions that teachers and students use to regulate activities (have you understood? I have understood…) and make it explicit and teach it so that it becomes conscious and transferable learning from the beginning. It is also important to plan “ways of working”, which implies defining aspects such as the use of materials to accompany the use of language, the activities that the students are going to carry out, and the groupings of students (large group, small group, couples, individual). What is content-based instruction?


Theme: Painting landscapes to go through Paris

Level: B2

General objective:

  • Recognize the different painting techniques that exist.
  • Recognize the uses of “por” and “para”

Specific objectives:

  • Describe painting techniques.
  • Identify the uses of “for” and “for” in a reading.
  • Develop a painting technique.


  1. The teacher, from a brainstorm, assesses the previous knowledge that the boys have regarding the subject of the painting (painters, famous paintings, techniques …)
  2. Students are given a text describing different painting techniques. Students should read it and fill in the blank spaces that appear there, using the prepositions “by” and “for” as appropriate.
  3. Next, the use of prepositions is reviewed, explaining their uses, in case of errors. Students will be asked in groups to make up two riddles related to two of the painting techniques, described in the text. The idea is that they can read them in class so that their classmates can guess them.
  4. As the last activity, students will paint their own canvas in class. Content based instruction and criteria What is content-based instruction?

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