Content-based instruction in second language learning refers to the employment of carefully selected themes or materials to teach a second language. If you think your students are bored with second language learning, you can implement content-based instruction to give them more motivation in second language acquisition.
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What is content-based instruction?
Content-based instruction or CBI centralizes the use of meticulously selected subject matter, themes or topics that can greatly interest language learners. As a result, the selected interesting subject matter plays the role of a vehicle or means through which L2 learners could develop linguistic competence in the target language.
L2 learners taught through CBI can enjoy learning the second language because their learning is not just limited to the form of a language. Additionally, the process of language learning will become more natural and meaningful compared to non-CBI teaching methods.
How to implement CBI in language classes?
Nowadays, content-based instruction could easily be applied to language classes, thanks to the internet and availability of online resources on almost any subject matter you could imagine. So, the first step is to make a wise choice and select the subject matter that has the potential to engage the majority of your audience, i.e. your language learners.
To practice democracy in education and avoid imposing subject matter on your students, you can install voting or polling widgets on your website or online community. Your students can vote on their favorite topic. Then you can select the topic with the highest rank.
At LELB Society, we have installed polling software as forums and discussion boards so that our students could easily give us feedback on their favorite topics especially in our conversation classes. Something which is evident is that the selected topics should be in line with your students’ needs and priorities. For example, if the majority of your students are adolescents, then topics like technology, music, puberty or business would probably interest them a lot.
Teacher’s role in content-based instruction
A teacher who employs CBI is actually a double-expert. That is to say, he/she should have or grow profound knowledge on what is taught in the target language. You cannot advise your students: “Do as I say not as I do.” In other words, you cannot expect your students to learn a subject matter in the target language while you are totally ignorant of that.
Round table activity and CBI
In our online community, Dr. Mohammad Hossein Hariri Asl, the founder and administrator of LELB Society, has been using an activity that he has called round table. In this activity, which promotes collaborative flipped learning and social presence, our students democratically select a topic of their interest by voting on that in our comment forms or forums.
Having selected the topic, we find an appropriate video or podcast and embed it in a post or lesson accessible to all students with a direct link. As an out-of-class activity in flipped learning, the students watch the embedded video and read some selected text in the specified lesson before our live discussions in online classes.
Then the students would become active in our asynchronous channels of communication, namely discussion boards or comment forms, leaving comments and replying to the existing comments. Eventually, in our live classes, the students and the teacher refer to the accumulated mass of comments and forums as a frame of reference for more intellectual and informed discussion in our online classes.
Student motivation and CBI
These days, teaching second languages, especially English as the international language, has gone through a paradigm shift. This paradigm shift is vividly noticeable, particularly in the third millennium and remarkably after the CoronaVirus pandemic.
Nowadays, language learners need to be motivated intrinsically, as opposed to extrinsically, to keep on learning languages. In this regard, content-based instruction plays an integral role in inspiring and motivating language learners.
When the learners realize that they’re learning useful subject matter that could be applied to their personal lives, their motivation for language learning automatically goes up. On the other hand, the process of learning would become more natural and tempting as the learners might forget that they are learning a foreign or second language.
Deep learning and CBI
Content-based instruction can add depth to language learning and make it more meaningful. Intermediate, upper-intermediate and advanced language learners can opt for their interesting subject matter and acquire expertise and deep knowledge in their favorite themes and content by immersing themselves in their areas of interest in the form of the language(s) they plan to master.
Immersing yourself in what you really like and need minimizes the chance of giving up second language acquisition in the long run. Nevertheless, as it is self-evident, subject matter selection should not be imposed on language learners.
CBI and flipped learning
ESL teachers and even Persian teachers at LELB Society are encouraged to employ CBI in their teachings mostly because of the fact that flipped learning is one of the building blocks of our curriculum. The positive correlation between CBI and flipped learning is justified in this way that any course or curriculum taught through flipped learning must appeal to the learners thematically.
In other words, if second language learners are not interested in the subject matter of what they are exposed to, they will have low motivation to study the course asynchronously before and after live and synchronous classes. On the contrary, when CBI is optimally realized in a course based on flipped learning, the learners are more prepared to develop their best to the course both synchronously and asynchronously.
Ask for student feedback
It seems to be imperative that a language teacher employing CBI select the course themes democratically. As a matter of fact, course themes should not be imposed on the students. Here at LELB Society, we use negotiated curriculum to decide on the assigned topics in our flipped classes. This negotiated curriculum takes place in a variety of venues, namely our installed live chat, classified forums and the comment forms at the bottom of each post.