Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Integrating Focus on Form in L2 Content-Enriched Instruction Lessons

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Integrating Focus on Form in L2 Content-Enriched Instruction Lessons

Article excerpt


The model of content-enriched instruction focuses on the integration of grammatical and lexical forms within content to beginning-level learners (Ballman, 1997). This study used quantitative data to examine the efficiency and application of this model for second- and third-semester college French. It specifically responds to the following question: Which type of focus-on-form instruction through a content-enriched instruction lesson is more effective for learning second language (L2) grammar, vocabulary, and cultural content in intermediate French L2 classes? The three instructional treatments administered were planned focus on form, incidental focus on form, and focus on meaning. The findings point to positive significance mainly toward the planned focus on form treatment, in grammar, vocabulary, and culture. This encourages a more concrete integration of content and form at low-intermediate levels.

Key words: content-enriched instruction, culture, focus on form, second language learning and teaching

Language: Relevant to all languages


Communicative language teaching, as a methodological approach, encourages the use of realistic messages in order to present language features (Brown, 1994, 2000; Cook, 2001; Omaggio, 1983; Omaggio Hadley, 2001; Savignon, 1972, 1983, 1991, 1997). Yet the reality of language courses often seems to differ from the original goal of fostering the development of communication strategies (Cook, 2001). One example of this divergence of practice is the presentation of cultural items during the early years of second language (L2) learning. As Ballman (1997) and Shook (1998) have pointed out, many beginning language textbooks present culture in the first language (L1), therefore missing the opportunity to use culture to teach the L2. This reflects a tendency to separate and isolate the two aspects of the message: culture and language. However, research has shown that combining a focus on language forms with a meaningful message produces more positive results in learners' output than if instruction is focused on forms alone (Doughty & Williams, 1998; Long, 1991; Long & Robinson, 1998; Swain, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2001). Teaching methodologies and curricula have been designed to integrate meaning and forms. For instance, one major methodology-content-based instruction (CBI)-has emphasized the integration of content and linguistic components at advanced levels of L2 instruction. However, it is not clear if the same findings from previous research on upper-level content-based instruction (Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 1989; Davison & Williams, 2001; Mohan & Beckett, 2003; Short, 1999; Snow & Brinton, 1997) would be obtained in early levels of L2 instruction.

Given the lack of research on the effects of integrating content and language forms at early levels of instruction, this study investigated the effects of the integration of grammatical and lexical forms within a cultural content. Specifically, this article focuses on 1) the integration of language structures (i.e., grammatical and lexical items) into cultural lessons at the early levels of French L2 classes, and 2) the types of instruction that promote the acquisition of those same structures.

Teaching Content and Form in the Foreign Language Classroom

Approximately 30 years ago, CBI emerged in immersion and bilingual programs in response to strong needs to combine content and language instruction (Cook, 2001; Musumeci, 1993; Savignon, 1972, 1983, 1997; Snow & Brinton, 1997; Swain, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2001). Many studies (Met, 1991; Pica, 2002; Swain, 1996, 2001; Swain & Lapkin, 2000) were conducted showing how the forms of a language could be taught through a specific content, such as social sciences, mathematics, history, and psychology. Results have shown that CBI can be effective, but only if learners are made aware of their language use. Immersion programs in Canada and bilingual programs in the United States have employed this technique primarily from kindergarten through high school (K-12) levels and also in college curricula, targeting foreign students, immigrants, and others who have the desire to learn an L2 intensively (Kowal & Swain, 1997; Rhodes, Christian, & Barfield, 1997; Snow & Brinton, 1997; Swain, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2001; Swain & Johnson, 1997). …

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