Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Applying Content-Based Instruction to Extensive Reading Class

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Applying Content-Based Instruction to Extensive Reading Class

Article excerpt


This study aims to testify whether CBI can be helpful for the ESL learners in the English classroom. It has been conducted in an ordinary middle school in Baotou City, Inner Mongolia, China. The samples are 111 students from No. 8 Middle School. They are randomly selected from two classes in grade senior 2. The study lasts 18 weeks, during which 18 copies of texts based on the content knowledge of other subjects in the curriculum have been selected and applied as extensive reading materials. For each copy corresponding tasks and activities are designed by the researcher. The conclusions indicate that the teachers involved in the study hold positive attitudes towards the CBI and the participants think this approaches have inspiring effect on their English learning.

Key words: Content-based instruction; English learning; Second language teaching

Zhao, Y. (2014). Applying Content-Based Instruction to Extensive Reading Class. Studies in Literature and Language, 9 (1), 77-81. Available from: DOI:


Content-based instruction refers to an approach to second language teaching in which teaching is organized around the content or information that students will acquire, rather than around a linguistic or other type of syllabus (Richards, 2001, p.204). This approach has been popular since the late 1970s. In a CBI classroom, the target is not grammar or some other items focusing on language but content, language is a vehicle to carry the meaningful information.

There are many well-known and successful CBI programs abroad, such as "Immersion (Bilingual) Education" in Canada and United States; "Immigrant On-Arrival Programs" and "Programs for Students with Limited English Proficiency (SLEP)" in Australia; "Language for Specific Purpose" developed in Britain; etc. In modern times, we still can see the significance of CBI. To help American students improve their language competency, the U.S. Department of Education and the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages designed and published Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century (Lu, 2001) which identifies five goal areas in foreign language education, i.e., Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities. Among the 5C, connection means English education connects with other disciplines and acquire information, and the relative standard is that "students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language". Directed by the standards, the foreign language classroom emphasizes the content from other subjects, the language teachers are encouraged to select some interesting and challenging topics for students to search for the relative materials and about which the discussions can be held.

However, the native researchers think at present we can't fulfill the critical requirements for carrying on CBI (Cai, 2002). English teaching in China is mostly isolated from other courses in elementary school and secondary school, which directly leads to a problem: when the students step into the college, they are found incapable of understanding the academic literature even though the students who have passed CET-4 or 6 (Wang, 1994). Although we have got in touch with inter-disciplinary idea in our new standards, there is no such practice in the English classroom presently. Anyhow, some bilingual schools have been set up in some developed cities and south of China. In these schools certain percent of the subject matters are taught in English in order to increase the students' exposure to English. It's hoped that the students can gain subject knowledge while developing their English ability, which is so called "two birds with one stone". But few experts hold positive attitude towards bilingual education in China, because many problems undoubtedly exist in those bilingual classrooms, among which teachers' shortage of training in English proficiency and the appropriate teaching material is the basic (Zhang, 2002). …

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