Round Table Content and Language Learning Part 1

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And we see this focus on changing language education ? there's an understanding that, for young people now, education is different, education is changing.

    Round Table Content and Language Learning (Part 1) th29 Annual TESOL-SPAIN Convention, Universidad Complutense, Madrid,

    March 24-26, 2006

AM = Anne McCabe

    DA = Dave Allan

    TG = Teresa Gerdes

    TR = Teresa Reilly

    Alex M = Alex Mackenzie

    ART = Antonio Roldán Tapia

Dave Allan

    Norwich Institute for Language Education (NILE)

    Dave Allan is Director of NILE, a specialist institute which has trained some 10,000 English language teachers and

    trainers from 50 countries in the last decade. NILE works closely with ministries and education authorities worldwide

    and has been a major provider of professional development for teachers and trainers from Spain, including recent

    projects for primary, secondary and CLIL teachers from Madrid. Dave is a regular speaker at conferences in Spain.

Teresa Gerdes

    Vicens Vives

    Teresa Gerdes is a teacher-trainer, educational consultant and author of a forthcoming series of course books. She

    holds a degree in bilingual education/ESL from Western Illinois University and has over twenty years‟ experience in

    the field. Her special interests are holistic learning and content-based methodology. She is a founding member of

    SEAL Spain.

Alex Mackenzie


    Alex Mackenzie is a qualified UK secondary school art teacher and also holds the RSA/UCLES, Diploma in English

    language teaching. She has over fifteen years‟ experience of teaching Art and English to all ages in International

    Schools in Spain, Latin America and Asia. She is a consultant and contributor to McGraw-Hill's 'Arts and Crafts'

    series, a content-based Art teaching course in English, for ESO students with a language learning focus and linguistic


Anne McCabe

    Saint Louis University in Madrid

    Anne McCabe is director of the ESL program at Saint Louis University's Madrid Campus, where she teaches writing,

    linguistics and ESL. She holds a PhD in Language Studies from Aston University, Birmingham, UK, and is former

    president of TESOL-SPAIN. Her areas of research include the application of current linguistic theory to language

    teaching and to teacher development.

Teresa Reilly

    British Council, Madrid

    Teresa Reilly has been Bilingual Projects Manager for the British Council in Spain since 1997. She works in

    partnership with the Ministry of Education and various Regional Governments to develop bilingual projects in state

    schools in Spain. Teresa has given seminars on bilingual education at national and international conferences. She also

    collaborates with the DfES on aspects of UK policy of language entitlement for all primary school children in


Antonio Roldán Tapia

    IES Alhaken II/University of Córdoba

    Antonio R. Roldán Tapia has been a secondary school teacher since 1989. He currently works at IES Alhaken II in

    Córdoba and is a part-time teacher at the UCO as well. He has a PhD from the UGR and has taught Spanish in the

    UK and the USA. He is the author of many articles in GRETA, TESOL-SPAIN Newsletter, ETp, MET, etc.

AM: The title of our Round Table is Content and Language Learning, which is also the theme

    of next year‟s TESOL-SPAIN annual conference in San Sebastian in March, Content and

    Language Learning. The sub-theme is “two birds with one stone”. Now, my question is: are we

    killing something? I would like to problematize content and language together, as if we could

    teach language without content or content without language, but for purposes of discussion,

    we‟ll pretend we can. Obviously, this is of great interest now in Spain and in Europe at present.

    Indeed over the past years, I have noticed an increase in the level of English language-speaking

    of the students coming to my university from Spanish schools, and I think we are going to look

    forward to increasing numbers of young people who are communicatively and linguistically

    competent in English and in other languages. However, will they have anything to say or write

    about? Will that be at the expense of any kind of other learning that goes on in school? So I‟d like to play the devil‟s advocate here and ask the overall question of whether we don‟t lose

    something by gaining something. That is, the bilingual and plurilingual schools projects will

    mean a gain in language teaching and learning in Spain, but will it mean a loss in terms of some

    other sort of learning happening in school classrooms? Can the focus be equally on both

    language and content?

DA: I think it is absolutely possible to very significantly improve the quality of language

    learning of the kind I think is worthwhile, as a result of not just focusing on language as a subject discipline, but of doing things with it, enabling people to talk about useful things think

    about, write about, listen about. I‟ve got direct experience relevant to this in a couple of ways. One is absolutely personal: that I learned language purely as a focus on language, as a subject discipline in school and I‟ve been suffering major skills‟ deficit ever since because of that. So I

    can talk about lots of German things and French things, but I can‟t talk about them in German or French. I regret that very much. On the other hand, I‟ve had almost no Spanish teaching and yet I once spent six hours travelling between Córdoba and somewhere else in Argentina and I talked for nearly six hours in Spanish with the taxi driver, because we had things to talk about. So, I‟m a great believer in the value of content.

    But, responding to the danger side of „Can we give them equal weight, can we care about them

    both?‟, my first answer is that we don‟t need necessarily to care about them both equally. In different contexts, it may be that the language is more important or that the content is more important. If we need to care about them both equally, there is very clear evidence, and this is my second piece of direct evidence, that if it is properly done and well done, there are huge benefits on the language learning side. I just showed the group I was with in my session the hard evidence, which was test results. I mentioned a group that came to me from Switzerland, from a Swiss secondary school project in Zurich, where kids from the age of 14 to 16-17 had been working with English lessons continuing, and with English medium teaching of geography, history and biology. One ordinary secondary school class in a tripartite system, and there was not a single member of that class who was not at least C1 level across the whole range of skills; some were C2 level. Now, if you can get that kind of result without any additional teaching time, just different content in what was happening in the classrooms, then in terms of language learning, that‟s massive. I talked to the teachers who came with them and asked them if there was any deficit on the subject side and their answer was that the subject side was just as good. A second group came the following year, so I have anecdotal evidence from that one context, and I‟ve got four or five other contexts that I‟ve heard about and know about where it‟s clear that the subject teaching hasn‟t suffered and the language teaching has benefited enormously. However,

    that‟s where teachers are trained, well-resourced, and instruction is supported, the time hasn‟t

    been cut back, and so on and so on.

TG: I‟m very optimistic about content-based teaching. Presently, I‟m using a content-based

    model, that‟s from the United States, that‟s called SIOP, or Sheltered Instruction Observational th TESOL Convention in Tampa, FL, there were 5 workshops dedicated Protocol. Just at the 40

    exclusively to the SIOP model. It is the leading model in the United States, and this model is being applied to all levels, primary to secondary. The main objective is to both teach language and teach content without having either of those aspects suffer, teaching grade-level content too. What‟s involved with the SIOP model is an 8-step approach, which I‟ll briefly explain.

    The first step is Preparation, setting Content objectives and Language objectives and identifying materials needed. This has a lot to do with your BICS and CALPS, your BICS being your Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills and CALPS, the Cognitive Academic Language

    Proficiency Skills. Why is that so important? Because when we get into content at a higher level, it‟s exactly the CALPS that we need to highlight, to pull out, to work with, and to help facilitate that to our students. So the preparation stage is setting the content, preparing material. Also SIOP promotes the use of lots of supplementary material. The next step is building the background, linking prior knowledge; they believe in always starting with what the students know and making a link. Then, third, comprehensible input, the idea that textbooks are always written for a general audience, that we have to adjust that. And not just the textbook input, but teachers‟ oral input; we have to make that comprehensible through slowing down our language, use of gesture, visuals, anything that will facilitate more comprehensible input. Also, use of charts, Venn diagrams, all that helps the student learn more. Fourth, strategies: metacognitive, cognitive, and social and affective strategies. Metacognitive: learning to learn, mnemonic

techniques, using the mother tongue occasionally to bridge information. Any kind of cognitive

    strategies that help students learn: questioning, pre-reading strategies…anything that will help them facilitate that knowledge. Social and affective strategies, such as cooperative learning.

    Also the idea of Krashen‟s affective filter, lowering the filter, so making a comfortable, stressless environment so that children can take in the language in a more natural way, through

    language acquisition.

    Then, fifth, interaction: two types of interaction, which is really important: teacher-student

    interaction, because that‟s where they‟re going to get that comprehensible input. And then after

    they have that initial teacher-student interaction, then they have to have time for student -student

    interaction, always monitored. And then practice and application: time to practice what they‟ve been taught. And, seventh, wrapping up the lesson, coming full circle, and reviewing the initial

    language and content objectives to see if they have been met or. Finally, review and assessment

    through observation, quizzes, tests; SIOP also promotes portfolios.

    I do believe that with this kind of model we can teach content and language simultaneously. But

    I think we have to change our approach in teaching.

TR: Two birds with one stone? Changing our way of teaching? I think really we can, we do

    we are successfully doing this in the MEC bilingual project, with 22,000 children in 57 primary

    schools and 38 secondary schools, we are successfully teaching content through the language.

    Over the past 10 years, we have actually seen these children from the age of 3 to 12 in primary

    schools, and now in the first 2 years of secondary school, successfully learning content through

    another language. Are they learning the language? Well, of course they are! That question

    surprises me always. If they‟re understanding, and children at the end of primary in this project,

    most of them have 100% comprehension; they have very good reading skills, competent writing

    skills, and their speaking is developing, so of course they‟re learning the language. And when

    they‟re going into secondary school, the secondary teachers of geography and science, not the

    language teachers, although they‟re saying it as well, but the secondary teachers of geography

    and science are saying: These children are wonderful. We‟re teaching them just as we‟d be teaching Spanish children, and they‟re having no problems understanding the content. They

    make lots of mistakes in the grammar, but they have no problems understanding, and they are

    well able to communicate their meaning in English. So we are teaching content in English, and,

    by the time they finish secondary school, they‟ll have a very high level of English as well.

    A few years ago in Madrid, the children in year 6 were exposed to Trinity Level 6 Exam, the

    written part of which was designed especially for them. And in several schools in Madrid, at the

    age of 12, a number of the children were quite clearly at B1 level of the Common European

    Framework. They had no preparation for the test, they weren‟t being prepared specially to jump

    through any hoops. And they actually were at a B1 level in the language test. And the primary

    school teachers of geography and science don‟t find any difference at all, quite the contrary, in

    their ability to understand the knowledge and the application of scientific skills in the subject.

    So evidence from this one project, and may I point out that this is a project in state schools; it‟s

    not in private schools, it‟s in state schools where there very often have been and still are

    children from less favourable home environments: children in a number of schools whose

    parents are immigrants, who perhaps themselves don‟t speak Spanish, and parents who quite

    often are themselves only semi-literate. And the children are learning the content through the


Alex M: I‟ll explain the two sides of my job that I‟ve been doing over the past 15 years so that

    you understand my experience. I‟m teaching in an international school now; I‟m teaching Art,

    with a very heavy language focus. The students are from all nationalities. And I did the same in

    London, at the opposite end, which was a state school, with a lot of nationalities as well. But

    between those two jobs, I worked in international schools as a language support teacher, where

    I‟ve gone into science, geography or maths classrooms and been the extra language helper in the

    subject. So I‟ve had the two angles. I‟m absolutely convinced, as Teresa Gerdes was saying, that

    we have to change our way of teaching along those eight lines. Then, the content and the

    language both are equally taught. And students respond amazingly well in a short time; although

with the BICS and the CALPS I expect it would be seven years before they‟re academically able.

    You can see amazing results if you get the environment right, depending on the age of the

    students. So I‟m absolutely convinced that it works.

ART: I‟m convinced. I‟m very positive about this notion of content and language integrated.

    I‟m convinced because I experienced myself this type of program in the United States. I was teaching in an immersion program, not for immigrants to learn English, but for English speakers

    to learn a foreign language. I was teaching seventh grade. And that worked, and it worked quite

    well. And then when I‟m here, in my secondary school in Andalucia they have decided to go for

    a pluringlual approach, even though the schools are called „bilingual‟, the whole program is

    called „plurilingual‟. We are quite happy. And I must tell you that my school has been selected -

    we will start next September, one group in primero de la ESO, the rest of the school still keeps the current curriculum, so we have one group; the second year we‟ll have one in primero and

    one in segundo, and so on. But our school has been selected for French! And you may say: you

    are mad! They go for French and you are happy. Yes, I am. They were talking in the

    presentation right before this one about content. What happens with content? Content keeps

    being the same. In our system, in our program, content is taught in both languages, by the

    content teachers. So they are teaching about two-thirds of teaching time in Spanish, and one-

    third in the second language. The L2 is trained for, and the L3 is trained for, and the Spanish

    department is also asked to participate in the program. So in some places it‟s just a few teachers

    here and there just making an application for a program, a project, and if it is accepted, go ahead.

    Here it is a question of the whole school, the whole school is involved. Right now we are just

    training and designing the curriculum in Andalucia. But the atmosphere of the school has

    changed completely. French teachers are going to the Escuela de Idiomas to learn English, and English teachers are going to the Escuela de Idiomas to learn French. We are being more active organizing exchanges, bilingual pages in the school magazine…and then everything has

    changed, everything is moving. The principal is very convinced, that is very important. He‟s a

    social studies teacher, and he‟s going to teach next year primero de la ESO. So even though it is French, we are happy. It is not that there is no role for English teachers. We are quite a large

    school, so we have this experimental, if you want to call it that, program, and then we have the

    current curriculum. So both languages are growing.

TR: Antonio‟s said something there which is quite important. It‟s the idea of change. The idea

    of cultural change. I don‟t mean culture there in the sense of teaching about Halloween, for

    example. I‟ve just come from a British Council conference in Brighton where we had people

    from the 70 British Council countries around the world. And we see this focus on changing

    language education there‟s an understanding that, for young people now, education is different,

    education is changing. The role of English is changing. I think Antonio is absolutely right: we

    are looking at moving towards a plurilinguistic society, and I don‟t think it matters what

    language it is. I think it was Fishman in 1976 who said: Bilingual education isn‟t about

    bilingualism, it‟s about education. It doesn‟t matter which language the children are learning;

    the point is that they are learning through a language; they‟re becoming bilingual, they‟re

    becoming plurilingual. This is something that is happening globally, it‟s not just happening in Spain, it‟s not just happening in Europe. It‟s very exciting! We are at the beginning of what is a

    complete change in language education.

TG: I think also what Antonio said about his school‟s administration supports them. That‟s so

    important. You need to have the support of the entire school, of the school staff. They need to

    be aware of what you are trying to do with bilingual education. And you need to have the

    support of the administration to be able to do this successfully. That makes a big difference.

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