ELL – WS 2 The Integrated Content-Based Method of Instruction


Thematic instruction promotes students’

development of cognitive and

linguistic abilities and strategies that

have applications across a number of

content subject areas. Such capacities

are especially valuable to CLD students,

who are often struggling to

acquire a second language at the same

time that they are learning new concepts

in the content areas.

ICB instruction is

often found in the following learning environments:

• Classrooms in which a language teacher and a grade-level teacher are collaborating

to meet the needs of CLD students

• Pull-out programs in which the CLD specialist closely aligns instruction with

local and state academic content standards

• Schools in which the curriculum for all grade levels is based on themes aligned

with local and state academic content standards

• Middle school and high school classrooms in which content-area teachers are

teaming to collaborate and integrate themes and topics from different subject


language serves as a medium of instruction and learning.

Context functions as the central component of interactions between teacher and

student. Cazden (1977) notes:

We must always remember that language is learned, not because we want to talk or

read or write about language, but because we want to talk and read and write about

the world. Only linguists have language as their subject matter. For the rest of us—

especially for children—language is the medium of interpersonal relationships, the

medium of our mental life, the medium of learning about the world. (p. 42)

The ICB method challenges the myth that academic instruction needs to be

delayed until CLD students have developed a high level of English language proficiency.

Vygotsky (1978) proposed that increased social interaction and scaffolding of

instruction enable students to better contextualize and comprehend new material.

The ICB method not only provides CLD students with the opportunity for

increased social interaction with their peers but also scaffolds learning by providing

repeated exposure to content and language that is meaningfully contextualized.

Thus, the ICB method eliminates any artificial separation between language

instruction and subject-area classes.

The teacher tries to present the

information in multiple meaningful ways, and the student tries to construct meaning

from the multiple interactions.

the ICB

method provides teachers with opportunities to integrate the following cognitive

skills, each of which enhances language development (Curtain, 1995; Met, 1991):

Information-gathering skills—absorbing, questioning

Organizing skills—categorizing, comparing, representing

Analyzing skills—identifying main ideas, identifying attributes and components,

identifying relationships and patterns

Generating skills—inferring, predicting, estimating

the ICB method places an emphasis on three key factors

that are each applicable to both language and content teachers: (a) the use of

a variety of media, (b) the development of students’ thinking skills, and (c) the use

of student-centered instruction.

The Process

of Creating and Implementing an

ICB Lesson

I. Planning

A. Select the theme.

B. Choose topics relevant to the theme.

C. Create language and content objectives.

D. Gather appropriate instructional materials.

E. Arrange the classroom environment.

II. Instruction

A. Preteach key content vocabulary.

B. Build background.

C. Facilitate collaborative learning.

D. Use authentic activities for integrating literacy.

E. Engage CLD students cognitively.

F. Provide visual support and graphic organizers.

G. Develop learning centers.

III. Assessment

A. Provide formative assessment.

B. Provide summative assessment.

Content Objectives v. Language Objectives

The process of determining appropriate language objectives is typically initiated

through the teacher’s reflections on the proficiencies of students in each of the

literacy domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Saville-Troike (1984) has written that knowledge of vocabulary is the most critical to

the academic success of CLD students. Knowledge of specific content vocabulary

is far more important to comprehension than morphology and knowledge of syntactic

structures. Therefore, targeting in every lesson language objectives that focus

on vocabulary development is a prerequisite to the integration of language and


after compiling a list of possible content objectives,

the teacher can collaborate with other professionals in the content area to determine

which objectives would best address the subject-area concepts that are

essential for the academic success of CLD students in the classroom.

When writing content objectives, teachers who use the ICB method

when selecting materials, teachers consider the following questions:

1. In what ways does the material support and enhance the content of the lesson?

2. How might technology be used to reinforce student learning?

3. In what ways can visuals, realia, and discovery learning be used to reinforce

the content of the lesson?

4. How might native language resources be identified and incorporated into the

lesson to support and facilitate CLD students’ comprehension?

Preview, view, and review is an effective instructional

strategy in which content is previewed in one

language, presented (viewed) in the other, and

reviewed in the first

When delivering an ICB lesson to

CLD students, teachers do the following:

• Preteach key content vocabulary

• Build on the background knowledge of students

• Facilitate collaborative learning to promote linguistic and conceptual


• Integrate the four literacy domains

• Ensure CLD students’ cognitive engagement

• Provide visual aids and graphic organizers to support student comprehension

• Develop centers that encourage active student learning


for preteaching vocabulary to CLD students include:

• Using graphic organizers, such as semantic webbing or vocabulary maps, to

graphically illustrate for CLD students how they might associate new vocabulary

words with background knowledge

• Selecting high-frequency words to add to a word wall (using separate English

and L1 word walls when possible)

• Associating vocabulary words with concrete objects

• Having students act out or role-play vocabulary words

• Using visual cues to assist CLD students as they make connections to and

develop an understanding of key vocabulary

Strategies to incorporate and build on CLD students’ background knowledge

include, but are not limited to:

• Posing questions to CLD students about their past experiences

• Asking CLD students what they know about the key concepts

• Having CLD students freewrite about the topic so that the teacher can assess

their knowledge and understanding of the lesson material before teaching

• Providing visual cues and examples to promote meaningful connections

between the content and CLD students’ background knowledge

• Inviting family or community members to share information about the topic

with the class

Vygotsky (1978) proposed that children learn as a result of social interaction. Cooperative

learning allows CLD students to interact with one another using language

that pushes them beyond basic interpersonal communication to develop their cognitive

academic language proficiency. Cooperative learning groups also encourage the

active engagement of CLD students in content instruction. Students in heterogeneous

language and content proficiency groups are prompted to negotiate the meaning of

language and content using the target language.

The primary considerations for educators

when creating cooperative learning groups include the following:

• Make sure group work is developmentally appropriate.

• Provide opportunities for CLD students to discuss the material.

• Use a variety of grouping configurations (independent, pairs, small groups,

whole group).

• Foster interdependence among students by structuring groups so that no one

individual can complete the task alone.

• Motivate groups to work together by making sure that each member of the

group is held accountable for his or her tasks.

Create a group setting in which communication in any language is accepted


Use more capable peers to scaffold language use and development.

Work with groups to ensure that students are being supportive of one another.

Provide feedback that acknowledges the efforts of the entire group.

Engaging CLD Students Cognitively

In addition to creating activities that are content-specific and academically challenging,

teachers implementing the ICB method find ways to cognitively engage

their CLD students during lessons. One of the primary ways to create more cognitively

engaging and intrinsically motivating lessons is to relate academic content

and language tasks in ways that guide students to use higher-order thinking skills.

students might be prompted to engage in a debate that centers on the

following questions:

• Is the information true in every situation?

• Which situational factors influence the applicability of this information?

• From whose point of view is this information presented?

• Might others have different opinions?

Specific considerations for providing cognitively engaging and intrinsically motivating

lessons for the CLD students according to the ICB method include:

• Foster opportunities for CLD students to engage in extended discourse.

• Increase percentage of questions asked of CLD students that require the use of

inferential and higher-order thinking skills.

• Develop activities that engage students in cognitively challenging academic

tasks, such as doing research projects; problem solving that pertains to studentrelevant

issues; and writing essays, plays, and poetry.

When planning centers, educators consider a variety of linguistic, academic,

and cognitive factors. Among such factors are the following:

• The ways in which the centers intentionally reflect the language and content

objectives of the lesson

• Student interactions (e.g., how large or small and how collaborative do you

want to make the centers to maximize the equipment needed for each center,

including computers?)

• The familiarity of CLD students with the media of the centers

• Levels of support that students may need to successfully complete center activities

• Length of time necessary to complete center activities (keep in mind the developmental

levels and the attention spans of students)

• Length of time needed for the setup and cleanup of the centers

Ways in which the teacher can provide continuous

feedback through the ICB method include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Offer feedback that focuses on one aspect or area of the lesson to avoid overwhelming

the CLD student.

• Engage the CLD student in a brief discussion about the lesson to determine her

or his comprehension of key concepts. Follow this discussion with specific recommendations

or tips that the CLD student can use immediately to increase

his or her understanding of the lesson.

• Pose constructive questions to help the CLD student assess his or her own

comprehension of the lesson.

• Provide feedback that is comprehensive and comprehensible to the CLD student.

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