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.
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.
of Creating and Implementing an
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.
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.
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,
• 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
• 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,
• 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.