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Focus On Basics

Volume 1, Issue D :: December 1997

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Readers,

This issue of Focus on Basics centers around content-based instruction, instruction that, as Dr. Thomas Sticht explains in an article of this issue, focuses upon the substance or meaning of the content that is being taught in addition to literacy process or skills.

Why are teachers of adult basic education and English for speakers of other languages turning to content-based instruction? They must be finding that it works, that learners learn about the content and the skills of reading a number of researchers, university and classroom based, who have done work in this area. Their studies seems to confirm this theory. Linda Parrish, Lynne McCarthy, and Bernadette Comeau, doing research in their classrooms, all learners - seemed to motivate students. Tom Sticht and Barbara McDonald found that content-based instruction, as compared to general instruction, is correlated to increase reading gains. This may be because, as Larry Mikulekcy and colleagues discovered, when the content of content-based instruction is material that learners also use outside the classroom, practice time increases. Mikulecky also wisely points out that content-based instruction is not a "silver bullet." Teachers must use a variety of strategies to produce learner change.

Content-based instruction won't work at all if the content is not of interest to the learners. Sometimes, the content is dictated by they funder: job workplace topic may be the focus of a workplace education course. Then the content is left up to the teacher. Some teachers find it easy to identify a content that will resonate with students. Other turn to their students and involve them directly in determining a content. Teacher educators Char Ullman and Aliza Becker provide some suggestions on how to do this in a story, in this issue. They also provide one model for developing content-based materials.

All the teachers I've talked to who are using content-based instruction are turning to the Internet for materials. Visit Focus on Basics on our web site, for links to some of the sites the authors in this issue found most useful.


Barbara Garner

Updated 7/27/07 :: Copyright © 2005 NCSALL