The adoption of a content-based approach in my professional practice began at a bilingual school in 2004 within the EFL courses when my students expressed the need to learn subject matter in English.

CBI in practice


The adoption of a content-based approach in my professional practice began at a bilingual school in 2004 within the EFL courses when my students expressed the need to learn subject matter in English. Consequently, I proposed a syllabus to teach Literature using unabridged texts together with authentic material about literary studies. The change improved my students’ communicative competence, particularly their vocabulary knowledge and their reading skills. Such a positive outcome encouraged me to design a new course for my upper-intermediate students who were in their last year of secondary education. Once a week during a whole academic year, they were taught Critical Thinking together with Literature.


In 2006, it was decided that different versions of CBI should be extended to all EFL courses in primary and secondary levels. At present, as regards primary education, learners have, besides a traditional EFL course, Computers Studies and Science taught in English within the English curriculum.


As for the secondary level, learners follow a traditional course with textbooks which are usually oriented to language skills and international exams such as FCE (First Certificate in English) and CAE (Certificate in Advanced English). In order to introduce CBI, the EFL staff designed a programme (table below) taking into account learners’ level of English and curriculum content knowledge in Spanish. The proposed subjects are taught in English by their English teachers once a week.



Level of English




Year 1




Intercultural Communication


Use of a sourcebook though the teacher adapts input through her presentations and activities. Learners are assessed through group projects and oral presentation. Focus on both content and language.




Year 2






Use of authentic material. The teacher modifies input through oral instruction and activities that cover language and content. Assessment is by means of written tests on content and oral presentations in pairs on different countries of the world.





Year 3




Contemporary History


Use of sourcebook which combines World History and Argentinian History. Assessment is through class participation and the writing of an essay at the end of each term. Focus is on group discussion based on readings and instruction. Content is assessed though the medium of expression is also considered.



Year 4




English Literature




Use of a sourcebook together with unabridged short stories, plays, poetry and novels. Individual and pair work are favoured. Focus is on literary appreciation and analysis. Students are assessed through class participation, essays, and tests on literary analyses.



Year 5




Critical Thinking


(see Appendix 1 for a sample syllabus)


Use of a sourcebook, videos, extracts from radio programmes, newspapers and Critical Thinking handbooks. Classes are generally structured in a presentation-group work reading and discussion activities-plenary format. Learners are required to submit content-specific assignments and one essay on a controversial issue following Rogerian Argumentation.






In 2006, a study (Banegas 2008: 208-214) was carried out to support our CBI programme. Two groups were pre-tested so as to ensure they had a similar communicative competence. During a school year one group of subjects was instructed following FCE (First Certificate in English) Exam format while another group was instructed following FCE format and English Literature. Results showed that the second group performed better in the FCE tests (focus on use of English, that is grammar, and speaking skills) administered than the first group.


 I have also designed and taught some theme-based lessons at the last year of secondary school at San Luis Gonzaga School. At this secondary school, English as a subject in the school curriculum is only a two-hour class per week; however most of the students in the upper levels attend English private lessons.


Since 2006, English has become involved in the subject Research Project, which is taught in Year 5. Students are expected to carry out research on a particular area within Chemistry, Biology, or Physics, and produce at the end of the process a research paper for the community. Though students write their papers in Spanish, abstracts are written in English to familiarise them with scientific conventions. Therefore, their first lesson (see Appendix 2) in English is about Knowledge-Science-Education, and, by the beginning of the second term, they have a lesson about Research Methodology, mainly focused on how to organise their research papers and how to write an abstract. Students have expressed that they can use English for real purposes and that it is a way of acquiring specific vocabulary which they might need in university courses.


In conclusion, it might be said that CBI is an approach which can illuminate our EFL curricula; however it is vital that teachers in Argentina be trained so as to help them explore the horizons this innovation has to offer.

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