Contextualization is the meaningful use of language for real communicative purposes. It helps students understand how language users construct language in a given context. Teachers can contextualize language instruction by organizing the content of the language curriculum according to themes or topics. These themes or topics work best when they are threaded throughout the course of study.
Module Focus: Introduction
Some additional reasons for using contextualized language are that…
- Language is constructed through a blend of purpose, situation, and social needs. Classroom learning experiences that incorporate these dimensions are more likely to lead to better learning outcomes.
- A contextualized approach to instruction also supports the use of integrated skills, and pair and group work.
- And, it can foster a deeper level of use of the language, especially when the themes and topics are high-interest and motivate students.
#1 Viewing Points: Classroom Techniques
Video segment #1. You will see several short examples from classrooms that use contextualized language and themes. Look for examples of these kinds activities:
- Games and interactive activities;
- Storytelling, dramatization, or the acting out of language (this can also involve singing or chanting);
- And, student presentations.
Also try to identify the themes or topics in the activities.
Teacher:…SENTENCE PATTERING CHART.
AND REMEMBER WE STARTED SINGING A COUPLE SONGS?
WE’RE GOING TO DO IT TODAY, TOO.
GISELLE, YOU WANT TO SHARE YOURS?
OKAY, I’LL GET BACK UP HERE,
AND I’LL TRY AND WRITE WHILE YOU’RE WORKING.
OKAY, WE GOT TO PUT OUR LISTENING CAPS ON, PLEASE.
I’M READY, GISELLE, WHEN YOU ARE.
SMALL POISONOUS MONKEYS SCRATCH QUICKLY IN THE CANOPY.
OH, THAT’S TERRIBLE, GISELLE!
[ laughs ]
I TOLD HER SHE WAS WRITING A FICTION STORY YESTERDAY.
THAT LETTER LOOKS LIKE AN UGLY SPIDER.
I KNOW, I’M SORRY IT’S AN UGLY “S,” ISN’T IT.
IS IT OKAY IF I JUST LEAVE IT KIND OF UGLY?
SMALL, POISONOUS MONKEYS —
WHAT ARE THE POISONOUS MONKEYS DOING?
Several students: WRITING.
SCRATCHING… SCRATCH —
HOW WERE THEY SCRATCHING?
QUICKLY…AND WHERE ARE THEY SCRATCHING?
Boy: IN THE CANOPY.
Teacher: IN THE CANOPY?
OKAY, I NEED SOME HELP.
WHO CAN TELL ME WHERE THE CANOPY IS?
I CAN’T SEEM TO REMEMBER.
WE HAVE OUR RAINFOREST STARTED OVER HERE.
IF WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THE CANOPY, WHO CAN COME SHOW ME WHERE THE CANOPY IS?
WHO CAN SHOW ME WHERE IT IS?
ALMA, COME ON OVER.
YOU CAN HAVE MY POINTER BECAUSE MAYBE YOU CAN’T REACH IT.
MAYBE I CAN’T REACH IT.
OKAY, WHERE IS THE CANOPY?
EVERYBODY ELSE, HAVE IT IN YOUR HEAD.
OKAY, WHERE DO YOU THINK IT IS?
WHAT DO YOU THINK? IS THAT THE CANOPY?
UH-OH, WHAT’S WRONG?
IT HAS TO BE ON THE TOP…
CAN YOU REACH A LITTLE HIGHER, ALMA?
SO WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT THE CANOPY? IF THIS IS OUR CANOPY, RIGHT HERE, WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT IT?
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Thank you, Alma.
WHAT’S IT LIKE, RODRIGO?
Boy: LIKE THE…THE TOP.
IT’S THE TOP, RIGHT?
IS IT THE TALLEST, TALLEST?
NO, IT’S JUST THAT TOP LAYER. AND WHATIS IT LIKE?
Boy: A UMBRELLA.
A BIG UMBRELLA, RIGHT? REMEMBER OUR LAYER SONG?
THE CANOPY IS LIKE A BIG UMBRELLA.
SO THEY’RE FIGHTING ON THE GROUND?
WHERE ARE THEY FIGHTING?
UP IN THE TREETOPS, RIGHT?
OH, RIGHT, THEY’RE NOT FIGHTING; THEY’RE SCRATCHING.
BUT IF YOU’RE SCRATCHING SOMBODY, ARE YOU JUST SCRATCHING OR ARE YOU FIGHTING?
Students:FIGHTING. YOU’RE FIGHTING.
SO, YOU READY TO SING THIS ONE?
All: “SMALL, POISONOUS MONKEYS SCRATCH QUICKLY IN THE CANOPY”
“QUICKLY IN THE CANOPY ”
“QUICKLY IN THE CANOPY ”
“SMALL, POISONOUS MONKEYS SCRATCH QUICKLY IN THE CANOPY”
“QUICKLY IN THE CANOPY”
WHAT HAPPENED WITH YOU?
[ speaks indistinctly ]
…GO TO PLAY WITH YOUR FRIENDS.
I WANT TO PLAY WITH MY FRIENDS NOW!
I’M VERY WORRIED HERE.
[ speaks indistinctly ]
OH, YEAH, BUT I DON’T NEED THE T.V. ANYMORE.
I DON’T THINK SO.
MY T.V. IS GONE, BUT I’M HAPPIER THAN THE LAST WEEK.
I DON’T KNOW WHY. COULD YOU EXPLAIN IT?
MAYBE BECAUSE YOU JUST SPEND A LOT OF TIME WATCHING T.V.,
OH, EXCUSE ME,
…PLAY WITH MY FRIENDS.
LET’S PLAY SOCCER!
LET’S GO! HOW ARE YOU FEELING?
I DON’T NEED THE T.V. ANYMORE.
[ laughter ]
OKAY, THE OTHER STEP
IS INDIVIDUAL’S GENETIC INFORMATION
WILL BE USED AGAINST THEM.
EXAMPLE: DISMISSAL FROM WORK.
FOR SCIENCE FIRST:
NEW GENETIC RESEARCH MAY MAKE IT POSSIBLE TO IDENTIFY AN INDIVIDUAL’S LIFETIME RISK OF CANCER, HEART ATTACK,AND OTHER DISEASES.
THEREFORE — CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THIS?
WHY IS THIS A GOOD THING?
WHY IS THIS A STEP FORWARD?
Boy: BECAUSE IT’S USEFUL…
OKAY, THE OTHER STEP IS GENETIC TESTING, IT HAS ENORMOUS POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVING HEALTH CARE.
VERY GOOD. SO THEY’RE REALLY RELATED.
THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS.
OKAY. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
In these classes we saw examples of both lower and higher levels of language learners. And, examples of both light-hearted and more serious topics. The themes and topics were from the “real world” and were of obvious interest to the learners. The teachers used a variety of activities to get students involved in both the language and the content or “context.”
Module Focus: Summary
The focus in Module 01 has been on the context of language teaching. Contextualizing language through the use of themes, topics, and real world situations can be a way to bring English alive for learners and actively engage them with both language and content.
See the manual for readings and more information on this and other topics related to contextualizing language.