The Message Is the Medium: A New Paradigm for Content-Oriented Instruction


  • Jeannette D. Bragger,

    1. The Pennsylvania State University
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      Jeannette D. Bragger (Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara) is professor of French and head of the Department of French at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

  • Donald B. Rice

    1. Hamline University
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      Donald B. Rice (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison) is professor of French at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.


ABSTRACT  This article focuses on the Connections goal of the National Standards—i.e., on the integration of interdisciplinary content and language skills. Although content has always played some role in foreign language courses, the complexities of “connections” to academic content are far from being realized in the current foreign language teaching and learning environment. Consequently, this article proposes a developmental model for content-oriented instruction that moves students from familiar to unfamiliar academic and cultural content while also taking into account their language level at each stage. In the process, the article offers suggestions on how to avoid the “sudden jumps” in difficulty, characteristic of language and literature courses both in high school and college, which lead to so much student/teacher frustration as well as to often dramatic drops in enrollment from level to level.