Content-based instruction, as described by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, is a proven, effective approach to language learning that allows world language teachers the freedom to create curriculum based on inquiry. We can tackle any subject and address it through the lens of sustainability and ecological principles, while at the same time immersing students in the language and culture they’ll need to interact effectively. There’s no standing on one’s head required to make this work. To get at the heart of educating for sustainability all modes of communication are necessary: presentational, interpersonal and interpretive. (More on this as I add specific activities and projects to this blog)
On the other hand, most of us have textbooks or a curriculum that we are required to follow. And even if we didn’t, we surely would want to provide our students with a full range of vocabulary, grammatical strategies and experiences throughout the curriculum.
I believe it comes down to asking the right questions. We can create essential questions for any unit theme or tweak almost any activity by asking (or inviting) questions that flow from ecological principles or that fit into one of the frameworks for sustainability.
A level 3 unit on “childhood” that covers the imperfect tense might ask “What is unique and what may be universal about childhood experiences and needs? Do communities have obligations towards children?” (sustainability standards: multiple cultures & diversity, tolerance, multiple perspectives, rights, interconnectedness, environment & ecology, quality of life, etc. ACTFL standards: communication, cultures, communities, connections, comparisons)
A level 1 or 2 activity during a unit on clothing might include questions like ¿De dónde es tu chaqueta? Students can find the labels in their clothes, report on the country of origin and track the places of origin on a map. (sustainability standards: local and global citizenship, interconnectedness, etc. ACTFL standards: communication, cultures, connections)