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Strategy 2: Using Learning Phases

To facilitate content and language acquisition in CBI, it's necessary to organize lessons in learning phases ("pre, during, post" or "before, during, after") or "phases of instruction" (Cloud et al., 2000, p. 122). This strategy shouldn't be new to teachers, because it reflects a basic principle of good teaching and has been practiced by good teachers for many decades. What's important to bear in mind, however, is that, like all of the strategies discussed in this instructional module, organizing lessons in learning phases is absolutely essential to ensure student learning. When a teacher is teaching content through students' native language, good teaching strategies are often considered optional. When a teacher is teaching content through a second language, however, good teaching strategies are essential.

Many scholars have written about learning phases and have identified the purposes for each of the three phases. Cloud, Genesee, and Hamayan (2000) refer to the three phases with the following labels:

  •   Preview Phase
  •   Focused-Learning Phase
  •   Expansion Phase.

Kucer, Silva, and Delgado-Larocco (1995) talk about "moving students into, through, and beyond" (p. 76) the CBI curriculum by encouraging teachers to generate activities that are appropriate to welcome students into the curriculum unit, take them through the key concepts, and offer them opportunities to go beyond the basic learning to apply their knowledge in new and meaningful ways.

The features of each learning phase are listed on the Characteristics of Learning Phases handout, which was developed by Fortune and Tedick (2002) based on Cloud et al. (2000) and Kucer et al. (1995).

Tedick (2003) suggests that learning phases are related to the concept of "process" as discussed in the CAPRII article. Under Tedick's direction, all of the lessons that were developed for CARLA's Proficiency Oriented Language Instruction and Assessment (POLIA): A Curriculum Handbook for Teachers (Tedick, 1998) had three learning phases, and most of the CoBaLTT lessons and units found online follow this same pattern.

Following the work of Pauline Gibbons (2002), Fortune (2003) has developed a Learning Activity Planning Guide for teachers to consider the types of learning activities that are appropriate for the three learning phases in relationship to the components that comprise a CBI lesson—content, culture, genre, learning strategies, and language. These components also correspond to the written text analysis form, which can be used to analyze texts in preparation for CBI lesson planning.


Note to the reader/visitor:
All of the lessons in the units we have identified as “stellar” (see Units and Lessons search page) are very good examples of the use of learning phases. We invite you to consult these units paying particular attention to the transitions used by the teachers who developed them. Their work, in our opinion, represents good models to follow when planning instruction. We also would like to stress the importance of including homework assignments that can act as transitions and tie together lessons in a meaningful way. In other words, homework assignments should not only be conceived as additional linguistic practice, but also as a means to prepare learners to transition from one topic to the next. Jill Pearson’s water unit represents a great example of how homework assignments can be used to consolidate the learning of a concept while ensuring that learners keep practicing with language.

The following units exemplify the instructional strategy of “Using Learning Phases”:


Jill Pearson’s unitChez moi et dans le monde entier: Exploring our use and relationship with water (any of the lessons)


Mary Bartolini’s unit—Soy el agua (any of the lessons)


Cloud, N., Genesee , F., & Hamayan, E. (2000). Dual language instruction: A handbook for enriched education. Boston , MA : Heinle & Heinle.

Fortune, T. (2003). Learning activity planning guide. [online at CoBaLTT website]

Fortune, T. & Tedick, D. J. (2002) Characteristics of learning phases. [online at CoBaLTT website]

Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning. Portsmouth , NH : Heinemann.

Kucer, S. B., Silva, C., Delgado-Larocco, E. L. (1995). Curricular conversations: Themes in multilingual and monolingual classrooms. York , ME : Stenhouse Publishers.

Tedick, D. (2003) CAPRII: Key Concepts to Support Standards-Based and Content-Based Second Language Instruction. [online at CoBaLTT website]

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