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Academic English Studies

AES–Beyond the Classroom

March 29, 2017

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Content-Based Instruction, though more popular as a basis for curriculum design today, has been a significant factor in our course design.  One of the characteristics of an effective academic English program is how class instruction takes students “outside the four walls of the classroom.” This can happen very easily in a content-based language course just by facilitating the connection of meaningful content to a student’s own knowledge and life experiences.  Even better, making that application by engaging students in community activities provides the opportunity for them to practice their language and critical thinking by applying course concepts to experiential learning.

AES instructors continually connect the course content in their classroom to the community. This creates opportunities to extend the language and learning in the classroom to real life applications and practice.

Some connections made outside the class this semester:


Life of Pi:   Students in the Level 4 Advanced Reading class read and analyzed the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel. One of the book’s major themes is human-animal interaction, and the story discusses zoology and animal training. As a follow-up to reading the novel, students took a field trip to the Oregon Zoo. They visited many of the animal enclosures and participated in a Zoo Class called Animal Training 101. In the class, students learned about training animals by using positive reinforcement, and they were able to interact directly with a hedgehog, tortoise, and duck in the class! The field trip was a great compliment to the reading assignment for their class.


World Health:  In Level 3 High Intermediate Reading & Writing, the class covered a unit on health with topics ranging from the state of the world’s health and the ways in which this is measured, to the major health issues impacting developed and developing nations. During this unit, students also blogged about health issues that affect them and their communities. Based on student written reflections on the importance of mental health, the instructor wrapped up the unit with a hands-on approach to stress reduction. With the help of the Office of Spiritual Life, the instructor scheduled a yoga and meditation session for the students. The students really enjoyed the opportunity to try something new, and they left that session with tools they can use on their own for reducing stress. 


Antigone:  In another section of Level 4 Advanced Reading, the class read the play Antigone and attended the campus production of the play Antigonick, based on the original play by Sophocles.

Students also attended a presentation given by Lewis & Clark professors, who provided an analysis of the play. Antigone is a classic piece of ancient Greek literature, a basis of western thought and philosophy.  This assignment provides a sample of western literary traditions which have shaped thinking on politics and society.


Undergraduate Class Observations:  Students in Level 3 High Intermediate Communications completed five weeks of undergraduate class observations, learning about the culture of a college classroom and testing out their academic language skills through real time listening, discussion, and note taking.

Some other connections of class content to the “outside:”

  • Students attended a campus-wide Listening Forum and completed “Speech Analysis” papers, analyzing the speaker and the event;
  • Students participated in a guided field trip to a nearby city forest, Tryon Creek;
  • Students participated in a language and culture exchange with a beginning Arabic class.