Syllabus Design:( by Nunan), compiled and summarized by N.Abdi


The course you teach or intend to teach are based on some written syllabus. This course aims to provide teachers with tools and techniques for analyzing and making the syllabuses with which they are working .

Here in this course we want to provide teachers with the skills they need to make a systematic program planning and their problems.

There are some terms that we should define them before paying attention to our discussions:


Curriculum :

According to Candlin (1984) curriculum is

1- a general statements about language learning, learning purpose , experience and evaluation of learning

2-It deals with the role of relationships between teachers and


3- it is a bank of learning items

4.- it contains suggestions about how these learning items might be used in class

Different phases of curriculum development:

 1)a planning phase( syllabus design)

  2)An implementation phase

  3)An evaluation phase


In language teaching there are some neglects on making a systematic curriculum . some specialists have focused on some part of curriculum , it means some focus on syllable design , some on methodology, the others on assessment and evaluation.


1 A syllabus is a document which consists, of a list. This list specifies all the things that are to be taught in the course .e.g.: a beginner's course / a six-year secondary school program…..

2- the items are ordered, usually components that are easier of more essential come earlier and more difficult and less important later.

3- syllabus has explicit objectives stated at the beginning of the document, based on this the materials are selected and ordered.

4-syllabus is a public document. It can be used not only by the teachers but also by the learners or their parents.

5- a syllabus may indicate a time schedule.

6- it may indicate a specific methodology or approach.

7- syllabus is more localized to class.

8- - it is based on what actually happens at class.

9- it is based on the level of the classroom

19- it is a modification to the curriculum and so developmental process is ongoing and cyclical.


As a general we can say: Curriculum is considered with the planning, implementation, evaluation, management and administration of education programmers.

Syllabus on the other hand, focuses more narrowly on the selection and grading of content.

Content of a syllabus:

The most important question for syllabus designer is:

where should the contents come from?

1.    In answering to this question , we shall look at techniques for getting information from and about learners for using in syllabus designing.

2.    In studying the content of syllabus we should consider the controversy which exists over the nature of language itself and their influence on making decision about what to include in the syllabus.

3.    It is realized that just a few teachers are in the position of being able to design their own syllabuses, the most are in a position to interpret and modify the syllabuses and put them into action.

4.    For preparing the content of the syllabus we must make judgments in selecting syllabuses components from all the options available to us.

5.    We need to make value judgments and decide what contents should be included or excluded in our syllabus.( this is one of the problems of syllabus designers.)

6.    the selection of content is more difficult we deal with short courses, because the shorter the course, the greater the need for precision(exact) in content will be felt

7.    Writers and course designers have to take a number of issues into account when designing their materials. According to these experts, ideas and beliefs about learning can be included into topics and content of their syllabus:

8.    A syllabus may consist of a book or booklet- if it is intended to cover all the courses in a particular context and it is separated from the actual materials used: e.g.: (a country's national syllabus for schools)

9.    the actual components of this list may be either content items (words, structures, topics) or process ones( tasks , methods)

10.           the content of a syllabus may be the materials- course books, visual materials or supplementary materials –either in general or where relevant to certain items or sections.


The range of authority in Using the syllabus:


1.    . How teachers use the syllabus varies very widely between different countries and institutions, and depends on financial resources as well as on teaching approach.

2.    Teachers may find it most effective to work mainly form the syllabus as the basis of their programme, drawing on specific materials as they need them.

3.    in other settings there may be a policy of allowing teachers complete freedom in designing their teaching programme, in such a case the syllabus may be ignored and teachers use their independent programmes and preferences .( this is very common when you work with mature students)

4.    Sometimes the coursebook and syllabus have the same author, here the use or non-use of the syllabus depends on the personality of the teacher and his or her willingness to put in extra effort to do so.

5.    Sometimes the syllabus has an extra role to play: as a source of information and reassurance for teachers who are not confident of their own knowledge of the target language.

6.    Sometimes the course you are to teach has a syllabus separate form your coursebook( about using or not using of course books we'll discuss later.)


Narrow and Broad approaches  towards syllabus designing :

Some language specialists believe that syllabus ( the selection and grading of content) and methodology should be kept separate .


Narrower approach:     1- There is a clear distinction between syllabus design and methodology.

2- in narrow view syllabus design is concerned with the selection and grading of content( it is whats of a language program.)

3- in this approach methodology is concerned with the selection of tasks and activities.( it is hows of language program.)

Broader approach:       1- They try to select a special method in teaching, mostly communicative language teaching.     ( during 1970s, communicative views of language teaching began to enter into syllabus design.

2- According to this approach there is no any definite distinction between content and tasks.

By developing of process, task-based and content syllabuses the traditional distinction between syllabus design ( whats of language teaching) and methodology( hows of language teaching) is unclear.


The role of the classroom teacher:

According to Bell (1983) most of the teachers are consumers of other people’s syllabuses, in other words, that their role is implement the plans of applied linguists, government agencies, and so on. While the others have a free hand in designing the syllabuses and prefer their own designing.

Task 1:

Study the following list of planning tasks: For which of these tasks does the classroom teacher have a primary responsibility?

-        Identifying learners' communicative needs

-        Selecting and grading syllabus content

-        Grouping learners into different classes or learning arrangements

-        Selecting/ creating materials and learning activities

-        Monitoring and assessing learner progress

-        Course evaluation


Task 2:

-        What are the advantages and or disadvantages of teachers designing their own syllabuses?

-        Can you think of any reasons why teachers might be discouraged from designing, or might not want to design their own syllabuses?

Different perspectives towards the curriculum of an educational institution :( planning of a curriculum):

We can study curriculum planning from the following perspectives:

1)needs and purpose .

a)                      select and grade contents ( being satisfied)

b)                      organize suitable learning arrangements

c)                      develop appropriate materials

d)                      establish the assessment and evaluation tools

2) curriculum “in action” (It means we look at the classroom itself :)

a)            we observe teaching/learning process

b)            we study the ways in which the intentions of curriculum planners are translated into action.

3)assessment and evaluation.

a)                             It means we want to find whether they have learned anything or not.

b)                            We find out what students had learned and what they had failed to learn according to this planning.

c)                             We try to judge the reason why some students are successful and why others are not.

d)                            We try to make some recommendations to improve the curriculum in future.

4) management of the teaching institution.:

a)            We look at the resources available in the institution and the way they are used.

b)               We study the limited resources of the institution

Note:          We should keep in mind that all these perspectives together are important in making a curriculum. So decisions made at one level are not in conflict with those made at another .for instance in courses based on principles of communicative language teaching, it is important that these principles are reflected in curriculum, syllabus design, classroom activities and tests of communicative performances.


Traditional vs. Modern views towards designing syllabuses:


 In Traditional aspect syllabus designers paid attention to grammatical, phonological and vocabulary items which were graded according to difficulty and usefulness. (They had linguistic oriented system)

The most important question in traditional aspect was:

What are the linguistic elements which the learners need to master?


 But in Modern approach the most important factor is concentrated on grammatical aspects of language along with functional skills to enable students to communicate successfully.

The most important question in modern approaches is:

What does the learner want/ need to do with the second language?


This new movement leads to the development of ESP ( English to specific purpose)

Traditionally there was a distinction between syllabus design and methodology but recently according to some designers the syllabus content might be specified in terms of learning tasks and activities


 the concept of General English?

1-    The great majority of learners want to learn general English (GPE) rather than English for specific purposes (ESP)

2-    According to Ingram (1984) general proficiency in English refers to the ability to use language in everyday, non-special situation.

3-    For most of the learners difficulty in some levels of English subjects is not because of their difficulty in grammar and vocabulary but at the level of discourse. So we can conclude that the nature of language in learning special English and general English has not been changed and both learners seem to use the same common stock, but unfamiliar discourse patterns which may cause some problems.

4-    According to some methodologists ESP restricts learners’ competence and enables them to cope with certain defined tasks. But GPE (general proficiency in English is an educational operation which provide a general capacity in facing undefined situations in future.)

5-    GPE and ESP both shared one thing in common: they intend to focus on the things that learners should know or be able to know as the result of instruction.

6-    Today syllabus designers have suggested that communication is a process rather than a set of product.


needs Analysis:

For writing a syllabus or curriculum we should collect information to recognize our needs.

For finding and collecting information we need some techniques which is called needs analysis:

Techniques and procedures for collecting information to be used in syllabus design is called needs analysis. ( these techniques have been borrowed from other areas of training like industry and technology.)

Task 3:


Which of the following statements represent specific language needs and which are more general?

1.    I want to be able to talk to my neighbors in English.

2.     I want to study microbiology in an English-speaking university.

3.    I want to be able to communicate in Greek.

4.    I want to read newspapers in Indonesian.

5.    I want to get a better job at the factory.

6.    I want to speak English.

7.    I want to learn English for nursing.


Needs analysis : Information taking for writing a syllabus:

These information can help teacher to:         

1- select the content

 2- Assign learners some class groupings based on their needs

  3- Modify the syllabus and methodology

4- Know why the learners want to learn the target language and what are the expectations and constraints and the resources for doing syllabus.

One of the problems of teaching engage with older students is that teaching to the older learners or those who have only experienced traditional educational systems) is difficult and there are some conflicts among teacher and students in this regard. These students mostly desire a grammatically-based syllabus and a clear instruction. By gathering suitable Information you can convince these students of the value of their approach being taken.

We have two kinds of data / information:

Objective information/data: are true information which do not require the attitudes and views of the learners to be taken into account.( like biographical information on age, nationality, home language…)

Subjective information/ data: are information which reflect the perceptions, goals and priorities of the learner( information on why the learner wants to learn a second language and which classroom tasks and activities he/she prefers.

                                                                                                                 Learner analysis

Types of needs analysis used by language syllabus designers:    

1.    learner analysis    

1- it is based on information about the learner.

2- for what purpose is the learner learning the language?

2.   task analysis   :   

1-it is used to specify and categorize the language skills required for real communication

2- The main question here is :( what are the skills and knowledge required for students to do communicative tasks?)

3-common sense would suggest that it is not necessary for each and every task to be taught in the classroom (impossible) so you can make a random selection of real-world tasks and teach them.

5-We can also select tasks which may resemble to real-world tasks and stimulate internal psychological learning processes. (Like traditional substitution drills)


Needs Analysis:

The model of John Munby (1978)to collect information for needs analysis:

According to Munby, it is important for the syllabus designer to collect information on each of these components:

1-    participant: it refers to identification of learner including: age –sex-nationality-mother tongue- command of target language..

2-    purposive domain: it refers to the purpose of learning target language

3-    setting: Under this parameter, the syllabus designer must consider the environments in which the target language is used.

4-    Interaction: here, the syllabus designer needs to consider the people with whom the learner interacts.

5-    Instruments:

1- medium( whether the language is spoken or written)

   2- mode (whether the communication is monologue or dialog, spoken or written, heard or read)

   3-channel (whether the communication is face to face – indirect)

6-    Dialect : the variety and or dialect is specified.

7-    Target level: the degree of mastery on target language which the learner needs

8-    Communicative event: the productive and receptive skills the learner needs to master

9-    Communicative key: The syllabus designer needs to specify the interpersonal attitudes which the learner needs to master

Criticism to the Model of Munby:

 it is too mechanistic and too little attention to the perception of the learner.

This approach has led to syllabuses with a focus on “English for Motor Mechanics and English for Biological Science”. Because it was assumed that there are certain aspects of language which they are specified to some special contexts and purposes and these aspects are not found in general English. Criticism of early needs analysis led to a change of emphasis on subjective information in syllabus designing.

General English ability

The expression was posed first by Ingram, and it means the ability to carry out commonly occurring real-world tasks. If asked to make a list of these tasks, they would probably list such things as asking for directions, asking for personal details, describing symptoms of illness to a doctor, understanding the radio, reading newspapers, writing notes to a teacher and so on. In fact they could probably generate endless lists of common everyday tasks. As we stated before it is not necessary to teach every task in the classroom. what the syllabus designer and the teachers must decide is which classroom tasks will ensure maximum transfer of learning to tasks which have not been taught. We can make a random selection of real-world tasks and we can select tasks which may bear little resemblance to real-world tasks .

Task 5

In answering the following questions, try and justify your position by stating why you think the tasks are or are not equivalent  with skills the learner will need to carry out the tasks.

1-    If someone were able to give a lecture on engineering in Chinese, do you think they would also be able to describe symptoms of illness to a doctor?

2-    If someone were able to describe symptoms of illness to a doctor in Chinese, do you think they would also be able to give a lecture on engineering?

3-    Would someone who is able to describe symptoms of illness to a doctor in English also be able to work as a waiter in an English- speaking restaurant?


The model of Humanistic education approach to collect information for needs analysis:

1.    Criticisms of early needs analysis led collection of information from an objective information toward a subjective information and data in syllabus design.

2.    Humanistic approach is based on this view:

1-    The learner should have a say in what they should be learning and how they should learn it

2-     Education should supply autonomy in the learner


Criticism to the model of Humanistic:

(The education system should develop independent learning skills in students so they may continue their education after the completion of formal education.)


1.     Some teachers feel learner independence learning loses their authority in the classroom.

2.    Some education authorities think that syllabus decisions should be made by experts not learners.

3.    Some learners themselves feel that if a teacher or instruction asks for the learner’s opinion it means that they do not know what they are doing.

Learning goals:

1.    an important step in the development of a language program is identifying learning goals .

2.    Learning goals may be derived from a number of sources including: task analysis, learner data, and ministry of education specifications.

3.    Many factors like the nature of the courses which derived from syllabus specifications, and the length of the courses will determine what is appropriate to set as goals.

4.    The term goal refers to the general purposes for which a language program is being taught or learned.

5.     We have different goals such as affective goals, learning goals, communicative goals and cognitive goals, but the focus is on communicative goals. Communicative goals are the general communicative activities in which the learners will engage in real-world target language use.

6.    the goals are useful for determining the learner needs and recognizing the constraints of the educational system and the length and scope of program

task 6:

study the following goal statements and determine the type of the goals .

-         " To encourage learners to develop confidence in using the target language."

-         " To develop skills in monitoring performance in spoken language."

-         " To establish and maintain relationships through exchanging information, ideas, opinions, feelings, experiences and plans."

-         " To develop the ability to study, in English at university."

Types of syllabuses:

Wilkins (1976) was first person who drew attention to the distinction between synthetic (product- oriented) and analytical (process –oriented) syllabuses.

Synthetic syllabuses have the following characteristics:

1.    The different parts of language are taught separately and step by step.

2.    The acquisition is a process of gradual combination of parts until the whole structure of language has been built up.

Analytic syllabuses have the following characteristics:

1.    Purposes for learning language

2.    The kinds of language performance to meet those purposes

3.     In this kind of syllabus learners are presented with chunks of language including structures with different degrees of difficulty.

4.    this syllabus isn't started with grammatical syllabuses but with communicative purposes for which language is used.

5.    In practice, courses will be classified as more-or-less synthetic or more-or-less analytic

6.    Although analytic syllabuses were supposed to replace the structural syllabuses but these two syllabuses both look very similar.(for example instead of learning about the simple past learners might talk about the things you did last week.)

7.    Unlike science, history, or mathematics, language is not a subject in its own right, but it is a vehicle for communicating about some thing else.

8.    According to analytical view language can be learned holistically, in ‘chunk'. It is opposed with the synthetic syllabuses in which we can only learn one thing at a time.

Types of syllabuses:

We have two different types of syllabi: product-oriented and process -oriented syllabuses.

Product syllabuses:

o       Also known as the synthetic approach, these kinds of syllabuses emphasize the product of language learning .

o       When we refer to process we mean a series of actions directed toward some end.

o       The product is the end itself.

o       E.g.: a list of grammatical structures is a product.

o       Structural syllabuses (grammatical and lexical syllabuses), situational syllabuses and functional/ notional syllabuses are of product syllabuses.

Process syllabuses:

o       Also know as the analytic approach, these kinds of syllabuses emphasize the process of language learning.

o       E.g. : classroom drilling given to the students in order to learn the structures is a process

o       E.g.: the interaction of two speakers as they communicate with each other is a process. A tape recording of their conversation is a product.

o       Procedural syllabuses, task-based syllabuses, content syllabuses and natural syllabuses are of the process syllabuses.

Grammatical syllabuses:

1-    The assumption behind grammatical syllabus is having a finite set of rules by which we can make infinitive meaningful structures.

2-    Another assumption is language transfer. It means the learner can use the aspects of a given language in communication outside the classroom.

3-    It is a list of grammatical structures, such as the present tense, comparison of adjectives, relative clauses, usually divided into sections graded according to difficulty and/or importance.

4-    In this kind of syllabus, a designer uses the list of graded structures.

5-    It is the most common syllabus type (traditionally and currently) which its material is selected and graded according to grammatical notions based on simplicity and complexity.

6-    In this kind of syllabus design the material of one lesson is a ground for the next lesson and the material in the next lesson is based on the previous lesson.

Criticizing grammatical syllabuses:

1-     The syllabuses based on structural-graded ( like grammar syllabuses)can not present the nature of language, because their focus is primarily on only one aspect of language, that is, formal grammar.

2-     There is no one-to-one relationship between form and function in language. Sometimes a form has more than one function and sometimes a given function has more than one form. Grammar syllabus can not explain this relation.

    3- In criticizing the grammar syllabuses there is an important argue: does the learner learn the grammar based on a fixed sequence that the teacher gives them in his/her syllabus designing or does the learner learn the grammar based on his/her" inbuilt syllabus" ?

o       Johnston (1985) concluded that the acquisition of grammatical structures will be determined by how difficult those items are to process psycholinguistically. Based on his view they tried to work on "third person's morpheme" which has a very simple structure, but they saw that this simple grammatical rule is very difficult for the learners to master. So Johnston and Pienemann suggest that the difficulty of the item for the learners is not because of the complexity of grammatical items, but because of the constraints of short-term memory. It means that the learner should keep in mind where the number and person in subject position is third person and then put the –s ending at the end of the verb.

o       Pienmann and Johnston use this theory to explain the order in which grammatical items are acquired. They suggest that structures will be acquired in the following stages:

o       Stage 1 : Single words and formulate

o       Stage 2: Standard word order.: Subject + verb+ object

o       Stage 3: Initialization / finalization. Final elements can be moved into initial position or vice versa: e.g.:  adverbs can be added to the beginning or end of clauses.

o       Stage 4: Internal elements can be moved to initial or final position, e.g. Words can be moved from inside the clause so the beginning or end of the clause.

o       Stage 5: Internal movement of the elements inside the clause.

4-. The above assumption is suitable but we should consider the following weak points:

o       The above syllabus is good if our groups of learners are at the same stage of grammatical proficiency.

o       Another problem in second language contexts is that learners need to use certain language structures ( such as wh-questions) almost immediately. These need to be taught as memorized formulae .

o       Finally, learners may need exposure to grammatical items in different contexts and over an extend period of time rather than simply at the point when the items become "learnable".

o       Another problem is that different aspects of grammar develop simultaneously rather than one structure being mastered at a time.


Rutherford’s theory on grammatical syllabus writing:

 One of excellent analysis of grammar was done by Rutherford (1987) :

ü           He suggest that grammar is a pivotal element in the syllabus.

ü     He believes that in learning grammar the learner needs direct contact with the target language.

ü     It is neither necessary nor possible to provide learners with exposure to all target language constructions, so the major task for syllabus designers is to identify those aspects of the grammatical systems form which learners can generate the most powerful generalizations.

ü     These structures must be made available to the learners at different stages of readiness and using appropriate pedagogic instruments.

ü      What he is arguing grammar is as process rather than grammar as product. He states that grammar learning should not be seen as the memorization of sets of grammatical items, but as the raising to consciousness in the learner of the ways grammatical and discourse processes operate and interact in the target language.

ü     The learner’s syllabus and the syllabus of the textbook or language program may not be in harmony, in order to determine its capability we must wait until the results of follow-up research become available.



Teaching grammar as process

 Rutherford argues for the inclusion of grammar as a central element in the curriculum

       Rutherford states not only the ordering of grammar based on structures is not suitable but ordering and grading of content also face with some problems because grading the content interfere with language acquisition which is more a global than a linear process.

       He believes that language acquisition is a cyclic process, or even a metamorphic one. That is, the learner is constantly engaged in reanalyzing data, reformulating hypotheses, making generalizations.

       Different aspects of grammar develop simultaneously rather than one structure being mastered at a time.

       The kinds of tasks that Rutherford suggests are as follow:

       Giving the students a series of sentences and asking them which items contain error and then correct them.

       Which is the most appropriate conversational response, why?( a series of dialogues given to the students)

       Which of the following statements are implied by the text? (a paragraph and a series of sentences given to them)

       Select the appropriate words to complete the sentences.

       Select the appropriate form of the sentences ( which one is grammatically formed)

       Show the relationship between the words in italics by drawing an arrow.( e.g.: relation between verbs and objects)

       What do the italicized words refer to ? ( cohesive and coherence ties in the paragraph)


Grammatical Items of beginner levels to lower intermediate levels  of the most general coursebooks are as follow:

-basic sentence forms                                                 -tense forms                                    - connectors

- verb morphology                                                        - questions                                       - noun phrases, including modifications

-noun morphology                                                        - negation                                         -adverbials

-quantifiers                                                                    - modal verbs

- demonstratives                                                          - pronouns

- definite and indefinite articles                                   - prepositions

Task 7 ( second project)


Compare and contrast table of contents of at least three grammar books (at intermediate or advance level )in their designing and arranging the materials. Which one do you prefer? Why?


lexical syllabuses:

1.    It is a list of lexical items and vocabulary (girl, boy, go away…), collocations and idioms, usually divided into graded sections.

2.    Issues of word formation (suffixes and prefixes…)

3.    Compound lexical items (multi-storey car park….)

4.    Connected and linking words (when, if,..)

5.    connotation and metaphors

note: it’s better to use lexical syllabus along with the other syllabuses during the term.

Criticizing lexical syllabuses:

1-one of the problem with lexical syllabuses is the relationship between lexis and grammar.( e.g.: Should phrasal verbs be taught as simple multi-word lexical items or as a grammatical class?)


2-If a grammatical item containing new words how should it be selected and graded?


3-writing syllabuses for individual words is easy but to make a truly lexical syllabus with a coherent order is not easy. (Such a syllabus needs to several hundred pages)


Situational syllabuses:


1.    A situational syllabus offers the possibility of selecting and sequencing different real-life situations rather than different grammatical items, vocabulary topics, or functions.

2.    A situational syllabus might look something like this: at the bank, at the supermarket, at the travel agency…

3.    Sections of the syllabus would be headed by names of situations or locations such as " Eating meal" or " in the street"

4.    Where students have specific communicative needs, you can organize teaching materials by the situations which students will need to operate.

5.    You as a syllabus designer can define the situation, the likely participants, and goals.

6.    Situational syllabuses are less appropriate for students of general English, because it is difficult to guarantee that language for one specific situation will necessarily be useful in another. 


Functional –notional syllabuses: (synthetic syllabuses)

1.    During 1970s philosophers and sociolinguists suggested another method for syllabus designing called functional-notional syllabuses.

2.    This is not to mean that functional and situational aspects of language was not surveyed before, but this is the first time that this view entered into language syllabus systematically.

3.    function as a general, means the communicative purpose ( like requesting , offering, inviting, agreeing  and disagreeing) and notion ,means the concepts that language can express (like number, time, place, color)

4.    Different parts of language are taught separately and step by step ( synthetic approach)

5.    According to this strategy acquisition is a process of gradual combination of parts to make whole structure of language

6.    Most of people believe in connection between synthetic approach of planning and grammatical syllabuses

7.    In this kind of syllabus our tasks and activities are based on real happenings and events.

8.    The emphasis here is based on receptive activities (reading and listening) and then goes to perceptive activities (speaking and writing)

9.    The functional –notional syllabus promotes activities which attempt to become a rehearsal practice for real-life communication

important elements in functional –notional syllabuses:

a)          learnablity: some structures or lexical items are easier for students to learn than the others, you can teach them first. ( e.g.: teaching "was and were" immediately after teaching of" is and are")

b)         frequency: At beginning levels you include items which are more frequent in the language then you can go to those which are used occasionally by native speaker.( e.g.: "to see" is more frequent to mean " understand" than " vision"): I see.

c)     Coverage: Some words and structures have greater coverage (scope for use) than others.( e.g.: "going to" is used in more situations than" present continuous" to show future.)

d)         Usefulness :you may first teach students useful words which are applied in real situation and students have more contact with them (e.g.: pen, book for classroom, mother, father,…)

Criticism to functional-notional syllabuses:

1.    In this kind of syllabus design the selection and grading of items is much more complex.

2.    Selection: Decision about which items include in the syllabus is difficult, especially when these materials should carry the communicative purposes. So here some sort of needs analysis is necessary.

3.    Grading: Grading of functional items is more complex , because there are few objective means for deciding that one item is difficult than another.

4.    .the problem here is that the learners may not be able to transfer what they have learned to new situations but will only be able to do in the limited situations.

5.    We can say that situational, contextual and extra-linguistic factors complicate the issues of simplicity and difficulty here.

Process- oriented syllabuses ( procedural syllabuses)

1.     According to this method the best way to write a syllabus is to create conditions for cope the grammar with meaning in classroom.

2.     As you get the form of knowledge subconsciously, so developing the knowledge should be subconsciously too.

3.     The conscious mind is working with meaning-content material but subconscious mind can perceives and acquires the linguistic structures which are embedded in those materials. So the focus here is based on subconscious learning.

4.     According to Nunan the planning, implementation and evaluation of the curriculum should be seen as an integrated set of processes.

Task based syllabuses:

1.    In this approach the selection of task is more important than objectives for teachers.

2.    Definition of task: It is a work or activity which is given to a student freely or for some reward, and it shows the process of understanding the language.

3.  We have two kinds of tasks:

·        real-world tasks     : are those tasks that the learner might be faced in real life.(needs of students)

·        Pedagogic tasks     : are those tasks which the learner should do them in classroom.

3.    Jane Willis lists six task types that can be used with almost any topics. These are: listing, ordering and storing, comparing, problem solving, sharing personal experience, and creative tasks.


Common points between procedural and task-based syllabuses:

1-    The basic principles of procedural and task-based syllabuses are very similar.

2-    Both syllabuses are organized around tasks rather than grammar or vocabulary.

3-    These tasks can be something like using the telephone to obtain information, drawing maps based on oral instructions, performing actions based on commands, giving orders and instructions to others.

4-    In both syllabuses the focus is on stimulating learning rather than linguistic forms.

5-    In both syllabuses the specification of the tasks and activities in class is important.


The selection and grading the tasks is another important factor in task –based syllabuses. The task is graded based on the difficulty of the activities.

The points which should be considered in designing the task.:

For selecting the tasks in classroom you can consider starting points as follow:

1-the subject matter to be taught  ۲-the abilities , needs and interests of the students

۳- materials ( those things that learner will observe)    ۴-the social and cultural context of instruction۵- the activities   ۵-select and sequence the tasks

۷- the goals for the task  8-classify the tasks



Grading tasks

1.    Most of the language teaching texts categorize class activities according to the needs of students. According to these books students need productive skills like speaking and writing more than receptive skills like reading and listening.

2.    according to Nunan the grading of difficulty in tasks and activities is determined by the learners’ response.

3.    one of the way for teachers is to give a piece of source material such as dialogue, a map or chart, a report, a newspaper article and then giving some activities based on level of difficulties and the level of students. And for more advanced students the task might be a discussion among a group of students which need inferences of students about the text.

4.    in some texts like ESP and content-based syllabuses the grading of content should be associated with the subject . for example in some subjects like science and mathematics there are certain concepts which should logically come before the others. Of course the familiarity of the students with the subjects can be another key for grading the activity and syllabus.

Content syllabuses:

1-    Content syllabus is based on analytical approach.

2-    This syllabus is mostly used in adult ESL classes which the focus is on skills and knowledge.

3-    As in this kind of syllabus the focus is based on some labels like health, education and social services it makes some confusion for the learners in understanding the aim of program, it means they think the subjects are about settlement and social affairs rather than language, here teacher should clarify the problem for them.

The natural approach:

This approach first pose by Krashen and Terrell( 1983):

1-    the goal is communication skills

2-    comprehension precedes production

3-    production emerges( learners are not forced to respond)

4-    the focus is on subconscious activities

5-    the stress and filter is lowered

6-    this approach is designed to develop basic personal communication skills in oral and written form.

Levels of source material ( Nunan):

according to Nunan material source should be divided into three levels:

 1- processing level

 1-At basic level ,students may respond to questions physically or non-verbally. e.g.: you give the new words and their meanings to the students and then play the tape.

2-students can raise their hands every time they hear the new words.( physical and nonverbal)

3- students may read the new words in a grid box. And whenever they hear the new words on tape they tick in suitable box.(non-physical, non-verbal)

4-teacher can give the students a written gapped text to students and then play the tape and get the students to fill the gap. (non-physical, non-verbal)

2- Productive level:

1- in this level the teacher may get the students to listen and repeat the drills of the tape

2-  teacher can give students some drills which they should verbally complete the missing words or complete the rest of the drills.

e.g.: students hear: “ Have you got a family?”

       they respond: Have you got a family?

       Tape:            “a son”

       Students complete the drill: Have you got a son?

       Tape:            “a daughter”

      Students complete the drill: Have you got a daughter?

3-teacher for producing a meaningful practice for the students may get them to ask and answer questions using cue cards.

e.g.: teacher give the sentence to students: have you got( a/an/any)--------?

                        Cue cards:          family/ children/ son/ daughter/ uncle aunt/niece/nephew


3- Interactive level:     

1- role playing: a teacher may give the students some role-play activity.

e.g.: teacher gives the students a role card which contains a person and a family tree. Students have to circulate and find members of their family.

2- discussion activity  :teacher put students into small groups and ask them to take turns and describe their families using the structures already practiced.

3- problem solving activity:  teacher gives the students a blank family tree. And divide the students into some groups. Each group tries to complete some parts of the tree and then all groups try to complete the whole tree.


The level of difficulty of a reading /listening task

1-    According to Brown and Yule in listening task the level of difficulty is based on the number of persons who are talking in tape.( monologue texts are easier)

2-    The texts which are not addressed to the listener may be boring and difficult to process.


3-    The texts which the listeners have a limited amount of a background is difficult to comprehend. So a listening text which has more than one speaker and which is not addressed to the listener and in which the topic is unfamiliar to the Listener will be more difficult to comprehend than a monologue text with a familiar topic which is addressed to the listener.

4-    The other factors which make a text more difficult are the type of the text and its complexity which can affect on the level of difficulty.

e.g.: description is easier than instruction texts and this kind of texts is easier than storytelling.

5- the other factor for increasing the level of difficulty is the number of elements , properties , relationships between events and characters.

6- the chronological order and sequence of the events make a task more easier.


The term objective is full of debate in the nature of objectives and its precision

 (In interactive approaches)  1- objectives are useful to select the structures, functions, notions, tasks

                                                2-To give the learners a clear idea about what they expect from a language program

Types of objectives:

We have three kinds of objectives:

1.    based on teacher activity( problem: objectives are achieved but the learners learn nothing in the class)

2.    based on classroom activities( problem: there is no logic here and the links between the instructional goals and the classroom objectives are not clear.)

3.    based on student behavior(performance objectives) It is the best way and the objectives here are to provide ability in students to achieve the instruction. these kinds of objectives are called performance objectives)

Performance objectives in language teaching:

Performance objectives are learner-centered and have become popular

·        In recent years students are involved in planning, implementation and evaluation of the curriculum.

·        In this kind of approach the learners should be fully informed about course. So giving information is very important. It means if you ask the student” why do you take part in this class ?” he/she could reply: to understand the news on television, or obtain goods and services as a tourist …..

Components of performance objectives:

1-the performance components (It means what the learner is to be able to do)

2- The condition components (it means the conditions under which the learner will perform in class. These conditions should be specified to make precise settings and make the grading of objectives easy)

3- The standard components (it means that all sentences which are comprehensible may be unused for non-native speakers.

Criticizing performance objectives:

What may suit for one teacher , subject, situation or student  group may be inappropriate to another. Setting the objective is time-consuming and difficult.

Course books

Use or not use of coursebooks:

For years methodologists have been arguing about the usefulness of coursebooks, questioning their roles, defining their use, worrying that they act as methodological boundaries.

Benefits :

1.    good coursebooks are carefully prepared to offer a coherent syllabus, control on language, motivate texts, tapes and other accessories such as videotapes, CD-ROMs, extra resource materials, and useful web links.

2.    students like coursebooks too since they see their progress during the course and the books are completed.

3.    O'Neill says that teachers feel that textbook as a base of material is used as a  jumping-off points for the class. Both students and teachers use the examples, the written exercises and the grammatical material of the textbook  and the appendixes and glossaries can be used as references.

4.    the beginning teacher needs a text that has many and varied exercises.


1.    coursebooks impose learning styles and contents on classes and teachers can have little control on it.

2.    Many of them rely on presentation, practice and production as their main methodological procedure.

3.    Units and lessons often follow and monotonous order and students and teachers eventually become de-motivated by the sameness of it all.

4.    in providing texts the teacher has the problem of kinds of examples which should be included in the text , the other problem is how much cultural points should be presented and to what extent, how much grammar, lexicon and the other skills should be included in the text book.

Analysis of Text books:

Although a text may seem to comply with the needs and interests of the students, the aims and goals of the course may fail, therefore the second step requires an analysis, a careful examination of the content of the textbook, the teacher's manual and any supplementary material presented at class.

For analyzing the textbooks we have the following guidance:

A text book can be analyzed from different perspectives:

1- Bibliographical data:

·        what are the title, level of proficiency, authors, publisher, date of publication, number of volumes, number of pages, and price of the textbook?

·        Is it self- contained or part of a series? Are there accompanying materials, such as a workbook, a teacher's manual, and audiovisual aids?

2- aims and goals:

·        What are the aims and goals of the text?

·        What languages skills and cultural understanding does the text intended to develop?

·        What is the distribution of emphasis among the language skills( listening, speaking, reading, writing)? How much material is covered? Is the distribution of new teaching points evenly spread throughout the text or do some lessons contain too much material, while others have too little?

·        For whom is the text intended? Who are the learners? Who are the teachers?

3-subject matter:

·        What subject matter (topics, contexts) is covered? Is it presented through interest, necessity and/ or linguistic needs?

·        What is the conceptual level(concrete vs abstract)?

·        How are the units and lessons organized?

·        How is culture presented? Is it integrated in the texts, dialogs, and exercises or is it treated as supplemental or optional material? Is it free of biases?


·        What and how many teaching points are selected and emphasized?

·        How are the grammar rules presented? Are they stated or unstated? Is an inductive(from examples to rules) or a deductive( from rules to examples) or do the authors use an approach which interrelates both the inductive and deductive approaches?

·        How are the grammatical points sequenced?

5-    vocabulary:

·        How is the vocabulary chosen? Is it based on frequency counts, communicative , sociocultural functions?

·        Is attention paid to roots, inflectional ending(e.g.: plurals, possessives, past tenses, cognates, synonyms, antonyms ?

·        Is the vocabulary summarized in some way(e.g.: in a foreign-language dictionary section or in a bilingual list)?

6-    vocabulary and structures:

·        what is the text's level of readability and does it match that of the students?

·        Are the basic patterns and vocabulary included in the text sufficient for the level of complexity the text achieves or is required by the syllabus?

·        What pedagogical considerations prompted the presentation and sequencing of nouns, verbs, sentence patterns, modifier structures and vocabulary?

·        Were they simple to complex? Easy or difficult? Regular vs. irregular verbs ( teach irregulars before regulars to avoid overgeneralization) are the material useful for classroom and community? Are the materials co-occurrence?  (teach items that go together( he is big, he is not small.)

·        Do some chapters present too much material and others too little, or is there an even distribution of grammatical and vocabulary material among the chapters?

·        Are grammatical presentations clear and complete enough for the students?

·        Are new vocabulary and structures repeated and integrated in subsequent lessons in a cyclic pattern for reinforcement?

·        Is standard English (including idioms, but excluding substandard dialects, slang, and  obscure regional idioms in nonadvanced texts) used?

·        Does the writer use sentence structures that follow normal word order? Are they simple or complex sentences? Do the sentences and paragraphs follow one another in a logical sequence?

·        Is punctuation covered?

·        Does the text distinguish between British and American English with regard to vocabulary and grammatical structures?

·        Does the text differentiate between formal and informal speech and writing patterns with regard to vocabulary and grammatical structures ?


7-    Exercises and activities :

·        What kinds of exercises are provided? Translation, pattern practice(substitution), reading< writing,(sentence completion, cloze, spelling, dictation, guided composition)?

·        Do the exercises promote internalization by encouraging a student's active participation(writing summaries of stories, picture paraphrasing, paired or small conversation groups, games and simulation activities such as role-playing and problem solving)?

·        Do the exercises refer to realistic activities and situations?

·        Do they develop comprehension and test knowledge of main ideas, details, and sequence of ideas?

·        Is there a pattern of review within lessons and do the exercises test new materials?

·        Are there activities which provide for the development of study skills, such as skimming, note taking, outlining. Looking up words in the dictionary?

·        What type and amount of supplementary exercises are presented for listening comprehension, speaking (pronunciation, intonation, and communication), reading and writing?

·        Are they appropriate to the age, level and background of the students? Would they be of interest to them ?

·        If the text is for students from the same language background, does it present a chance for them to practice speaking and hearing the sounds most difficult for them to pronounce and distinguish?


8-    Layout and physical makeup:

·                    What does the book look like? Is it attractive (i.e., cover, page appearance, binding)? Does its size seem convenient for the students to handle?

·                    What kind of type size is used? Are simple graphics(e.g., boxes, shadows, arrows, colors)used to clarify teaching points?

·                    Is there artwork and what kind? Is the artwork related to the text or is it only there for decoration?

·                    Is there a table of contents? Does it indicate where to locate specific structures and their exercises? Is there and index of new vocabulary items and their location in the text? Are there appendices and other end matter with maps, verb summaries, a glossary?

·                    Is there a teacher's manual?( a teacher's manual refers to a guidance for the teachers which shows the text's objectives, methodology, subject matter, sequence of grammar points. A  manual includes syllabus guides for that level. A manual should definite which type of teachers can use it , a near-native fluent teacher or a nonnative English-speaking teacher?


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