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Genre-Based Pedagogy

The Genre-Based Pedagogy component of the IPAP project is a research study on the effectiveness of genre-based pedagogy on the writing proficiency development of college-level Spanish heritage language learners (HLLs). This component is conducted in collaboration with the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at John Jay College, and it has three stages: curriculum development, piloting and data collection, and data analysis.

Macrobased Approaches to Language Education

The Heritage Language education field is in agreement that macrobased approaches to language education are uniquely positioned to serve the unique needs of Heritage Language Learners (HLL; for information on who are heritage language learners visit this page). Genre-based pedagogy is a macrobased pedagogy. For an introduction to these approaches and the difference between micro- and macrobased approaches to language instruction, you can read Maria Carreira’s 2016 chapter on the topic (see list of resources below), which forms the basis of the description we include below.

What is a Macrobased Approach?

“Macrobased” refers to a top-down approach in which language teaching is guided by function and context: The instructional starting point is texts in context, and these texts determine the language “building blocks” (grammar, vocabulary).

In this approach, students engage in activities involving reading and writing contextualized texts, listening to and discussing native input (documentaries, lectures, plays, etc.), and examining intercultural competence. These activities take place in the students’ zone of proximal development, that is, using activities that learners technically can carry out, but only with appropriate assistance (Vygotsky, 1978). To provide this assistance, teachers incorporate instructional strategies that tap into students’ background knowledge and language skills to help them learn the new grammar and vocabulary in the text. Therefore, the teacher decides what grammar and vocabulary to teach based on what knowledge is needed to understand the text. It is in this respect that teaching moves from the top (general) down to the bottom (specific); that is, from the content (text) down to the linguistic building blocks (grammar/vocabulary) that make up the content, instead of the other way around.

How do the macrobased and microbased approaches differ?

In contrast to the macrobased approach, microbased teaching is a bottom-up approach in which the linguistic building blocks of language guide the instruction. The instructional focus progresses from words to sentences to paragraphs to discourse. Students learn grammar and vocabulary in isolation and then complete reading and writing activities in which they interact with the newly learned grammar and vocabulary. In that way, the language component being studied dictates or determines the content.

In summary, both micro- and macrobased approaches include grammar and vocabulary instruction, but they differ in that the microbased approach places grammar and vocabulary at the forefront of instruction, whereas the macrobased approach centers on function, integrating grammar and vocabulary lessons in order to make the content comprehensible.

Why is the macrobased approach particularly appropriate for heritage language learners?

With a macrobased approach, teachers can build up from students’ existing knowledge of their heritage language (HL). Speaking skills can be scaffolded into writing skills, listening skills can be scaffolded into reading skills, and home-based registers can be scaffolded into more general and academic genres of the language. In other words, the macrobased approach allows teachers to use HLLs’ skills as a resource to expand their linguistic and content knowledge, validating what learners bring to the task of language learning.

Furthermore, because macro-based approaches work from the understanding that the texts learners read require contextualization, they are also easily aligned with critical language approaches, which allow for addressing linguistic and sociocultural issues relevant to learners’ experiences in an integrated way rather than as separate phenomena.

Macrobased Pedagogy Resources


Carreira, M. (2016). Supporting heritage language learners through macrobased teaching: Foundational principles and implementation strategies for heritage language and mixed classes. In M.A. Fairclough & S.M. Beaudrie (Eds.), Innovative strategies for heritage language teaching: A practical guide for the classroom (pp. 123–142). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

This chapter discusses the use of macrobased (also known as top-down) approaches in heritage language (HL) teaching, focusing on foundational principles, classroom strategies, and issues of implementation. The chapter presents three college-level programs and a high school STARTALK program that instantiates best practices in macrobased teaching. Particular attention is given to mixed classes (i.e., classes with HL learners and second language [L2] learners) because of the difficulties they present for instantiating these other best practices of HL teaching.

Community-based language learning

Pereira, K. L. (2018). Community Service-Learning for Spanish Heritage Learners: Making Connections and Building Identities (Vol. 18). John Benjamins Publishing Company.0

This book proposes community service-learning as a critical pedagogy that connects learners and communities to address key challenges in heritage language education. The book’s purpose is two-fold: to fill a crucial gap in empirical research on community service-learning in the heritage language context, as well as to provide language educators and practitioners essential guidelines for designing community service-learning courses, with particular attention paid to the characteristics and needs of Spanish heritage language learners. This book presents compelling evidence demonstrating the central role community service-learning plays in developing heritage language learners’ identities, connections to the heritage language community, language attitudes, and social, cultural, and sociolinguistic awareness. Importantly, this book also addresses the often-overlooked perspectives of community partners and liaisons. As the first original research monograph on community service-learning for Spanish heritage language learners, this pioneering book will undoubtedly aid students, instructors and administrators across all levels of language education.

Petrov, L. (2013). A Pilot Study of Service-Learning in a Spanish Heritage Speaker Course: Community Engagement, Identity, and Language in the Chicago Area. Hispania, 96(2), 310-327.

This article presents research findings from a pilot study of the use of service-learning in an intermediate-high class (“Spanish Language and Culture for Heritage Speakers”) in the fall semesters of 2010 and 2011. Students reported gains in the areas of communication skills, dispositional learning, language, identity formation, and identification and solidarity with Latino communities of the greater Chicago area. The author argues that service-learning in this context not only serves the goals of the discipline of teaching Spanish language and Hispanic cultures, but that it is also potentially transformative for students. Service-learning engages with social justice education, as well as education for democracy, pointing the discipline in a promising direction as Latino student enrollments continue to grow in the years to come.

Genre-based language learning

A good place to start learning about implementing genre-based second and heritage language education in the U.S. with K-12 and college learners is Francis Troyan’s recent book:

Troyan, F. (2020). Genre in World Language Education: Contextualized Assessment and Learning. In Genre in World Language Education. Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429321009

Ideal for methods and foundational courses in world languages education, this book presents a theoretically informed instructional framework for instruction and assessment of world languages. In line with ACTFL and CEFR standards, this volume brings together scholarship on contextualized, task-based performance assessment and instruction with a genre theory and pedagogy to walk through the steps of designing and implementing effective genre-based instruction. Chapters feature step-by-step lesson designs, models of performance assessment, and a wealth of practical and research-based examples on how to make languages explicit to students through a focus on genre. Including sections on Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, and other major world languages, this book demonstrates how to effectively teach and assess world languages in the classroom.

Here you will find more key readings for the genre-based approach, including some on theory and other focused on implementation, both for K-12 and college learners:

Brisk, M. (2015). Engaging students in academic literacies: Genre-based pedagogy for K-5 classrooms. New York: Routledge.

The Common Core State Standards require schools to include writing in a variety of genres across the disciplines. Engaging Students in Academic Literacies provides specific information to plan and carry out genre-based writing instruction in English for K-5 students within various content areas. Informed by systemic functional linguistics—a theory of language IN USE in particular ways for particular audiences and social purposes—it guides teachers in developing students’ ability to construct texts using structural and linguistic features of the written language. This approach to teaching writing and academic language is effective in addressing the persistent achievement gap between ELLs and “mainstream” students, especially in the context of current reforms in the U.S. Transforming systemic functional linguistics and genre theory into concrete classroom tools for designing, implementing, and reflecting on instruction and providing essential scaffolding for teachers to build their own knowledge of its essential elements applied to teaching, the text includes strategies for apprenticing students to writing in all genres, features of elementary students’ writing, and examples of practice.

Byrnes, H., Maxim, H., & Norris, J. (2010). Realizing Advanced Foreign Language Writing Development in Collegiate Education: Curricular Design, Pedagogy, Assessment. The Modern Language Journal, 94, i-235.

This monograph presents in detail the genesis, design, and implementation of a full-scale curricular innovation in a U.S. university German foreign language studies program, with a primary focus on writing development. Its goal is to demonstrate and articulate how college educators, from typically diverse scholarly persuasions, might conjointly craft a much-needed response to calls for change in tertiary foreign language and cultural studies departments. After sketching the contemporary landscape of and challenges in collegiate foreign language studies, it theorizes an approach to educational design that is at once theoretically grounded in genre-based literacy development, legitimately responsive to both literary-cultural and language developmental values of faculty, and practically focused on student achievement of very advanced learning outcomes. Turning from ideation to application, the monograph then reports extensively on the actual curricular scope and sequence, genre-based pedagogies, and associated assessment practices that were developed and implemented in a four-year undergraduate German program. The emphasis throughout the monograph is on explaining why and how decisions were made while also demonstrating the outcomes of these decisions in the form of practicable educational efforts and products. It closes by arguing the need for additional inquiry-driven program innovation of the sort reported here, if the value of college foreign language studies is to be enhanced, perpetuated, and, fundamentally, realized.

Derewianka, B., & Jones, P. (2016). Teaching language in context (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Language is at the heart of the learning process. We learn through language. Our knowledge about the world is constructed in language-the worlds of home and the community, the worlds of school subjects, the worlds of literature, the worlds of the workplace, and so on. It is through language that we interact with others and build our identities. Teachers’ explanations, classroom discussions, assessment of student achievement, and students’ understanding, composition, and evaluation of texts are all mediated through language. In this book, the authors explore how an explicit understanding of how language works enables students to make informed choices in their use and understanding of texts.

Teaching Language in Context 2e is an introduction to the language that students encounter in the various curriculum areas as they move through the years of schooling and it will enable teachers to:
– plan units of work that are sensitive to the language demands placed on students
– design activities with a language focus
– select texts for reading at an appropriate level
– analyse texts to identify relevant language and visual features
– create teaching materials that integrate an awareness of language
– help students to access meanings created through a variety of media (written, spoken, visual, multimodal)
– provide explicit support in developing students’ writing and composing
– assess students’ written work
– extend students’ ability to articulate what they are learning.

In this second edition, there is an increased emphasis on the multimodal nature of texts, particularly the relationship between image and language, and the place of visuals in supporting students to master the literacy demands of the curriculum. The book also recognises the increasingly elaborate texts found in the more complex literacy tasks of upper primary and lower secondary classrooms.

Eggins, S. (2013). An Introduction to Systemic Functional Linguistics. London: Continuum.

New edition of a best-selling introduction to systemic functional linguistics explores the social semiotic approach to language most closely associated with the work of Michael Halliday and his colleagues. An approach which views language as a strategic, meaning-making resource, systemic linguistics focuses on the analysis of authentic, everyday texts, and asks both how people use language to make meanings, and how language itself is organised to enable those meanings to be made.

The book offers both an overview of systemic theory and illustrations of how systemic techniques can be applied in the analysis of everyday texts. Written for students who may have little or no formal knowledge of linguistics, it covers most of the major concepts in systemic linguistics. In addition, it introduces readers to Halliday’s functional grammatical analysis of English clauses, and presents the essentials of the systemic analysis of cohesive patterns in text.

With its systemic theory of the relationship between language and context, systemic linguistics has applications in many fields where an understanding of how language functions to transmit social structure is important, in , for example, language education, cultural studies, stylistics, and women’s studies. The book provides an accessible first step into systemics for those who wish to equip themselves with the conceptual and practical tools to analyse and explain how people make meanings with each other in everyday contexts.

Halliday, M.A.K. (1993). Towards a language-based theory of learning. Linguistics and Education, 5, 93–116.

Despite the fact that educational knowledge is massively dependent on verbal learning, theories of learning have not been specifically derived from observations of children’s language development. But language development is learning how to mean; and because human beings are quintessentially creatures who mean (i.e., who engage in semiotic processes, with natural language as prototypical), all human learning is essentially semiotic in nature. We might, therefore, seek to model learning processes in general in terms of the way children construe their resources for meaning- how they simultaneously engage in “learning language” and “learning through language.” A number of characteristic features of language development, largely drawn from systemic-functional studies of infancy, childhood, and early adolescence, offer one possible line of approach towards a language-based interpretation of learning.

Halliday, M. A.K. (1999). The notion of “context” in language education. In M. Ghadessy (Author), Text and context in functional            linguistics (pp. 1-24). Amsterdam: J. Benjamins.

The principle that language is understood in relation to its environment is nowhere more evident than in the activities of language education. This principle was explicitly recognized when scholars first began observing spoken language, since it was impossible to interpret spoken text in isolation from its context; but it is equally true of all text, spoken or written. It is true also of the linguistic system that lies behind the text; but whereas the environment for language as text is the context of situation, the environment for language as system is the context of culture. In the course of education, language figures in three different guises: as substance (learning language: mother tongue, second/foreign language), as instrument (learning through language: school subjects such as science, history …), and as object (learning about language: grammar, styles/registers, history of words, …). If the context is theorized in linguistic terms as another stratum in the organisation of language itself, this enables us to model its variation and complexity, taking account of the differing situational contexts for different levels and kinds of teaching/ learning activities, as well as the processes and the institutions of education and the different cultures within which these are located.

Lavid, J., Arús, J., & Zamorano-Mansilla, J. R. (2012). Systemic Functional Grammar of Spanish: A Contrastive Study with English. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

This book offers a systemic-functional account of Spanish, and analyses how Spanish grammatical forms compare and contrast with those of English. The authors analyse Spanish according to the three main ‘metafunctions’: ideational, interpersonal, and textual.

The result is a comprehensive examination of Spanish grammar from the clause upwards. Presupposing little or no knowledge of Spanish, this book will be of interest to researchers in Spanish language, systemic functional linguistics or contrastive linguistics.

Martin, J. (2009). Genre and language learning: A social semiotic perspective. Linguistics and Education, 20(1), 10-21.

This paper provides a basic introduction to the genre-based literacy research undertaken over the past three decades by educators and functional linguists in Australia and their innovative contributions to literacy pedagogy and curriculum. It focuses on the concept of genre, its place within the model of language and context developed as systemic functional linguistics, and the implementation of this concept in learning to read and write. This approach to genre is illustrated with respect to the synthesis of a story genre built in steps through key choices for lexis, grammar, and discourse structure.

Martin, J. R., & Rose, D. (2008). Genre relations: Mapping culture. London: Equinox.

This book provides an introduction to genre analysis from the perspective of the ‘Sydney School’ of functional linguistics. Chapter 1 introduces our general orientation to genre from the perspective of system and structure, and places genre within our general model of language and social context. Chapters 2-5 deal with five major families of genres (stories, histories, reports, explanations and procedures), introducing a range of descriptive tools and theoretical developments along the way. Chapter 6 deals with a range of issues arising for genre analysis in a model of this kind.

Genre Relations has been written for a readership of functional linguists, discourse analysts and educational linguists, including their post-graduate and advanced undergraduate students.

Rose, D. (2021). Literacy Education and Systemic Functional Linguistics. In Susan Conrad, Alissa J. Hartig, Lynn Santelmann (Eds.), The Cambridge Introduction to Applied Linguistics, (pp. 115-132). New York: Cambridge University Press.

This chapter illustrates M.A.K. Halliday’s concept of an appliable linguistics. It outlines an approach to teaching spoken and written language that has been developed over many decades in the research tradition of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), known as genre-based literacy pedagogy. The term genre refers to the ways that texts vary according to their social purposes. Genre-based literacy pedagogy (or simply genre pedagogy) guides learners to recognise and use the text structures and language patterns of different genres in their reading and writing. This chapter starts with the SFL model of text-in-context. It then introduces analyses of two sets of genres in education. One set is the genres of educational curricula, such as stories, explanations, procedures, arguments. These are known as knowledge genres. The other is the genres of classroom teaching and learning. These are termed curriculum genres. Genre pedagogy is then exemplified with extracts from a science literacy lesson.


Multiliteracies pedagogy

Zapata, G. C., & Lacorte, M. (2018). Multiliteracies pedagogy and language learning: teaching Spanish to heritage speakers. Palgrave Macmillan.

This book is the first volume to be devoted to the examination of the application of the multiliteracies pedagogical framework to the teaching of Spanish to heritage language learners in higher education institutions in the United States. The Hispanic population is a growing minority, and the presence of heritage speakers can be observed in second language Spanish classes in all levels of education, which presents unique challenges for practitioners. This collection focuses on differing populations of learners in educational settings in a variety of geographical areas, such as Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. The studies included in the volume offer invaluable data and methodological insights into the instructional advantages of multiliteracies pedagogies in heritage language classrooms, and they will appeal to Spanish practitioners.


Project-based language learning

Carreira, M., Hitchins Chik, C., & Karapetian, S. (2019). Project-based learning in the context of teaching heritage language learners. In Gras-Velazquez, A. (Ed.), Project-Based Learning in Second Language Acquisition: Building Communities of Practice in Higher Education (pp. 135- 152). New York, NY: Routledge.

This chapter considers project-based learning (PBL) in the context of teaching heritage language learners (HLLs). According to the Buck Institute for Education, PBL involves students working for a prolonged period time on a task that is complex and addresses a real-world challenge or need. While the instructor sets the general parameters for topic selection, students have a say in choosing a specific angle on which to work. In this way, engagement is promoted and sustained over the course of defining a problem, collecting information, processing or analyzing the resulting data, and producing a final product that reports on the outcome. This could take many forms: a pamphlet, poster, webpage, written report, oral presentation, or even video. Regardless of the form, however, all products are developed for a real-world audience. Progressing from topic selection to product completion is carefully structured by the instructor: The process is broken down into manageable steps with clear rubrics at each stage, and opportunities are provided to study models of the final product in the target language, present/discuss the project “so far,” and receive ongoing, in-depth feedback throughout the unit, including on early drafts of the final product. Each step aims to give students opportunities to work with authentic input and produce high quality output.

PBLL resources from the National Foreign Languages Resource Center:


The NFLRC defines PBLL as a transformative learning experience designed to engage language learners with real-world issues and meaningful target language use through the construction of products that have an authentic purpose and that are shared with an audience that extends beyond the instructional setting.

PBLL can be conceived as a series of language learning tasks that are articulated toward a common goal: the construction of a public product representing a response to a challenging problem or question.

NFLRC work on project design is informed by PBLWorks guidelines and materials, such as Gold Standard PBL: Essential Project Design Elements and High-­Quality Project­-Based Learning (HQPBL). These two complementary sets of guidelines, which took shape in the early and late 2010s, respectively, provide slightly different vantage points on well-designed PBL. The NFLRC made a conscious decision to base its work on PBLWorks guidelines and materials because they are widely used across schools in the U.S. and provide a common referent for project design for teachers in all content areas. The use of a common pedagogical model also helps to create opportunities for language instructors to collaborate with instructors in other disciplines. The integration of world language pedagogy, standards, and research into project design and teaching practices is central to all NFLRC work on PBLL.


The Mentoring PBLL Teachers program leverages the experience and expertise of a skilled cadre of veteran PBLL practitioners as resources supporting the professional learning of the rising generation of new PBLL practitioners. The mentors will be world language teachers who have completed the NFLRC PBLL Summer Institute, professional development offered by the Buck Institute for Education / PBLWorks, or other extended professional learning,  and have implemented PBLL in their classes. The mentees are world language teachers who are interested in learning about PBLL and how to implement PBLL in their classrooms. One mentor will be paired with one mentee through a semester to provide support and consultation about PBLL. Mentors will also share their personal experiences and knowledge in adopting PBLL. Mentors and mentees will use open educational resources (OERs) on PBLL developed by NFLRC as supporting materials. The mentoring will be conducted virtually via email, phone, or videoconferences. After completing the mentoring program and submitting an evaluation survey, the mentor will be awarded with a digital badge as a PBLL Mentor.

The NFLRC invites prospective mentors and mentees to sign up as part of the mentorship database. The NFLRC performs mentor-mentee matching based on requests submitted by mentees. Mentor-mentee matches are based on mentees’ preferences to the extent possible. See below for more information on adding yourself to the database.

The materials used for the mentoring experience have been exclusively created to meet the professional learning needs of less-experienced PBLL educators. The first four of the ten available lessons are remixes of material featured in previous NFLRC PBLL professional learning events. Six additional lessons feature interviews with experienced practitioners addressing a range of topics in PBLL praxis. Interviews were conducted by Marisa Varalli, a PBLL practitioner in the San Francisco Unified School District.

The mentor and the mentee will work together over a period of one semester. A first meeting will help them establish their connection. In at least three subsequent meetings during the mentorship, the mentee will complete a selection of at least three of the online lessons. The mentor and the mentee will collaborate to determine which online lessons will be the most beneficial for the mentee to complete. In addition, if possible, the mentor will embed the mentee into one of his or her online language classes. Similarly, if the mentee’s institution permits it, the mentor could be embedded into the online language course that the mentee is in the process of developing. If neither option is possible (depending upon the institutional policies of the mentor/mentee), then the mentor and the mentee will spend their meeting time together discussing planning and execution of PBLL projects. The mentorship will conclude with one final (fifth) meeting to wrap up details of the internship and to check that all badging requirements have been fulfilled.

The mentor and the mentee will communicate throughout the program on a regular basis so that the mentor can answer questions and check that the assigned tasks were completed. Upon completion of the program, both the mentor and the mentee will fill out an evaluation form.

and researchers, as well as those interested in the education and practice of heritage languages.


Virtual exchanges

Cultura Site: https://cultura.mit.edu/

Cultura is an intercultural project that connects groups of students online to help them understand each other’s culture. A Cultura exchange is typically based in a language class and involves two partner teachers and two groups of students from two different cultures.

In the guide you will find resources for teachers, including ideas and materials to support both online and classroom learning.

If you are interested in starting your own Cultura exchange, you can use our Cultura exchange tool and be hosted at MIT. You will be able to easily create questionnaires, open forums, and manage students groups. Your exchange will also become part of our archived Past Exchanges.

If you prefer to host your own exchange on your school server, we have also created a free open source tool.

The Cultura project has been running since 1997. Our archives are a rich source of linguistic and cultural data and include exchanges in English, French, Russian, Spanish, and German, among others. To see what students have shared with each other over the years, we invite you to explore past exchanges.

Cultura-inspired virtual exchanges for heritage language courses https://iletc.commons.gc.cuny.edu/materials-resources/heritage-telecollaboration/

ILETC Tellecolaboration Project


Recognizing that Heritage language classes are particularly ripe for telecollaborative learning—Heritage Language Learners (HLLs) have complex linguistic identities, and benefit greatly from academic experiences that engage their awareness of cultural and linguistic contexts and their points of connection‑ILETC has designed and piloted telecollaboration modules for heritage Spanish and Mandarin Chinese courses at four-year and community colleges. This website provides free access to the sample modules, as well as to a collection of reviews of relevant research, suggestions for free telecollaborative technology tools, and information on relevant conferences and professional development opportunities for telecollaboration in language education.