The Different Types of Syllabus According to Reilley

Although six different types of language teaching syllabi are treated here as though each occurred “purely,” in practice, these types rarely occur independently of each other. Almost all actual language-teaching syllabi are combination of two or more of the types. The characteristics, differences, strengths, and weaknesses of individual syllabi are defined as follows:

1. Structural (formal) Syllabus
    • The content of language teaching is a collection of the forms and structures, usually grammatical, of the language being taught.
    • Examples include nouns, verbs, adjectives, statements, questions, subordinate clauses, and so on.
2. A notional/ functional syllabus
    • The content of the language teaching is a collection of the functions that are  performed when language is used, or of the notions that a language is used to express
    • Examples of the functions include: informing, agreeing, apologizing, requesting; examples of notions includes age, size, color, comparison, time, and so on.
3. Situational syllabus
    • The content of language teaching is a collection of real or imaginary situations in which language occurs or is used. A situation usually involves several participants who are engaged in some activity in a specific meeting.
    • The language occurring in the situation involves a number of functions, combined into a plausible segment of discourse.
    • The primary purpose of a situational language-teaching syllabus is to teach the language that occurs in the situations.
    • Examples of the situations include: seeing the dentist, complaining to the landlord, buying a book at the bookstore, meeting a new student, and so on.
4.  A skill-based syllabus
    • The content of language teaching is a collection of specific abilities that may play a part using language.
    • Skills are things that people must be able to do to be competent in a language, relatively independently of the situation or setting in which the language use can occur. While the situational syllabi group functions together into specific settings of the language use, skill-based syllabi group linguistic competencies (pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and discourse) together into generalized types of behavior, such as listening to spoken language for the main idea, writing well-formed paragraphs, giving effective oral presentations, and so on.
    • The primary purpose of the skill-based instructions is to learn the specific language skill.
    • A possible secondary purpose is to develop more general competence in the language, learning only incidentally any information that may be available while applying the language skills.
5. A task-based syllabus
    • The content of the teaching is a series of complex and purposeful tasks that the student wants or needs to perform with the language they are learning.
    • The tasks are defined as activities with a purpose other than language learning, but, as in the content-based syllabus, the performance of the tasks is approached in a way intended to develop second language ability.
    • Tasks integrate language (and other) skills in specific settings of the language.
    • Task-based teaching differs from situation-based teaching in that while situational teaching has the goal of teaching the specific language content that occurs in the situation (pre-defined products), task-based teaching has the goal of teaching students to draw on resources to complete some piece of work (a process). The students draw on a variety of language forms, functions, and skills often in an individual and unpredictable way, in completing the tasks.
    • Tasks can be used for language learning are, generally, tasks that the learners actually have to perform in any case. Examples include: Applying for a job, talking with a social worker, getting housing information over the telephone, and so on.
6. A content-based syllabus
    • The primary purpose of the instruction is to teach some content or information using the language that the students are also learning.
    • The students are simultaneously language students and students of whatever content is being taught.
    • The subject matter is primary, and language learning occurs incidentally to content learning. The content teaching is not organized around the language teaching, but vice-versa.
    • Content-based language teaching is concerned with information, while task-based language teaching is concerned with communicative and cognitive processes.
    • An example of content-based language teaching is a science class taught in the language the students need or want to learn, possibly with linguistic adjustment to make the science more comprehensible.