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How to develop a multi-focus syllabus



A multi-focus syllabus is one which includes a variety of elements, specifically structures, functions and notions, situations and topics.


The benefits of a multi-focus syllabus are as follows:

  • Some of the limitations of the other types of syllabuses are avoided, because there are a variety of elements addressed.
  • It can allow for a two-pronged approach, in which one prong emphasizes working systematically on structures and vocabulary to build up general linguistic knowledge, and the other prong concentrates on meeting immediate communicative needs and on building up sociolinguistic and pragmatic competence.

Here are some potential disadvantages of the multi-focus syllabus:

  • Since there are more elements to weave together into a syllabus, it might take more planning time and "book-keeping".
  • It might be harder to sequence than a structural-lexical syllabus.
  Follow these steps to develop a multi-focus syllabus:
  1. Make a list of structures to be learned and arrange them in increasing complexity, from simple clauses to complex sentences and discourses.

    Chapter 4.2 of Kick-starting your language learning for a suggestion of a progression of structures and activities that can be used to learn them.

  2. Make a list of categories of vocabulary to be learned

    Chapter 4.1 of Kick-starting your language learning for suggestions on categories of vocabulary to include in your language learning.


    If you are designing a program to learn a language you do not know, obviously you won't know the specific vocabulary words to include here. You will have to elicit or discover them as you do your lessons.

  3. Make a list of communication functions you want to include in your syllabus.

    Common Purposes or Functions of Language for suggestions of communicative functions to use.

    See also:

    Guidelines for a Language and Culture Learning Program for suggestions as to what functions might be appropriate for different stages of learning, and Chapter 4.3 of Kick-starting Your Language Learning for Thomson's list of communication functions.

  4. Make a list of the communication situations you want to be able to operate in, and order them from
  5. Make a list of topics you want to be able to discuss, and the associated categories of vocabulary.
  6. Decide how you will combine the various elements of your syllabus into units.

Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 3.5, published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 1999. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 8 December 1998

© 1999 SIL International