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How to design a structural-lexical syllabus



A structural-lexical syllabus is one where the principle objective is for the learners to acquire the grammatical structures and vocabulary of the language they are learning.


The benefits of a structural-lexical syllabus are as follows:

  • The learner moves from simpler to more complex structures and may grasp the grammatical system more easily
  • If learners are also doing grammatical analysis, it may fit in well with what they are discovering about the language.

The potential disadvantage of the structural-lexical syllabus is that it does not address the immediate communication needs of the learner who is learning a language within the context of a community where the language is spoken. In fact, the sociolinguistic aspects of communicative competence are not in focus at all in a strictly structural-lexical syllabus. It is therefore more useful in a context where the language learner does not have immediately communication needs.

  Follow these steps to design a structural-lexical syllabus:
  1. Decide on a set 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. Decide on 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. Sequence the vocabulary categories, putting what you think will be the more commonly used and more concrete vocabulary earlier, and the more abstract and less-commonly-used later.
  4. Fit the sets of structures and vocabulary together into sets of learning objectives, on which to base the units of your syllabus.

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