We live in times of innovation and creativity. New ways of living and working emerge every day. Across our communities we can see integration replacing segmentation. CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is one example of this process. It promotes convergence between the learning of content – school subjects like math and geography – and language. CLIL is the fusion between content and language, and encourages autonomous and collaborative learning. If you want a practical insight into how the learning of both content and a second language can be combined into a single educational experience, read on.
The CLIL Approach
CLIL is a dual-focused teaching approach, in which a second language is used for the learning of both content and language. The CLIL strategy mainly consists of using a language that is not the students’ native language as a means of instruction and learning.
It is the students’ desire to understand the content that motivates them to learn the language. In language classes in particular, students will learn more if they are not simply learning language for language’s sake, but using it to accomplish concrete tasks and learn new content.
The Benefits of CLIL Teaching
The main focus of CLIL is on content as opposed to form. Learning language patterns by heart and memorizing facts in any subject area are unlikely to contribute to their long-term acquisition. For people to acquire new knowledge and skills, they usually need not only to access new information, but also to connect that information with their own existing knowledge and skills.
It is widely accepted that we usually acquire our first language effortlessly and rapidly. One distinguishing feature of CLIL is to replicate the conditions to which infants are exposed when learning their native language. CLIL aims to expand the student’s learning capacity by tuning into the natural way the child learnt his or her first language. Language becomes the means and not the goal.
A CLIL Lesson in 60 Minutes
A typical CLIL lesson plan could include the following:
- Watch a short video that connects loosely with the topic. This is a soft warm-up, aiming to activate existing knowledge. (2’)
- Discuss language, content and learning skills outcomes with students. (5’)
- Find out what the students already know and what they want to learn about the topic. Students write these down in note form. (8’)
- Pre-teach the target language in as many ways as possible (i.e. with images, listening, realia etc.). (10’)
- Students individually read a short text looking for specific information. (5’)
- Students compare results from the reading and create something new, such as a plan or a list of recommendations. (10’)
- Ask the entire class to think critically about how they could improve the end result of their group work. (5’)
- Students present the group’s outcome, followed by discussion with the entire class. (10’)
- Review the lesson’s learning outcomes (students write down what they have learnt) and decide on the next steps. (5’)
General Tips on Teaching CLIL
- It is safe to assume that the majority of students entering school have very little or no prior knowledge of the CLIL language. So, although they are encouraged to use the CLIL language from the outset of the first lesson, they will often answer questions in their native language. This is natural and should not be discouraged.
- At the start of a CLIL programme, students learning in a second language will become tired more quickly than students studying in their first language. Their attention span will be short, as CLIL students need not only to concentrate on the content, but on understanding the language as well. This means that the teacher may need to modify the length of the activities of CLIL lessons to keep everybody engaged.
- Students must be rewarded not only for being right, but for being close to right. Taking risks should be rewarded.
- Students can be asked to write instructions themselves for an activity or rewrite unclear instructions.
- As a language teacher, it is very useful to work with a content teacher to teach the language curriculum using materials from a content subject.
- Classroom management itself can become tricky. Initially there may be some resistance to the CLIL method, especially in classes where the students are used to a teacher-centred approach. The teacher should let them know what sort of behavior is expected from them: Support and don’t make fun of each other.
For many teachers, just thinking about developing a CLIL programme can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing. Like any instructional method, it requires a certain amount of dedication from the teacher. But the benefits of CLIL in language teaching are manifold. It can be a very intuitive, natural way to teach and learn. Most of all, it can do wonders with student motivation and create a sturdy scaffolding on which to build linguistic progress.
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