During your TEFL course, professional development, at conferences or even just when talking to other teachers, you’ve probably heard the term CLIL before. If you are like me, the first time you heard the term, you probably nodded your head and made a mental note to look it up. I mean CLIL…what is it, and what does it have to do with teaching English? Well, fear not, this post is going to clear things up.
Content language integrated learning (CLIL) has been a buzz word in the industry since the early noughties. Read on to find out whether this is a real and ongoing trend that you need to pay attention to, and how you can integrate it into your classroom.
First off, CLIL isn’t anything new. Though the term CLIL was created by David Marsh from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland in 1994, in practice it’s been going on since ancient times whenever two cultures with two different languages integrated as part of a larger empire or group. David Marsh defines CLIL as referring to: “situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of the content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language.”
The obvious benefits of this type of learning for the student are that it is simply learning two things for the price and time of two. Why just take an English class when you could learn about marketing and English at the same time. CLIL has been widely accepted by international schools that have different language speakers all in the same classroom.
The limitations of CLIL in this type of setting are that it requires the learner to have a certain base knowledge of English to take part in the class. Without this, the learner will require a lot of language assistance both in and out of the classroom. Also, it may result in the student losing confidence and failing to learn in two subjects at the same time.
For most TEFL teachers, providing that base level of English is the bulk of our job. Teaching mathematics or Biology at your English center probably wouldn’t attract many students. Likewise, very few of us TEFL teachers would be qualified to do so. If that’s the case, how should TEFL teachers be using CLIL in their classrooms?
The good news is that you are probably using CLIL without even realizing it. Anytime that a young learner book has an extension like learning about the ancient Egyptians or a simple science experiment, that is CLIL. Any time that you discuss, read about, listen to or learn vocabulary about a specific topic in teen or adult textbooks, you are doing CLIL. Anytime you do a project or roleplay in class that isn’t just an everyday social situation, that is CLIL.
So, to clarify this, learning how to deal with everyday situations like asking about bus times, giving basic personal information or asking directions; you ARE NOT really using CLIL. Whenever you read/discuss/write/listen to audio about hypnotism, the possibility of the existence of aliens, ancient cultures etc. you ARE using CLIL. This type of learning usually happens when Young Learners get to Flyers 1 in their level or as low as Elementary level with teens and adults. Basically it is what we mean by creating a context to learn about and use language beyond everyday situations.
For Young Learners and Teens
My suggestion with Young Learners, and even teens, is to find out what they are interested in. The topics, grammar and vocabulary that come up in the book naturally lend themselves to more CLIL focused lessons. If the students are learning about the simple past, there is nothing stopping you from having a lesson where they learn about the life of a historical figure or someone from pop culture. You could then have them prepare simple presentations or essays describing someone who they are interested in and major events in their lives.
If you’d like to gain access to a survey for teens to get an idea of what they are interested in, click on the button below.
If they are learning about adjectives to describe something, doing very simple science experiments can be fun. You can give them the instructions, tell them what they are looking for and then they have to give or write down the results of their observations. There are countless resources for these types of experiments (here is one that I’ve used). They are fun, don’t take that much prep and can be used to teach a variety of language.
Other successful CLIL lessons that I’ve done successfully have been learning and writing about movies, learning about and writing specific types of poems (e.g. Haiku), simple research projects about a specific topic (e.g. volcanoes), learning about advertising and then creating advertisements. The list is limited only by your imagination. The key is to find materials for their research or that you will bring into the classroom that are at the students’ level. These are out there, but require guided searches. Be specific when you use the search engine of your choice and be sure to include EFL, ESL, for kids, etc. when searching for a specific thing. Google has some good resources for teaching your kids how to be better searchers.
The good news here is that almost all adults have a specific purpose for learning English. They know exactly what they want to learn more about, or work in a field where it is easy to determine what they need to know. For a private lesson, you simply need to do a needs analysis with the student and find a way to integrate needed vocabulary. For lessons taught for a business this is also fairly simp
To gain access to a needs analysis survey for adults, click on the button below.
A few months back I was teaching a service English class for a popular restaurant in my area. As I had a lot of experience in the service industry before I became a teacher, it was easy for me to develop a curriculum with plenty of CLIL lessons. An example of this was a two part breakfast lesson. A large part of one of the lesson was talking about and actually cooking eggs in different styles then, while eating our creations, discussing what we liked/didn’t like about them. They learned about eggs, they learned the English surrounding this t
With larger classes of adults from different walks of life, it’s not possible to please every student every time. That said, I still advise that you give each student a needs analysis form and see if there’s any overlap. Create role plays that are useful for everyone. Come up with discussion topics that are relevant to all of them.
As I mentioned in the beginning, you are probably already using CLIL in your classrooms. Now, prepared with the knowledge of what CLIL is and how to use it, you’re prepared to not simply nod the next time it comes up with another teacher. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be the one using this buzzword and taking joy in others’ bewildered expressions.