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You'll want to know about CLIL and how to use it...


CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning, which means using English to teach another subject, or using another subject to teach English. The CLIL philosophy proposes that "all subjects are language lessons" because Math, Science, or even PE have their own terms, names, and vocabulary for students to learn.

  However, there's not a lot of ready-made materials or training programs out there to help you teach both a language and a subject at the same time. But CLIL is worth the effort! It can help develop functional fluency, and even extending a student's learning of another subject, not least of all improve student motivation for learning English. Because using English to talk about English isn't very exciting... But using English to learn about Technology is another story!

"All teachers are teachers of language"

  Some subjects which are good for CLIL are Math, Art, Science, and World History. Generally, these lessons begin with students reading a text about that is comprehensible for their language or interest level. To do this, a teacher should ask themselves; 'What language will be necessary for students to understand this text?' and then pre-teach the key terms and vocabulary ahead of time. This could be done by having students match words with definitions or pictures, filling in gaps on a worksheet, or helping them to discover the meanings by reading the text and guessing the meaning of terms from the context of the text.

  An easy to understand text will often have lots of visual clues, such as key terms in bold, with headings, subheadings, diagrams, and illustrations to help express the point of the text. It's important not to be too ambitious with CLIL materials, in fact CLIL lessons should be review or expansions to content that students have already spent time with.

  Try planning a CLIL lesson that highlights the grammar points they've already learned in their dedicated English lessons with the new context of a different subject. Recycling and introducing English phrases with vocabulary and terms from another subject.

  Of course designing a custom lesson plan for your students is great, but designing a CLIL lesson can take a lot of time. Because teachers must plan both the language and the subject matter. There are many online resources, including the 'Simple English' version of Wikipedia to help. But most CLIL teachers recommend using a subject textbook for native English speakers at a lower skill level than your students. The content should not be too difficult for your students, but provide an authentic context to the English vocabulary and subject matter. Plus, a textbook will have lesson plans with activities already built in, all that remains is for you to design activities that reinforce the language necessary for students to understand key parts of the textbook.

Possible activities would be to have students listen, or read and then:

  • Fill in or label a diagram / picture / map / graph / chart

  • Fill in the gaps to a worksheet depending on information (dates, figures, times)

  • Reorder or draw lines connection information

  • Identify location/speakers/places

  • Order and label the stages of a process / instructions / sequences of a text

"Real-world context for learning English"

Having students speaking ad lib is a benefit of a CLIL lesson. Activities could be supported by set phrases or semi-fixed expressions, but the real-world setting of introducing English 'into-the-wild' of another subject ought to lead to spontaneous and original English use from students.

Typical speaking activities might include:

  • Survey Activities - questions and answers, terms and definitions, halves of sentences

  • Information gap activities with a worksheet to support

  • Word guessing games

  • 20 Questions - provide language support frame for questions

  • Student presentations with a visual aid

  CLIL is a great way to bring some extra life and context into an English lesson, or bring some extra language value into a subject lesson. It might be a worthy challenge for the veteran or ambitious English teacher, but students will certainly appreciate the extra depth!

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