Am I CLIL-ing correctly? Top Tips for a New CLIL Teacher

Education background conceptual of teaching the English language with a jumbled pile of colourfull uppercase alphabet letters

Let’s talk languaging!

Read for insights on how to survive the day-to-day ins and outs of the contemporary CLIL Classroom.

Wait, what’s CLIL? Let’s recap…

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. It is an approach where students learn the content of one/many subject area(s) through a second language. This is done simultaneously so that direct connections are made to both subject and language content.

A successful CLIL classroom should truly integrate the language and content. Success is measured when both the subject matter and language are learnt. But how do I know if I am CLIL-ing correctly?

1. Passion and Enthusiasm
Adopting a new approach requires grit, energy and an innovative spirit. You may feel lost at the start but remember that the start of anything new is never without challenges. Focus on the benefits of CLIL to your learners and maintain your concentration. A burning passion and endless enthusiasm for teaching will soon see you soon swimming happily with the professionals.

2. A Good Teacher is a continuous Learner
CLIL teachers are expected to pay close attention to both language and content in their lessons in order to accomplish the dual-focused goal of this approach. This may sometimes require you to introduce methodological changes in your classroom in order to make learning more memorable and meaningful. Broaden your knowledge and skill base by checking out some of these communicative language strategies:
Total Physical Response or TPR is based on coordination of language and physical movement. Its methodology is rooted in the way that children learn their mother tongue. It’s fun, engaging and easy to integrate with other subjects! Role playing is another excellent way to get students talking and using physical movement while learning. Students become immersed in using the language to verbalise the subject area, improving creativity, communication skills and content knowledge. It’s also a fantastic assessment tool for the teacher!

Show and Tell is brilliant at getting your students to speak confidently. Make it a mainstay in your classroom so students feel comfortable to bring in items, stories, props to show and talk about with the class. As students become more confident, you align the items for Show and Tell to the content areas that are integrated – Science, Music, Social Studies? The possibilities are limitless with this strategy.

3. New Roles
CLIL requires that we make some ‘radical’ changes to how we approach foreign language and subject lessons. Subject teachers who have been accustomed to teaching their specializations in their mother tongue will now be asked to re-think and re-jig their lessons so that they can be delivered in a foreign language. On the other hand, language teachers must recognise that they are no longer teaching ONLY language; they will become subject teachers as well. CLIL lessons are both conceptual and linguistic in their objectives. It is clear that teachers will have to shoulder added responsibilities and be expected to produce plans and deliver lessons that are dual-focused. This would mean new roles or rather a re-definition of roles for CLIL teachers. Embrace the opportunity with open arms and welcome the challenge that will certainly enrich your teaching repertoire.

4. Teamwork
CLIL requires ALL teachers on staff to work closely together in order to successfully implement truly integrated content and language lessons. This translates into collegiality and teamwork among teachers and their departments. It is absolutely vital that subject and language teachers come together to join their knowledge and expertise. Regular planning meetings should happen where joint assessments, resources and ideas
are discussed and shared. Language and subject teachers should also regularly collaborate on integrated projects that span more than one department AND the language department. Such cooperation and teamwork will ensure the success of CLIL.

5. The Four Cs: Content, Communication, Cognition and Culture
For CLIL to work and perform best, there are four general parameters of which you should always be aware – Content, Communication, Cognition and Culture. Content refers to the subject matter, themes and cross-curricular topics. Content focuses on the inter-relationship between subject matter – language (communication) – thinking (cognition) – awareness of self and others (culture). Communication of course refers to the language of, for and through which the subject matter is taught. Language should be learnt in context where the student reconstructs the subject matter through his/her own cognitive processes. Cognition speaks to thinking processes that are necessary in order to analyse the linguistics demands of the language (communication) and of the subject matter (content). Culture is a hallmark of language. The relationship between culture and language is
intertwined and complex. For this reason, intercultural awareness is fundamental to the CLIL approach.

The four Cs should be used as the framework for creating and delivering successful CLIL lessons.

Reproduced with permission

6. Scaffolding
In the educational context, scaffolding is basically support, much like how it works in the construction world. You must always consider ways in which you can bring the language AND content to each student’s level. Scaffolding requires an intimate knowledge of your students’ individual levels of learning so that you are able to provide supports to ensure that meaningful learning is taking place.
For example, you can pre-teach subject vocabulary before the formal content lesson. This way, you are able to isolate key terms that are necessary for understanding the meat of the lesson. Pre-teaching vocabulary gives students an opportunity to interact with the main ideas in manageable chunks before the lesson in delivered in its entirety. Another great scaffolding technique is by using visual aids and mnemonics so that
learners are able to connect the dots (for themselves!) thereby ensuring your lesson is a success.
Another simple scaffolding strategy is activating prior knowledge about the topic. As teachers, we usually introduce new topics by building on previous knowledge and skills that our learners possess. In this way, they are able to build a bridge to the new content.

Let me know what works for you. Leave a comment below! What are your top tips for a new CLIL teacher?

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