TeachingEnglish
CLIL: A lesson framework

In the first of these articles, Content and Language Integrated Learning, I gave an introduction to this field. In this second article I will look more closely at how CLIL is realised in the classroom and suggest a framework for planning CLIL lessons.

  • Underlying principles
  • Classroom principles
  • Lesson framework
  • Conclusion

 

Underlying principles
The principles behind Content and Language Integrated Learning include global statements such as 'all teachers are teachers of language' (The Bullock Report - A Language for Life, 1975) to the wide-ranging advantages of cross-curricular bilingual teaching in statements from the Content and Language Integrated Project (CLIP). The benefits of CLIL may be seen in terms of cultural awareness, internationalisation, language competence, preparation for both study and working life, and increased motivation.

While CLIL may be the best-fit methodology for language teaching and learning in a multilingual Europe, the literature suggests that there remains a dearth of CLIL-type materials, and a lack of teacher training programmes to prepare both language and subject teachers for CLIL teaching. The theory may be solid, but questions remain about how theory translates into classroom practice.

Classroom principles
Some of the basic principles of CLIL are that in the CLIL classroom:

  • Language is used to learn as well as to communicate
  • It is the subject matter which determines the language needed to learn.

 

A CLIL lesson is therefore not a language lesson neither is it a subject lesson transmitted in a foreign language. According to the 4Cs curriculum (Coyle 1999), a successful CLIL lesson should combine elements of the following:

  • Content - Progression in knowledge, skills and understanding related to specific elements of a defined curriculum
  • Communication - Using language to learn whilst learning to use language
  • Cognition - Developing thinking skills which link concept formation (abstract and concrete), understanding and language
  • Culture - Exposure to alternative perspectives and shared understandings, which deepen awareness of otherness and self.

 

In a CLIL lesson, all four language skills should be combined. The skills are seen thus:

  • Listening is a normal input activity, vital for language learning
  • Reading, using meaningful material, is the major source of input
  • Speaking focuses on fluency. Accuracy is seen as subordinate
  • Writing is a series of lexical activities through which grammar is recycled.


For teachers from an ELT background, CLIL lessons exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Integrate language and skills, and receptive and productive skills
  • Lessons are often based on reading or listening texts / passages
  • The language focus in a lesson does not consider structural grading
  • Language is functional and dictated by the context of the subject
  • Language is approached lexically rather than grammatically
  • Learner styles are taken into account in task types.

 

In many ways, then, a CLIL lesson is similar to an ELT integrated skills lesson, except that it includes exploration of language, is delivered by a teacher versed in CLIL methodology and is based on material directly related to a content-based subject. Both content and language are explored in a CLIL lesson. A CLIL 'approach' is not far removed from humanistic, communicative and lexical approaches in ELT, and aims to guide language
processing and supports language production in the same way that an ELT course would by teaching techniques for exploiting reading or listening texts and structures for supporting spoken or written language.

Lesson framework

A CLIL lesson looks at content and language in equal measure, and often follows a four-stage framework.

Processing the text
The best texts are those accompanied by illustrations so that learners can visualise what they are reading. When working in a foreign language, learners need structural markers in texts to help them find their way
through the content. These markers may be linguistic (headings, sub-headings) and/or diagrammatic. Once a 'core knowledge' has been identified, the organisation of the text can be analysed.

Identification and organisation of knowledge
Texts are often represented diagrammatically. These structures are known as 'ideational frameworks' or 'diagrams of thinking', and are used to help learners categorise the ideas and information in a text. Diagram types include tree diagrams for classification, groups, hierarchies, flow diagrams and timelines for sequenced thinking such as instructions and historical information, tabular diagrams describing people and places, and combinations of these. The structure of the text is used to facilitate learning and the creation of activities which focus on both language development and core content knowledge.

Language identification
Learners are expected to be able to reproduce the core of the text in their own words. Since learners will need to use both simple and more complex language, there is no grading of language involved, but it is a good idea for the teacher to highlight useful language in the text and to categorise it according to function. Learners may need the language of comparison and contrast, location or describing a process, but may also need certain discourse markers, adverb phrases or prepositional phrases. Collocations, semi-fixed expressions and set phrases may also be given attention as well as subject-specific and academic vocabulary.

Tasks for students
There is little difference in task-type between a CLIL lesson and a skills-based ELT lesson. A variety of tasks should be provided, taking into account the learning purpose and learner styles and preferences. Receptive skill activities are of the 'read/listen and do' genre. A menu of listening activities might be:

  • Listen and label a diagram/picture/map/graph/chart
  • Listen and fill in a table
  • Listen and make notes on specific information (dates, figures, times)
  • Listen and reorder information
  • Listen and identify location/speakers/places
  • Listen and label the stages of a process/instructions/sequences of a text
  • Listen and fill in the gaps in a text

 

Tasks designed for production need to be subject-orientated, so that both content and language are recycled. Since content is to be focused on, more language support than usual in an ELT lesson may be required.
Typical speaking activities include:

  • Question loops - questions and answers, terms and definitions, halves of sentences
  • Information gap activities with a question sheet to support
  • Trivia search - 'things you know' and 'things you want to know'
  • Word guessing games
  • Class surveys using questionnaires
  • 20 Questions - provide language support frame for questions
  • Students present information from a visual using a language support handout.

 

Conclusion
From a language point of view the CLIL 'approach' contains nothing new to the EL teacher. CLIL aims to guide language processing and 'support language production in the same way as ELT by teaching strategies for
reading and listening and structures and lexis for spoken or written language. What is different is that the language teacher is also the subject teacher, or that the subject teacher is also able to exploit opportunities for
developing language skills. This is the essence of the CLIL teacher training issue.

Further reading
Forum for Across the Curriculum Teaching - www.factworld.info/
Comenius Project TL2L - www.tl2l.nl/
European Centre for Modern Languages - www.ecml.at/
Norwich Institute for Language Education - www.nile-elt.com
Science Across the Curriculum - www.scienceacross.org
EuroCLIC - www.euroclic.org
The National Centre for Languages (CILT) - www.cilt.org.uk
Content and Language Integrated Project (CLIP) - www.cilt.org.uk/clip/

Steve Darn, Izmir University of Economics, Turkey

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