In my previous post I referred to one of the challenges of integrating foreign language and curricular content learning in some contexts like Argentina

 Even if such integration is featured at state or bilingual education, one shortcoming is common: lack of teacher education and qualifications to teach language AND content.

 

In many countries, it has been suggested that the best way to overcome this situation is by promoting team teaching. By team teaching, in the CLIL/CBI environment, we mean the working together, for planning and/or teaching one class, of a foreign language teacher and a subject teacher. For example, if my school has decided to introduce CLIL by offering Geography in English in secondary education, then I, the English teacher, will be working hand-in-hand with the Geography teacher. This ‘joint venture’, so to speak, has the benefit of bridging the gap between language knowledge and non-language knowledge involved in this integration; however, it has been reported that it doesn’t do wonders everywhere. Below, you’ll find some examples:

 

  1. Mehisto (2008) in a study on CLIL in Estonia asserts that in some schools teacher resistance to work together was so great that integration had to be abandoned as student achievement began to decline in both language and content.
  2. Troncale (n/d) and Stoller (2004) suggests that there must be systematic coordination since, when CLIL is more language-oriented, teachers tend to choose topics which are not necessarily their students’ needs in both their personal as well as academic spheres.
  3. Creese (2005) reports on the lack of institutional time and school structure to facilitate any joint planning. What is more, when CLIL is content-oriented, the language teacher is usually shadowed by the content teacher who wants his learners to know History, for example, without any simplifications or adaptations needed for language learning. This tension between teachers (Barwell, 2005) shows clear fractures in the classroom which affect learners’ success directly. Kong (2009) also states that content teachers tend to stress content neglecting both language learning and the foreign language teacher even inside the classroom they share.

 

 

In my own context, we’ve decided to try out CLIL in the last year of secondary school. In our case, it’s language-oriented. In brief, the EFL subject offers students to revise/learn Geography in English. Therefore I am teaching Geography and English simultaneously, though English is central and Geography serves as context for language learning. Because it was hard to even meet with the content teachers (lack of time, no time or room for planning, unwillingness to pair up with language teachers) we decided to only ask them for the Geography syllabi in the school and once we got that we started planning together among the three EFL teachers.

 

The point I’m making is that when team teaching between language and content teachers doesn’t seem to work, the second option, at least in our context due to the characteristic that English as a subject is offering a ‘CLILish’ approach, is to explore team teaching among the language teachers.

 

How does it work?

 

  •          We get together and look for material we can use following the Geography syllabi available.
  •          We divide contents and plan lessons around the four skills and vocabulary, grammar appears following ‘grammar awareness’ or ‘grammar noticing’ within skills. We try to combine contents already familiar with new topics.
  •           We exchange materials, activities, notes, resources.
  •           Each one teaches one class and sometimes, we may group two classes together and teach them together (the school structure is not prepared for other possibilities as we’re all teaching different classes at the same time).
  •           We also meet with content teachers during breaks to ask them about some specific aspects and possible sources for materials. 

Benefits

  •           It’s a great opportunity to exchange ideas and beliefs about teaching.
  •          It’s also a great chance to see my fellow teachers teach and benefit from their experience.
  •          The fact that we plan together and exchange activities is just ‘glorious’ as that saves us a lot of time, I take one activity to share and come back home with two more.
  •           There’s strong cohesion among teachers as we all know the what’s and how’s of each class.

 

Shortcomings

  •           It’s not always easy to co-teach one class.
  •           Sometimes we lack expertise in the content we teach.
  •           We may be seen as elitists.

 

 

Having said this, I’d like to know whether anyone in this site is exploring team teaching, whatever the interaction, and how it works in your own context.

 

Hope to hear from you all,

 

Darío

Comments

Hello, Darío, and everyone who is interested in this issue. I think you have raised an interesting topic, and I would like to make a small contribution, from my experience. I also live and work in Argentina and in the bilingual school where I work, team teaching in two languages has been applied in pre-primary  (ages 3 to 5) since 1989. In every classroom there exist two teachers, a Spanish-speaker and an English-speaker, though both can speak the two languages. All sessions are held by both teachers simultaneously. One speaks one language (say Spanish)  and the other makes comments in the other (say English). No one translates what the other has said, but the Spanish-speaker -all the children's first language being Spanish - makes sure everyone has understood what the English teacher has said, by checking comprehension or clarifying through comments. For example: ST: ¡Hagamos una torta! ET: Have we got enough sugar? ST: Sí,  creo que alcanza, ¡mira! and so on.  At first students feel curious about these two people communicating in different language codes. However, after some weeks, even when they are three years old, they begin to greet the Spanish teacher by saying 'hola' and the English teacher by using 'hi'. They associate the person with the language. There is a sheltered English corner for 30-45 minutes a day, and during this time the Spanish teacher withdraws. The English teacher is present in all lessons: PE, music, art... English and Spanish teachers plan together at the beginning of the year and work shoulder to shoulder all the time. After so many years, they now understand each other's look and signals.  The teams change from time to time and the whole staff now know how to work with a colleague equally efficiently. If a team is not completely comfortable with each other one year, the next year the members are teamed up with someone else. We train our teachers of English in pre-service and in-service. Drawbacks? Yes, financially, it's expensive to hire two simultaneous teachers. However, it's worth it! If you need some good reading, try Conversations of Miguel and Maria, by Linda Ventriglia. It doesn't explain how to work like this but it does explain what happens in a child's mind when he is acquiring a new language. Sorry if my contribution has been too long. I'm eager to learn what other teachers have to say about team-teaching. Read you soon, Graciela (Rosario, Argentina)        

Hi Graciela! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! It's been a worthy contribution as you've brought up a bilingual dimension into our discussion in this thread. Now that I remember I saw the title of the book you mention a couple of days ago and I said to myself, 'Hey, this sounds interesting'. I'll have to get it now :) I'm assuming your post is based on a private endeavour, that's way the financial aspect of team-teaching might be felt as a drawback. Still, I'm sure the benefits are tremendous as children learn both languages in the same context. I wonder what experts in code-switching say about this type of experience, though. All the best from southern Argentina, Darío

Hi Dariowe tend to work like you do. we consult the content subject syllabi and see what contents are present there or some other not included to work with it in our foreign language class. then, we teach content and also language. team work sometimes is so difficult due to our timetables and way of working (running from go school to the other...) but thanks to internet we can do it through this means.nice reading about this topic.regardseladia

Hi again!
The same here: we get together and see what students have done and are doing in Geography for example and from there we select topics that might be interesting and with language potential so to speak.
Cheers,
Dario

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