Most of you who have been reading my blogs about CLIL so far might be wondering what the CLIL concept means and which its rationale is. Mehisto, Marsh and Frigols (2008:11) explain clearly CLIL´s dual focus and opposing points of view:
- CLIL is a tool for the teaching and learning of content and language.
- The essence of CLIL is integration, which has a dual focus:
• 1)- Language learning is included in content classes, eg. History or Geography, by means of repackaging information in a manner that facilitates understanding. Common CLIL strategies are: charts, diagrams, drawings, experiments, etc.
• 2)- Content from subjects is used in language-learning classes. The language teacher working together with teachers of other subjects incorporates the vocabulary, terminology and texts from those other subjects into his/her classes. Students learn the language and discourse patterns they need to understand and use the content.
• Each institution or teachers teams working together should decide which of the focus presented above better applies on their teaching environment.
Content Based Language Teaching Models
Previous to the worldwide apparition of the term CLIL, Content Based Teaching or Instruction had been exhaustively explained. A variety of models of programmes, some of them with different objectives and approaches had also been developed. Met (1999:15-17) explained the variation between the models distributed along a continuum. Although all the programmes integrate Language Learning and Contents, there is a considerable variation in the importance given to content and linguistic objectives.
From Content Oriented towards Language Oriented Programmes
Subject Based Course
Subject Based Course plus Language Classes
Language Classes based on Thematic Units
Language Classes with frequent use of content to practice the language
The application of the programmes shown in the diagrams depends on institutional policies and timetable demands in relation to Foreign Language Teaching (FLT).
Despite the importance of CLIL, the time limitation imposed by the institution in which we teach obliged us to balance both sides of the programmes shown in the diagrams and consequently we have adopted a more moderate model called Theme-based approach. Stryker and Beaver (1997:4) explain that Theme-based approaches have existed for a long time in FLT in the form of supplementary activities that interrupt the systematic study of grammar with activities on different topics. The choice of topics or themes for materials, thus intend to break free from traditional practices, departing from commonly used linguistic focused items, towards real life themes oriented to transmit original and engaging contents to students.
Through our experience, we have proved ourselves how beneficial it is to provide Theme-oriented activities to enable our students to use the language as a vehicle for content learning and at the same time, to offer them rich linguistic opportunities in a context different from the course textbook used daily.
On my next entry I will explain some of the activities devised in order to carry out in the practice some of these theoretical concepts. I would like colleagues from all over the world who might have been working with this approach to post any comments, questions or doubts on the topic, so that we can discuss about your different points of view.
Kind regards form Argentina,