Ollie Wood been working in ELT since 2006 and joined our team of CLIL and CELTA trainers in 2014. He has covered every position in the private sector from Teacher to Academic Manager. He is particularly interested in helping to bring the skills of ELT professionals to teachers in the state sector to create more inclusive classrooms. He works extensively to promote CLIL methodology and the use of technology in the classroom. In this blog post, Ollie provides some advice for how you can plan effectively for CLIL lessons.
What is CLIL?
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a dual-focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language. CLIL is not a new form of language education and it is not a new form of subject education. It is, however, closely related to and shares some elements of a range of educational practices.
CLIL is a methodology that, when applied correctly, can shape our learners’ futures. Teachers hold the key to making that happen and it all starts with a lesson plan. Due to the complexity of the methodology (the above not even scratching the surface!), it may not always be easy to plan effectively for CLIL.
So, here are my top tips and some of the more important aspects of CLIL that should be considered when you start planning.
1. Provide a holistic educational experience
CLIL is content-driven, and this is where it both extends the experience of learning a language, and where it becomes different to existing language-teaching approaches. CLIL is also an inclusive term that binds together the essence of good practice found in different environments where its principles have been adopted. Good CLIL practice is realised through methods which provide a more holistic educational experience for the learner – something that isn’t usually achievable.
2. Set your goals
Make sure that you have clarified your global goals, teaching aims and learning outcomes. The global goals refer to your vision for the course: is the lesson helping you to achieve that vision? The global goals should be embedded in the unit planning. Following this, check that the teaching aims are clear – there should be no grey areas. The learning outcomes also need to be defined and you should know which ones can be measured and how you will measure them.
3. Build your scaffolding
Now, we move onto content. The most important consideration here is scaffolding. If you haven’t considered how to scaffold the content learning, there is a good chance that you’ll leave behind more than a few of your learners. In a similar vein, check that your presentations of new content are clear and that the content is accessible.
4. Check your students are involved
Language should be next on your checklist: are the students involved in using the target language? If the answer is no, then it isn’t a CLIL lesson. Hot on the heels of this, check to see if students are involved in learning new language and if there are adequate opportunities for them to practice the new language structures. As with any lesson that incorporates language teaching and learning, ensure that your instructions are clear, at the appropriate level, and that they relate to the cognitive demands.
5. Adapt to differing cognitive levels
On a similar note, check that any questions or problems to be solved are also at the appropriate cognitive level. You need to ensure that the learners can progress cognitively and find ways of measuring this progress. Considering that classes are very rarely homogeneous, it’s also important to build in ways of assisting the learners in developing a range of strategies through the CLIL language.
6. Be aware of classroom culture
A vital, yet often overlooked, component of CLIL is that of culture. There are several questions that you should ask yourself. The first being, how will my lesson contribute to changing classroom culture? You may have a class that is more prone to arguing and not taking account of others’ views, yet your lesson may require them to listen and manage differences of opinion: this must be reconciled in your lesson plan. It’s also very beneficial to look for opportunities to raise awareness of any cultural differences between your class and that of the language and content. In shaping our learners, we should also try to identify and exploit links to other subjects that the learners may be studying.
7. Remember the 4 C’s
Activities and tasks are the building blocks to any lesson. In CLIL we need to ensure that they relate to the global goals, aims and outcomes in terms of the 4Cs: content, communication, cognition, and culture. Progression should also be built into our activities and tasks, which should help to develop talk for learning. Similarly, when planning our lessons, we should consider which language (L1 or L2) is needed to carry out each activity.
8. Support learning
Successful CLIL lessons support learning and to do this most effectively, we must identify which types of teacher scaffolding we need to employ at the various stages of the lesson. The only way to do this is by analysing the content and cognition for potential difficulties. Furthermore, we need to be recycling language from previous lessons in order to support learner progression.
All lessons must have forms of assessment built into them, but in CLIL it is even more important due to its dual-focused educational approach. In the planning stages of a CLIL lesson we must build in stages that will allow both the learners and us, the teachers, to know what has been learned. Of utmost importance is making a decision on what will be assessed to ensure that feedback informs further learning. Similarly, we must decide what kind of formative and summative assessment tasks will be needed.
The final stage of successful CLIL planning is that of reflection. This is applicable to lessons of all methodologies, which is all the more reason not to overlook it. Firstly, check that there is a variety of interaction patterns (groups, pairs). Secondly, we all know that time is every teacher’s enemy, so triple-check that enough time has been allocated to each stage. Next, when looking over your lesson plan, think about what you might want to add or leave out (our old friend time!). Finally, perhaps not in every lesson, but certainly with a degree of frequency, build in ways of collecting the learners’ views of your lessons. Then, of course, we need to act on that feedback and build it into the next lesson.
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