The Basics on ‘Content and Language Integrated Learning’

by Katherine Reilly

‘Content and Language Integrated Learning’ or CLIL for short, is an approach for learning content through an additional language, thus teaching both the subject and the language at the same time. To be more specific, any subjects like physics, geography, history or even life skills learned in a classroom context, can be taught in a foreign language.

CLIL was first adopted in Europe in the mid-1990s and is based on two learning models. The first being ‘Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development’, which refers to the difference between what a learner can do ‘without’ help, and what he or she can do ‘with’ help.

As for the second one, ‘Krashen’s Language Acquisition Model’, this proposes that language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rule, rather, meaningful interaction in the target language, which is ‘natural communication’.

What does this all mean? Well, an English Learning class can, for example, learn about the Culinary Arts, Science or Mathematics, without specifically teaching them English.

Just as the term ‘Integrated’ suggests, a ‘CLIL class’ hits two birds with one stone; the subject you are teaching, as well as the target language.

So, what now? Well, every good teacher follows a lesson plan. However, as you have probably never worked on a lesson plan with CLIL, you might find yourself a bit lost.

Never fear. Things are a lot simpler than they seem. As with every other lesson plan, you have to set objectives.

Does my lesson plan engage students in listening, speaking, reading and writing? Mastering a language isn’t only about passing a test. Being able to communicate and interacting in all forms will lead to that. Have them share their thoughts in a written or oral manner. Encourage them to express themselves and above all, use a variety of approaches for stimulation; both visual and audio.

Is the class environment immersive and communicative? By focusing on the use of the target language and encouraging natural speech, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how effective this can be and it is also a fun alternative to all those grammar drills students often find boring.

Is the lesson challenging? How can I make my students scratch their heads? The lesson you compile must include activities which will help them improve their ability to decipher the true meaning of a task, make them think and reach a conclusion. Upon finishing such exercises, your students will have not only improved their own abilities, but they will have also experienced a sensation of satisfaction upon doing so.

Just remember, that your lesson plan needs specific goals. What will my students acquire from the lesson? What kind of activities will engage them? Have I included assessments that will help my students demonstrate what they have learned?

In a nutshell, the benefits both learners and educators reap from CLIL are numerous. Students practice specific vocabulary which they would not be able to learn otherwise. They then add it to their own, while enriching their own knowledge in various subjects beyond learning a foreign language.

As for us Educators, refreshing approaches are always welcome, and in the process, we all get to learn something new. Learning, is a lifelong procedure and integrating CLIL in our lessons will benefit us all.

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