CLIL for English language teachers Larissa Attardtalks about the hows and whys of developing and making CLIL materials for CLIL teacher training courses.
What is CLIL? CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), coined by Anne Maljers and David Marsh in 1994, is the teaching of subject material using English as the language of instruction.
CLIL refers to situations where subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual-focused aims, namely the learning of content and the simultaneous learning of a foreign language. (Marsh, 1994)
The concept of teaching curriculum content or subjects in a language that is other than the learners' first language is not new. Previously, other terms that were used before the acronym CLIL was conceived were Content-based Instruction, English across the Curriculum, and Bilingualism to name a few. In keeping with our own bilingual setting here in Malta, we have long practised teaching certain subjects in English and others in Maltese. So why come up with yet another name for something which is already practised?Bilingual learners often already have quite a good command of the language of insruction so that learning content is the primary focus and not language. In contrast, the term CLIL draws attention to the fact that speakers of other languages do not have as strong a command of the language of instruction and are, therefore, learning both subject matter and English simultaneously. CLIL can therefore be seen to aspire to eventually produce bilingual learners
The EU and Multilingualism In 2008, the EU pledged to promote language communiction across diversity, and the learning of two or even more languages across member countries was encouraged. The EU strategy for multilingualism identified that full immersion methodology recognised that there were sound benefits for learners to learn content and language simultaneously, each providing the other with an opportunity for authentic practice. More recently, there has been a move in various countries where English is not the first language, such as Spain, Italy and Portugal, to teach some subjects, such as history or science, in English. With English becoming increasingly important in international communication, more countries are recognising the need to introduce English as the language of instruction for some subjects. Consquently, primary school teachers and subject teachers are being given further language training in order to better enhance their ability to teach the subject in English. Malta receives groups of teachers from countries where English is not a first language for specific English language courses or English teacher training cources with a focus on CLIL.
CLIL teaching materials for the English language teacher Some school groups come over to Malta with special requests for their English course to focus on specific subject topics, such as physics or biology. Finding subject-specific material is not likely to be at hand in the form of an ELT course-book. While there are publishing houses that have started publishing subject books using CLIL methodology, these books are usually curriculum books for mainstream education and are not included in English language school resources. Consequently, teachers often have to source lesson plans online or develop their own lesson materials from scratch.
Some points to bear in mind when developing CLIL materials When sourcing or preparing materials, teachers would do well to bear in mind the duality of CLIL: the learning of language and content simultaneously. Neither should be more challenging for the learner than the other - there ought to be a balance in level of challenge between language and content. Subject materials may be sourced from mainstream text books and will need to be adapted using language that is more simplified and appropriate for the required level. In addition to the simplification of the language for their target learners, teachers may ask themselves the following questions when preparing the materials:
What are the subject-specific items of vocabulary that students will need to learn in order to be able to understand the concept and discuss it?
What are the key structures that students will need to know or learn in order to be able to read the text, complete the tasks and talk about the topic?
What other incidental language will learners need to know in order to participate in the lesson?
Such questions will help to inform learning aims and outcomes when designing lesson material for the CLIL classroom. The tasks that teachers set out to create may follow patterns that are similar to ELT models, such as pre-reading or pre-listening tasks, followed by a variety of comprehension of concept and language learning tasks, varying from controlled to less-controlled practice tasks. Typical of the ELT lesson, learners will be given opportunities to engage in production activities that focus on speaking and writing about the subject matter. The younger the learner or lower the grade, the more visual and the less text-condensed the materials are. The higher the level, the more dense the text and the greater the conceptual and linguistic challenge for the learner.
Points in brief for the teacher preparing CLIL materials
Target lesson material that is subject-specific and level appropriate in terms of content and language. If not, rewrite the lesson material using simpler terms so that it is manageable for your learners.
Identify language structures that are challenging for learners and will need to be taught.
Identify subject-specific items of vocabulary necessary for learning of the content.
Identify vocabulary that is not necessarily subject-specific but that is incidental to the topic and necessary to talk about the subject matter. Consider whether this language is new for the learners and will need to be taught or not.
Ensure the levels of linguistic and content challenge are balanced.
Include pre-reading or pre-listening tasks that will engage learners interest; consider pre-teaching some new items of vocabulary.
Create a variety of tasks to encourage learners to engage with the text and check understanding.
Incorporate production tasks that involve speaking or writing about the topic, creating opportunities for them to engage in the discourse.
Encourage personalisation and the learners' experience vis-à-vis the topic. Consider broadening the discussion to beyond the confines of the classroom.