Friday, 3 April 2015


CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) refers to teaching subjects such as mathematics, science, P.E. or even art and music to students through a foreign language. CLIL was a big part of our ZGUČAN programme as it is apparently the basis for the YL syllabus. We had CLIL as an independent subject and then there were other indivudual subject such as mathematics, science, art etc. which I'll cover in one of my future posts.

As for CLIL, it started with some basics of the concept. You can find out all about that online, for example HERE, so I won't even go into that. Instead, I'll focus on my impressions from our own CLIL microteaching presentations which were the second part of the course.

Our microteaching topics were mostly taken from science and maths as they are believed to be the most suitable subjects for CLIL lessons, although we did cover some P.E. and art topics as well. The first thing I noticed was that not all topics are neccessarily suitable for CLIL. I do agree that it was easiest to cover topics from science and maths but even when choosing among topics from these two subject, you have to be careful. There are topics that will be difficult if not impossible to explain in simple English, suitable for young learners - even with lots of demonstration and paraphrasing. When you're choosing your topic, first you have to think about the language you're going to use when explaining it. What you want to do is recycle as much of your language input as possible - spiral teaching is key. Second, you'll have to be able to demonstrate what you're saying as young learners probably have little to no knowledge of English.

What turned out to be difficult for me was focusing primarily on content goals instead of language goals. It's easy for a language teacher to start teaching words when you should really be teaching, say, science. Moreover, the topics in CLIL are often similar to our usual coursebook topics so it's easy to do your lesson the way you're used to.

As far as our course goes, I have to admit I wasn't too thrilled by the atmosphere there. Let's just say our own alternative ideas of YL teaching (so anything other than CLIL) weren't always very welcome. But at the end of the day, I do like the CLIL concept. I've witnessed some very interesting and engaging CLIL microteaching lessons from my colleagues. However, I don't want to be limited by CLIL when teaching YL as I still feel there are lots of proven, effective and engaging ELT techniques other than CLIL that my students would like and benefit from.

By the way, some interesting topics for CLIL: measuring lengths in non-standard units, science experiments for children, mathematical riddles (for example The Wolf, The Goat and The Cabbage problem) and others. See some sample lesson plans HERE (Slovenian only).

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