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Teaching CLIL: Classroom Benefits

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Wall-mounted map with woman pointing to a townIn her first guest post for OUP, Maria Rainier, a freelance writer and blogger, talks us through some classroom benefits of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL).

Sometimes, just thinking about developing a CLIL program or even teaching one CLIL lesson can be intimidating, overwhelming, and confusing. But don’t let the tough appearance of CLIL fool you – it can be a very intuitive, natural way to teach and learn. Like any instructional method, though, it requires a certain amount of understanding and dedication from you. It also helps if you’re willing to learn through the process of teaching, as I’m sure you are – being teachable is one of the keys to successful pedagogy. CLIL can be successfully implemented by one teacher, but often, two teachers collaborate before developing lesson plans – and that means learning from each other. By expanding the knowledge available to your students, you’re also expanding your own understanding, learning new material so that you can teach it well. Although it can be a difficult process, it’s often rewarding to teach CLIL. But no matter what you have or haven’t heard about this method, the following description of CLIL and its benefits and challenges can help you decide whether or not it has a place in your classroom.

The pedagogical intentions behind CLIL

You’re probably well aware that Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is a way of approaching foreign language instruction subtly through subject-oriented teaching. For example, you might focus on teaching the geography of Spain, but the secondary learning objective would be Spanish vocabulary associated with geography. It might not sound like the most logical approach, but why has it been growing in popularity? – And what’s the point of CLIL?

In CLIL, the topic has to be focused and the foreign language vocabulary has to be learned through the content. Rather than separating language study from other subjects, the theory behind CLIL is that complementary subjects taught at the same time result in improved internalization and retention. So, returning to our earlier example, the CLIL attitude is that students who learn geographical terms in Spanish as a secondary objective learn them better than they would if they were directly instructed in these terms without the geographical scaffolding. And the same students learn Spanish geography more effectively at the same time because it’s supplemented by immediately relevant vocabulary. Essentially, CLIL enables you to take advantage of the connections between language and specific subject-related content to improve the efficiency of pedagogy.

What CLIL can do for your classroom

  • In many cases, CLIL can increase your students’ motivation to learn what you’re teaching them. This can enable students to progress more quickly and solidly than they would with deliberately separated subjects. There are very few instances in the real world in which black and white don’t mix, so letting two subjects paint a broader picture of reality for students is a great advantage of CLIL. Just make sure that the content-specific subject is the primary objective and that your linguistic goals are secondary – this provides consistency and sturdy scaffolding on which to build linguistic progress.
  • Because CLIL is so strongly associated with both a content area and a foreign language, it’s naturally imbued with cultural and societal significance. Your students will develop a stronger understanding of a foreign culture as a result of CLIL instruction and will be more likely to “see the big picture” in terms of the relationship between language and society.
  • Even in CLIL lessons, it will become apparent that some skills and knowledge are applicable to a wide range of subjects in a variety of languages. Students will gain a healthy appreciation for these types of skills and may be more motivated to improve them.
  • By challenging your students with CLIL, you’ll be able to help them build confidence in their abilities. The best part of this is that their confidence won’t be inflated – the legitimate cognitive and academic skills encouraged by CLIL are widely recognized and valued.

What do you think? Have you used CLIL in your classroom? How successful has it been?

[Image source: obragruesa on Flickr]

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Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and other ELT professionals top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help further their ELT career. Follow Oxford ELT on Twitter. Find Oxford ELT on Google+.

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