To celebrate the launch of Project fourth edition, Tim Herdon writes about some of the practical implications of CLIL programmes and considers where we are going with CLIL (or where CLIL is taking us). Tim Herdon is a Senior Teacher Trainer at OUP, and has been involved in CLIL for six years.
For a number of years we’ve been hearing and reading about CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). CLIL programmes, in which a subject from the mainstream school curriculum is taught in a second language, have become increasingly common in both primary and secondary, especially in the last decade. In the mid-90s, when CLIL was a new initiative, there was a certain amount of scepticism about this approach, which was natural and probably quite healthy – it would be chaotic if we jumped on every new bandwagon that came along. However CLIL now looks set to stay and in many countries it has strong government support with funds allocated towards teacher training and syllabus and materials development.
In fact the impact of CLIL is such that it is even having a backwash effect on the way ELT coursebooks are published. More and more courses now contain short cross-curricular sections in some or all of the units. This has come to be called ‘soft CLIL’ – a short excursion into the world of CLIL rather than a full journey. Predictably, ‘hard CLIL’ is the term used to describe the full journey: the teaching of a complete subject, or a specific area of a subject, in L2, over a longer period of time.
This raises an interesting question for English teachers: in the future will we see a gradual shift from soft CLIL to hard CLIL? I would say that yes, I think we will: CLIL continues to gain in popularity, and I think its impact on General English course materials will continue to increase. And the way CLIL is implemented is partly responsible for changing perceptions: in schools the English teacher is often central to the implementation of CLIL programmes, both in terms of teaching and coordination. In fact the increased contact between English teachers and teachers of other subjects through involvement in CLIL programmes has been one of the biggest benefits, and this has contributed to CLIL’s increasing popularity.
The Lexical Approach has come and gone, Audiolingualism has been dragged screaming from the room and the Silent Way has now fallen, well, silent… what about CLIL? Is it just a passing fad, or is it here to stay? What do you think?
To celebrate the launch of Project fourth edition, author of Projects with Young Learners, Diane Phillips considers the benefits of using projects in the upper primary classroom.
What don’t children like?
If I asked you to list some of the thing that children don’t like you might say: – learning stuff of no immediate or obvious relevance e.g. grammar rules or lists of vocabulary; having to read about topics they have no interest in; being told to ‘be quiet’, to stop talking to their friends; being passive; never being asked for their view or about topics they know about; never seeing an end or a point to the work they have to do; always being told what to do!
Yet, this is exactly the way many classrooms work.
What do children like doing?
One way to get children doing what they like while still learning is through projects. Children enjoy using their imagination – making up characters, stories; being creative – making things, drawing, colouring, cutting and gluing, using multimedia; finding out about interesting stuff; sharing, chatting, working together; talking about themselves, their friends and family, their interests; making choices, deciding for themselves, trying new things out; showing off!
What are Projects?
Experiential learning or ‘learning through projects’ is a tried and tested way of motivating children – by doing what they naturally like doing and avoiding what they don’t like.
It’s an approach founded on sound pedagogic principles. It addresses the needs of the ‘whole child’ to develop a number of different skills
the intellectual skills
physical/motor and ICT skills
learner independence skills
Children are given an opportunity to produce work which is personal and individual, which reflects their own ideas and interests, and their opinions are asked for and valued.
It gives the children an opportunity to bring their knowledge of the world into the classroom and can be cross-curricular – linked to other subjects the children are studying in school. Continue reading →
Elaine Hirsch takes a look at the changing level of proficiency standards in the United States school system.
English proficiency has steadily improved among U.S. students over the last 30 years, thanks to a collective emphasis on language skills in American schools. As immigration numbers increase on an annual basis, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) faces new challenges to ensure America’s children are able to communicate effectively with their peers. Luckily many experts believe impressive annual growth indicates an optimistic outlook for American English-speaking students.
Significant improvement has been recorded among children who learn English as a second language (ESL), says the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). In 2010, IES reported that the number of school-age children (5 to 17 years old) who primarily spoke languages other than English in their homes rose from 4.7 million to 11.2 million between 1980 and 2009. As this number rose, so did the level of English proficiency among ESL students. IES reported that roughly 41 percent of these children struggled with English in 1980; by 2009, this figure had reduced to 24 percent.
Age has shown to be a critical factor when it comes to effectively learning English. Seven percent of 5- to 9-year-olds spoke a non-English language at home and struggled with English in school, compared to four percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17. This figure can be largely attributed to the increased amount of programs for English Language Learners (ELLs) in the nation’s schools. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) reported that ELLs attending grades 7-12 increased by more than 70 percent since 1992, and K-12 enrollments for ELLs rose by 5 percent since 1990. A resource for accredited online graduate courses explains that as the number of children and young adults enrolling in ESL classes continues to grow, so does the need for teachers. Thus it’s not a bad idea for students interested in education to consider taking classes, or enrolling, in ESL or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs.
Race and ethnicity also play a statistical role in English proficiency. Sixteen percent of both Asian and Hispanic children who did not speak English at home ultimately struggle as ELLs, compared to six percent of Pacific Islanders, three percent of Native Americans and less than one percent among Caucasians and African-Americans. These figures are problematic, since Asians and Hispanics constitute the largest influx of legal U.S. immigrants.
Fortunately, according to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statistics, the English proficiency of even struggling demographics improves as students get older. Roughly 25 to 45 percent of immigrated Asian and Hispanic children qualified as “limited English proficient (LEP).” Of these students, many lived in “isolated households,” or residences in which no one older than 14 speaks English very well. However, percentages of students in these two categories decreased between 6th and 12th grades, and by as much as 50 percent for children from countries like Vietnam, South Korea, Mexico, Dominican Republic and El Salvador. Furthermore, The New York Times reported in 2007 that 88 percent of second-generation members of Latino immigrant families were strong English speakers, compared to 23 percent of their first-generation relatives. This would indicate the children of immigrants are effectively learning to speak English by the time they reach adulthood.
According to NCES, American students overall improved English proficiency last year. In its 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), English reading scores among American 4th and 8th grade students increased among children of higher- and lower-income families. Additionally, nationwide schools are undergoing major changes that potentially impact ELLs in a very positive way. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration announced plans to dismantle NCLB and transfer the responsibility from federal to state level. This move will conceivably allow each state DOE to customize the curricula taught in its schools. ELLs and other students with special English language needs will play a major role in states with a large immigrant population, including California, Texas, New York and Florida—the four most populous states.
As annual U.S. immigration numbers continue to soar, numbers show more new citizens are learning English than ever before. Their children are grasping the new language early in their education, and are able to hone this skill as they reach adulthood. As our schools evolve to meet the needs of ELLs, experts believe these figures will only improve.
Jean Sciberras, Academic Manager at the Federation of English Teaching Organisations – Malta (FELTOM), has been pondering the linked questions of teacher standards, peak summer demand and the benefits or otherwise of official regulation.
Like many centres for English language teaching across the globe, Malta has a massive influx of students in the summer months, many are youngsters wanting to combine learning in a relaxed atmosphere with some fun. In our case, the numbers can be quite challenging. More than 70,000 students come to the island and almost half of these are juniors.
Of course, at peak times we need lots of extra teachers to meet this demand.
Our schools advertise vacancies in the usual way and we get applicants from far and wide, but many of our summer EFL teachers are local university students or state school teachers on their summer breaks. As the Academic Manager at the Federation of English Teaching Organisations – Malta (FELTOM), responsible for quality assurance amongst other things, I am keen to make sure that standards are maintained, so I’ve been doing some investigation work.
I wanted to find out how the schools make sure that the part-time summer teachers were good enough, and how they supported them. The most frequent responses to my questionnaire survey and phone calls were:
Minimum qualification level – TEFL plus English ‘A’ level, or CELTA
In-house induction and training sessions
Observation, feedback and mentoring arrangements
I also quizzed them about their recruitment and induction processes during the rest of the year and again, most of the schools followed a similar path, which I’ve summarised here:
All this got me thinking about whether we’re doing enough, or are we being too restrictive? I know in some countries the authorities insist on a degree in linguistics before issuing a visa, while in other places even teenage students taking their ‘A’ levels or equivalent can be in charge of classes. What’s been your experience?
Q: What are the challenges for teachers when teaching pronunciation?
RW: The main challenge is the need to gain and maintain an adequate level of pronunciation knowledge and competence in each of three areas:
your own competence in the pronunciation of English. This doesn’t mean having a perfect accent (whatever that means), but there is obviously a minimum competence with pronunciation, just as there is with grammar or vocabulary.
your knowledge of how the pronunciation of English works. Obviously if you don’t understand this, it’s unlikely that you’ll be very effective in helping your learners to improve their pronunciation.
your competence in terms of teaching strategies and techniques. It’s not enough to know ‘about’ pronunciation, or even to be a native speaker. You also need to know as much as you can about teaching pronunciation to others.
Q: What challenges do students face when learning pronunciation?
RW: The first challenge is to do with the distance between their mother-tongue pronunciation and that of English. In that respect Dutch, Polish, or Scandinavian students, for example, have a lot less of a mountain to climb than Spanish, Greek, or Japanese learners.
A major challenge for most adult learners of English, however, is to ‘re-tune’ their ears so that they become sensitive to sounds and other features of English that don’t exist in their mother tongue pronunciation. I’m struggling right now with some of the consonants of Polish precisely because we don’t have these sounds in English. And if you can’t hear a sound, you’re not going to be able to pronounce it.
And an increasing challenge now that English is a lingua franca is the variation in accents – both non-native speaker and native speaker – that learners will encounter as they travel around the world and put their English to use.