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Content and Language Integrated Learning

Redactie Leraar24 | Gepubliceerd op 18 oktober 2011

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Tweetalig onderwijs (TTO) or Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is well established in the Netherlands. More than a hundred schools offer their learners the opportunity to participate in a bilingual VWO-stream. Over twenty-five schools offer a bilingual HAVO programme, and a few VMBO schools offer a number of curriculum subjects taught in English. Much progress has been made since 1989, when TTO began on a very small scale. The Netherlands now has an established network of schools, co-ordinated by the European Platform. Its quality assurance system of inspection and certification ensures that learners are provided with valuable and challenging learning opportunities.

As many CLIL teachers will testify, teaching a school subject through a second language brings with it a variety of challenges. How can subject teachers make sure that learners understand everything they need to know about the subject when a second language is being used by both the teacher and the learners? How can teachers help learners acquire not only the content of their subject but also the language they need to show their understanding of the content? How can learners learn both content and language at the same time?

These clips illustrate some underlying principles which will help teachers to answer these questions. They show what teachers can do to meet the challenges that CLIL brings. These clips were produced with the support of the Expertise Centrum Moderne Vreemde Talen. The texts have been adapted from the book CLIL Skills by Liz Dale, Wibo van der Es and Rosie Tanner.

There are six skills CLIL teachers can develop. Good CLIL teachers:

  1. Activate prior knowledge
    Activating prior knowledge or activating existing knowledge – involves getting the learners’ brains working at the start of a topic or theme, as well as motivating them to learn. It means engaging learners in the topic of a lesson, and helping them to access what they already know about the topic, so that they can link that knowledge with the material to be learned. In CLIL, it is important to activate both ideas and language.
  2. Provide lesson input
    Lesson input can be defined as ‘information used to help learners understand ideas and to construct meaning’. Input is the foundation of every lesson, and can be linguistic or non-linguistic. It may consist of items from a video clip or a text in a course book or it may be a graph or a photograph.
    Whereas linguistic input is based on language, such as a text, non-linguistic input does not contain language. It may be a model, a photograph or a live example. Learners listen to, watch, look at or read input; they get information and language from input which they can use to carry out tasks or activities.
  3. Guide understanding
    Texts, formulas, videos, diagrams, graphs, experiments: CLIL teachers guide learners to understand many types of input in English. ‘Providing lesson input for CLIL’ deals with selecting material. Guiding understanding involves helping learners to process the input. Processing input is the action of working actively with input – your basic materials.
    Some examples of processing input are: a geography teacher asking learners to make a graph out of raw data or data in a text; a history teacher making a handout for learners to identify the causes and effects of an event in a text; a science teacher asking learners to draw conclusions about an experiment they have done. When teachers set tasks so that learners process input, this helps learners to understand it better. Consequently, learners learn, remember and apply the input better, in terms of both content and language.
  4. Encourage speaking
    Seeing learners put energy into a role-play or PowerPoint presentation can be extremely rewarding for the CLIL teacher. At these moments, the learners enthusiastically show their understanding and learning. We define output as the production of language and content in the target language.
    Output can be spoken or written, linguistic or non-linguistic, and formal or informal. Examples of linguistic output are a presentation, answers to spoken or written questions or a class discussion about what learners did at the weekend: these all involve producing language. The production of spoken output is vital in CLIL for learners to process and deepen their understanding of content and improve their ability to use language effectively.
  5. Encourage writing
    Helping learners write well organised or well thought out essays or laboratory reports can be extremely rewarding for the CLIL teacher. At these moments, the learners enthusiastically show their understanding and learning. Output can be linguistic (e.g. a newspaper article) or non-linguistic (e.g. an illustration), and formal (e.g. a letter to Greenpeace or informal (e.g. an article for a teenage magazine).
    Examples of written output are an article, a summary, a lab report or an e-mail to an exchange student: these all involve producing written language. The production of written output is vital in CLIL for learners to process and deepen their understanding of content and their ability to use language effectively.
  6. Evaluate learning and give feedback
    The way CLIL teachers evaluate their learners’ progress and give them feedback on their achievements influences how learners learn. It affects how they learn both during lessons and during study outside the classroom, for example when doing homework or preparing for tests. CLIL teachers can evaluate learning and give feedback to encourage learners to work on developing their understanding of the content of the subject. They can also use these tools to encourage learners to pay attention to appropriate and accurate use of language in their subject.
    Peer assessment can be a useful tool in evaluating learning. It involves asking learners to use assessment criteria to assess each other’s work. One reason often put forward for using peer assessment is that it saves work for the teacher. Actually, using peer assessment changes the way teachers work, and leads to them spending more time on, for example, defining clear assessment criteria, and less time on marking work that is not to standard.
    Peer assessment is particularly important in CLIL because it can help the learners to understand what is expected of them. By reading a fellow learner’s lab report in biology and deciding what is good about it and what needs more work, learners develop a clearer idea of what makes a good lab report in terms of both subject and language. This will help them to produce higher quality lab reports in the future. By acting as an audience for a piece of written text, learners start to understand how clearly they need to express their ideas for a third person to understand them. This is particularly important in CLIL, because it can help improve both language skills and subject skills. By experiencing the effect of unclear language, spelling mistakes or confused ideas themselves, learners will be encouraged to use language more carefully to put their ideas across.
    Feedback plays an important part in learning. CLIL subject teachers are experienced in giving feedback on their learners’ performance relating to key subject concepts. They have had less practice and experience in giving feedback on language use. Second language learners make language mistakes for a variety of reasons and this affects how CLIL teachers deal with them.

N.B. The teachers in these clips are non-native speakers of English. In the Netherlands, the majority of CLIL teachers are non-native speakers. The Dutch national standard for bilingual schools requires schools to ensure all non-native CLIL teachers have an English language certificate at B2 level (according to the Common European Framework of Reference) or above. The assumption is that teachers are not the only source of English for the learners in the Netherlands. All schools have and make use of access to the internet and other authentic written and spoken materials to provide learners with native speaker models of English.

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