Sunday, January 13, 2013

Readings to better understand CLIL

On Thursday we are having a very interesting presentation by Dr. Roy Lyster, professor of Second Language Education at McGill University. The title is Planning for Teachable Moments: Integrating a Language Focus in Content-based Instruction. To get ready for the event, attendants are asked to read the article Content Based Second Language Teaching. The article introduces some of the issues all of the teachers working in the Spanish bilingual programs have dealt with. For example, how do we integrate language teaching in a subject area taught in Spanish? Is content teaching the most important in non-language classes like maths or PE? Do we need to assess language skills or just the content? In any case, as Lister suggests in his article, collaboration among teachers is key to success. I found the study with English and French teachers in Quebec particularly interesting. I think it reflects the situation in many schools and it sheds light on the fact that results are tangible as soon as teachers collaborate with each other. To read more about the study, read the article, Linking languages to a read-aloud project.

For those who are unfamiliar with the CLIL concept, two introductory readings on the topic can be found on the British Council website by Professor Steve Darn (Content Language Integrated Learning & CLIL a Lesson Framework). Both articles give thorough insight of the rationale and principles behind CLIL without a high level of jargon and also give ideas on how to implement CLIL in a classroom.

In my experience, another common problem that teachers encounter when trying to use CLIL in bilingual programs is finding useful resources. It is not an easy task to find resources that match the Program of Studies with the linguistic needs of the students. Sometimes the content is good but the language is too advanced or vice versa. Resources that incorporate concepts such as content and language scaffolding or the use of authentic language are not easy to find so teachers need to create their own resources. And we all know the work load teachers already have.

I think following a framework that guides the production of CLIL resources can increase accuracy and can be time-saving. The article Criteria to Producing CLIL Learning Materials, by Peeter Mehisto, gives a step-by-step guide, on how to produce resources that can help us to implement a CLIL program. Peeter Mehisto is co-author along with David Marsh and María Jesús Frigols of the book Uncovering CLIL, a must-read for teachers starting a bilingual program and for those who want new ideas in the field.

The last article I would like to recommend is Creación de Actividades para el aula CLIL / TIC by Isabel Pérez, in a website I already mentioned in a previous post. Isabel gives us very clear tips on how to create a CLIL activity and how to integrate the use of ICT. She has even provided templates in her article.
The CLIL approach is very exciting but much learning must be done through our journey and no doubt I will be revisiting this topic again. While it is expected that we will have to create some of our own resources, it makes great sense that teachers can also increase collaboration to build up students’ linguistic capacity without jeopardizing content acquisition in our second language classrooms. With collaboration, results and our enjoyment of teaching will improve for sure.