Friday, March 1, 2013

Videos to better understand CLIL

Any time I talk about CLIL it comes to my mind my experience as a second language learner, and particularly as an English learner. English was not the first language I took at school, French was. I started English in high school but I have to admit that I always wanted to learn. Probably some famous rock bands have to be blamed for this interest. It was a long time ago and  the communicative approach to teaching had not reached my school. I learnt a lot but I always had the feeling that something was missing.
At the time I had not heard of bilingual education nor CLIL but I remember very well  one of the first things I did when I went to England for the first time as a student. I went to every second hand book store I found and I bought textbooks in almost every single subject area in the curriculum. Why? Because I felt that I lacked the language of science or history, let alone maths. So I bought textbooks on the sciences, socials studies and even home economics. This was the age before the Internet so reading lots of books in the target language was one of the cheapest and most available way to learn. Other than that, I would have had to enrol in a school in an English speaking country.
My experience has made me think about the importance of acquiring second languages in bilingual programs using a CLIL approach. And this is why I try to introduce resources that can help build a consistent bilingual program in our school. The short clips in today's post are from three different professors who have been researching on CLIL in the last years and advising the European Union on language policies. The clips introduce very interesting topics and issues that we encounter in our daily practice.

In the first clip, David Marsh explains how he ended up in CLIL after different experiences working with languages in Asia and Europe. There are some hot themes in the clip that I think deserve especial attention:
  • The need of creating a significant part of our resources for a CLIL approach. Transferring the resources from the country where the language is spoken is not going to work. We have experienced this so often!
  • That is why it is so important the support from the education authorities and the concept of work group among the teachers, language arts and subject teachers.
  • The need of combine language, content and "fun". Languages can open up many oppurtunities for students to participate and enjoy cultural activities. 
  • CLIL will not end with language teaching, it will enhance it.
  • CLIL is much more than teaching through a subject.

The other two short clips are part of a group of videos produced by a Think Tank on CLIL that took place in 2009. Professor Do Coyle speaks about two very important ideas when implementing CLIL:
  • CLIL helps to explore how language can be used to support the learning of a subject. Language is a learning tool. Using a second language to teach a subject will enhance this pedagogical value because teachers will need to be more conscious about how they use and model the language so that students interact and move forward in their subject.
  • The concept of Pluri-Literacy: how the use of different languages affect literacy.

Sue Hughes talks about obvious issues in education, that we tend to forget:
  •  Every teacher is a language teacher
  • Students come with different knowledge of language if we have to use to our benefit, no matter if it is a language from another country or the specific language of, let's say, science or history.

We all know how important it is that we have access to CLIL research to better understand how to implement a bilingual program. We don't need to forget though, that what makes a consistent bilingual program is our daily practice in school. This and how we can work as a team in the school and how we can learn from other schools' experiences and share our knowledge with them.