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Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

What is CLIL?
CLIL aims to introduce students to new ideas and concepts in traditional curriculum subjects (often the humanities), using the foreign language as the medium of communication - in other words, to enhance the pupils' learning experience by exploiting the synergies between the two subjects. This is often particularly rewarding where there is a direct overlap between the foreign language and the content subject — eg Vichy France, Nazi Germany, the Spanish Civil War.

How does the CLIL approach benefit pupils?
Although it may take a while for pupils to acclimatise to the challenges of CLIL, once they are familiar with the new way of working, demonstrably increased motivation and focus make it possible (and likely) that they will progress at faster-than-usual rates in the content subject, providing that the principles of CLIL teaching are borne in mind during planning and delivery. CLIL aims to improve performance in both the content subject and the foreign language. Research indicates there should be no detrimental effects for the CLIL pupils (and often progress is demonstrably better).

Other advantages include:

  • stronger links with the citizenship curriculum (particularly through the use of authentic materials, which offer an alternative perspective on a variety of issues)
  • increased student awareness of the value of transferable skills and
    knowledge
  • greater pupil confidence.

What are the practical implications of introducing CLIL into the school curriculum?
The content subject should always be the primary focus of any materials used in the CLIL classroom. CLIL should not be used as an opportunity to use texts as glorified vocabulary lists, or to revise concepts already studied in the mother tongue. However, it is impossible to transfer existing content subject lesson plans across without modifying these to take into account pupils' ability in the target language, and therefore the planning process is vital. It is likely that, especially to begin with, lessons will need to be challenging cognitively, with comparatively light linguistic demands. Schools need to design materials to suit the needs of their learners, and to enable them to develop until they are working at high levels of cognitive and linguistic challenge.

What is the best approach to CLIL teaching?
The diversity of CLIL activity in UK schools is striking. It is not possible to generalise to any extent about the subjects chosen, the type of school pioneering such approaches, nor the ability of the learners chosen to participate. The predominant language of the projects is French, although a number of projects are operating in German or Spanish. It appears, then, that no approach to CLIL can be set in stone. One of the purposes of the Content and Language Integration Project is to compare the outcomes of different approaches in a variety of different schools.

What about staffing?
Although availability of CLIL-trained teachers is limited, preliminary research carried out by CILT indicates that schools have adopted a wide variety of different approaches to staffing, from non-native speaker linguists with no specialist content subject knowledge, to native speaker subject content specialists, and every possible permutation in between. CILT's evidence suggests that CLIL teaching is frequently delivered through a combination of solo and team-teaching, often supplemented by collaboration between departments in non-contact time.

How do schools tackle timetabling issues?
CILT research revealed a range of different approaches to timetabling CLIL, from isolated lessons over the school year and 'bilingual days', to modules and even occasionally a whole year's commitment. Many schools are starting to combine such work with class visits and/or partnerships with link schools abroad. Some schools choose to launch fast-track GCSE foreign language courses in Years 8, 9 and 10, after an initial diagnostic period. These run alongside lessons where the foreign language learning is integrated with another curriculum subject. See also organisational issues.

What about national accreditation for courses and modules taught in this way?
There is currently no formal accreditation for bilingual work in the UK. This in part explains the preponderance of KS3 initiatives in the case studies that CILT is monitoring.

Where can I learn more?

  • CLIL compendium
    Developed with funding from the European Union, this site offers a comprehensive guide to different CLIL methodologies, and links to a number of European sites.
  • Euroclic
    This network aims to actively promote exchanges of information, experience and materials between the different categories of players in the field of content and language integrated teaching as well as promoting their interests at a national and European level.
  • CLIL Axis
    This project presents best practice examples of Team Teaching as a CLIL method in the world of professional education and work. The target groups are vocational educators who teach content through a foreign language, language teachers, and working life representatives who co-operate in the planning and implementation of educational programmes.
  • CLIL Quality Matrix
    A web-based CLIL quality matrix, which shows core quality factors required for successful implementation of teaching and learning through a foreign language.

Sources of authentic materials

French
Cyber-Profs
A teacher's compilation of sites of materials created for Geography, History and Education Civique in French.

German

LeMO (Lebendiges virtuelles Museum Online)
Resources for various periods of German history, including summaries of issues and periods, and audio and video streaming.

Lehrer-online
A German site with extensive links to materials in German across the curriculum, together with a section on materials and advice for bilingual teaching.

Bilinguales Lernen Online
Another German site devoted to bilingual teaching; although biased towards CLIL in English, many of the links are to materials of use in the German CLIL classroom.

  • Primary Languages
  • Languages Work
  • lingu@net europa
  • Languages ICT
  • ITT MFL
  • Vocational Languages Resource Bank
  • Our Languages