Saturday, 9 July 2011

CLIL: language teacher or subject teacher?

Well, I should say I’ve some experience in CLIL projects. I had the opportunity to attend different courses and conferences on the subject, I shared ideas with colleagues from lots of schools (in my area and throughout Europe), and I actually run with colleague & friend Sandra some CLIL courses, which turned out to be very successful (at least in terms of students’ involvement).
Anyway, I still feel uncertain. And whenever I start a new course, I feel I have to re-invent everything from the very beginning. I must say I’ve not found the key yet.

Dr Diana Hicks seems to help me here. First of all, she said we should understand what CLIL is not. 1) CLIL is not teaching the same things twice, in two different languages. 2) CLIL is not monolingual teaching in a second language. And this second point is just GREAT: it means we – I mean, subject teachers – still have a chance. Language teachers are not destined to delete us from the teachers’ list, after all. Just kidding – well, half kidding. We all know how burning the question is: subject teachers or language teachers for CLIL lessons?
Too often language teachers tell us our English (or French, or whatever foreign language we speak) is not good enough. We may even do some harm with our poor pronunciation and grammar. On the other hand, we (subject teachers) usually say language teachers just can’t have it all: even if they speak perfect British English (if such a thing does exist, after all), this doesn’t mean they know History, or Geography, or Science as well. They say our knowledge of the language is not good enough. We say their knowledge of the subject is not good enough.
So what’s the answer?

Maybe we should just work together.

As Dr Diana Hicks helped us understanding, we, as subject teachers, are teaching content through language, not the opposite. But language is still an important part of our lessons. This means there should be collegiality between us and the language teachers. And we should share responsibilities: for the subject specific vocabulary, for the language functions required by the subject, for the planning of the lesson itself, and so on. It’s important to be clear, and to plan in advance who is going to do what.

In my experience, the very best thing is to actually be together. In our most successful projects, there used to be the three of us in the CLIL classes: me (History/Geography), Sandra (Maths/Science) and Renzo (English). Unfortunately, fewer and fewer schools – at least in Italy – can afford to pay for more than one teacher at a time in the same class. So we should actually find a way to be “together” even being alone.

And this has to do with the lesson planning… that will be next time !!!

Hope I’m not being boring, but these days are a real challenge to me. And a great source of inspiration.

As always, I’d love to get to know your ideas.

Keep tuned for more :)



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  2. Dear Laura,
    I've been collecting articles about CLIL this year. They're mainly pusblished by LEND (Lingua e nuova didattica).
    The paradox is that I'm not going to teach CLIL classes according to our Italian Reform. I mean, not officially, even if language teachers already do some CLIL in their ordinary teaching activity.
    However, I'm aware of the fact we will be soon overwhelmed by the problem of doing CLIL lesson and we must somehow cooperate. That's the only way if we dont' want to be ridiculous.
    The thing is, as you've underlined, that we should cooperate out of our timetable, on a voluntary basis, and this is what worries me.
    Please, let's go on sharing.

  3. Dear Laura,Mariealla,
    thank you for sharing your ideas with us. It's interesting to read your experience.
    I think, my situation it's a bit different, because I am a languague teacher (I teach Italian) and a subject teacher (I teach all subjects for small children).
    I all the ime tell to my pupils, important is try to comunicate..I often tell it: just think about it, if somebody try to tell something us, maybe a simple word in our languague, we are happy because of this -it's true, doesn't happend very often.So,try to comunicate, and it is a way for understanding between people.
    I think, to teach English it could be a bit "easier" or to teach an other languague. I tell it, because for example in Hungary it is easy to find materials in English as a teacher (books, games ..) but for example in Italian languague it is not the same situation.. I need to find new strategies and /or if I am lucky as now, I can buy something new in Italy, what I can use in the class.
    I feel my difficulties more in English, but I am sure, eTwinning, Comenius, other LLP programmes and friendships help us to be better. And hope, with time it could be easier..
    I agree with you, it is important sharing our ideas and knowledges.In our school the situation is the same: we can't be more teachers at the same time in the class. Even if, I would like to do it..but what we could realize -even if only with some colleagues who wold like to do it really- organise maybe a day/afternoon activities for our pupils about a common topic. Maybe we could try out it in our own school. And after, if it works and we would like to try it out, we could do the same in our schools too and share our results and activities..what about you?
    Hugs, Mónika

  4. Hi Monika,
    I perfectly understand how difficult it is for you to find materials in Italian for your language ((and CLIL) lessons.
    What I found funny in this course I'm attending, is that I came to England to learn more about CLIL and found out English schools don't usually have any CLIL activity !!! The students dont't usually take a foreign language, maybe they think "why should I? I already know English!". So the only CLIL they have is quite often when they deal with non-mother-tongue pupils.
    Looks like here they take for granted that CLIL will be only in English, while nowadays more and more language teachers integrate some content in their lessons (just as Tanya said). Of course there could be structured CLIL courses in Spanish, German, Italian, or any language.
    I think if we found a successful structure for our CLIL lessons, then we could put in it any language and any content.
    I'll think about it some more. Thanks for giving us your point of view: you're subject+language teacher... that is to say, the perfect CLIL teacher!

  5. Dear Laura, I am an EFL language teacher. I have been offered to do a Clil preparation course for teachers. Can you give me any ideas how to plan it? Thanks.

  6. Dear colleague,
    I'm sorry I saw your post just now, but I hope I can be still of help.
    I've attended different CLIL courses, yet it would be difficult for me to be the "teacher" in a CLIL course, I've so much to learn.

    Anyway, I would start with very very little theory, just as an introduction (a couple of hours?), and then devote more time to the presentation of examples of activities. That's how it usually worked in the courses I attended, and it was fine.
    You can have the teachers try out the activities, so that they are in the pupils' role for once.

    I've uploaded lots of documents from my training courses in the TNG twinSpace
    in the "useful materials" section.
    Maybe you'll find there some inspiration!

    I hope I've been useful to you someway. LEt me know,