Wednesday, 20 July 2011

CLIL - ready, steady, CHANGE !

After a short break, due to an accident (I fell from a sidewalk! I'm worse than kids... sometimes I think I shouldn't be allowed to travel alone!!!), here I am again sharing ideas, hints and doubts of my CLIL course.

That's how Dr Diana Hicks introduced the subject to us: you can't do something different (a CLIL lesson isn't monolingual methodology given in second or third language, remember?) and keep the same attitude. You've to make changes. So, that's it: feel confident enough to welcome the change and rethink our role and our strategies.

We need to make changes to

1) Teacher Language awareness
2) Student Language awareness
3) Tasks
4) Assessment strategies
5) Working relationship with colleagues
6) Relationship with parents
7) Our view of language "success"
8) Our view of what learning success is
9) Our view of how learning takes place
10) Lesson planning

We have already discussed some of these changes in other posts. Anyway, some of them deserve to be paid further attention. Of course, the first point is very controversial: we are working in two languages, MT and FL. But we can't take it for granted that students will only have problems with the Foreign Language. Maybe they'll struggle through the topic. Or maybe they don't have the host country language. How can we provide support for them? (burning question for me: in one of my classes I've 8 students out of 20 whose mother tongue is not Italian... and still no answer found).
Tasks and assessment: according to Dr Diana Hicks, most tasks should be shared and open - students should be allowed to bring their own ideas to add to the outcome and/or process. And as for the language, we have to make sure they know which language they can work in and what they're expected to produce.
Assessing (please note: the assessment part of the course was in my opinion the weakest... and for a very simple reason - we didn't have enough lessons and we had to rush through things) is connected to the lesson planning: when planning - and it will be a shared planning, subject teacher + language teacher - we'll have to discuss about assessment as well. What's important is to pay attention to the "how" more than to the "what": that means designing activities and tests that require thinking/understanding, not knowing. It sounds beautiful put like this, but don't ask me if I could do it in real life. I try.
We've been speaking about collegiality, and the challenge to work together, quite a lot now - so I won't examine this point again. What we can add here is a reflection on what "language success" means to us, both in MT and FL. We usually think in terms of accuracy, especially in MT, but maybe we have to pay some more attention to the students' awareness of the context: they should be aware of the differences between BICS and CALP. Language success may have to do with understanding when we can speak/write in a certain way, and when we have to change. Again, this has to do with thinking.

Enough for now... but just to keep you intrigued... I'll leave "characteristics of successful bilingual teaching" for my next post.

So enjoy your summer, but come back here from time to time!



  1. Dear Laura,
    Hope you’re better after your fall.
    Are you back in Italy?
    Your new post has emphasised very clearly the changes we have to make under many respects. Some key words have popped up again: collegiality and evaluation, among the others.
    This has a lot to do with the learning/teaching of competences where, as you said, the “how” is more important than the “what”, the “thinking/understanding” more relevant than the “knowing”.
    This reminds me of the strong need of a school year planning based on competences which should take place at many levels: the whole school, the so called “departments” (FL teachers, L1 teachers, etc) and the CdC, which means all the teachers of a class who plan together something specific for that class and, inside the class, for each pupil.
    When talking about serious planning on such a big scale, the main problem which seems very difficult to overcome is time: How much time should we spend working together as teachers? The second is: how to assess what pupils have learnt?
    These difficulties don’t discourage me, I know that changing your attitude makes things change. I’m just groping for my points of references.
    Please let’s share more instalments of this intriguing summer CLIL soap opera.

  2. Hi Mariella,
    I'd like to answer in Italian this time, as it's easier for me to explain such a complex matter. Anyway, I'll go on with English so that others can understand as well.
    You know teachers' teams (eTwinning teams, but not only eTwinning) are the core of my professional reflection - and action - at the moment. So I share your same thoughts and concerns regarding collegiality-planning together-working together. When? How?
    As you say, if you change, people around you will change as well. That happened to me with our Comenius, we created a larger group of involved teachers, we truly shared ideas and tasks, we discussed and negotiated assessment, and I'm very happy. But all of this was made up at the moment, coming from our personal efforts, our free time, sometimes our being friends. Is that enough?
    I don't think so. I believe we need an official framework, we need guidelines - and we need money to pay for the teachers' time. I wonder why the Ministry of Education can't understand this.
    Maybe my ideas are so dark now because my school is in such a difficult situation. No headteacher, lots of colleagues leaving, uncertain future (being split in two? merging into another institute?), 800 students and a complicated social environment can be a dangerous mix. How can we plan if the whole structure of our school is falling down?
    Anyway, as always, we still dream of new projects, we still try to work together and we still enjoy being with our students. So, there's hope after all!

  3. Dear Laura, my name is Alberto Fernandez, Music Teacher in a Bilingual Secondary School in Andalusia , Spain. e-mail . I've found your blog by chance....I met Diana Hicks last summer in the Southampton course......she's lovely, really made me think...I'm glad to know you are also burning your mind about CLIL....I will very gratefully follow your blog and collaborate with you . Best wishes

  4. Hi Alberto,
    so nice to get to know you! I think that, working in a bilingual school, you're far more experienced in CLIL than the majority of us. So, all you can share with us will be more than welcome! And even more, since you attended Diana Hicks' courses as well, so we can share ideas and impressions (and tons of photocopies as well!).
    I'm writing an email to you, thanks for now