Wednesday, 13 July 2011

structure of a (CLIL) lesson - start with the pupils

I really found the whole workshop to be great, but one of the most useful tools Dr Diana Hicks gave us is the “skeleton” of a (CLIL) lesson. I put CLIL in brackets as I ended up believing it could be a good structure for any lesson, even in mother tongue.

We started by examining the traditional, most common structure of a lesson:
1) Stage 1: presentation of subject by the teacher
2) Stage 2: activities/exercises (practice)
3) Stage 3: production – bigger activity
Well, forget this. Gone. Outdated. And – most important – boring! This top-down structure is teacher’s centred, while we need a bottom-up, pupils’ centred structure. Otherwise, we’ll end up losing 80% of the pupils on our way.

So, here’s the structure Dr Diana Hicks introduced to us.
“Start with the pupils” she said. I won’t forget this. Definitely.

1) TUNING IN: diagnostic, introductory activities (for the teacher to understand the students’ needs, their use of language, their knowledge of the subject pre-lesson, etc. / for the students to be introduced to the subject in a motivating and playful way).
2) FINDING OUT: this is the “meat” of the lesson – content
3) SORTING OUT: organizing information
She suggested to have the students work in groups, so as to allow each pupil to give their own contribution, and to use both English (or other L2) and Mother Tongue, so that they feel safe and do their best.
And she also reminded us of something we all know – but usually forget: we must take into consideration the different learners’ styles (visual, verbal, interpersonal, intrapersonal, kinaesthetic, manipulative, logical, auditory, musical, experimental). Our activities and tests are usually meant for verbal and logical learners: what for the others?

Enough for tonight. I’ll share an example of lesson in another post. Hope you’re intrigued by all of this as much as I am…


  1. Dear Laura,
    As far as I can see, the boundary between a CLIL lesson and a lesson is blurring.
    As you said, that "skeleton" might suit any kind of lesson. What matters is starting from the pupils and finding out about their different learning styles.
    I'm curious to know about the peculiarities of the/a CLIL approach. I mean, apart from not having the language as the content of the teaching/learning process, what makes the CLIL approach different from a good communicative approach?
    In addition, I'm very curious about the way the assessment takes place.
    Let's go on investigating

  2. You might find this useful..the trick to any good lesson is taking into account the THREE learning styles, visual, auditory and kinesthetic, and the 7/8 intelligences we all have but to various degrees. The activities we design are the real challenge, hope you share those with us.
    Check out this link for more...

  3. I totally agree with you: the traditional lesson is to be forgotten and a kind of lesson based on discovery is the one we should use now. We definetely have to keep our students' interest and motivation alive otherwise we will lose them. If we are not that free to decide on subject matter, we should anyway start asking what previous experience with the topic they have and also try to understand how motivated they are to learn about the topic.
    In order to motivate them, I try to connect what I teach to my students' lives and that's not always easy. Another thing I try to do is what you mention here: consider their type of intelligence. I submit a test at the beginning of the school year to find it out in order to prepare lesson plans which might fit their abilities.
    Last year I attended an eTwinning learning event about Multiple Intelligences and it was soooo inspiring: I am still using all the materials they provided us with and the lesson plans I had to create for the event are still a good guide in my planning activity. It is hard work anyway because I think it should be something the teachers that work with the same group of students should share but that hardly ever happens unluckily.
    At the moment I am working on the creation of kind of language game. Do you agree that games can help?

  4. Hi ladies!
    Mariella, I know with things put like this it's not easy to see the peculiarity of a CLIL lesson. My fault: I'm taking so many notes I didn't manage to give an order to them... so, that's for the next post.
    Tanya and Alessandra (it's great to meet you here Alessandra!) thank you for your hints about different learning styles. I found the eTwinning "Multiple Intelligences" LE very useful as well. And Edutopia offers a similar test to the one Tanya suggested
    You are right, it could be useful to have the students take the test at the beginning of the school year, just to have an idea.
    As for games, I agree they can be of great help. I know Marina Marino (I suppose you know her, as she's a fantastic eTwinner) has been studying Game Based Learning and applying it to her didactics with very good results. Games are motivating, less stressful than the traditional tests, and definitely leave the pupils free to express themselves at their best.
    Alessandra and Tanya, how old are your students? I know Mariella works in Higher Secondary. Do you have higher secondary students as well?
    I work in lower secondary (11-14 year olds) so games can easily be a big part of our lessons!

  5. Hi Laura,

    My students are 14-19 year olds and the game I'm preparing is for the young ones. I'd better say it is kind of teasure hunt in which they are asked to use what they learn during their lessons in a different way or better, context. Nothing so original I'm afraid, but hopefully it will be helpful.
    You can see it at
    Last year I prepared a similar game about Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age and it was successful so let's cross our fingers for this one :)

  6. WOW !!! Alessandra, I had a tour through your pages and you've done an amazing job !!! That's why I love eTwinning and I love this blog: from time to time, I meet someone like you, Mariella, Marika... someone who creates a whole new word for their students, with skill, imagination, and looooots of their time. How long did it take to create this game? I'm going to show it to my husband, who always say I'm an ICT-obsessed teacher who spends half her time at school and the other half at the pc, preparing for school. Now, here's evidence we are a club :)
    Thank you for the link. I will definitely borrow some of your ideas.
    BRAVA !