Sunday, 11 December 2011

my best CLIL lesson of 2011

If you've been following my summer CLIL-soap, you'll know by now I've been reflecting on (and practicing) CLIL quite a lot during these months.
All of the people who regularly come to visit me in this blog (thank you!) helped me a lot here. We've been discussing theories and different approaches together, we've shared experiences and we've tried to overcome our empasse points. I've often been asked to share some practical tips, worksheets or lesson-plans of my everyday teaching. Part of them are, as usual, uploaded in the TNG TwinSpace.
But since we are reaching the end of this 2011, I'd like to share here my favourite CLIL lesson of this year. Important: I didn't make up this lesson on my own, I worked on a structure suggested by Dr. Diana Hicks during my summer course. Anyway, it turned out to be so nice and motivating after being customized to my case, that I think anyone can take advantage of it.
So have a look at it, and see if it can work for you as well!


about 20 students - 12/13 years old
subjects: History/Literature/Languages
Pupils working on their own, in pairs when asked
Instructions given in English - pupils can answer and discuss, when needed, both in English and in mother tongue.

1) Take a piece of paper and draw a country - not an existing one, just make up your own. Place a capital city. Draw a river across the capital city. Give a name to the country, the capital city and the river (that's the funny part: pupils can be quite creative at times)

2) In the capital city, draw a Cathedral and a Town Hall (this will be useful later, when we'll set the story in the Middle Ages)

3) In this country there are two political parties. You're a politician of the leading party (if you want, you can have fun here again letting them name the parties). One day, you're sent on an important mission to the Pope, in Rome. While you're away, there's a rebellion in your country. The enemy party takes power, all of your friends are imprisoned or killed and you are exiled. Now, your family is still in the capital city, you love them and your city and you miss them. You want to go back. What would you do?

4) Write under your drawing at least 5 things you would do in order to go back home. (They have to start each sentence with "I would", then they can end it in English or mother tongue). Remember, if you go back and they catch you, you'll be executed.

5) Now work in pairs. Compare your answers with those of your partner. Are there any common ideas? Can you make up anything new together?

6) Now: the story is set in 1300. Please delete all of your ideas that don't suit this age (rest assured, there will always be plenty of bombing, alien-invading, and monster-related options).

7) All of the remaining ideas will be collected on the board.

8) Ok, now I can say: this is the story of Dante Alighieri, and you were acting as Dante himself. What did he actually do? Let's take the book and find out together.

That's all. It turned out to be a very active and involving lesson, and even the always-sleeping students had for once something to say. We had fun, they managed to speak a lot without the usual fears, and to their surprise they found out they would do lots of things Dante actually did. And even if they wouldn't have written the "Divina Commedia", believe me: they won't forget Dante and his story from now on !!!


  1. That’s a GREAT idea !!
    I was really surprised. You make your pupils practice their English while having fun. Moreover, you start an history lesson they’ll never forget because you make history a living thing. That’s not something lost – and – forgotten. You make Dante’s problems real, you make his life real, his history real.

  2. Dear Laura,
    thank you really for sharing us the description of your lesson. It is really interesting, and I am sure, pupils and teacher can enjoy a lesson like this. I think, if there is an activity which can "make" more active our student's fantasy, it can be very useful and motivating.
    When I red your description, I tought: I would like to try it out.
    And an other thing...I don't know why, but I started to think about the book "Lord of the rings". There is a fantasy land with a lot of misterious and magical place, people. It could be one of the reasons, why the book (and after the film) was successful? Because it helped to "move" the fantasy..
    I had a lesson at the university with students, where I had an activity. I do it in every semester when we talk about the languages. There is a part, where students try to find out a language, with their fantasy. A language only for their group with some important new words (eat, drink, some activities, yes, no...) and rules.It works, because they try to collect their experiences about the languages and about the difficulties in a foregin language and their mother tongue. They like it.And I like it too.
    Thank you again for your description, I will think about it, how could I try out with my small pupils in the class. Maybe a part of activities, and after to do some others because they are small. If I find out something, I will write it for sure.
    Hugs, Mónika

  3. Creative lesson!!!
    Thank you very much Laura!!!
    As I was reading your post,
    I was thinking how it can works
    in my lessons Physics, Chemistry,
    Geography and Biology...

  4. Hi Laura & friends!
    Thank you for sharing your experience as usual. I think this lesson was very creative and funny.
    Just like Marika, I was thinking about how to use this idea in my subjects.
    I know in Cheltenham you had some lesson-scaffolding for Science and Geography too.
    Can you give us some hints about those lessons?
    Thank you

  5. Hi Marika and Sandra,
    thanks for your nice words. I've just posted something about Science and Geography. It's another lesson-plan I was given in Cheltenham during the training course.
    Have a look and let me know if it can be useful for you!

  6. Dear Laura, I have been delighted by the reading of your CLIL lesson on Dante's historical background. It's creative, simple and shareable. It can be easily transferred to many topics.
    Thank you!