Monday, 9 January 2012

CLIL lesson - History

This is a CLIL activity I made up on my own for one of my classes. It's simple, funny, and easy to customize for different subjects (I will post a Geography version later on). It turned out to be motivating and successful, so I would rank it second in my CLIL experience, just after Dante's CLIL.

Note: this lesson-plan fits any situation when you want to revise a range of topics you've already studied with your pupils. In my opinion, it won't work for introducing a new subject.
As for us, we had been studying the fall of the Roman Empire, dealing with different populations: the Romans, the Huns, the Byzantines and the Lombards (Langobards).


about 20 students - 12/13 years old

subjects: History/Languages

Pupils working in teams (4 teams, since we had studied 4 different populations)

About 2 hours needed

Instructions given in English - pupils can answer and discuss, when needed, both in English and in mother tongue.


- for the first part (role play) 20 pieces of paper with one sentence each (English)
 I had 20 students, so I had prepared 20 pieces of paper with 1 different sentence on each. The sentences dealt (often in a funny way) with the populations we had studied, who they were, how they lived, what they did.
Example: "I speak latin, I've been conquering the world and I call the Mediterraneum Mare nostrum. Unfortunately, at the moment I'm having problems with a bunch of dirty barbarians..." (the student had to understand he was a Roman)
"I am a nomad, I live on raids, and I spend most of my life on horses. I know there are lots of treasures in Italy and I'm heading there" (Hun)
" I took part in the invasion of the Po Valley in 568. My people conquered Italy defeating those snobbish Byzantines and we chose Pavia as our capital." (Lombard)
"I consider myself a descendant of the Ancient Roman State, but I prefer Greek culture and I speak Greek rather than Latin. My capital is Constantinople. I despize the ugly and filthy barbarians." (Byzantine)
Of the 4 sentences identifying each population, one referred to the king (or leader) of that people.

- for the secon part (betting game): I had prepared a ppt presentation with 20 multiple/choice questions (English). Most of them were just a revision of what had been studied, some of them were about funny facts dealing with the culture of those populations, and a few were about historical events we had not studied yet (but they could guess by discussing in their group and reflecting on what they already knew).


1) Pick a piece of paper, read it and discover who you are. Now, go make groups. Students have to move in the classroom, read their papers and those of the others and try to understand how to make groups. I didn't give them any explanation first, but it took just 5 minutes for them to realize they had to find their people.

2) Are you in your groups? Now, who is the king? The king will be the team leader. Starting with group 1, can the team leader please tell me: who are you? The student says for instance "I am Attila and they are my people, the Huns". And so on, for the 4 groups.

3) Starting with group 1, can each member of the team please read their sentence? This is just to be sure that all of the students are in the right place. If one or more of them aren't in the correct group, they will hopefully realize it by reading (or their partners will). Let them move to the correct group.

4) Now, can the team leader tell me something about his people, culture, actions? Which people in this room are your allies? Which people are enemies?

5) Sit in your groups. We will have now our "war" between these populations: a betting game. Who will be the winner? Let's see whether things will go as they did in history or not.
Each group starts with a treasure of 100 gold pieces.
You will be asked 20 multiple choice questions. The group has to bet on the right answer. You can bet from a minimum of 10 gold pieces up to all the gold you have. But be careful in your bet: for if you are right, you'll win the gold you bet. But if you are wrong, you'll lose it.
This is a very simple activity. All of the students know "who wants to be a millionaire" so you won't have much to explain. Just be sure to keep the correct score!

6) At the end of the activity, if you have time, you can have some more fun seeing who the winner is and playing "what if..." (what if they had actually won in history? What would be Europe like today?).

7) I usually close the activity asking: Is there anything else you would like to know about these populations? Be prepared: you'll be asked the weirdest questions about everyday life and culture (clothing, underwear, fashion, make up, weddings, gods, weapons, even toilets!). And as always when speaking of questions, the rule is: the more the better. There are no stupid questions. All of them are useful someway.

Ok, try this one and let me know. And if you have other CLIL activities, examples, scaffolding or lesson-plans you'd like to share, remember: they'll be more than welcome!


  1. Dear Laura,
    I've read your fun History revision CLIL lesson and I've tried to imagine myself doing that with some imaginary classmates. We would have had fun indeed!
    I've got a question. When you do CLIL lessons like that, mainly based on group work, is there any kind of formal assessment? Or do you aim at teambuilding, peer education, learning by doing and put off the assessment to a further stage?
    Thank you

  2. Hi Mariella,
    good question. We've been discussing assessment a lot with the English Language teacher and we eventually found this solution:

    1) during a CLIL lesson we often (but not always) run the lesson together

    2) just after the lesson (usually immediately after, if it's not possible the next day) there's a written test. The English teacher prepares the worksheets focusing on the language structures she wanted them to revise. I take care of the content.

    3) The test is in English. We usually have simple fill in the blanks exercises + the opportunity to answer in Mother Tongue for those questions which require a longer explanation.

    4) The tests are given two marks, one for language and one for content. We then register the mark in our journals as any normal written test.

    We are not sure that's the best way, because we separate content and language in our assessment. But we couldn't find any better option. At least for now.

    Do you have any suggestion?


  3. Fun! I'm going to copy this!