On language scaffolding benefits beyond the CLIL class


One of the core advantages in CLIL methodology which is commonly mentioned is the fact that this approach sheds light on the intimate relationship between language and content. Learning a specific subject in a foreign language raises questions about how to scaffold language in order to efficiently gain access to the new knowledge. If students do not feel confident with the language structures related to the subject, they will probably fail in acquiring it and move on.

This connection always operates when facing and trying to grasp new content, also when we strive to  acquire it by means of our mother language. Therefore a certain linguistic scaffold or reflection shouldn’t just be applicable when learning a subject by means of a foreign language, but also in regular classes taught in the mother language.

Subject teachers, no matter their speciality,  tend to presuppose their students are aware of and master the linguistic requirements related to the subject, or they just ignore it and therefore don’t take it into account when planning their syllabuses. This might lead some of our students to a lack of understanding and consequently of motivation towards the subject.

A way to improve this situation would be to foster a closer collaboration between language and subject departments. They could work together to identify the linguistic requirements of their subjects and think of strategies to make their students aware of them.

The CLIL’s lack of philosophy

Whilst there is quite a large amount of CLIL resources for a wide range of subjects, such as social and natural science, there is no significant number of CLIL materials for the subject-matter of philosophy. This fact is even more surprising considering the similarities between the philosophical and the CLIL approaches.

Taking into account that CLIL increases the awareness of the overall close relationship between content and language, builds bridges between knowledge areas and opens up doors to high cognitive demanding learning environments, the subject of philosophy should be considered as one of the most appropriate areas for implementing CLIL.

Having text analysis and ideas debate at the core of its procedures, the specific philosophical approach to the different topics make the students face a situation in which they must be highly aware of the intimate connection between language and content. The philosophy class becomes therefore the agora where content and communication meet at their purest state.

Furthermore, the philosophy class has always favoured interdisciplinary work. Its critical reflection on global issues allows to link a wide range of subjects and to build up on what has already been learnt while replacing it in a more challenging and cognitive demanding learning environment.

Another reason which enables to work High Ordering Thinking Skills within the subject-matters of the area of philosophy is that they tend to appear at the later stages of secondary education, when students have already achieved an A2-B1 level of the foreign language and are able to meet higher language demands.

Here are a few interesting examples of CLIL materials for philosophy which we hope will encourage both philosophy and foreign language teachers to work together and develop further resources:

EFL and CLIL experts on educational paradigm shift


The CCN Cascade Network displays a series of brief videos  of experts commenting on different aspects of Foreign Language and CLIL teaching.


Emily Rosser, publisher at Macmillan, and Oliver Meyer, author of Introducing the CLIL-Pyramid: Key Strategies and Principles for CLIL Planning and Teaching,  comment on the paradigm shift in language teaching which ICT tools are introducing.

They argue that ICT tools offer the opportunity to get rid of linear text books and improve language teaching by, for example,  enriching the input with authentic materials, facilitating interaction and improving writing skills through blogging, twitting or other networking applications.

Teachers should get proper training to be able to add value to the contents available on the net. Their main role of teachers is now identifying high quality materials on the net, selecting, synthesizing and developing activities around them so that they can finally deliver that content to the class as learning material. From that content the students would be able to produce their own outputs which could be later available for others to use.

Do Coyle, professor in Learning Innovation at the University of Nottingham and expert on CLIL methodology, holds  that teaching contents in a foreign language has the potential to stimulate cognitive skills and add value to the teaching activity by giving the teachers the opportunity to re-examine the role of language as a learning tool in a way which is much richer as if it was in the first language.

CLIL specialist Sue Hughes argues that all teachers are implicitly language teachers. Language here is used as the linguistic tool students need to understand any subject. For this reason being aware of the language in which history or science contents, for example, are built and passed on is essential when planning our lessons in order to increase our students’ learning potential.

Despite of recognizing the benefits of multilingualism, Ulla Aikio calls the attention upon the importance of keeping and supporting mother languages, specially minority languages, and use them as a medium of content learning because of the important role they play to build identity and social cohesion.

Josephine Moate, author of The Integrated Nature of CLIL: A Sociocultural Perspective , stresses the socio-cultural dimension of learning. She explores the spread idea of knowledge as a sort of material goods which can be possessed in order to gain access to the cultural communities it belongs to.

EFL teacher and materials developer Isabel Araéz highlights the role that both teachers and the administration must play in order to champion effectively the paradigm shift in education.

CLIL implementation is not a ‘going solo’ thing

I have recently come across some videos of a debate at the 43rd Annual IATEFL Conference which took place in Cardiff in 2009. The contributions of Peeter Mephisto and Mina Patel have made me reflect on the complexity of introducing CLIL practices in the school and on the little attention we pay to what students need to face this change when discussing about applying this new methodology.

CLIL has become a motor for reform in school. The implementation and success of CLIL methodologies in the class is not a going solo thing. It requires a discussion within the institution which must lead to globally rethink its pedagogy and redefine the roles of the members in the educational community.

going solo

Implementing CLIL leads to a complex change which involves not just teachers, but also the school, the administration, the students and their parents. In order to successfully implement CLIL methodologies all the actors must be consciously and actively committed to the change. Otherwise, efforts carried out by highly committed and motivated teachers can lead to a frustrating huge waste of time and resources.

Teachers must go through extensive training programs to improve their foreign target language skills and to learn the specific CLIL methodological tools. Furthermore, they must also redefine their identity as CLIL teachers and get on well with it both in the classroom and in the relation with their colleagues.

Schools must support this change by building a framework  to effectively allow coordination and collaborative work among departments. That leads to rethink time schedules and subject department boundaries. This can only take place if the administration resolutely pledges their commitment to CLIL and invests money on the resources required to implement it.

Both Peeter Mephisto and Mina Patel point out that little attention has been given to what students need to face this change. They hold that students need guidelines to manage their feelings and expectations towards the new class dynamics introduced by CLIL. They also require to understand the learning process they are going to go through. In this adaptive process, the assistance the students get from their parents is essential. Therefore it is important that parents get also involved in this change, so that they can support their children.

In conclusion, if we want to effectively implement CLIL in our schools it is necessary to open a debate with all actors of the educational community. This debate must be brave enough to question the school pedagogy , its internal organization and its relationship with the students’ parents.

CIREL’S ready-to-use CLIL materials


The CIREL website, an agency of the Education Department of the Catalan Government, offers a large bank of ready-to-use CLIL didactic units covering a wide range of topics of various subject areas for both primary and secondary school.

These materials have been designed by Catalan teachers during a paid-study leave in the UK and are displayed in two different blocks: one collects materials which cover 35 teaching hours; the other lists 6-10 teaching hours materials. Although Catalan is the vehicular language of the site, all worksheets, teacher’s guidelines, activities descriptions and further materials are written in English. It is really worth taking a look at them.

We would like to congratulate the teachers who have designed these materials for their great job and thank them for sharing it.

International Conference on CLIL. 23-25 Feb 2012. The University of Navarra.

The University of Navarra is holding the international conference Practical approaches to Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) from 23 to 25 February 2012.

The conference will include workshops, round table discussions and lectures by Anna Halbach (University of Alcalá de Henares), Yolanda Ruiz de Zarobe (University of the Basque Country) and Ignacio Vázquez (University of Zaragoza).

The main aim of this conference is to promote interdisciplinary discussion around CLIL practises at all levels in the educational system, ranging from  childhood education to university.

Abstracts and projects must be submitted by 30 November 2011. Although theoretical papers will be welcomed, special attention will be paid to contributions focused on practical experiences, projects or experiments carried out with groups of learners at different levels in the educational system.

Edmodo – an attractive social network for teachers and students.

Edmodo is an attractive tool I got to know during a Chris Fry’s workshop which took place a month ago in the Annual British Council Conference in Barcelona .

Edmodo is a social network addressed exclusively to teachers and students. It looks pretty much like facebook both in its appearance and its use, but with the advantage that it allows you to set up groups in a secure and closed environment.

You can easily set up groups to manage your class, connect with other educators or engage in teacher professional development communities. It also offers the chance to share and store  documents in a clouded-based environment. If you have the time it is worth taking a look at this promo video and discover some of the communication and teaching possibilities it offers.