Friday, 19 November 2010

CLIL is Brill (But Keep It Real), Saddleworth School, Friday 12 November 2010

Karen Hutley is a SSAT MFL Lead Practitioner at Saddleworth School, my local language college. She has been working to develop CLIL-French and German with History-at her school for more than 2 years now and the aim of the training day was to share her experiences and present her school’s approach to CLIL.

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning and it is an approach encouraged by the Revised PoS, as it provides “opportunities for pupils to... use the Target Language in connection with topics and issues... that may be related to other areas of the curriculum”

CLIL is not a new concept and there is a wealth of references found in different European projects.

Karen divided the planning process into 4 areas:

Vision: What do I want to achieve with our learners?

Content: What is appropriate?

Unit concept: What will a unit consist of? Aims? Outcomes? Opportunities for assessment?

CLIL is a way to promote languages through another curriculum area:

Apart from the reported gains in value added and motivation, I like the fact that CLIL encourages independence and challenge rather than pure “fun” (What’s fun anyway?) and that it redefines the content and the purpose of languages lessons, which will address some much-debated gender issues.

It also develops study skills and concentration, encourages linguistic spontaneity and widens students’ horizons at many different levels from the classroom to the outside world in general.

I am particularly interested in CLIL as a pathway for mixed-experience language classes at the start of KS3 and a powerful way to keep motivated young linguists on board rather than de-moralising them by revisiting what they have learnt at KS2 in nearly exactly the same way.

CLIL was also presented in terms of wholeschool benefits:

Revisits effective teaching and learning approaches

Creates REAL cross-curricular partnerships effectively disseminating good practice

Provides new challenges and raise our expectations

Develops creativity and innovation in the curriculum

Stretches and motivates students, especially the most able

Raises the status of Languages

Improves generic and specific language skills

Top tips to start CLIL

Observe colleagues in the non-specialist subject

Share SoWs and NC levels

Plan carefully together-Do you understand the concept you are teaching?

Make good use of your FLAs

Praise/ Reward system

Use SEN worksheets as a starting point and look at resources already available.


We were given an opportunity to look at how Movie Maker can help producing CLIL resources.

Although I have used movie-maker in class, there are a few things I had not considered:

You can only import .avi .mpg and .wmv video files, so importing a Youtube clip will often mean charnging the format.

I could use my own camera footage (sometimes the most obvious is not what we go for...)

Movie Maker can automatically split your movie into smaller clips that are easier to edit or you can manually trim video clips to show just the most interesting moments.

I enjoyed muting the video and putting other sound for it as well as altering its appearance e.g. black and white/ sepia, which is always an effective way to convey how things used to be in the past.

It was also great to be reminded about tools like keepvid that can be used to source and download You Tube clips or Zamzar that also provides a free online file conversion service.

I found out about new resources/tools too like sounddogs, Flash Catcher-tool that downloads flash animations into one single file and Pixelan which has new editing add-ons for Movie Maker, pre-made packs and powerful customizable wizards.

We were also given the opportunity to see CLIL in action and to then go back to plan part of a CLIL lesson. As the topic was Poverty in Victorian Britain, which I know very little about and I certainly did not study at school in France, I found this part of the day both challenging and enlightening. It also made me think very carefully about the subject I would do CLIL with as some prior knowledge of the key concept is definitely an advantage.

The other thing to consider was the level of language. When you talk to colleagues about CLIL, there is a general misconception that the level of language used should be equivalent to the one used in the target language country. As the aim is to communicate the concepts rather than focus on the linguistic side of things, this could not be further from the truth. It is up to the teacher to define the appropriate language needed to teach the concept, keep the challenge and provide support rather than just dumb down the language in the hope that students will understand the concept better that way (they don’t!).

Although CLIL has a lot to offer, it is clear that the Saddleworth School model needs to be adapted to different schools according to their circumstances. The school has put a lot of thought into joint-timetabling and included some extra time for preparation to ensure the sustainability of CLIL in the curriculum but this might be more difficult to implement in a non-language college.

Sustainability is an issue not to be brushed aside, as parents will want to know about future continuity and impact on the other areas of the curriculum. Good communication with parents is also essential for them to understand the benefits of CLIL and not to feel that their child is being used as part of a “strange experiment”.

Time is also a pressure as a CLIL will require even more preparation time than a traditional language lesson-hence the title and the need to make good use of support staff like FLAs and ICT support staff.

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