Wednesday, 2 November 2011

CLIL Is Yours - fifth national CLIL conference

Yesterday was the national CLIL conference organized by the European Platform. Here are some thoughts on what I took away from it.

Firstly, for me one of the main themes that emerged from the conference is the need for subject (content) teachers to recognize that they also become language teachers when they work in a CLIL context. This was something that was very apparent in both the keynote talks. As Peeter Mehisto put it, a geography teacher, for example, needs to shift their self-identity so that they can describe themselves as a geography and language teacher and not merely a geography teacher.

What also emerged from the two keynotes is the importance of an understanding in a CLIL context of what Keith Kelly referred to as General Academic Language. I’m sure that developments in this area will feed into the design of textbooks over the next few years as we see the publication of more books aimed at a specific CLIL market. These books will try to make both the language of the subject and the academic language explicit to the learner. The kind of scaffolding strategies for this will be adapted from EFL and ESOL teaching methods – for example, the use of word banks, sentence starters, substitution tables, writing and speaking frames and so on. In the meantime, subject teachers will need to augment their existing textbooks with these types of scaffolding activities by designing them themselves (so they might get ideas for this by looking at the course books that their colleagues teaching English use).

A third aspect to the conference was the incredible diversity of CLIL concerns and issues – from all the hands-on workshops with practical ideas for CLIL activities to workshops looking at ways to embed international and intercultural content, from the various subject specific workshops to workshops that focus on CLIL skills across subjects. This range of concerns is what makes CLIL so fascinating.

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