Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The 8 Cs of CLIL?

Maybe you’ve already heard of the four Cs of CLIL, which are, according to Do Coyle who first proposed them, key aspects of implementing CLIL? The four Cs are: content (subject matter) , communication (language) , cognition (thinking skills) and culture (EIO). However, based on a talk we gave last May, giving an overview of what we do as CLIL trainers, we want to suggest another four.

There are two ways to think about collaboration in CLIL. First, there is the collaboration that needs to take place between learners. Working together on projects, solving problems together, small group tasks and other co-operative learning formats are strategies for getting the learners to collaborate and through this collaboration use and learn the language of the classroom and produce spoken output . Language is a social activity and we learn language through social interaction.

The second aspect to collaboration in CLIL is the work that happens between teachers. One way to deliver CLIL in an effective way is the development of integrated projects, between different subjects across the curriculum (e.g. history with English, or a week-long project involving the whole team on one topic, like "energy") . Our experience is that if the teachers collaborate in this way the learners learn better , since language and content are recycled and revisited, and are more motivated to work on these types of project.

It is important for a teacher to be able to differentiate in a CLIL lesson, and to indentify and understand the differences between the learners in a CLIL classroom. These differences have multiple perspectives – there will be differences based on language proficiency, differences based on students’ ability to understand and work with the given content of a lesson, then there are also differences based on students’ learning preferences, their interest, and the pace at which they learn. Differentiation is thus a complex issue for a CLIL teacher.

For example, when children enter the TTO there can be big differences in the level of their English. Some children have had vvto, others have had very little English at all at the primary school. How does a subject teacher deal with these different levels of language proficiency and at the same time teach all the students the same content? There are several strategies for differentiation that we can look at. Giving students choices in the ways that they learn and the content of their learning is one approach, and there are various ways for a teacher to manage this. We also help teachers to be aware of providing input in a variety of ways to appeal to different learning styles/ intelligences.

Learners need to experiment with language, and creatively transform the input in a lesson into output (writing or speaking). We’ve carried out a research project recently into tvmbo, and it was clear from this research that students learn more, according to their own perception, if they are creative: making things, writing things, giving presentations.

Tasks need to have an authentic context, the classroom has to be an engaging and inspiring context for learning and a space that motivates learners to take risks. We encourage teachers to be more creative with, for example, their writing assignments. Teachers tell us that the training we provide also inspires them to be more experimental, to take risks, to tolerate the buzz and noise of a classroom that encourages creativity.

Creating is also the highest thinking skill according to Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives.

There are at least two types of connection worth mentioning in a CLIL context.

First, there is the necessity to build connections within a lesson. It is important to begin by working from the prior knowledge of learners, guiding them into the lesson content, then also to identify connections across subjects in order to further consolidate learning, to provide links to the next lesson or back to previous lessons, and finally to end a lesson with a reflection task that helps the students to synthesize their learning. A CLIL lesson is like a three-course meal: starter (warming up activity), the main course, and a reflection activity at the end.

Secondly, CLIL is about looking at the content of lessons and of the wider school curriculum from the point of view of connecting to the world. This can be achieved by developing projects in which schools connect to each other, but also by bringing the experience of students in the outside world into the classroom.


  1. Great post! I like the concept of adding 4 new dimensions to Doyle’s 4Cs framework. It introduces an interesting perspective to extend the reflection on the complexity of CLIL practice.

  2. Hello

    I really liked this!! I'm involved in creating a CLIL course at my school and we were looking for different views on creating lessons. This really helped shift my perspective somewhat.

    The course runs at the end of this month (our first one) and I'm eager to see the feedback straightaway!

    Thanks for this!!!