Thursday, 17 January 2013

Creative with CLIL

This video caught my attention this week, especially since my New Year's resolution (yet again) is to "Slow down". Give students 10 seconds to perform a task, and they all come up with the same answer. Give them 10 minutes and their creativity explodes!

But what does this mean for CLIL? For me, it means that we can:
  • give students more time to work on CLIL projects
  • ask students to spend time on writing drafts and rewriting longer pieces of writing (instead of lots of small ones)
  • get students to think more about what they are learning (use the well-worn idea of think, pair, share)
  • use HOTS (higher order thinking skills) more than LOTS (lower order thinking skills)
  • plan fewer activities in our lessons: the activities which we do do can then really engage students
  • encourage and reward creativity in language use when students are writing or speaking, rather than punishing them or marking them down for making silly mistakes
If we do these things, maybe our students' creativity will increase and you will be prouder of what they make or perform.

And if you want to be creative with CLIL, are new or pretty new to CLIL and would like some attractive teaching ideas for your lessons, we'd like to let you know that our CLIL starters course in Utrecht is starting again on 26 February. It's definitely going ahead, but there are still some places free and we would love to meet you! Here is the Application form.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

How to EIOfy your lessons – four possible teaching strategies

European and International Orientation (EIO) is often an aspect of bilingual education that teachers find difficult to integrate with their subject. For example, some aspects of the EIO rubric are rather abstract, and the rubric does not offer concrete examples of its criteria put into classroom practice.

Of course, for some subjects (for example: social studies, geography and history) incorporating EIO can be as straight forward as identifying the relevant content of their subject. At some schools the approach has been to teach EIO as a separate subject. But what about other subjects in the curriculum? How does a science teacher, for example, add an international dimension to their lessons?

In order to try and offer teachers a concrete approach that includes examples for actual teaching practice for how to EIOfy a lesson, we have come up with four EIO teaching strategies. We would say that potentially every subject could use at least one of these.

Strategy one: Experiencing an aspect of another culture

This strategy is about finding lesson materials or ideas for lesson activities that use or adapt something from another culture. Physical Education teachers in the bilingual stream often offer a good example of this when they give their learners the opportunity to try out sports from other countries (for example, here in The Netherlands there has been a successful cricket league set up between bilingual schools). How about other subjects though? An example we’ve used in workshops is of games from other cultures that a maths teacher can use for teaching particular topics. For example, how about getting the pupils playing the ancient Chinese game of Nim as an idea for learning about calculating probability?

Strategy two: Experiencing how to resolve conflicts and negotiate solutions

With this approach learners are given co-operative learning or small group tasks, in which they need to work together to complete a task or solve a problem. The point is to also have the pupils focus on the ways they work together, and to encourage them to make explicit for themselves the different skills involved. A teacher needs to also draw attention to the link between these types of task and the international projects and/or exchange trips that learners will probably also participate in as part of a CLIL programme – the same skills that they use in the classroom for working together will then need to be applied in an international setting.

Strategy three: Learning about multicultural and intercultural content

This strategy is possibly the one that is the easiest to connect to the EIO rubric, and the rubric itself does offer some indication of ideas for lesson content. But teachers can also use the idea of EIO as a launch pad into a range of related topics – such as human rights, sustainable development, and citizenship – that all subjects in the curriculum could potentially connect with.  These topics could then become the focus for cross curricular projects that different subjects contribute to.

Strategy four: Looking at something from another (cultural) perspective

With this learners are asked to experience another or alternative (cultural) perspective to their own. Role playing activities are a good way to explore this strategy, coming up with controversial topics for discussion, for example, and then giving pupils a particular role to play in that discussion that could be related to a different cultural perspective to their own. Another example we used in a workshop was a poem written by a refugee in the UK, in which we took out some key words and asked the participants to complete the poem themselves (thus putting themselves into the position of the poet). They were then asked to discuss what they thought about the person who wrote the poem (cultural background, age, gender, job etc.) and were often surprised to then discover the difference between their own assumptions and the truth.

Taken together what these four strategies show is that implementing EIO is an approach that can involve knowledge and understanding of subject content (and which can potentially be linked between and across different subjects) but also a range of skills that different subjects can also work with.

We’d be interested to know what teaching ideas other people have in relation to any of these four lesson EIOfying teaching strategies. Or indeed any thoughts on adding an international aspect to CLIL in the classroom.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Winter Warmers for CLIL

Snow is upon us (at least it is here in The Netherlands) and the temperature is dropping! Even more reason to get learners warmed up at the start of a lesson.
Warming up is important in order to help learners make the transition from a regular lesson to a CLIL lesson – warming up in this case could focus on the use of English in the lesson.
Activating tasks are also essential to help motivate learners and engage their interest for a particular topic.
Warming up is also important for the transition between subjects in a bilingual stream – in this case an energizer might focus on subject content and activating prior knowledge, alongside activating language use.
Here’s a suggestion for five (winter) warming up activities for a CLIL lesson.

Balloon stomp
This can get very noisy! Choose a set of questions (Q) and answers (A). Write each Q and A on separate pieces of paper. Roll each one up and place it in separate balloons. Blow the balloons up. Learners walk around the room until the teacher says, “jump”. Each person then stands on a balloon to burst it and releases the paper inside. Each then looks for the person with the A to the Q they have, or the Q to the A. Alternatively, use collocations with different words that need to be put together. For example, one person has “fish” and has to find the other person with “chips”. Also possible to do this activity without the balloons!

CLIL beach ball
Write questions all over a beach ball. For example, what would you do with a million dollars? which famous person would play you in the movie of your life? which vegetable do you hate the most? Then throw the ball around the room to learners — wherever their right thumb lands, they answer that question. Questions could also be related to subject content – but then they need to be open-ended questions in case of people getting the same question.

Fat question
A fat question is an open-ended question that has no single answer and requires more than a single sentence in a possible answer. For example: Is there life on other planets, what do you think? Use a fat question at the start of a lesson to get brains into gear and to generate discussion, as well as motivating interest in the topic for that particular lesson.

Place pupils in pairs or small groups. They take it in turns to think of a verb. Others have to ask questions to discover the verb chosen using the word ‘’coffeepot” in place of the verb: for example, “Do you coffeepot at night? When do you coffeepot? Where do you coffeepot?” etc. until they find the answer. Verbs could also be related to a specific topic to connect with subject content.

Top Secret
Everyone writes something down which he or she knows about him/herself but that no-one else in the class knows. Gather cards together, then redistribute them. Everyone reads out their card, and guesses who it comes from. As an alternative, learners need to write a secret about themselves using different tense, for example, one sentence in the present tense, one sentence in the present perfect tense.