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.

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