Thursday, 15 December 2011

Websites for CLIL

CLIL websites
Colleagues have been sending me links to websites for CLIL during the past month, so I thought I would share some of them with you.

CLIL content materials
An email from the CLIL Research network included a reference to website of CLIL content materials, published by the Andalusian regional ministry of education. There are 130 examples of CLIL lessons, including over 4000 pages of materials, designed for use in CLIL content classes (social and natural science; mathematics; music; sport; technology and art), at primary and secondary level and in three languages: English, French and German.

Each unit is organized around a specific content topic and covers 6-10 classroom sessions. The units open with an outline of content, linguistic and competence goals and each is accompanied by a teacher guide. The units were designed by experienced CLIL teachers with methodological and linguistic support from a team led by Francisco Lorenzo and including Pat Moore, researchers at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide´s Learning Research Centre Ic├írea. You can find these materials online here

Without knowledge of Spanish, it’s not very easy to find the materials, so here is the trick. Click on this path:
English > Menu > drop down menu Acceso por material > click on a subject. The rest is in English.
Or ask a friendly Spanish-speaking colleague to help you access the materials! I am interested to know what you think of this site: Is this material really “CLIL”?

All things CLIL
The second tip is from Deborah Wust, a biology teacher and textbook author from Marnix College in Ede. She has created a “yurl” here at  which includes an “All things CLIL” page. Worth browsing through.

Atlas of European values
Another teacher who did a CLIL course with us, Jan Gideonse from KWC in Culemborg, sent a reference to the Atlas of European Values, which looks promisingly useful for EIO, as well as geography. The clearly-designed site has been funded by the EC and the European Values Study “explores Europeans´ attitudes about religion, politics, work, society, family and Europe. The results are represented in maps that clearly show patterns and trends across Europe.” The teaching materials include materials developed by Fontys Hogeschool for student exchanges. There are 21 active learning strategies applied to the maps and materials.

P.S. Christmas sites

Another clilblog has lots of stuff for Christmas – mostly for first years I reckon.

And onestopenglish also has some free Christmas lesson plans… type in Christmas and tick “show free resources first”. Probably only useful for English teachers.

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.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Book “Proud to be tvmbo” (3): 12 recommendations

Here is my third entry related to the book “Proud to be tvmbo” (2011, Tanner, R. & de Graaff, R.), this time with 12 important recommendations for tvmbo teachers and schools.

      1.     Use English 100% of the time.
2.     Encourage students to use social and popular media in English.
3.     Design lesson material which encourages students to make, do and create.
4.     Stimulate real communication in English.
5.     Speaking first, writing later.
6.     Spend more time doing things in English than talking about English.
7.     Keep reminding students they are also working on improving their English.
8.     Encourage fluency.
9.     Praise, compliment and reward students for using English.
10.  Give more thinking time than in Dutch classes before students are required to answer questions.
11.  Link classroom work to real life and contemporary events.
12.  Be aware of the language level of your students and select materials accordingly. If your students are at A1 or A2 level, don’t choose texts which are appropriate for students at B2 level (on the Common European Framework of Reference or CEFR).

Read about the CEFRTo examine the CEFR scales, click on CEFR illustrative Descriptors and scroll to page 5 onwards.

Tanner, R. & de Graaff, R. 2011. Proud to be tvmbo: Teachers’ and students’ opinions about good practice in bilingual secondary vocational education (tweetalig vmbo). Centre for Teaching and Learning, Utrecht University. ISBN 978-90-393-5566-4

Monday, 21 November 2011

Mini whiteboards

Thanks for the comments. We have had a enquiry about where to purchase mini whiteboards. Unfortunately we have yet to source them in the Netherlands, and buy them online at this website: Powerof2

Friday, 11 November 2011

CLIL Skills - Video Clips

A useful resource this - a series of short films covering specific aspects of CLIL methodology.

Go to:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

New edition of CLIL Skills

The European Platform has re-published CLIL Skills, by Liz Dale, Wibo van der Es and Rosie Tanner, in a new, blue jacket.

You can purchase it in the EP's webshop, under Talen.

Doubts about CLIL: food for thought?

In the most recent IATEFL magazine, "Voices", Chaz Pugliese (a trainer and author working out of Paris) voices his doubts about CLIL in his regular column. Here are some of his concerns. What do YOU think?
  • English will in the long run threaten some weaker European languages.
  • In several European countries the language level requirement for a content teacher is B1, so teachers' English is not good enough.
  • The lack of adequate teacher training for CLIL: a two-week summer school is not enough to teach a CLIL class (just as a two-week biology summer school would not be enough for an English teacher to re-train to teach biology!).
  • CLIL seems to rely on the fact that languages are acquired, not learned. Second language acquisition research, on the other hand, indicates that focus on noticing and practising language is needed for internalisation and automaticity. Learning by just using the langugage "just doesn't do it".
  • Some research in Hong Kong indicates that CLIL learners' motivation suffered in CLIL classes.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

International Summer School in CLIL @ Utrecht University

We are proud to announce that we will be running our first ever international summer school for CLIL next year in the summer of 2012.
Bilingual Education (CLIL): Professional Development for Teachers
For more information, check out:
Bilingual Education (CLIL): Professional Development for Teachers
Course code: S8
Master level
Dates: 27 August 2012 - 31 August 2012 (1 week)

A professional development course aimed at teachers, trainee teachers, and programme coordinators working in secondary school bilingual education. Do you want to improve your understanding of content and language integrated learning (CLIL)? Do you want to refresh and develop your CLIL teaching methodology? This hands-on course draws on over fifteen years of experience in bilingual education in the Netherlands. It will develop your CLIL skills, understanding and expertise, and inspire you with a range of practical activities for your CLIL lessons. Topics include:
• How “CLIL” are you?
• Activating language and content
• A good CLIL lesson
• Providing input and guiding understanding in CLIL
• The language of your subject
• Materials development for CLIL
• Dealing with errors and feedback
• Encouraging speaking and writing in CLIL
• Dealing with vocabulary in CLIL.

This course can - as a further option - prepare you for the Cambridge International Certificate for Teachers in Bilingual Education.
You can apply for a Comenuis grant for the course at your national agency (for Dutch teachers, the European Platform), before 12 January 2012.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Proud to be tvmbo (2)

Book “Proud to be tvmbo” (2): 10 conclusions
Again related to the book “Proud to be tvmbo” (2011, Tanner, R. & de Graaff, R.), we thought you might be interested in some of the conclusions.

1.     Tvmbo students are practically unanimous in wanting their teachesr to use English in their lessons 100% of the time.
2.     The academic performance of tvmbo students in English will probably be higher than their peers in regular vmbo streams.
3.     Tvmbo motivates students and may well stimulate a positive self-concept.
4.     The Dutch language skills of students in tvmbo should not be affected if they attend tvmbo classes. However, schools need to keep a careful eye on students who might need remedial attention.
5.     Teachers should teach language learning strategies to tvmbo students, particularly reading strategies and particularly to boys.
6.     Schools need to invest in teachers’ language skills if they teach in tvmbo.
7.     Teachers need “CLIL skills” to be able to deal with the language of their own subject (be it drama, science, car mechanics or cookery).
8.     Collaboration between the English and subject teachers should be stimulated to enhance teaching efficiency.
9.     EIO is extremely motivating for tvmbo students.
10.  English first, CLIL methodology later.

Tanner, R. & de Graaff, R. 2011. Proud to be tvmbo: Teachers’ and students’ opinions about good practice in bilingual secondary vocational education (tweetalig vmbo). Centre for Teaching and Learning, Utrecht University. ISBN 978-90-393-5566-4

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Mini whiteboards and CLIL

Last week I gave a workshop at the national CLIL conference on mini whiteboards. Mini whiteboards are a great addition to the CLIL toolbox. When they’re used in a classroom, each learner has one so when the teacher asks, for example, a question, every learner is expected to give an answer (by holding their whiteboard up).

As well as getting the workshop participants to experience specific activities that use the whiteboards, and that can be applied to every subject, as part of the workshop I also tried to identify the elements of CLIL underpinning these activities. I came up with ten. Here they are, with some indication of the rationale behind each element.


Warmers are important in a CLIL lesson to help learners make the transition from a regular lesson to a CLIL lesson, or from one subject to another. There are lots of ways that mini whiteboards can be used for quick and easy-to-setup warming up activities.


Using mini whiteboards, everyone is engaged and everyone is expected to come up with a response or answer to a task. When learners show their boards, the focus is on the answer and not on the individual learner.


Mini whiteboards can be used to guide a discussion and to encourage learners to interact with each other. Interaction is important in order to get learners to use and experiment with language – getting learners to speak English is one of the big challenges in a CLIL classroom.


Mini whiteboards allow the teacher to see everyone’s answers, giving feedback on what the learners already know, and then allowing the teacher to choose which responses they want to focus on in order to connect to the content of the lesson. Building on prior knowledge is an important factor for both learning a language and for learning specific subject content.


Mini whiteboards help the teacher to include some form of written output in a lesson and also to activate spoken output. Subject teachers have to become language teachers in a CLIL context – this is one of their biggest challenges!


Mini whiteboards can be used to give “wait time” to learners. This is important in a CLIL context in order for learners to think about and to process language and content.


Mini whiteboards can be used to provide learners with language rehearsal. For example, by firstly writing down an answer the learner is able to think about on their own the language they need to use. Next, they can practise using this language with a partner. Only after this do they then get to give an answer in front of the entire class. This takes the pressure off the learner in terms of being able to supply an immediate answer verbally. Second language acquisition theory shows that learners learn a language best when their anxiety levels are lowest.


Giving learners open and stimulating questions to think about and discuss can also help to develop their language skills. Also, once learners have provided answers by showing their whiteboards, questions to learners at this stage about their answers on their boards can be used to further stimulate HOTS (higher order thinking skills).


Formative assessment is important in a CLIL context because assessment for learning is a key issue for CLIL teachers since they are always working with both language and content, and they need to use regular formative assessment methods to check on the learning of their students. Mini whiteboards are an effective means for doing this because the teacher is able to see very quickly if there are any problems.


Whiteboards can also be used as a great way for reflection at the end of a lesson. For example, get learners to write down on their boards what was the most important thing they learnt in the lesson. This can help to consolidate their learning and also enables the teacher to check what learning has taken place. This is important for CLIL teachers because of the dual focus on content and language, and which therefore makes for a twofold demand on the learner.

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.

Monday, 31 October 2011

CLIL Inspirers: Ted Wragg

CLIL could be described as an eclectic methodology that draws on a range of educational theory and practice.

There are therefore many CLIL inspirers. The late Ted Wragg has been one such inspiration for us, especially his work on the importance of effective questioning and getting learners to think. One reason this is important in a CLIL context is because second language acquisition theory shows that learning a language requires input that is meaningful to learners – so getting learners to think and then to talk or write about problems that they find interesting and thought provoking is also important for their language learning.

In this film Ted discusses the importance of effective and stimulating questions for learners in a classroom.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Bilingual vmbo

Facts about tvmbo and book "Proud to be tvmbo"
In October 2011 the book “Proud to be tvmbo” was published by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (ex-IVLOS) at Utrecht University, written by Rosie Tanner and Rick de Graaff. It is the result of a short research project of 200 hours into good practice in tvmbo. The book is written in accessible language for teachers and management working in or planning to work in tvmbo (or bilingual pre-vocational secondary schools).

I am writing a few blog entries about parts of the book which I think are interesting for our readers. This blog is a “did you know...?” one!

Did you know…
  • there is a network for vmbo schools which have already started bilingual vmbo? If you are interested, contact Leo van Putten ,the chair of the network. His email address is:
  •  there are 5 schools that started tvmbo in 2010?
  •  there are 31 schools in the tvmbo network already?
  • there are 14 schools that have already started tvmbo?
  • there is a quality standard for tvmbo schools?
  • tvmbo schools must give a minimum of 30% of their classes in English?
  • for tvmbo GL/TL, students have to achieve a level of B1 on the Common European Framework of Reference (commonly known as the CEFR) in either reading OR listening, and in either speaking or writing?
  • at least two subjects in the curriculum must be in English?
  • teachers teaching in tvmbo have to have a level on the CEFR of at least B2?

 Tanner, R. & de Graaff, R. 2011. Proud to be tvmbo: Teachers’ and students’ opinions about good practice in bilingual secondary vocational education (tweetalig vmbo). Centre for Teaching and Learning, Utrecht University. ISBN 978-90-393-5566-4

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

MTV = Maximum Time Verbals

One of the biggest challenges facing teachers in the TTO is how to get their learners to speak English in their lessons. One approach could be for a teacher to focus on reducing the amount of time they speak in front of the class in order to shift the focus onto the learners’ spoken output.

So, for this reason I've been encouraging teachers to use the MTV rule. MTV stands for Maximum Time Verbals, meaning the maximum time a teacher talks for a given moment in a lesson (not the maximum time for the whole lesson). This amount should not exceed the average length of a music video on MTV (the television channel) – 3 minutes.

The idea then is to plan instructions, explanations, etc. that will be given to the whole class in order to ensure that each time these can fit into three minutes. After that the learners will then do an activity, such as a speaking task. Imagine then that all the spoken output in a lesson (teacher and learners) could be transcribed, producing a ‘script’ of the lesson. This then would be the spoken ‘content’ of a lesson. What would the ratio be between teacher’s spoken contribution and the learners’? How about aiming for a 20/80 ratio? That means 80% of the lesson’s spoken content is produced by the learners.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Teaching the concept of connotation

It might be interesting to use this image in a lesson to discuss the connotations of particular words (always a difficult topic to convey to second language learners). Click on the image for a larger view.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

EIO and outdoor activities

What is and what is not EIO (European and international orientation)? This question was raised at a discussion at the network meeting last Thursday for bilingual vmbo (tvmbo) schools. Does an activity week in the UK where children do outdoor activities “count” as EIO? No-one seemed to know the answer and the general opinion seemed to be that it wasn’t really EIO. I disagreed!

On Friday I went to a conference organized by the European Platform, ‘Met talen kom je verder’ and gave another workshop about tvmbo. Luckily, the expert on EIO from the European Platform was there, so I asked him: ‘Is an outdoor activity week in the UK EIO? Can it count?’ ‘Of course it’s EIO!’ he said. Schools are obliged to have a project or projects in their curriculum where students actually work together in English in their EIO programme. By doing this, they fulfill one of the demands of the EP’s quality standard for TTO. But a 24-hour visit to Dover, or Canterbury, or a week’s outdoor activity is a good addition to a whole EIO programme.

Problem solved!!

Monday, 26 September 2011

How important are language aims?

How much do you think you are a language teacher as well as a subject teacher? Last week I worked with a group of teachers from the regional network in the middle of the Netherlands. We talked quite a lot about how important it is to formulate both subject and language aims for your lessons. You are probably used to thinking about content aims, e.g. “Students will be able to make a drawing of what a cell looks like”. But what do you need to think about if you are formulating language aims for subject lessons? Here are some tips.

It’s pretty obvious that the children in your classes are continually learning new vocabulary, so you will automatically think about an aim like “Students can name 20 bones in the skeleton” or “Students can recognise words relating to the structure of organisms, e.g. organ, tissue, cell” for biology. But have you thought about language beyond vocabulary? Language aims can be formulated at word, sentence or text levels.

At word level, think about specific words or types of words that students need to use. But every unit in your course book or every YouTube video also demonstrates the use of some kind of grammar. So if you are formulating aims at sentence level, think about how students will put words or phrases together or the type of sentence that they need to use. For example, “Students understand how comparatives are used in a text comparing two paintings” for art, or, in maths (yes, maths teachers, you are language teachers, too, if you work in a CLIL context!), “Students can use modals to discuss possible solutions”. You can always ask an English teacher colleague to look at your material to help you to decipher the grammar in a text or unit.

At text level, think about the overall purpose of the task or the type of text that the students are working with.Another kind of aim is one more related to a text. The more specific the aims, the better. So “Students practise writing” is probably less helpful than this music aim “Students can write a short description of a piece of music or drama for an advertising leaflet” or – for PE - “Students can write instructions for a short sports exercise”.

One useful tip is that when you are working with writing tasks think of using PAST (the purpose, audience, structure, and tone of a text) to help identify specific language and/or content aims. So for the aim above about music (“Students can write a short description of a piece of music or drama for an advertising leaflet”), the purpose (P) is to persuade, the audience (A) is people who pick up a leaflet in a theatre, the structure (S) is a brochure and the tone (T) is quite formal but also enthusing. The tone is the writer’s attitude or feeling towards what they are writing about.

Good luck with your future aims.

Monday, 19 September 2011

CLIL Traffic Lights

Here's an idea for teaching younger CLIL students, for example, a TTO brugklas. When a teacher is providing spoken input, how can they check that their students are understanding what is being said? A CLIL traffic lights system might help.

Each learner has three cups - green, amber and red. At the beginning of the lesson they put their green cup on the outside, and the other two are stacked beneath it. Whilst the teacher is speaking, and as long as the learner is understanding everything, then they stay at green.

However, if the learner wants their teacher to slow down, or repeat something, then they can move to amber:

Finally, if the learner needs one-to-one assistance then they put their light at red (and if there are several red lights showing then these learners could be grouped together, which might help with differentiation) :

Thursday, 15 September 2011

CLIL in the 21st Century

Here's an interesting discussion about the future of education from a recent edition of The Guardian. It focuses on the UK but many of the issues raised are applicable to The Netherlands and the development of TTO here, particularly in the light of the recent European Commission 2020 strategy for education and training.

CLIL 2012: From Practice to Visions

Utrecht University is hosting an international CLIL conference next year, in April 2012. The theme of the conference is 'From Practice to Visions' and the aim is to bring together researchers, teachers and school management/policy makers.

The conference is organised by the European Platform, the Dutch Network of Bilingual Schools, the CLIL Cascade Network and a consortium of Dutch CLIL experts from the Centre of Teaching and Learning (Utrecht University) ICLON (Leiden University), and the Universities of Applied Sciences of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Arnhem & Nijmegen.

Included in the conference is a visit to a TTO school in order to observe lessons and speak to teachers and pupils. This promises to be a very interesting approach for a conference that aims to combine theory and practice.

The deadline for proposals for workshops and/or papers has been extended to 1 November 2011. Take a look at the website for more information:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Kinaesthetic CLIL?

I did a workshop recently on kinaesthetic learning and I used this film as a way in to a discussion about kinaesthetic activities in the classroom. There are lots of other films in this series (Classroom Observation With John Bayley) - they used to be available on the Teachers TV site, which unfortunately does not exist anymore. But you can still find the films on Youtube...

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Welcome to Reflections on CLIL

Welcome! This is the very first post on the "Reflections on CLIL" blog. We have started a blog on CLIL (content and language integrated learning), in order to share our ponderings and questions as we work with teachers and schools in implementing CLIL. We work in the Netherlands, but hope that our thoughts will also be useful for an international public.

During our work in schools, many questions arise - from the teachers we work with, as well as in our own minds - about what effective CLIL really is, how to help teachers learn about CLIL and really put it into practice in their own classrooms. We are going to explore these questions on this blog.

Questions like: How can P.E. (Physical Education) teachers really do something with language in their gyms? What are the real benefits of vocational CLIL? How can English and subject teachers work together efficiently to help their students benefit from both language and content? How can teachers find the time to work on CLIL when they are already incredibly busy?

If you're interested, do sign up to our blog. We hope this can also become a site for discussion and debate about a variety of CLIL-related topics.