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...