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.