Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Role and Tasks of a CLIL coach

As a follow up to my last blog about the CLIL coach, where I posed some questions about the role and tasks of the CLIL coach, here are some more concrete ideas about the role and tasks of  a CLIL coach at your school. Thanks for the input from my CLIL coach group this autumn, who helped to develop these ideas


The role of a CLIL (content and language integrated learning) coach is to support the awareness and development of their CLIL colleagues in CLIL methodology and (if appropriate) in language development.


The tasks and responsibilities of the CLIL coach can be defined as follows. The CLIL coach…

1.       … coaches colleagues on CLIL methodology by, for example, observing lessons (live or on video), discussing CLIL lessons and giving feedback.

2.       … helps CLIL teachers to implement CLIL in their lessons.

3.       … organizes workshops that focus on CLIL methodology – internally or from external organizations.

4.       … assists colleagues in developing a CLIL career plan by, for example, suggesting courses (in the Netherlands and/or the UK or other countries) or passing on recent developments in CLIL.

5.       … liaises with their TTO coordinator about the development of the CLIL department, inspections from the European Platform and other CLIL issues.

If s/he is a language expert or language coach, the CLIL coach …

6.       … helps colleagues with their language development.

7.       … assists colleagues in finding resources and adapting existing resources for their CLIL lessons.

8.       … gives language-related feedback on tasks, tests, projects, etc. that CLIL teachers have created.


In order to carry out these tasks effectively, the CLIL coach needs about 100 clock hours per 15 teachers per year. If the CLIL coach also has a language coach role in their school, s/he needs an extra 50 hours per 15 teachers per year.

The timetable needs to allow the CLIL coach space to be able to observe and give feedback to CLIL colleagues.
What are your ideas about the role and tasks of a CLIL coach? I would love to hear from you...



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

CLIL coaching

I have recently been training a group of 15 secondary school teachers from Dutch secondary schools to become CLIL coaches. In three days, we work on CLIL coaching skills, observing teachers and the role and tasks of the CLIL coach at school.

The idea of a CLIL coach - a colleague at your school who supports other CLIL teachers In working on their language and CLIL methodology - is a relatively new one, and so new issues have emerged during the course. We have discussed, for example, issues like:

   What can a CLIL coach do if he or she is asked to coach a "difficult" colleague, or a colleague who doesn't really want to work (any more) in the bilingual stream?

   In which language do coaches want to coach? English or the teacher’s - and often their own - first language? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

   How can teachers approach their school management about the position and facilitation of a CLIL coach at school, in times of economic cut backs in education? In other words, how can they 'sell' the idea that a CLIL coach at their school will improve the quality of teaching and perhaps team feeling, if a school invests in one?

   What are the limits of the CLIL coach's responsibilities? Where do they start and end?

   How can we communicate to our colleagues that the CLIL coach is more than someone who gives feedback on language?
We haven't yet got clear answers to all of these questions, but we are working on them. As a result of these discussions, the group is creating a letter which will go to school management at the end of the CLIL coach course, to clarify to their schools about what a CLIL coach is. This letter will include information about the role and tasks of a CLIL coach. In my next blog, I will share some of these ideas.

The biggest step that my coaches have made is that of realizing that they are guides on the side, that their role is to coach other teachers to find their own solutions to a CLIL challenge or classroom dilemma. And this role demands, for some of them, a set of new skills. A CLIL coach might be a bit more of a CLIL expert than the teachers he or she coaches, but it is not his or her role to give advice or tell someone else what to do.

For trainers who might be interested, I have made thankful use of two classics on mentoring and coaching: Julian Edges's (mine is pretty dog-eared) book, Cooperative Development (1992, Longman) and MentorCourses by Angi Malderez and Caroline Bodsczky  (1999, Cambridge University Press). Ideas from Bateson about reflection form the basis of my coaching model, keeping the teacher and their development centre stage during coaching. Short clips of CLIL teachers from (this is a Dutch site: search under CLIL skills) provide useful food for discussion about, How would you coach this teacher?, What qualities does this teacher have that you can name?, What does this teacher do really well? What compliments  could you give this teacher about his lesson? 

Key to the course at the start was to create a safe environment where potential coaches feel safe together, through spending time on getting to know each other. We have worked on looking at teachers' qualities and using them during coaching, and helping teachers through active listening. And the coaches have practiced a lot of coaching In threes (teacher, coached and observer) and given feedback to each other about coaching skills.
The next CLIL coach course starts in December.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Jolly CLIL lollies


I am often asked to give workshops on encouraging CLIL students to speak more. Among  the challenges that CLIL teachers face in organizing speaking in their classrooms is the problem that not everyone participates. “The shy students don’t participate,” the teachers say, or, “Not everyone participates in the lesson.”
Apparently only about a quarter of your students consistently put their hands up to answer a question, or so says Dylan Wiliam, of London's Institute of Education. The rest just turn off. Some teachers have banned ‘hands up’ as a teaching strategy in favour of different strategies to get students involved in their classrooms. Using wooden lollipop sticks is one of these and apparently Professor Wiliam has been using them for over a decade.
Lollipop sticks
So how do I use these communication regulators in my workshops? At the start of a workshop, I put an 11cm wooden lollipop stick next to each participant’s place, which gets them wondering where the ice creams are, or what they are going to do with the lolly sticks. Then I ask everyone to write their name – the one they would like to be called - on a lolly stick and I collect them together. I have a special lollipop tin for this.
I don’t ask my participants to put their hands up; instead, I try to engage everyone by using the lolly sticks. Each time we have a discussion, or I ask a question, I pause for a while so that everyone has time to think about their answer, then choose a random lollipop stick. That person then answers the question. This means that I don’t always work with the ‘keen’ participants, that everyone stays awake and thinks, since anyone might be asked to answer my question.
More ways
You can use the lolly sticks in other ways:
  • For pair work. Give their two lollipop sticks to a pair of students. Pose a question, give students time to think, then the person whose lollipop stick is turned over first must answer first.
  • For dividing your class into groups: shuffle the lollipop sticks and create groups.
  • For group work: give each group their sticks. They must answer a discussion question in turn, as their lollipop stick is revealed.
  • For a class discussion. Choose three sticks and pose a (higher order) question. The first two students respond to the question; the third student says which answer he or she finds the most appropriate and why.
Coloured lolly sticks
I have also recently discovered and ordered coloured lolly sticks and will be thinking of some creative ways to use these.
Multi-sided dice
Some enterprising teachers I worked with recently in Essen in Germany showed me other communication regulators which they use twenty- and thirty-sided dice, which have a similar purpose. They throw the die, then check their name list: whoever’s name is at that number on their class list must answer the question. And if they can’t answer the question, they are allowed to ask another question.
A one hour BBC programme, The Classroom Experiment, on the use of lollipop sticks and other strategies to get students involved and engaged. Includes the mystery of the missing lolly sticks…
Does anyone else have good strategies to get everyone to participate?







Monday, 7 July 2014

World cup CLIL and teaching maths

Lots of things have been happening this (academic) year, which is why the CLIL reflections blog has been dormant. In September 2013 I started as an independent education consultant and have been giving CLIL courses in the Netherlands as well as in other countries, from  Denmark to Catalonia  and Kazakhstan. And I see to my shame that our last blog post was in May 2013.

My colleague Jason Skeet is also going to pastures new and will be returning to the UK to work at the Norwich City College. I will miss you, Jason! So I want to breathe some new life back into the CLIL reflections blog with a new background and a mid-year 2014 resolution to write something useful for my readers about CLIL every month.


CLIL and maths

As a pre-(northern hemisphere) summer topic, I have chosen the (southern hemisphere topic) world cup, or CLIL and teaching maths. Some maths teachers struggle with teaching the language of maths and often ask me questions like, “How can you do CLIL activities in maths?”, or “We can talk about Pythagoras in maths – but how can we bring more culture into the maths classroom?” Or they say, “There isn’t really any language in maths, is there?”. Of course in some ways, these maths teachers are right: it is much easier to create of CLIL activities in the more ‘text-heavy’ subjects like history, geography or biology, which provide readymade text material and language in their course books. But more and more maths teachers are catching on and creating great maths lessons which include language (the C of communication) and (the C of) culture.

Luis Suarez and probability

During the 2014 World Cup, I was giving a CLIL training course at Visser ‘t Hooft Lyceum in Leiden. Michiel Hendriks - a creative maths teacher - talked about his maths lesson. Our workshop was a couple of days after the football match in which Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini in his shoulder: food in itself for discussion with CLIL learners. Michiel spotted this video, entitled Suarez takes bite out of Swedish bookmaker. Apparently, a 24-year old Norwegian man, Richard Helmersen, bet 100 kroner (€12,50, £10 $16US) that striker Luis Suarez would bite someone during the World Cup. The Norwegian managed to win 17,000 kroner (about €2500, £2,000, $2,850 US): an online bookmaker had offered odds of 175/1 that Suarez would bite someone again during a game in Brazil.


Language in maths

Michiel just happened to be teaching the topic of probability in his CLIL maths lessons that week. And the title of the video, Suarez takes a bite out of Swedish bookmaker was a good excuse to teach the idiom take a bite out of something.
As a starter, Michiel asked his students to answer these questions, thus giving them a reason for viewing the video and working on their listening skills:
  1. How much money, in Swedish kroner, did the man win?
  2. How many kroner did he bet?
  3. How does this relate to the odds given?
  4. What is the man going to spend it on?
Michiel was aiming to teach this rule: The probability of an outcome equals the number of ways the outcome can happen, divide by the total number of possible outcomes.  And through the clever example of the bet on Suarez’ biting Chiellini, he could bring the topic to life, linking it to real life and make it relevant to the class, since probably all of his students were following the World Cup. Students could talk about how we work out the chance that something will happen in maths.
Michiel then showed his students (on 30 June) the odds of who might win the world cup:
He pointed out that the odds of Argentina winning the world cup are four to one. He told his students, “You, as a punter (a person who bets) could put money on Argentina winning. If that happens, the bookies will have to pay you four times the amount of money you put on Argentina winning. What the bookmaker means by this is that in four out of five situations Argentina will lose and in one out of five situations Argentina will win. This is called the chance. In the chase of Argentina, they have a one in five chance they will win."
Again, he checked understanding of this input through a few questions, clarifying the difference between the words odds and chance, which are important concepts here.
  1. The odds of Germany winning the world cup are___________
  2. This means the chance of Germany winning is about a ______________________
  3. What are the odds of Holland winning the world cup?
  4. What is the chance Holland will win the world cup?
  5. If you bet 25 euro’s on Holland winning, and they do, how much would you win? Remember to write down your calculations.
  6. Chances pop up everywhere. Try to think up 3 other examples. Give your examples in a sentence.

The language of probability in maths

Of course, maths uses numbers for describing probabilities, written as fractions, decimals or percentages. It also use percentage scales, starting at 0 (impossible) and ending at 1 (absolutely certain). We use phrases like, “It’s likely that it will rain tomorrow”, or “It is impossible to find a human being who is more than 3 metres tall,” or “It’s unlikely I’ll see her tomorrow. I think she’s on holiday in Brazil.” We use language to make judgments about how probable an event is, use the future tense with “will” and words like (very) likely, (extremely) unlikely, even chance. probably, possibly, impossible, maybe. And in order to talk about probability, Michiel’s students needed and used this language. And trawling the net, I found this PowerPoint slide on the Times Education Supplement site which encourages students to talk about probability scales, neatly demonstrating a lot of the language related to probability. 
Who says maths doesn’t use language? I leave you with two questions:
  1. How probable is it that you think a little differently about teaching language in maths after this blog entry?
  2. On the probability scale from 0 to 10, how probable is it that Michiel’s students will remember his lesson?