Tips on fitting CLIL into the English classroom

Do I need to teach differently?

No. Teaching using CLIL materials doesn’t really differ very much from what you would normally do in your English class. You don’t need to change the classroom layout, you can still use pairwork and groupwork, your students should still speak as much English as possible and you still need to check the answers at the end of each activity.

What is different?

Well, for one thing, the focus. Unlike many language lessons you are not really focusing on a skill such as reading or writing. In fact, if there are texts there to read, they are simply there as a vehicle for the content (i.e. to present the information). You are certainly not focusing on grammar as this would take the lesson into the realms of an English Language lesson as opposed to a cross-curricular lesson.

The idea of a CLIL lesson is that English is simply used as the medium for expressing the ideas and information. The focus of the lesson is very much on the content. You might, on occasion, focus on vocabulary, but only in as much as the vocabulary is key to the subject/topic being taught; (for an example of this take a look at the Shapes lesson in this section).

But what if I don’t know much about the subject?

Don’t worry! You do not need to be an expert in a particular subject or topic to use a CLIL worksheet. The best worksheets should work without you knowing lots about a particular topic. In fact, it might be the case that the students know more about the topic than you do – That’s OK! Sometimes the best lessons are when you are exploring things together with your students. They might be able to explain things to you about the topic while you help them with the English used to talk about these ideas.

When can I use CLIL materials?

You need to decide when is the most appropriate time, but there are probably a few things to consider:

  • Are your students studying (or have they just finished studying) a particular topic in another school subject. For example, they have just been looking at 'Shapes' in maths or 'Ancient Egypt' in history?
  • Do you want to get your students to focus on why English is used: e.g. get them to see that what the language is saying (the content) is as important, if not more important, than how it is said (the grammar)?
  • Do some of your students struggle learning English while they are good at other subjects in school, e.g. science? If this is the case, you may find that they really enjoy CLIL lessons and benefit enormously.