Like a long road trip, CLIL is one of those things that sounds magical from a distance.
That is, until you actually start to do it.
Then reality sets in.
With CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), students learn various subjects like history, art, science and math in a foreign language. Rather than being a stand-alone subject, language becomes a skill acquired in the classroom while mastering other types of content. And truthfully, what is not to love about that?
It makes language relevant and meaningful in a way that few other methods can, and it strengthens the connections among various content area subjects. There is plenty of research showing the effectiveness of this practice.
Then you sit down to start planning a lesson and you have no idea where to even begin. How will students learn vocabulary from the subject lesson when they still have not learned the basics of communication? How do you get them to that point? When can you actually start conversing in the target language for the entire class period?
Don’t worry! We have the answers (at least, some of them). Here are some guidelines, as well as some lesson plan examples to make your CLIL lesson planning less torturous—maybe even fun!
The Ingredients of a Great CLIL Lesson
Before we actually begin the planning process, let’s think about what comprises a quality CLIL lesson.
A clear progression of knowledge that meets the identified goals of the curriculum.
This should always be your first step in planning a lesson. Look at your curriculum and consider your ultimate goal. What do you want students to know? What do you want them to be able to do at the end of the lesson?
Higher-order thinking skills.
While you may need to spend some time using lower-order thinking skills like identifying and recalling, always strive for those higher-order skills: problem solving, critical reasoning, evaluation and creation. It may take some time to get there, but involving these skills should always be your goal.
A combination of all four language skills.
A great CLIL lesson engages students in listening, speaking, writing and reading. Cultivating all four skills will help students with everything—not just with learning the language but with understanding the subject matter too.
An environment that is immersive and communicative.
Surround students with the target language. Do all you can to make sure they use the target language as much as possible. Encourage natural speech as an alternative to grammar drills whenever you can.
Connections to multiple subjects and disciplines.
The more connections students make, the more meaningful and memorable the lesson will be. Look for as many cross-disciplinary connections as you can, possibly with help from your colleagues.
How to Come Up with Ideas
So you know what a great CLIL lesson looks like when you see one.
Now how do you come up with CLIL lesson plan ideas on your own?
The following steps can help you with this:
- Observe classes in your school. Find out what students are learning and observe your colleagues’ teaching styles across a variety of disciplines. You may find that a certain topic, style or activity appeals to you. If you find some connections that would work well for a CLIL lesson, that is even better.
- Contact schools in your area. There is a good possibility that, somewhere in your district, a teacher is experiencing fantastic success with his/her CLIL program. Try to talk with this teacher and pick his/her brain for some ideas.
- Look at curriculum documents from other teachers. Does their curriculum line up with yours in any way? Do you do any similar activities or assessments? Search through your learning objectives and theirs to find some common ground.
- Look at social media platforms and blogs. Teachers love posting their ideas on social media, and you can find some wonderful resources posted on Pinterest. You can also find inspiration by following a CLIL-themed Twitter feed like CLIL Symposium.
Create or Choose a Template for Writing CLIL Lesson Plans
A good lesson plan template will keep you focused on your goals. It can serve as a checklist, ensuring that your lesson plan meets all the criteria for a quality CLIL lesson.
The template you create will depend on you and your teaching style, but it is a good idea to include a field for each of the following.
- Goals and desired outcomes: State the specific skills and knowledge that students will acquire from the lesson. Try to connect them with relevant standards and with your curriculum goals.
- Activities: List instructional activities that students will engage in during the lesson. Be sure to convey the specific manner in which they support your objectives.
- Assessments: How will you know that the lessons met your goals? Include assessments and/or checks for understanding that allow students to demonstrate what they have learned and what they are able to do.
If the thought of creating a lesson plan template from scratch is a bit overwhelming, there are some excellent documents that already exist which you can easily tweak for your own needs.
Check out this template from Forolenguas. This is helpful because it breaks down your objectives into several categories: content, language, instructional and cultural. It also has a space for listing necessary materials right at the beginning for better organization.
Another great CLIL template from English Global gives you space to reflect on students’ previous skills, an essential component of effective lesson planning. Learning outcomes are grouped into categories of content, cognition, communication and culture/citizenship.
“Okay, okay,” you say. “I know what I need to include in this awesome CLIL lesson. But I’d still like to see examples of practical lesson ideas.”
We’ve found a few interesting lessons to get you started.
4 Lesson Plans to Make Your CLIL Dreams a Reality
1. What Can Art Tell Us About Ourselves?
Grade/Level: High School
Connections: Art, Social Studies, History
Time Required: 3-5 days
Description: Based out of Los Angeles, the J. Paul Getty Museum creates engaging lessons to promote appreciation of art. These can easily be combined with the target language and culture to provide a quality CLIL experience.
In this lesson, students can view and compare works of art from the Impressionist period in France. They will learn to converse about art using adjectives and descriptive terms in the target language. They can then discuss and write about their connections to the daily lives of young people in 17th-century France.
This lesson works well for CLIL because it emphasizes higher-order thinking skills of creating and evaluating. It also incorporates all four language skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing.
You may want to start by showing students samples of artwork and asking them to “chalk talk” their impressions of the work. What are the most prevalent colors? What is the mood? How does the painting make them feel? After discussing their answers, go back and have them read about the painting’s historical context.
Students will be able to:
- view and discuss art as a means of understanding social conventions, history, politics and creativity. (speaking)
- organize target-language information quickly using visuals and graphic organizers. (reading and writing)
- engage in target-language discussion about the process of conveying our true selves through art. (speaking and listening)
- create their own artwork and present it to the class using descriptive words from the target language. (speaking)
2. Diving into Ocean Life
Connections: Biology, Art, Math, Social Studies, History
Time Required: 17 days
Description: This lesson from Scholastic on ocean life gives students many opportunities to engage with the content through hands-on experiences like field trips and the creative use of technology.
During visits to field sites, students will make target-language observations about marine life. Each student may choose a different animal on which to focus (i.e., squid, crab, turtles, dolphins). Students make use of research, reading and writing skills while documenting and presenting their observations of marine life.
If your technology is limited, consider putting students into groups to study the various animals. Assign each student in the group a specific role (searcher, leader, note taker, etc.).
Students will be able to:
- represent problems and findings visually in graphic organizers. (reading and writing)
- use available technology to observe, describe and discuss the behavior of ocean organisms. (writing)
- analyze data. (reading)
- communicate their observations in the target language. (listening and speaking)
3. Wikipedia Reborn
Connections: Social Studies, Science
Time Required: 3 weeks
Description: The folks at Wiki Education put together this lesson in which students edit and expand Wikipedia pages. Engaging in this process fosters critical thinking as students learn to evaluate sources of information in depth.
The class can design and create their own series of Wikipedia articles using accessible target language. On a shared wiki, each student will be responsible for researching and writing about a particular topic.
When finished, students can develop their skills even further by critically evaluating the work of their peers. They could even edit and expand on each other’s pages.
Students will be able to:
- evaluate sources on the internet. (reading)
- aggregate data. (reading and writing)
- thoroughly research a topic. (reading)
- communicate findings in the target language. (speaking and listening)
4. Math Becomes the Star of the Show
Connections: Math, Art, Science
Time Required: 1-2 weeks
This lesson from PBS engages students in something that they love: video and animations. By reflecting on the critical thinking skills involved in the creation of a video, students access deep learning while making connections among several disciplines.
Students will learn about the math skills needed to produce quality animations and video, then create their own storyboard and characters to make their own target language video. While presenting, they will use the target language to describe their process.
Encourage students to have fun and get silly with this project. They can include unique voice-overs and sound effects to make it more engaging.
Students will be able to:
- understand and apply media techniques and processes. (speaking and listening)
- graph proportional relationships. (reading and writing)
- find whole-number quotients and remainders with up to four-digit dividends and one-digit divisors. (reading and writing)
- reflect on their use of mathematical processes in the creation of their own target-language video. (writing and speaking)
So, go ahead. You’ve got some ideas to get started.
Grab your lesson planner and create a CLIL experience that your students will never forget!