CLIL just clicks.
With what we know about the importance of making connections in student learning, this methodology just seems to make sense.
By now, most of us are familiar with the benefits of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning).
Have you considered giving your students a CLIL project to do? We now know that project-based learning (PBL) makes students more engaged and cultivates their higher-order thinking skills. So combining the deep connections of CLIL with the meaningful, student-directed learning of PBL just seems like an unbeatable combo.
But what’s the best way to go about it? Here are some things to think about as you plan to embark on your CLIL project journey.
What Makes a Great CLIL Project?
When trying to come up with a CLIL project idea that will work for your class, keep in mind these key components:
- Successful integration of language with other relevant skills. The teaching of the language in tandem with content area skills is at the very heart of CLIL. Collaborate closely with your co-teacher to make sure that the project hits on content area standards in addition to essential language skills.
- Language use dictated by the topic of the project. For example, in a fourth grade history project about Native Americans, students would prepare to present using vocabulary like “wigwam,” “shaman” and “powwow.”
- Consideration of individual learning styles and preferences. One of the things that make projects such meaningful learning experiences is that students have the opportunity to take control of their own learning. Offer projects that are at an appropriate level of difficulty and modify them as necessary. Allow student choice as much as possible in topics and themes for projects. Students are much more successful when they’re allowed to follow their bliss and passions.
- A meaningful question or problem frames the project. In some circles, project-based learning is instead referred to as “inquiry-based learning” because it always begins with a deep, essential question for the students to explore. This is important because it activates students’ curiosity, one of the key tools in your arsenal for increasing their engagement. There are many important characteristics to creating an effective driving question, but it’s essential that it not be a yes/no question and that it’s deep enough to warrant an investigation.
- Real-world context and tasks. This is truly the antidote to every language teacher’s least favorite but all-too-common moment: When your students ask, “why do we have to learn this anyway?” Projects that demand skills equivalent to those necessary in the “real world” make students feel that the work and the learning are purposeful. For your primary school students, relate a project about wild animals to a real field trip to the zoo. For a math lesson, have students create bar graphs and line graphs representing the most popular TV shows watched by members of the class.
8 CLIL Project Examples to Help Bring Language to Life
Do your best to customize your CLIL projects to meet your teaching style, standards and your students’ interests. That said, here are a few examples just to give you some ideas. You could take any of these examples and simply tweak them to better meet your needs.
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Dominant vs. Recessive Traits (High School Biology)
Driving Question: Are dominant traits more prevalent than recessive traits?
Students will investigate the real-world problem of tracking dominant traits in the general population by surveying their classmates. They’ll collect data using target-language vocabulary for descriptors such as “blond,” “blue eyes,” etc. To make things more interesting, add the vocabulary for some lesser-known recessive traits, such as curved (vs. straight) thumbs and attached (vs. free) earlobes. Each student will then assimilate the data and create an infographic, incorporating the target-language vocabulary and showing their results.
Weather Patterns (Elementary)
Driving Question: How do weather patterns differ around the world?
Students first receive instruction on weather terms and the science behind weather predictions (avalanche, drought, fog and what causes these conditions). Then they’ll use this knowledge to script and record their own video of a detailed weather forecast for four different places in the world, in the target language. They can choose their own hometown, as well as a city in Spain, Kenya or Japan. To make it even more fun, have students create backdrops that look like they’re actually reporting from that country in the weather they’re describing.
Effects of Our Food Choices (Elementary/Middle School)
Driving Question: How do my food choices affect my health?
Teach students about the food pyramid, the vocabulary for the different food groups and common foods in each group. Then students will keep a food journal in which they keep a record of what foods they eat each day, as well as their mood and their performance on academic and non-academic tasks. At the end of the week, each student will create their own visual representation (poster, slideshow or infographic) showing the percentage of foods consumed from each section of the food pyramid, how these choices affected them physically (and mentally) during that week and what conclusions they can draw from this information.
Social Studies Examples
Government (High School Government/Civics)
Driving Question: By whom should we be governed?
Provide students with vocabulary and definitions of key terms: oligarchy, democracy, monarchy, etc. To give them a more solid vocabulary and some context, read portions of constitutions or laws of other countries together in the target language. Their task is then to create an imaginary country and write a constitution explaining how the country will be governed. They must identify the type of government they have chosen and the reasons behind their choice. Afterward, give the class a problem (such as homelessness, internal or external conflicts, etc.) and have each of them explain how the government of their particular country would solve the problem according to the parameters of their constitutions.
Currency (High School or Middle School Economics)
Driving Question: What do our currencies say about us?
Students will learn the names and values of currencies used in different parts of the world. Then each student will research and share their findings about one currency through a visual and a verbal presentation. Students will reflect on how the currency relates to the history and culture of the country and track changes in the currency to show the effects of globalization. They’ll also compare it to the currency of their own country, both in terms of economic value and cultural interest.
Driving Question: How do landforms change over time?
Students learn the names for the various landforms (basin, estuary, natural arch, etc.). Each student will then create an illustrated story about one specific landform, preferably one that can be found close to where they live. The story will use target vocabulary and will also show how the landform takes shape, changes over time and affects the lives of people living near it.
Formulas (Middle School Math and Science)
Driving Question: How do mathematical formulas help us in building and creating?
Students learn formulas for mass, velocity and area in the target language and then use their knowledge of these formulas to design an airplane out of materials such as cardboard and duct tape. Students will share the formulas they used to create their product, then compete to see whose plane flies the farthest and how those formulas helped in the construction of their planes.
Conversions (Late Elementary/Middle School)
Driving Question: How do mathematical conversions help with tasks of daily life?
Have the class compile a book of recipes in the target language. Each student will bring in a favorite recipe from home. Students will rewrite them in the target language and measurements mathematically converted to either the metric or the US system. If they don’t already know them, teach them an equation to make the conversions correctly.
Another option is to put students in groups and have them choose a no-bake recipe, and while you still have them convert the measurements, you also ask them to modify the measurement so that the servings reflect different numbers of students. So if a recipe only serves four students, how would they have to modify it so that they can serve the whole class?
A CLIL project is the perfect way to breathe new life into your target language, and give your students a renewed sense of purpose in studying it. Jump in and make CLIL projects part of your teaching routine today!
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