What is Content and Language Integrated Learning?

CLIL is an approach where students learn a subject and a second language at the same time.

A science course, for example, can be taught to students in English and they will not only learn about science, but they will also gain relevant vocabulary and language skills.

It’s important to note that CLIL is not a means of simplifying content or reteaching something students already know in a new language. CLIL courses should truly integrate the language and content in order to be successful – and success is determined when both the subject matter and language is learned.

What are the main benefits of CLIL?

Many teachers see CLIL as a more natural way to learn a language when a subject is taught in that language there is a concrete reason to learn both at the same time. And as students have a real context to learn the language in, they are often more motivated to do so, as they can only get the most of the content if they understand the language around it.

Moreover, being content focused, CLIL classes add an extra dimension to the class and engage students, which is especially advantageous in situations where students are unenthusiastic about learning a language.

CLIL also promotes a deeper level of assimilation – as students are repeatedly exposed to similar language and language functions and they need to produce and recall information in their second language.

Furthermore, it has the advantage that multiple subjects can be taught in English, so that students’ exposure to the language is increased, meaning their language acquisition is faster.

What are the challenges of CLIL?

As CLIL is subject-focused, language teachers may also have to develop their own knowledge of new subjects in order to teach effectively.

They must also structure classes carefully so that the students understand the content of the lesson, as well as the language through which the information is being conveyed.

And when it comes to classroom management, educators need to be very aware of individual student understanding and progress.

It’s therefore important to consistently concept check and scaffold the materials to be sure both the language and content are being learned.

How can you apply CLIL to your class?

One of the key things to remember is that the language and subject content are given equal weight and that it shouldn’t be treated as a language class nor a subject class simply taught in a foreign language.

Α successful CLIL class should include the following four elements:

  • Content – Progression in knowledge, skills and understanding related to specific elements of a defined curriculum
  • Communication – Using language to learn whilst learning to use language
  • Cognition – Developing thinking skills which link concept formation (abstract and concrete), understanding and language
  • Culture – Exposure to alternative perspectives and shared understandings, which deepen awareness of otherness and self.

Using a number of frameworks can help you prepare your lessons and make sure activities are challenging, yet achievable for your learners.

Bloom’s Taxonomy, for example, classifies learning objectives in education and puts skills in a hierarchy, from Lower Order Thinking Skills  (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS).


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