CLIL ‘Arena’-Episode 7: Reflection on CLIL implementation in an EFL secondary school classroom
Sounds easy? Sure is, if you’ve got it!
Working in a junior high school where students were not set by ability in English language class due to reactions on the part of other expertise teachers, objecting to the method of setting students I decided that offering all my students advanced courses in mixed ability classes would be but beneficial. At this advanced level English language was used both inside and outside the classroom, even during break-time.
This way a more natural environment was created, with English being the tool to teach the very language. The idea of touching upon other subjects emerged from a cross-curricular project with geography. Though I had only practiced CLIL for two years, it came as a natural continuation to my previous work; children immediately took a liking to it because they were exposed to new pieces of information through English and not Greek- the case with the rest of the subjects.
This has not always been easy-breezy; however, lots of studying needs to be carried out by an EFL teacher to make sure the required information to be taught is absolutely correct. Additionally, some children who may not really follow because of poorer English vocabulary, will also miss out on the subject taught through English. Still, children learn to appreciate the English language because they see a meaning in it, that is learning another subject (Ludbrook, 2008). As a result, they are rarely bored or lose attention; these very challenging lessons offer real life situations for acquiring the language.
In my cross-curricular project students were asked to find English songs that contained geographical terms and reflect on the lyrics, explaining how geography interacted with possible emotions described. All the talking was initially conducted in Greek (due to the geography teacher) but it immediately turned into English when I used an English word! Another similar event occurred this year in Project Work class, a school subject newly introduced into junior high school curriculum.. The topic was finding out environmentalfriendly energy sources mainly in Greek. When a student showed us an English video on nuclear energy possible benefits, the discussion immediately turned into English! These events clearly show that the language switch kids use (because they have been exposed to some English words) is an indication that real language acquisition is taking place.
Quite understandably, in order to be an effective CLIL teacher you definitely need to be a fluent communicator of the most complex ideas in English. This inevitably addresses mainly bilingual or native English teachers or near-natives. Otherwise, the traditional old style teacher can never cope in such a class with the extra burden of another subject to be taught in English.
In a nutshell, if teachers come from the former background, the situation could be a pieceof- cake. If they are people of multiple interests who are open to new ideas, always on the lookout for new progress in scientific settings, CLIL teaching is meaningful and sounds logical. Unless this is so, I personally doubt that a teacher can really be trained in CLIL teaching.
If then the idea of CLIL teaching addresses highly specialized teachers for implementing and practicing it in the Greek classrooms, a second degree of specialization is really needed for another core subject to be accurately and effectively taught (see Wei & Jieyun, 2015). Alternatively, the Project Work school subject could be assigned by the Ministry of Education exclusively to EFL teachers, to practice real life situation settings for teaching the language; it is worth noting that the teacher who undertakes this subject guides, supports and supervises kids’ research on a chosen area (see Wolff, 2011 for learning in an autonomous setting).
Ludbrook, G. (2008). ‘CLIL: The Potential of Multilingual Education’. Dos Algarves, 17:19-27.
Wei, R. & Jieyun, F. (2015). ‘Researching Content and Language Integration in Higher Education’. In Ch. Williams (Eds), Maastricht:Maastricht University Language Centre. Available at http://arno.unimaas.nl/show.cgi?fid=12521.
Wolff, D. (2011). ‘CLIL and Learner Autonomy: Relating Two Educational Concepts’. Education et Sociétés Plurilingues, 30: 69-80.