“CLIL Activities” is written by Liz Dale and Rosie Tanner and published under the Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series by Cambridge University Press. If you have taught young learners, you have probably heard a buzz word ‘CLIL’ bounding the teachers’ room. However, what is ‘CLIL’ and what does it actually mean? It is defined as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) and the European Commission defines it as the “teaching a curricular subject through the medium of a language other than that normally used”. Here you can see the relationship between language learning through education and young learners. However, one should question whether there is a place for CLIL in an adult language learning setting. Nevertheless, “CLIL Activities” is intended for subject teachers who teach their subjects through English, language educators working within a bilingual context, or those that are training to become subject teachers or language educators in a bilingual context (p.1). The book is just over 280 pages and split into three sections. Part 1 (Background to CLIL) includes a comprehensive background to CLIL, Part 2 (Subject pages) focuses on subject matter with CLIL and Part 3 (Practical activities), which offers practical activities, is split into six chapters which include the following: Activating, Guiding understanding, Focus on language, Focus on speaking, Focus on writing, and Assessment, review and feedback. The book attempts to consider the benefits of a ‘multi-faceted’ approach with the teaching of CLIL. These benefits are also echoed on the European Commission’s website which are illustrated below.
The main emphasis of CLIL is that it immerses language learners with particular subject knowledge and this in itself motivates learners. Thereby, language educators are teaching through a language rather than in another language which assists learners acquiring “both language and content as they learn a school subject” (Dale and Tanner 2012 p.5). However, one criticism of CLIL is that learners are only learning how to communicate in English through a course subject and their are other stakeholders in education who appear to suggest that it may hinder the learners’ first language as well as perhaps jeopardising their language status inside or outside the classroom (International CLIL Research Journal 2010 p.47). Nevertheless, “CLIL Activities” attempts to introduce newly qualified or more experienced teachers who have little practical or background experience with a CLIL-based classroom with the publication of this book.
Part 1: Background to CLIL
The first section to the book, “CLIL Activities”, introduces the reader to the whole subject of CLIL with the authors considering the benefits, challenges and suitability of CLIL in the classroom as well as comparing CLIL with content-based language teaching (CBLT) and immersion. As noted before (and also highlighted above), the benefits of CLIL include aspects of motivation with CLIL, development of language production and meaningful communicative ability, as well as learning the culture of a subject (Dale and Tanner 2012 p.11-13). One of the first activities, which is accessible with an attached and highly invaluable CD, is a questionnaire, which could be incorporated into CLIL-based workshops or Teacher Training Sessions, and develops the noticing and awareness-raising of CLIL in the language classroom. Other aspects to the background of CLIL include the use of scaffolding learner produced language, the relationship with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (henceforth CEFR) as well as the rubric that might be created to assess learning from the classroom.
Part 2: Subject pages
The second section illustrated attempts to answer the most common question facing English language teachers: What subjects could I teach with CLIL? “CLIL Activities” breaks down particular subjects which could adopt a CLIL approach: Art, design and technology, Economics and business studies, Geography, History, Information and communication technology (ICT), Maths, Music and drama, Physical education (PE), as well as Science. Essentially, throughout Part 2 there is a “collection of subject-specific pages” (p.41) and offer examples of CLIL material with each of the nine subjects above. The authors also consider potential challenges facing CLIL learners with “subject-specific” lessons that are then incorporated in the classroom. These include affective, emotional, as well as cultural implications and are covered with further explanation. The first “subject-specific” example (which is arranged alphabetically) is based on Art, design and technology and offers readers the opportunity to see ‘CLIL in action’ which is broken down into how language is used in the subject. Furthermore, there is a sample text and is broken down into different grammar functions. The third part in the ‘subject-specific’ section refers to the CEFR level and is split into the differing productions of English which is related to possible aims. The second part of the book, is wonderful and can be referred to by potential CLIL subject teachers and also could support the development of a CLIL curriculum by potential schools.
Part 3: Practical activities
The final part of “CLIL Activities” offers readers the opportunity to incorporate ‘CLIL-related’ activities by using the accompanying CDs with the book. The activities are split into six sub-chapters and are named: Activating, Guiding understanding, Focus on language, Focus on speaking, Focus on writing and Assessment, review and feedback. The first sub-chapter (Activating) aims to initiate learner interest in “subject-specific” activities. For example, the first CLIL activity aims learners to complete sentences from prompts and it is quite entertaining to view some of the suggested activities which could be developed for variation of CLIL subjects. The second sub-chapter (Guiding understanding) and a wonderful example of a related lesson suggested by the authors include the use of an “Interactive PowerPoint®” lesson. It advises teachers to prepare different images referenced to specific subjects and teacher created questions which correspond to the images. An example is provided in the book with in reference to Geography: Who is affected by logging? What does deforestation mean for the world climate? (p.126-127). The third sub-chapter (Focus on language), aims to develop as well as differentiate learner awareness of CLIL-related vocabulary with a wonderful example suggested with the first activity (a differentiation between Academic Word List and General Vocabulary: happen/occur, main/major, etc). The authors recommend an Academic Word List from the University of Nottingham and is a wonderful resource for future reference and the development of similar word lists. The fourth sub-chapter (Focus on speaking) is predictably related to prompting CLIL learners to develop their speaking skills with fourteen suggested activities. Any teacher which adopts a ‘conversation-driven’ approach, a continuing complication is prompting learners to authentically converse in English with other learners as well as with the teacher in the classroom. The fourteen suggested lesson ideas in “CLIL Activities” offers teachers additional ideas to essentially get learners speaking with different prompts used such as questionnaires, debates, etc. The fifth sub-chapter (Focus on writing) develops ideas on CLIL-based writing through the use of fourteen suggested lesson ideas. Many of the ideas suggested by the authors include class magazines, posters, as well as framing and using prompts to develop writing. The final sub-chapter (Assessment, review and feedback) obviously provides CLIL teachers the opportunity to continuously assess learner progress with different lesson templates, the use of learner-centred correction, as well as developing learner awareness of language and commonly produced mistakes by using of jigsaw activities. Within the appendix the authors offer additional reference to the CEFR as well as additional resources for reading related to CLIL. There are lesson plans and notes related to CLIL material which are accessible via the BBC Skillswise website. There are also a range of different reading suggested by Dale and Tanner in appendix.
In conclusion, the book is a lovely introduction to CLIL and the background reading offers budding teachers the opportunity to develop further understanding so that one could create a CLIL-related curriculum for their language institutes. “CLIL Activities” could be used to teach CLIL-type lessons but additional resources and materials would be recommended to create more dynamic and engaging lessons, such as the use of English based school materials and books. It is a challenging and time consuming process to create CLIL material for language institutes, as having developed a lesson related to British Culture (art, history, the Royal Family, etc) but the book’s authors develop ideas and tips to assist with the creation of materials and lesson activities. Therefore, this book should be accessible in the Teachers’ Room and I would recommend those teachers (native and non-native), who are teaching in a public or private language school context, to refer to this book to develop ideas and techniques to essentially teach language through the use of a subject. Finally, it is great to see an accompanying CD included with “CLIL Activities” which can be used for a variety of operating systems such as Windows® and Mac®.
Dale, L. and Tanner, R. (2012) “CLIL Activities” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Yassin, S. M., Tek, O. E., Alimon, H., Baharom, S. and Ying, L. Y. (2010) “Teaching Science Through English: Engaging Pupils Cognitively” International CLIL Research Journal, Vol. 1 No. 3 (2010), [Online], Available: http://www.icrj.eu/13/article5.html (22 Nov 2012).