Talking CLIL

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Talking CLIL

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  • Red del Plurilingismo de Sevilla

    Talking CLILTeresa Herdes y Vctor Pavn

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    VOICES

    CONTENT AND LANGUAGE integrated learning (CLIL) is taking English language teaching by storm, but why? Is CLIL the new methodological revolution, compara-ble to the impact that the communicative approach had on ELT years ago? Or is CLIL simply a new teaching trend that is here today and gone tomorrow? One thing is certain: CLIL has caught the attention of foreign-language educa-tors around the world, and for good reason. CLIL can easily be implemented in private or state-run schools, primary or secondary education, bilingual programmes, multilingual classrooms, monolingual schools with EFL or ESL instruc-tion, and language academies.

    Teaching content and languageCLIL advocates assimilating the academic content of non-linguistic subjects via a foreign language, which simultane-ously promotes the acquisition of content knowledge and the use of the target language. It involves a methodological style that, instead of focusing specically on the teaching of the language itself, encourages teachers and students to use the language as a means of communication, thus pro-moting language and content development in the process.

    In line with the principles that dene it, this type of teaching is benecial and effective because learning a foreign language seems more attractive when learners can use the language to acquire information of interest to them, and because learners see a clear reason for using the target language.

    An important objective of CLIL is that learners obtain concrete subject knowledge and skills, with special atten-tion given to promoting skills that are developmentally, cognitively and linguistically appropriate. It also focuses on socio-cultural strategies which explicitly foster activities that promote a positive attitude towards the speakers of the foreign language and their culture.

    Teaching language and content together means that signicant changes must be made to traditional teacher

    and student roles. According to Stryker and Leaver (1993), the teacher must (a) change the style of instruction in the classroom, (b) make use of group work and cooperative strategies, (c) identify prior linguistic knowledge and skills, (d) help students to develop strategies for coping with different situations, (e) use suitable techniques for error correction and (f) develop and maintain high levels of self-condence in the students.

    A methodological revolution is necessary if students are to be exposed to content in a language in which their level of uency is lower than that of their mother tongue. There-fore, teachers will have to substitute traditional teaching methods that promote the transmission of information for a new one that promotes the understanding and assimila-tion of content.

    The students, for their part, will see a change in their learning habits and general classroom behaviour since this way of teaching will mean an increase and improvement in (a) promoting learner autonomy, (b) using cooperative learning, (c) participating in the selection of themes and activities and (d) committing to a new way of learning.

    These changes assume that students will participate more in their own learning. They will be expected to help select content and activities according to their ability and skills (linguistic and non-linguistic), and they will be en-couraged to give up any passive attitudes they may have. Students must be made aware that this is a different way of learning and that they are expected to take an active part.

    Talking CLILTeresa Gerdes and Vctor Pavn explain why they believe CLIL has a lot to

    offer teachers and students of English in all types of instructional settings.

    This is a major departure for many foreign language teachers whose main aim has been teaching just the language itself.

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    Ways of implementing CLILTeaching subjects through another language

    Perhaps the most common way of implementing CLIL is by teaching subjects such as natural science, social science, physical education, art, drama, etc., through the target lan-guage. In European countries where the target language is not the native language, bilingual and international schools have been involved in this type of instruction for years. In Spain, national and regional governments have recently incremented the number of primary and second-ary bilingual and even multilingual schools in order to improve the countrys overall foreign language competen-cy. This initiative has obligated educators to rethink their monolingual curriculum models and expand to a bilingual or even a multilingual curriculum. With an increase in the hours schools are required to teach foreign languages, which could vary from 10 to 15 hours per week in the target language, diversifying instruction in other subjects is a logical choice. Being asked to use the target language as the medium of instruction in content subjects is a major departure for many foreign language teachers whose main aim has been teaching just the language itself.

    BICS and CALP (Cummins)If we stop to think about the degree of difculty in-

    volved in learning subjects such as natural science, history, art and P.E., intuitively we are inclined to say that natural science is more challenging than P.E., and that history is more challenging than art. Dr. Jim Cummins, professor at the University of Toronto, illustrates this point in his theory of foreign language acquisition (Cummins 2000), in which he argues that the level of difculty of content subjects or activities depends on whether they are academic or non-academic and whether they are context-embedded or context-reduced.

    Forming another important part of Cumminss theory of second language acquisition are basic interpersonal com-munication skills (BICS) and cognitive academic language prociency (CALP) (Cummins 1984). BICS can be dened simply as everyday language. It is the lexis that language learners must use in order to hold a basic conversation. Vo-cabulary related to the weather, family, school and daily life are all examples of BICS. In contrast, CALP is the language that is used in order to communicate about an academic topic. For example, in a primary science lesson about the eating habits of animals, students would be exposed to words such as herbivore, omnivore and carnivore. These words are clear examples of CALP and would normally not nd their way into everyday conversation. In essence, one of the cornerstones of CLIL is the importance of the distinc-tion between BICS and CALP. How teachers deal with CALP can determine whether learners are successful in assimilat-ing content and language input.

    The cross-curricular approach Although teaching different subjects is the most com-

    mon way of implementing CLIL, there are many other ways that teachers can use it, such as the cross-curricular ap-proach. With the creation of a thematic unit, teachers (and often students as well) collect and create their own materi-als. This personalisation of the target material is a moti-vational stimulus for both students and teachers. Project work is also a meaningful and memorable way for students to personalise new information that they have learned.

    Content-based instruction in North AmericaContent-based instruction (and its many variations) is CLILs counterpart in North America and has enjoyed a long life in bilingual and ESL programmes. One very positive outcome of content-based teaching in North America is that limited English prociency (LEP) students who are usually in self-contained ESL classrooms, are often integrated with their native language peers. This situation tends to accelerate the English language learners acquisition process. Natu-rally, in any situation where there are mixed levels there are multiple pedagogical challenges for the content teacher. Content teachers must understand the language obstacles that English language learners face, and they must make the content input comprehensible through careful scaf-folding; at the same time, however, the teachers must chal-lenge the native English language speakers, whose main aim is to acquire content knowledge.

    The SIOP modelWhereas CLIL is an approach to teaching, sheltered instruc-tion observation protocol (SIOP) is a research-based model

    Your new language lab.

    The ideal CLIL teacher is someone who has a thorough knowledge of the content subject and a procient mastery of the foreign language.

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    from the United States that can be used in any type of CLIL situation (Echevarra et al. 2000). The model consists of eight components and is a practical methodological tool for teachers who want to implement CLIL systematically. You can see a model SIOP lesson in natural science for a year 3 primary class at the its-teachers website.

    Linguistic considerations: teachers linguistic competency One of the main obstacles to implementing CLIL is nding teachers who are competent not only linguistically, but methodologically as well (Bowler 2007).

    The ideal CLIL teacher is someone who has a thor-ough knowledge of the content subject and a procient mastery of the foreign language. However, when CLIL is implemented in a teaching context where the teachers level in the foreign language is low, a different approach is required. While some are in favour of using language teachers to teach content subjects, this solution does not seem to take into account the main objective, which is not to teach a foreign language but rather to teach content through a foreign language. A reasonable alternative, then, is to use qualied content experts, provided they possess the necessary linguistic knowledge; that is, they must be competent in the standard version of the foreign language, both in uency and accurac