Friday, December 7, 2012

More on CLIL: "How to do it?"

CLIL – how to do it
If you've not worked in CLIL before, this article will give you a point to start from, in terms of both learners and materials. TeachingEnglish is currently growing its CLIL resources, and you can find more articles and activities on this page:
“Chris, we’ve been asked to work with some schools to develop their CLIL courses. Can you look after that?” That was the first time I heard the term CLIL. I said yes, not really knowing what I was letting myself in for, but now, many years down the line I hope some things I learnt can be of use to others having to design and teach CLIL courses.
Much has been written on what CLIL is and why to do it, for example the articles on TeachingEnglish, but there is very little practical guidance on how to plan and teach CLIL lessons. If you are a subject teacher who has been asked to teach in English (or any other language for that matter), or a language teacher who has been asked to help teach content then this article will show you where to start.
Where to startThe first things to think about when planning a CLIL lesson, or indeed a whole course, are the who and the what. That is who your students are – their level of English (or whatever the second language is), level of content knowledge, and their requirements. What refers to what you will teach, in terms of both content and language, and what materials to use. The who feeds in to the what.
Who your students areIn one secondary school in Italy that I taught CLIL in the students had generally quite a high level of English and that meant that I could focus more on the content side (here science and technology), using English as a vehicle for content. With these students, I was able to adapt material designed for native English pupils. On the other hand, in another school the English level was quite weak, so I had to go for a more language-oriented approach, focusing on the particular vocabulary related to the content areas (in this case art and design). With these pupils, native English text books were linguistically too hard for them, so I had to write and adapt my own materials to both teach key art and design vocabulary and also develop language skills, with the goal of allowing these students to be able to use “real” English content text books by their last year of school.
Cognitive load
Another important factor to consider when selecting materials is cognitive load – that is you don’t want to blow their brains with too much information. This can be done by choosing a relatively simple content area or by using an area that you have already covered in L1 and doing the CLIL lesson / course as revision and extension.
A colleague in a Japanese university recently explained to me how he chose his materials. He teaches an introductory English course to help science and engineering undergraduates be able to cope with the English that they will need later on at university. To do this he uses a science text book designed for native English secondary schools. This works very well for both teacher and student as the content level is not too hard, but provides an authentic context for the vocabulary that the students will need later on. As the book is already there with its exercises ready-made, all that remains for the teacher is to design activities to teach the language that is in the book.
Finding CLIL materials
There are also many sources of materials on the internet, some good ones are in the Links section of this site . One particularly useful one is Wikipedia, both the normal English and the 'Simple English' sites are great sources of texts that can be legally adapted and used in class.
If language teachers and content teachers are working together then it’s vital to work as a team. If you can then observe each other’s lessons and talk together. Content teachers will have loads of materials which you may be able to find equivalents of in English, and language teachers will probably have ideas as to how to exploit those materials for language.
How to exploit materials
When you’ve found a text that you want to cover (written or listening), the next question is how to exploit it. Here language teachers are in familiar territory, but subject teachers are probably less familiar with the techniques of how to exploit a text for language. One of the first aspects to think about may be the vocabulary – is there any technical or specialist vocabulary that your students need to know for the course or to understand the text? If so then you might want to pre-teach this by getting students to match words to definitions or pictures, or by making a gap-fill. Alternatively, you could help them discover the meanings through the text – helping them to guess meaning from context.
Your main activity will probably concentrate on general comprehension of the text. You can do this with comprehension questions, information gaps, jigsaw reading tasks, jumble tasks, or many of the other ideas on the Try section of TeachingEnglish.
Follow-up activities can work on reinforcing the vocabulary taught earlier and developing both language skills and comprehension of the topic. These activities can include group discussions, individual presentations, making posters and writing about the topic (for homework or in class).
Have a look at the CLIL activities on TeachingEnglish for more ideas.
David Graddol once noted that when CLIL works, it works well, but it is hard to do well. Hopefully this article will help you to avoid some of the pitfalls – spending too much time looking for materials and designing. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the rewarding experience of being a CLIL teacher – seeing your students develop their language as well as knowledge and understanding of the world. If you have any comments, please feel free to write them below and we can start a discussion on the area of CLIL lesson and course planning.
By Chris Baldwin

Learning English or Learning in English?

There has been a persistent debate among EL professionals in Vietnam on whether or not to offer ESP courses to university students. Some say yes, emphatically so, and others say NO! NO! NO!, vehemently. And it seems we still have to wait a long while before there is an answer to this question.

Well, I myself believe that students should not JUST learn English; it's boring and ineffective. There must be something about the content in the English lessons/courses that we offer our students. But how to do that I don't know.

In the UK and in the world, however, it seems that they have an answer ready for this. It's CLIL: content and language integrated learning.

But what is CLIL? Read the article below and you will find out.



Learning English or learning in English: will we have a choice?

A debate about global education and the role of English as the language of instruction
In association with Macmillan Education and OneStopEnglish

Content and Language Integrated Learning (Clil) and the use of English as the language of instruction has moved from experimental research to the centre of global education. As pressure grows on governments and education planners to raise English language levels, the promise of teaching the language while teaching other subjects has become hard to resist. But Clil and English-medium raises important issues of ethics, it challenges the role of EL teachers and there is concern that its implementation is outpacing a measured debate about the impact on students and teachers of using an L2 as the medium of instruction.

English Language teachers have a very important voice in that debate and the Guardian Weekly, in association with Macmillan Education, staged a special debate about Clil and its impact on English language teaching at the 2005 International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language conference in Cardiff in April.

On these Clil Debate pages we have compiled an information resource about Clil and English medium.

You can read articles by the three debate presenters and hear audio highlights from their presentations (below).

You can also read highlights from the debate question and answer session.Read the transcript here

You can learn more about Clil and English medium from our background articles Read the articles here

You can also send send us your comments about Clil and English medium and we will add them to a feedback section English or learning in English: will we have a choice?
Guardian Weekly Macmillan Education debate at Iatefl 2005

Location: Iatefl Annual Conference, Cardiff

Date: Friday 8 April 2005

Time: 9am-10.30am

Where is Clil? What will it mean for traditional English language teaching? How should Clil be implemented? These are the core questions that our panel of experts presenting on and discussed at the Iatefl conference in April.Chair
Catherine Walter
lectures at the Institute of Education, University of London and is co-author of The Good Grammar Book

David Marsh is one of Europe's leading Clil experts.
Having defined Content and Language Integrated Learning (Clil), David Marsh opened by showing how it is applied worldwide. Although there are substantial differences globally, various core methodological and theoretical issues are common to all regions. These were introduced as drivers, the forces behind the spread of English as the medium of instruction, and enablers, the practical tools and platforms that enable it to take root and were brought together in an attempt to answer a commonly voiced question: Is Clil the Trojan Horse that will drive English ever deeper into the heart of national educational systems?Read David Marsh's article
Hear highlights from David Marsh's presentation (5 mins)Gisella Lange is a senior language education policy maker in Northern Italy.
Clil has had an important implementation in Italy, particularly in northern regions, and different forms of Clil have developed within schools (eg language-led, subject-led varieties). In the past three years the regional education authority in Lombardy has offered web-based training courses aimed at creating Clil didactic modules to be used by language and subject teachers in their classes. Team-work and interactive approaches have created productive dynamics in class developing good practice of "integrated" teaching and learning.Read Gisella Lange's article
Hear highlights from Gisella Lange's presentation (5 mins) David Graddol is a leading writer, broadcaster and lecturer on issues related to global English
In a world in which English seems so much in demand it may seem perverse to suggest that English teachers, as we know them today, are an endangered species. This, however, may be one of many significant consequences of a global shift towards Clil. Such trends are likely to transform the role of English teachers and their relationships to learners and institutions. As English becomes positioned as a generic learning skill, alongside basic literacy and maths, and is taught to ever-younger learners, English specialists may find themselves more marginalised and their professional knowledge and experience less influential in the way English curriculums are designed and delivered. David Graddol drew on new research carried out for the British Council which explores recent and future trends in English worldwide and commented on their likely impact on the ELT profession and business.
Read David Graddol's article
Hear highlights from David Graddol's presentation (6 mins)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The government ___ decided ...: HAVE or HAS?

Today I got asked a question that has been asked again and again: Should we use plural or singular verb with words like "the government"?

Below is the answer taken from ESL Forums. I think their answer is totally adequate, so I don't have to add anything here.

The government have (or has?) decided to do something about pollution.

In English, we often use singular nouns that refer to groups of people (eg government, committee, team) as if they were plural. This is less true in US English.

This is because we often think of the group as people, doing things that people do (eating, wanting, feeling etc).

In such cases, we use:

    - plural verb
    - plural pronoun (they)
    - who (not which)
Here are some examples:

- The committee want sandwiches for lunch. They aren't very hungry.
- My family, who don't see me often, have asked me home.
- The team hope to win next time.

Here are some examples of words and expressions that can be considered singular or plural:

    choir, class, club, committee, company, family, government, jury, school, staff, team, union

    the BBC, board of directors, the Conservative Party, Manchester United, the Ministry of Health
But when we consider the group as an impersonal unit, we use singular verbs and pronouns:

- The new company is the result of a merger.
- The average family consists of four people.
- The committee, which was formed in 1983, has ceased to exist.


Monday, November 12, 2012

"John is the tallest ___ all my friends" (AMONG or OF?)

I received a grammar question in one of the comments. The verbatim comment is below:

Cô Phương Anh mến, một giáo viên Anh văn bảo chúng tôi không được nói/viết "John is the tallest AMONG my friends", mà phải dùng OF thay vì AMONG, trong khi chúng tôi cho là được. Vậy cô Phương Anh có thể cho biết ý kiến của cô không; rất cám ơn cô. Chúc cô vui khỏe.

Actually this is one of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about English grammar whose answer can be found on the Internet. Below are some questions and answers on the same grammar point that I've  just found:

"Marvin is the tallest among/of all." Do both among and of fit in the above? Thanks.
If you really want to know the truth, search at Google
on the BBC and the New York sites. You can do that by searching for: "tallest of all"
(everything in the above must go into the Search box, in order to identify the site searched) "tallest among all" "tallest amongst all" "tallest of all" "tallest among all"

Now, here is my answer: both are acceptable. Following are a few examples with "among", taken from Google:

The best among us will learn from the mistakes of the past, while the rest of us are doomed to repeat them.
Who is the tallest member among B.A.P members?
Sinbad is the tallest among all the brothers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More new words that may not be recognisable, but sure they are real English words!

The new words that I chose to introduce to you today are all (more or les) related to the family. Don't know why, maybe I've been away from home so much that I feel a kind of nostalgia ... Hmm, no good at all, huh?

 dadpreneur noun a man who creates a business connected with fatherhood
An idea that started with a cut-out creation from an old wetsuit, for his newborn daughter, has turned into an award-winning, international success for Cambridge based ‘dadpreneur’, Paul Brown.

mumblogger noun a mother who blogs about topics of interest to other mothers

A large number of mumbloggers – mothers who write blogs – are meeting in the flesh, at Moorgate in London.

down-ageing noun the practice of pretending that you are younger than you are
Celebrities, of course, are the biggest culprits of down-ageing.
[Grazia (UK celebrity magazine) 30.05.11]

granny tax noun informal a proposed tax on pensioners designed to help to pay for care of the elderly
Pensioners were told yesterday they could be hit with a ‘granny tax’ to fund their long term care.
[Daily Mirror (UK tabloid) 05 July 2011]

babymoon noun a vacation taken by a couple who are expecting their first child
We went to Italy and to Hawaii – we had our honeymoon and our babymoon.

Like them? Well, you can always go look for more on Cambridge Dictionaries Online Blog. The link is here:


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"7 things your quiet ESL students don't tell you"

Hi there!

I haven't been writing on this blog for quite a while. Been busy, you know. Also, nothing interesting seems to be happening in the English learning and teaching world any more. Maybe it's me myself: I am really getting old I guess.

But today I found an article worth sharing. The title caught my attention, and when I read the article, it was so true! I am sure any teacher would agree with the article. So here it is, for you to read and think about those quiet students when you teach.


7 Things Your Quiet ESL Students Are Not Telling You

Isn’t it great when we have ESL students who are very vocal about their needs?

They arrive to their first day of class, tell you all about their English-learning background and describe what they hope to accomplish. When they don’t understand, they tell you. If you’re going too fast, they ask you to slow down. If only all ESL students were like that…

By contrast, we are sometimes met with a quiet room full of blank stares. How do you know what’s going on in their heads if they don’t say anything? If you have students who are too quiet, chances are there is something they are not telling you, which you’ll need to find out – fast!

Important Things Your Students Are Not Telling You:

  1. 1

    I’m hearing too many new words.

    Do you give your students long lists of vocabulary words or do you introduce new vocab in digestible sets of five to six words? When you give them instructions, do you use words they may not understand? Students who are too shy or don’t want to be disrespectful may not tell you they did not understand half of what you said or the story you read. Make sure you introduce new vocabulary as appropriate, i.e. before reading a story or giving instructions for a new task. Check for comprehension of the new words, and only then proceed with the task.
  2. 2

    It’s too hard for me to do this on my own. Can I work with a classmate?

    Some students are overwhelmed by an exercise or task, and would feel much more comfortable working with another student. Don’t underestimate the value of pair work or team work. Lots of students enjoy it and thrive in this type of task. Of course, not all tasks should be completed in pairs or teams. But they shouldn’t have to do everything on their own, either.
  3. 3

    Please don’t put me on the spot.

    Some students love being in the spotlight, the center of attention. Others would prefer to blend into the wallpaper. If you believe a student in particular is having a hard time with an exercise or task, or if they can’t answer a question, don’t insist in front of the entire class. Check back with the student at the end of class to make sure he/she understood.
  4. 4

    Please, be patient with me. I’m trying my best.

    You’ve probably seen this happen. A student says he/she does not understand something, and you explain. The student still does not understand, so you re-phrase and try again. The student still does not understand. Under no circumstances must we lose our patience. You try by all means possible to help the student grasp whatever it is he or she is having trouble grasping, and if they still don’t, you set a moment to talk about it, perhaps after class.
  5. 5

    I need some time to think before I answer.

    Some people don’t like long silences or pauses, and ESL teachers are no different. But sometimes students don’t answer questions as quickly as we’d like them to. The question dangles in the air, and if the student takes too long, we either answer it ourselves or ask another student to do it. Some students need time to think. Give them a few extra seconds, and then perhaps a clue or a nudge to steer them in the right direction.
  6. 6

    I don’t care about “Mr. Smith” from the book. This is boring!

    Nine out of ten times when students are bored, they are bored with the coursebook. But they might not tell you that. They are not interested in some fictional character’s conversations with his boss or family. Though we should use a coursebook in class, sometimes it’s best to adjust it and adapt it to better suit our students’ interests.
  7. 7

    I don’t understand your handwriting.

    Students take forever to copy from the board and whisper amongst themselves while they do so.You don’t know that what they are whispering is, “What does question number 2 say?” Some students struggle with your handwriting, but they won’t tell you that. Instead of guessing, it’s far easier to just ask, “Is my writing clear? Let me know if you can read it all.” Try switching from cursive to print handwriting. For longer exercises, you might want to consider giving them copies – it certainly saves time.

Let’s bear in mind that cultural differences may come into play. In some cultures students are taught to respect their teacher, and they don’t want to offend. In others, it is not accustomed for students to make eye contact with their instructor.

Students are also different throughout the world. Some are naturally talkative; others are timid and shy. Whatever the reason for your students keeping quiet, just make sure it’s not due to the ones mentioned above!

 Have you ever had an unnaturally quiet class or student? What did you identify to be the problem? Share below! 
About the author

Claudia has been an ESL teacher for 20 years and has taught a wide variety of students from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, complete beginners to advanced students. This vast teaching experience has helped her write over 100 articles for When she is not teaching, she is also a freelance travel writer contributing reviews for V!VA Travel Guides' upcoming Uruguay edition, as well as travel articles and blog posts for a variety of online publications. She is currently living in Buenos Aires, Argentina with her spunky 7-year old daughter and crabby 10-year old cat, Ulysses.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Useful website for ESL teachers

I came across this website when searching for articles about ESP and CLIL. It is really useful for professional development of ESL teachers.  It contains a lot of things that a teacher may need: Teaching tips; Lesson plans; and a Newsletter with articles about English language teaching in the world. Really useful, and free!

The website, however, looks a bit complicated and hard to navigate. But once you have become familiar with it, everything should be fine. One tip: Look at your right side column for the things you need. Forget the front of the webpage; you can never sort out what is there.

Here goes the link to the website: I hope it's of use to you all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Pain in the English"

"Pain in the English" is the name of an interesting and useful website for English learners. I came across it today when I searched the Internet for answers to the question of why "according to me" sounds odd in English, even though we can say "according to her/him/them" and it is perfect English.

The answer provided on the website "Pain in the English" (URL: is detailed and clear. But I should not spoil it for you; better go there and check for yourself.

I am sure you can find tons of other useful answers for your questions about English usage.

Hope you like it. Enjoy!