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CLIL: an innovative method of teaching

CLIL, as many people might think, is not something new. Ever since the Babylonian period, bilingual schools had already started working. It was in Finland, in 1994, when David Marsh and Anne Maljers’ idea was introduced.


CLIL: content language integrated learning. It may seem simple enough: content-based instruction in another language. There is although, all of complexity behind the acronym and the concept.


Behind the concept lie other subtle techniques, for example, BICS and CALPS. These are Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills, social skills. CALPS are Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency Skills, skills that we use to learn more about a certain topic also using scaffolding methods to ensure our learner’s autonomy. These are skills can take up to seven years to acquire. They increase our cognitive skills to make us better apply our knowledge, analyze, evaluate and create it.

These two terms tie in very well with LOTS and HOTS: Low order thinking skills and High Order thinking skills.


We can identify it to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s taxonomy is a method of classification emphasizing a learner’s high order thinking skills. It guides the development of evaluation, by asking an array of questions to better assess learning.

When we speak of CLIL, we also prepare our lesson plans in a more targeted approach. What do we want our target language to be, for what level, what is our aim. Engaging our students with starters and warm-ups. Pre-teaching vocabulary. Choosing one or more of the linguistic skills to enforce our target language/content, perhaps through a reading or a listening activity. Follow-up activities may be comprehension questions, true/false, matching vocabulary/pictures with definitions. What do you think questions always trigger class discussions and debates.


A mini-project is what the learners are going to do to finish up and summarize the lesson/unit. This can be done individually or in groups. Each student will have a specific task so everyone will feel involved and motivated to show what they have learned. Their final product could be a poster, a Power point presentation, a monologue, an interview …anything that will have made their learning process a memorable one.

There may be a few disadvantages to using CLIL, such as the time involved to prepare the necessary material for the lessons but, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The benefits for teachers are:

  • the use of innovative methods, materials and e-learning

  • individual and institutional networking opportunities and professional mobility

  • the development of good practices through cooperation with teachers in other departments, schools and countries

  • higher level of of job satisfaction.

The benefits for students are:

  • expose students to an innovative approach to learning which extends beyond the traditional limits of the school curriculum

  • give the students the chance to use language in a natural way by ‘thinking’ in the language and not just learning about the language itself as the main focus.

  • improve students’ cognitive skills through study techniques and ways of learning outside the usual parameters of the language classroom

  • help students to identify more with the target language culture than when formally studied as a language, thereby improving international understanding and tolerance

  • appeals to students who like other subjects more than English!

CLIL is definitely an utmost ‘must have’ tool to help and promote learner autonomy in both content and language structured teaching.

The training on CLIL is based on the understanding of the theory and bringing it immediately into practice.



Written by

Teresa Platì - JUMP Trainer





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