A web site for the developing language teacher

July 2008 - issue 7/08


Welcome to the July Newsletter.


6. PS - Internet/computer-related links


1. Hello

If you're into your summer in the northern hemisphere I hope you're having a nice cool & relaxed one, not too much teaching & lots of relaxing. It's beginning to hot up here in Spain.

It's very quiet on - the blog & networking site we have set up. It seems that the idea is a good one but there is not a great deal of activity. And the time of year in the doesn't help, the end of the academic year when we are looking forward to our hols.
It is still there - so if you have any teaching questions, advice or experiences to relay then please do use the site & I'm sure you will get a discussion going.
Here's a reminder of the different communities:
* The Lounge
* Pre-school teaching
* Primary school teaching
* Secondary school teaching
* General teaching of adults
* Teacher Trainers
* Business English training
* Academic English teaching - EAP
* Moodle teachers
* One-to-one teachers

This month we've got an article for you about CLIL - Content and
Language Integrated Learning from Alex Mackenzie. Hope you find
it interesting.


Unit 8 of Michael Berman's upper intermediate business
course is now available for download at:


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save over UK£90/US$180/EUR€99 by giving away free upgrades to the
soon to be released 'Ultimate' Edition of iMindMap™.

If you purchase the Current Version of iMindMap™ before the
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benefit from Tony’s gift of a free upgrade to the Ultimate
version, saving you over £90 GBP ($180 USD / €100 EURO).


If you have any information you'd like to include in the Monthly
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addition'. Thanks.

Happy teaching!


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How should CLIL work in practice? by Alex Mackenzie

Anyone who is anyone in the EFL world these days is talking about CLIL. The general consensus is that it’s the way forward but there is much debate about how it’s going to work in practice and how it’s going to be integrated into EFL schools. There are many high-schools across the world who actively run CLIL programmes but as of yet it hasn’t really entered the private EFL sphere.

As Academic Director in a school that offers CLIL courses and implements its principles in General English too, my aim in this paper is to give my own ideas on the matter; ideas that are working in practice as we speak. To begin with, let’s have a look at the underlying principles behind CLIL.

Principles of CLIL

  • Content and Language Integrated Learning- pretty much does what it says on the tin- it’s dual-focused education where attention is given to the topic as well as the language. Personally, I like to think the topic is more important, English is simply the medium used. Very often the subject in the EFL classroom is the language itself- wouldn’t you prefer it if your students could leave being able to speak about rainforests rather than relative clauses! Whether the topic is a school subject or another, the principles are the same. The fact that importance is given to the topic and the language gives a more integrated methodology of learning and teaching, drawing attention to the educational process as a whole as opposed to just how languages should be taught.
  • Making content/context king means that the student is actively involved in the language; they are immersed in it, surrounded and engulfed in it. They are using the language but the context, theme and task are the driving forces. When the students are engaged and interested in the topic they are more motivated to use and learn the language needed to communicate. It also promotes a more natural use of language; simply because the scope of the language is so much wider than the constraints of a traditional EFL lesson.
  • CLIL has been called ‘education through construction, rather than instruction’ which again puts the onus on the student- they learn, they build their language because they are put in the position where they have to, not because they are being taught to. CLIL is based on language acquisition rather than enforced learning. Some people are of the opinion that students often learn despite their teachers; with CLIL teachers take much more of a facilitator role than instructor.
  • Fluency is more important than accuracy. The nature of CLIL lessons means that the students will produce (and be exposed to) a vast array of language, the focus is firmly on communication and accuracy comes with time. Making mistakes is a natural process in language learning, and as we all know, language doesn’t have to be accurate to be communicative. CLIL exposes learners to situations calling for genuine communication.
  • CLIL promotes critical thinking and collaboration skills as well as language competence. It produces life-long learners and students are sent out with real-world skills and enhanced motivation and self-confidence.

CLIL is sometimes called ‘English across the curriculum’ which I think narrows the scope of it a little. CLIL can be a Geography lesson conducted in English but it could also be a lesson on another subject such as ‘film’, ‘literature’ or even ‘sports’. The principles are the same.

Putting it in to practice

CLIL is not a new concept, the name has been around since the early nineties, but people have been learning languages in this way for centuries. Migrants, economic or otherwise, have learnt this way since time began. Let’s take the example of the recent influx of eastern Europeans to the UK, many of them without any formal language education background. On a day-to-day basis, they put themselves in the position where they have to converse, deal with situations and ‘do tasks’. The contexts of these situations force them to not only use but also develop their language. Obviously, learning this way can lead to somewhat of an imbalance in their language skills in certain cases but there is no denying that it works. How many of us, as language learners, can say that we have learnt a language this way? I, for one, certainly can. It’s a natural, proven way to learn a language- the question we have to ask is how can we replicate (and improve on) this in our language schools.

I’m going to look at four different aspects of integrating CLIL into EFL classrooms: Syllabuses, In the Classroom, Teachers and Grammar. This is obviously not exhaustive; merely four factors I believe should be discussed.


Before I go into this I’ll give you a little background on my school, The Mackenzie School of English. We specialize in year-round education, culture & activity programmes for groups of high-school students. We run content-driven, task-based General English classes as well as CLIL lessons based on traditional school subjects. Both these modes of tuition operate using the principles of CLIL stated above.

Our General English syllabus is thematic and based around topics which appeal to teenage students such as cinema, sport or boys & girls. All tasks in the lessons revolve around this theme and include things such as role-play, games and project work. The lessons consist of extensive integrated skills and encourage students to feel more confident about speaking English without the pressure of accuracy. The tasks and themes lead the way for the lessons; the language taught stems from them rather than the other way around.

The CLIL syllabus follows the same pattern only the topics are traditional school subjects. Again the lessons include group work, tasks and are heavily skills based. This syllabus can actually run in conjunction with General English to provide a bulkier, more academic programme. I see these lessons, in my school, as being an extension of the students’ curriculum back home not something that by any shape or form replaces or works in tandem with it. Obviously with extended CLIL programmes this would have to be rethought.

In the classroom

Tasks are all important and lessons are skills based. The theme of the lesson is adhered to throughout. Students are encouraged to explore topics and their own knowledge of the world is essential. We acknowledge that learners are well-informed, creative individuals and encourage them to bring their own personalities and backgrounds into the lessons.

Very often there are end products to lessons, or a block of lessons, such as videos, magazines and reports. Our lessons are motivational, engaging and entertaining. Language is picked up and mistakes are looked at but the themes and topics lead the way. What the students can actually produce is the language which is worked with and extended. I wouldn’t say this is level specific; even post-beginner and elementary students have enough grasp of the language do this. Vocabulary and Grammar is revised and recycled on a regular basis and students are encouraged to ‘notice’ language.

I have to say we have been overwhelmed by the students’ feedback on the courses we have run so far. They recognise that this is a different way of learning and teaching; they find it intriguing, rewarding and fulfilling. We try our best to instil a ‘can do’ attitude in our student and we’re doing a pretty good job!


Obviously for the General English classes we employ enthusiastic, suitably trained EFL teachers. Our teachers are both energetic and energising. For the CLIL courses we look for teachers who hold an EFL certificate as well as a degree related to the subject they are teaching- as EFL teacher s have degrees in everything but language it isn’t too difficult.

One potential pitfall is the way teachers are currently being trained; this article is not the place to go into the failings of this but many teachers, even experienced ones, can be quite against changing their ways. To adopt this style of teaching you have to be open-minded and confident about running a class in this manner.

We have our own in-going training programme at the school; we open teachers’ eyes to the possibilities of this type of teaching and, so far, it has been very successful.


 We’re all aware of the endless debates there are about grammar- how best to teach it, can we teach it at all, etc. One thing I think we can all agree on is that focusing on single (or even 2 or 3) grammatical structures and practicing them intensively in class doesn’t really do the trick. The minute the student walks out the door they will, more than likely, be making the same mistakes. We, in the industry, have been looking at grammar in this way for years; think of it from a student’s point of view- they look at the same language time and time again. By the time a student reaches upper-intermediate, for example, they might have studied certain forms three or four times. It’s true that learners need to know different things about the same grammar at different levels but I feel that you often reach the point where you are going through the motions- you teach grammar simply because you think you should.

CLIL is not language teaching without grammar; it’s present and it’s contextualized too. The idea that grammar can be dissected into individual chunks doesn’t really work in my opinion. Grammar, I believe, should be looked at in a more holistic sense- using contexts and functions to lead the way- using the students own language competences as a starting block for what to teach- using grammatical awareness raising activities like in TBL.

The Future of CLIL

I’m not going to hypothesise on the future of secondary school education throughout the whole world and whether bi-lingual schools and tuition is the way forward but I will say that I believe CLIL has a lot to offer us, as EFL teachers. It’s a methodology which presents student-centered lessons, recognises that the students are worthwhile individuals and allows students to really communicate in a classroom environment. It is a move away from how things are presently done but, I believe, it’s a positive shift.

As language teachers we should always be looking forward, always looking for ways to better our teaching and for ways to make the language learning process easier and more enjoyable for students. The principles behind CLIL do just that.

I very much hope you have found this paper informative and thought-provoking. It’s not intended to be a rant, sermon or bible, but is my opinion of how things should work and how we are going about it in my school.


CLIL Matrix: Central Workshop Report 6/2005 Marsh et al.
Profiling European CLIL Classrooms Marsh et al.
Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) at School in Europe Eurydice Survey
Content Based Instruction: A Shell for Language Teaching or a Framework for Strategic Language and Content Learning? Fredricka L. Stroller
CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning Lena Tidblom

To view the article:


At Developing we occasionally carry out consultancy work. The different projects have included tutoring DELTA candidates by email, offering advice on curriculum design & materials choice & short training courses in person & by email. If you would like us to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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How Does Language Exist In The Brain? - article.
Excellent dictation site for your students.
Safe search page for your younger learners.
Make your own movies. Really easy to use. Get your students to make them & send them to each other & you.
Build up to the Olympics with the British Council Kids site.

50 Things Everyone Should Know How To Do - 'Self-reliance is a vital key to living a healthy, productive life. To be self-reliant one must master a basic set of skills, more or less making them a jack of all trades. Contrary to what you may have learned in school, a jack of all trades is far more equipped to deal with life than a specialized master of only one. While not totally comprehensive, here is a list of 50 things everyone
should know how to do.'
'Hardly a week passes without headlines about academic standards. Are exams getting easier? Are people getting smarter? Well, here's a chance for Magazine readers to test themselves - first on English - next week on maths.' A quick test for your students.

8 Free Online Resources For Learning A New Language.
'Stickyball ESL Resources: Free resources and ideas for teaching ESL, including advanced writing activities, free phonics books and worksheets, and tons of games and grammar handouts.'

If you've visited a site that you think would be beneficial for all or would ike your site to appear here, please get in touch. Thanks.

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A few days, among many, to plan your lessons around in July:
1st - Canada Day
International Joke Day
4th - US Independence Day
14th - French Bastille Day
Tour de France bicycle race

To see the list of Days:

Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.

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We like it so much that we run our own online development courses at Developing with Moodle. For more information:

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

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Thank You - rounding off courses
Weird Festivals - lesson ideas
Different beginners - the Learner
World Refugee Day - lesson ideas

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6. PS – General internet/computer-related links

A few computer use rules of thumb:

- make copies of all
- important files
- run scan disk & then defragment the hard drive
- use firewall software - use a virus scan & update the files
every week
- install security patches that software providers offer
- update your DirectX files regularly
- don't open attachments without scanning for viruses first
- don't respond to spam
- just delete & forget
- don't send personal or bank information by email
- turn off your computer at night

The Webby Awards have just been announced for this year:

Have you downloaded the new Firefox 3 browser? If not, get it
And a couple of very nice new add ons for Firefox:
Advanced Dork: gives quick access to Google's Advanced Operators
directly from the context menu...
Gspace - This extension allows you to use your Gmail Space (4.1 GB and growing) for file storage. It acts as an online drive, so you can upload files from your hard drive and access them from every Internet capable system.
Article about a guy who took a photo every day for 18 years.
The original site:
Take the photo personality test.
Ever wondered what happens during an autopsy? Take the step-by-step lesson.
Travel reviews you can trust - they say.
Waiter rants.

The 50 Best Summer Reads
The Scribbler.
One of last month's links allowed you to see how many cannibals you could feed. This week - 'How long could you last the vacuum of space?' You've got to be prepared, you never know when you'll need all this information.
' contains a searchable database of thousands of file extensions with detailed information about the associated file types. Each entry contains information about the file format, a description of the file, and the program or programs that can open the file. Programs for opening the files are listed for Macintosh, Windows, and Linux platforms.'
A list of file extensions with information about each file type, including how to open the files.
The Mars mission.

Zurich Chamber Orchestra : Roller Coaster.
A game of dots - collect them.

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