During my last Practicum as an English teacher on a Catalan Primary School, I’ve been teaching Science through CLIL. When my tutor proposed me to teach a subject using a foreign language (L2) instead of just teaching English – you now, grammar and vocabulary – I happily agreed.
Now, I’ve been studying subjects in L2 since I was in Year 5. In fact, Science was the first subject I learned through English, so teaching it to a new generation was something I thought I would be fun to do. There was a slightly little difference though – when I was little, Science was taught through text books in English as if they were translated from Catalan, so there was no language adaptation to L2 learners as we were and we had to work it out as we could… and the school where I’ve been teaching do not use any kind of book.
“This should not be a problem”, I said to myself. “We’ve been taught in class that CLIL should be based upon dialogue, and it is in first place through dialogue how you can identify the needs and aims of the class group”. So true.
I was terrified when I started teaching there – I watched my tutor teach English to the group I was supposed to teach on Vertebrates later on, and his level was quite lower than expected. The idea that I couldn’t adapt my speech to them or the fact that some of them wouldn’t be able to follow the class was horrifying. What could I do? Then I realized: let’s ask them.
After talking to several of my new pupils, I was clear on something: visual support was the key to understanding. Not just for them – the use of colorful presentations, remarked contents, videos, gestures… But for the teacher, for if you pay attention at their eyes you’ll be able to know if they understand before using your main weapon: ask them if they understand. If they don’t, let them explain between them.
Creating a dialogue between the class group – or several dialogues in small groups – you’ll be reinforcing trust and empathy between classmates, and therefore creating bonds that, sooner or later, will become a small community of people. Then I realized that I shouldn’t be teaching, but sharing my knowledge and experiences during several sessions, aiding myself with videos and presentations, and always asking for their knowledge and opinion.
That’s what CLIL is really all about, not learning using another language but learning through another language. Speaking, asking and sharing.