On Dialogic teaching – CLIL through oral communication

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.


On MARILLE – Promoting plurilingualism in the majority language classroom

Learning a language not only provides you with the capacity to communicate with a larger range of people all over the world, but to expand the knowledge you have on cultures and lifestyles. Languages reflect the cultures, traditions, aims and spirit of every country or people who speak eat – every word, every phrase comes from a specific event and point in history or lifeabouts.  So, as more languages you learn, a wider view and understanding of life.

The MARILLE Project tries to apply this way of viewing language into the classroom. Plurilingualism in European schools is a fact: in every class we can find boys and girls from all over the continent or even the world. Each one may speak one or even two foreign languages, and all of them are forced to study a “majority language”, which is too the language of instruction used to learn the content of the rest of the subjects.

The main question that MARILLE asks itself is, if there are several languages in a class, why not use all of them to teach? This would result on more efficient students with – as we said – a wider view of how societies and cultures work, with more empathic and comprehensive way of living and acting than the students stuck in their own-culture-set schooling. It would prepare them to be able to communicate in higher levels with foreigners too, a necessary skill both for their future studies and professional world.

There are always some inconvenient: not only the educational methods and systems should be re-arranged, but the curricular values and needs too. On the other hand, the teaching skills needed by the docents that would impart these plurilingual classes would be higher – finding ourselves in the need of a new educational program for this type of teachers.

So, MARILLE proposes a brilliant and utopic teaching system which surely, basing ourselves upon the values it is built on, it would improve the capabilities and skills of students, making them even better members of a global society. Nevertheless, the requirements for this system to be carried out are very difficult to put into practice at a national, or even region level.

Practices made so far have given outstanding results. Let’s hope this way of integrating language, community and culture as a tool for content and knowledge education ends up working eventually.

More on this topic: http://marille.ecml.at/