I find myself increasingly doing training sessions about how to integrate content with language. It’s partly because of the huge trend towards CLIL in classrooms but also because the course books – more and more – are becoming concerned about including serious and worthy content. So instead of teaching the past simple with a text about Marilyn Monroe they include texts about the origins of the hump-backed whale.
It’s all a shift away from the airline magazine approach of course books to present something more serious with content that genuinely appeals to thinking adults. It’s possibly a sign of things to come that something resembling EAP lessons will become the norm in many classes.
Anyway, a diagram I have found very useful to spark off debates in training sessions on CLIL is this one taken from the excellent book ‘CLIL’ published by CUP.
The grid shows the trade off between teaching language and teaching content. So if you follow the red line that goes from square 1 to square 4 you’ll see the typical trend when we try to combine content that is cognitively demanding and motivating with an improving level of English.
The grid is good for training sessions because you can ask teachers where they would place some of their current students on this line or they can assess course books and categorise them according to the squares 1 to 4; e.g. a beginner level book usually goes in 1. An advanced level book goes in 3 or 4. You can also see when a book is weak if it ends up in square 4!!
My question for you is one that I grapple with as a course book writer. Can I write classroom material for lower levels which is also cognitively demanding? So instead of starting where the red line does in square 1, can I actually produce something for say – a beginner – that appears in square 2? Do such lessons exist?
In kids lessons they do and with ESP – take your group of technician at beginner level who need English to solve problems. But thinking in terms of your classic adult group who sign up for English classes. Do they even want something cognitively challening? I’ve taken elementary level lessons in other languages and never actually worried too much that the language task the teacher sets me isn’t also cognitively demanding. Just dealing with the language was challenge enough…any views?
Categories: Teacher Training