Cafe CLIL Discussion 13: Content and Language Integrated Learning and Young Learners

Discussion 13: Content and Language Integrated Learning and Young Learners

An important theme which focuses entirely on issues related to integrating the curriculum and foreign languages with young learners. Am sure there will be a lot of debate with this theme.

16.09.10 (18.00-19.00 Central EU time)

You can listen to the full recording of this discussion at this YouTube link.

Welcome to Patti Trimborn from Spain.
Patti Trimborn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary and Special Education from Boston University.  In addition, she completed a master’s in Learning Disabilities in Spain.  Patti has taught in several bilingual and international schools, helping teachers and students to integrate language and content in the English-medium classroom. She has developed and taught teacher training courses in English and CLIL methodology in teacher resource centers around Spain, and at the Univeristy of Chichester, in the UK. Patti's email is:

KK - Keith Kelly (Host, Bulgaria)
JC - John Clegg (UK)
PT - Patti Trimborn (Spain)
PR - Peach Richmond (Switzerland)
LD'A - Lauretta D'Angelo (Italy)

After the summer break we thought we'd get our teeth into a big topic and that is CLIL and young learners. Prompt questions given to participants follow but as usual we plan to let discussion go where it goes, as this always gives much better input:
- Is there an ideal age for 'additional language' CLIL?
- Are there ideal subjects for young learners CLIL?
- Are certain subjects taboo for CLIL at a very young age?
- What are key aspects of young learner CLIL methodology? (if we can list some, I think that would be one useful outcome of discussion)
- Any success / horror stories to share? (but let's try and keep both clear
and concrete saying why and giving examples in either case) 

This follows on from the many discussions we've had so far concentrating on secondary education CLIL. It's a good time to discuss issues related to young learners with so many projects offering earlier language learning opportunities and implementation of CLIL at younger ages in a number of countries. 

Café CLIL 13: CLIL for Young Learners
Discussion summary (also attached below in Word format)
As usual the discussion is rich and stimulating, and also following past trends, we only managed to cover a small proportion of the agenda. There are references to a number of links and they are given in the body of the text as well as at the end.
What does a young learners CLIL teacher ‘look’ like?
CLIL teacher profile data is presented which suggests that though there is an initial high in numbers of CLIL teachers of young learners, this drops dramatically at two stages suggesting that there may be a feeling of a lack of readiness for teachers at the transition points between the age groups. There follows some discussion about teacher preparation and there are no clear guidelines for teacher qualifications in Italy and the requirements differ in the different regions of Spain. In Switzerland, CLIL is still seen as the domain of the language teachers with little uptake in the content teaching population.
What languages are taken up at young ages?
In Bulgaria most children start learning English as a foreign language from grade 2, and this can see children opting for a different language at secondary school. In Italy the trend is for children to stick with the language chosen in primary. Switzerland because of its diverse language make-up has varying options for children but English has supplanted French as 1st foreign language in the German speaking regions. There is now a struggle going on between English and the official languages and this same issue can be seen in the autonomous regions of Spain where English can cause pressure on the local languages.
What is a CLIL methodology for young learners?
It is a good idea to get L1 teachers in the training room with CLIL teachers. This does occur in Italy, but less so in Switzerland. Basque country is mentioned where there are initiatives to bring together L1 subject teachers with language teachers and CLIL teachers to share ideas about supporting language in the curriculum.
There is a suggestion that primary teachers are more curriculum language aware than secondary teachers. In Spain, this doesn’t tend to carry over into the classroom practice and teachers need a lot of help with identifying language demands in their primary curriculum.
Curriculum mapping is offered as a step in the direction of identifying language specifically for young learner CLIL classrooms. Hayes Jacobs (2006) writes about curriculum mapping as a means for developing effective literacy programmes in schools. The NALDIC Quarterly is also mentioned as it contains an article on mapping the primary curriculum for supporting EAL learners in UK schools.
What about vocabulary learning?
There is reference to the recent TTED SIG discussion (link to discussion group) on vocabulary learning where Paul Nation reports research suggesting that isolated vocabulary learning is important for language development and it is suggested that the older the learner the more acceptable isolated vocabulary learning can be. There are mixed responses to this from the group.
Paul Nation says:
“You probably won't like this answer, but I am very much in favour of decontextualised learning. There is tons of research evidence for it and recent research has shown that results in the kind of implicit knowledge which is needed for normal language use. An article by Elgort will appear in language learning in 2011 showing the evidence for implicit knowledge. I would thus encourage learners I guess from 13 years old onwards to do deliberate learning using word cards. It is important however that this is only one part of one strand of their course, the language focused learning strand. They need to also meet vocabulary through meeting focused input, meaning focused output, and fluency development.”
There is also a link given by Martin McMorrow, Discussion List Moderator to a slideshow on this issue
A visual classroom environment
There is a reference to the YLS CLIL discussion (link to summary of discussion) which took place in April 2009 and the suggestion that a Young Learner CLIL classroom has to be a visual learning environment. An example is given of the Spanish Bilingual Programme where classrooms are full of visuals and accessible language prompts. You can read an evaluation of this project here.
We need to be selective about vocabulary and in Spain the E-M textbooks tend to be translations of the L1 books and so are dense in vocabulary. It is important to differentiate between different types of vocabulary: subject specific, general academic, conversational. Teachers need to provide clear models and accept simultaneous talking opportunities in the classroom, offer prompt phrases and alternatives. Hayes Jacobs outlines three areas for vocabulary in the attempt to support literacy development in learners: High frequency words, specialized words, embellishments and suggests that each of these types of vocabulary demand a specific methodology. Other techniques offered in the discussion include the example of word walls where learners tick words as they are heard/read in context. A number of links to ideas for visual learning and word walls are given in the references below.
In closing…
Many contexts are introducing the curriculum in another language to younger and younger learners, it’s important that they get it right. CLIL methodology for young learners is already highly bilingual in practice.
For more on curriculum mapping see:
Heidi Hayes Jacobs (2006) Active Literacy Across the Curriculum, Eye on Education;
Andy Harvey (2010) NALDIC Quarterly. Using the knowledge framework for planning for language in the primary curriculum, 22-26, Vol. 7 No. 4 (usable practical example from subject topics mapped onto an adaptation of Mohan’s Knowledge Framework as a means for identifying language);
Also see Geri Smyth David Foulton Publishers Helping Bilingual Pupils to Access the Curriculum, 2003 (useful tips on identifying language in the curriculum to support learning content);
Carol Reed Amazing World of Animals, on Macmillan’s offers a topic map with embedded language planned into it;
Academic clip art:;
Graphic organizers to be used by the teacher or students:;
How to set up a word wall, and some activities:;
This article includes lots of pictures of words walls:


Attached files

CC13 Summary Word