Latvia - Taking CLIL Further

CLIL in Latvia  – Taking the Project Further

Inta Baranovska ( and Sandra Prince ( of the British Council in Latvia organised a three days of CLIL activities from the 27th to 29th September 2006.

The events started with a visit to the State Gymnasium in Daugavpils where we observed two lessons integrating content and language.  

The first was a year 12 English lesson which focused on genetics and the issues related genetic modification and the second was a year 12 lesson in Mathematics on Trig Functions and their graphs.
Daugavpils State Gymnasium

The lessons were very interesting with students communicating through the medium of English for a range of purposes.  Students gave PowerPoint presentations, they debated issues, they translated, they solved problems.  It’s the beginning of an initiative where the teachers will be teaching more of their subject integrating language and content and is part of a large project with teachers from around Latvia.  There are clear similarities with the CLIL projects in Lithuania and Estonia given the need for resources, training, management support and language development for teachers.
Year 12 English lesson with a focus on Genetic Science

There was a meeting with 8 local head teachers as well as with teachers from the State Gymnasium on the issues related to CLIL, teacher needs and planning for a future in CLIL.  There is clearly a lot of enthusiasm among school directors in the region.
Sandra Prince of British Council Latvia welcomes the Head Teachers to the meeting.
My presentation raised a number of questions from the Heads, and there was broad agreement that their schools need to ensure that the teachers involved are given time for the preparation and the delivery of CLIL.  This is important for many reasons but mostly for the reason that schools management understand the demands of teaching content through the medium of a foreign language for their teachers.  This is fundamental in guaranteeing that teachers are given institutional support in adopting a CLIL approach.
CLIL materials design

Then a group of 24 teachers travelled to the Guesthouse ‘Dridzi’ in Kraslava region, 27-29 September for two days of workshops in Materials Development for CLIL.  The location was specially selected for its tranquillity and distance from any distractions.  Set beside a beautiful lake, the deepest in Latvia, the workshop took place in a large log house and we all lived in wooden cabins, each cabin comfortably furnished with its own sauna!
Inta and Sandra open the proceedings...

1    Introduction to materials development for CLIL
KK talks on principles, gives models for tasks to follow
2    Investigating textbooks for language and structure
participants go through textbooks and locate/identify core language and structure
3    Producing writing frames
participants choose a textbook topic and prepare a writing frame
4    Producing guidance for listening
participants identify a listening from the textbook, visual, labelling
5    Producing frames for speaking / presenting
participants choose a topic for speaking, prepare language support
6    Producing guidance for reading
participants choose a text, prepare reading task
7    Round up + planning the way ahead

Group work on language and structure...

The sessions were organised with a short introduction to an area of CLIL materials development and then the teachers worked in groups preparing tasks relating to each of the areas being discussed.

Session 1          Thursday

Language and structure

Colleagues were asked to identify language within a topic, page, lesson and also to identify structures which could be exploited to guide language processing and / or production

The subjects they chose as well as the themes of the materials they produce were as follows.
Economic systems - Traditional, planned, free market, the pros and cons
Geographical discoveries - Explorers, their discoveries, consequences
Physics - Speed = Distance / Elapsed time (Phrases for describing variations in the formula)
Kinds of art - Comparison, paintings, monuments, decorative art
Maths - Equality and Inequality (Key phrases, sequence structure for solving problems)
Physics - Motion with acceleration (Fishbone diagram of notions, verb phrases, conclusions and key phrases)

Colleagues present their tasks to the group...
A visual on nutrients and plants for guiding listening...

Writing about celestial bodies...

Session 2          Thursday

Writing support

Here, colleagues were asked to search through their textbooks and identify materials for offering support to students for writing in their lessons.

Art                    Colours (Colour triangle visual and language support sheet)
Biology              Describing the human organism to aliens (Structured writing frame and substitution table)
Nature studies    Map of solar system (blank spaces for names of planets, first letter given.  Substitution table for describing planets’ location and comparisons)
Geometry           Problem solving as project work (Intro, main body, conclusion sheet with sequencers, Language support sheet of phrases)
Maths                 Solving Inequality (Writing frame for text on solving with intro, main body and conclusion.  Language support sheet of phrases)
Chemistry          Reaction of metals and hydrochloric acid (Substitution table, coloured)

Writing about reactions between acids and metals...
Writing about colours...

Session 3          Thursday

Guiding listening

In this session teachers were asked to search through their textbooks to identify suitable visuals for guiding listening based on monologues delivered by the teacher.

Biology           How plants get their nutrients (Visual of process, listen + label)
Psychology     Stress-related illnesses (Table listen + tick boxes.  Listen for specific examples and muli-choice labelling)
Art                  History of pencils (Characteristics of historical phenomenon, listen + fill in table.  Types in Spidergram, listen + label)
Maths              Inequality (Formulae sentences, listen and sentence gap fill)
Chemistry         Nitrogen cycle (Label diagram of cycle with key words)
Maths               Features of equal triangles (Diagrams and substitution table)
Nature studies  Marine Life (Spidergram, listen and label)

Sequencing stages in solving an equation through talking...

Session 4          Thursday

Supporting speaking

Teachers were asked to identify appropriate sections of their books to develop a supported speaking activity.

Physics         Advantages and disadvantages of force + friction (Verb list + discuss)
Maths           Exponent equations (Stages of equation + verb list support, talk through stages)
Maths           Inequality (Arranging cards + students in order through talking)
Art                Light and shadow (Picture, title, and text matching and speaking)
Business        Types of competition (Gap fill sentences to support speaking)

Friday Session 1

Teachers were asked to investigate how their books deal with reading, how learners are supported in reading texts and other input in their textbooks.  If they need more help, what would that be?

Computing        Computer input and output equipment (titles, and explanations, matching + Picture of kinds of networks, names, visuals, and explanations, matching)
Media Studies   Television (How TV works, sequenced pictures, labels, text, arranging and matching)
Biology             Parts of a plant (Picture of plant, parts of plant, labels, and explanations.  Put the leaves in the right places) 
History              An evaluation of the Livonian period in Latvian History (Sources and authors, statements about history and table to fill in with info)
Mixed subjects  True or false statements (history, science, geography, read statements and choose ‘believe’ or ‘don’t believe’ + check with fact)
Maths               Inequality (Stages of solving a equation, and text sequencing and matching)
Economics        Resources (Term, definition, example in three columns, jumbled, read and match)
Art                   Genre of paintings (names, explanation, and text about a picture, matching)
What can you do with the text in your books?
Sorting and matching word and text in leaves for reading about plants...
Steps in solving an equation and text matching...

Planning for the future
Colleagues were asked to discuss what they would put in similar meetings were they to happen in the future.  They were asked to express what they felt were their local needs, and also make suggestions about how they might be able to help develop the project themselves both locally and around Latvia.

Suggestions for Future Meetings:
Support materials writing (small dictionaries)
Subject dictionaries
Subject groups of teachers working together
Lesson planning
More materials writing
Video of lesson / show own lessons
Neighbouring countries participate in meeting
Different input – for example, the psychology of learning
IT skills – e-groups
Teacher Needs
Language lesson (locally)
English medium textbooks
More time and more lessons in timetable
How can you help?
Share resources
List resources + distribute around group
BC invest in English medium subject books for libraries
Share experiences with school colleagues
Compile resources in one source, disk, website
There is interest among the group in presenting to other regions

There's a lot to be said for paper-based work.  I'm sure that the colleagues wouldn't have been able to produce a quarter of the amount they did if they'd been working at a computer.  The next step for this group is to consolidate their materials writing, both in terms of collating materials and sharing among their group and also in terms of cascading to other colleagues locally and around Latvia.  The British Council is looking at what they can best offer with the resources available and one route certainly involves colleagues making contact with schools in Lithuania to find out what they've been doing and so share experiences and practice.

If we can manage to identify resources and the time in the calendar, the next stage in Latvia will see a small team of teachers and trainers working together on CLIL teacher training for Latvia and in doing so go someway to ensuring the shelf life of the project.

It will be a delight to be involved, especially if we get to stay in such a beautiful location again!