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Spain - Multilingual education in the Basque country
Spain - Multilingual education in the Basque country

Multilingual education in the Basque country, 29th Sept to Oct 1st, 2004

I spent a nice three days in Bilbao last week working with a group of 16 advisors and trainers who train teachers to work through the medium of three languages: Basque, English and Spanish.

If that’s not astonishing enough, almost all of the teaching materials they have written are freely available to download at their very modest yet wonderfully rich resources:

They tell me, again modestly, that there is still much to write and produce and still much to review and revise BEFORE they begin to publicise what they have achieved over the last five years. I hope they’ll forgive me for advertising their work for them. Take a look, it’s a valuable resource both for language teachers looking for content resources and for content teachers looking for FL-medium materials. 

The Teacher Training and Resource Centre, Durango

Working lunch…   

I wondered how I could possibly help such resourceful colleagues and I have to say that my own review of their materials has suggested very small amounts of adaptation. There is useful work to be done offering ‘language support’ materials to supplement the resources already created and so provide for language production through the History/Geography/Science themes in the materials. I’m pleased to be able to help these colleagues produce these materials.We looked at preparing workshop materials for the fortnightly meetings these colleagues run for teachers in the network of some 300 schools working in multiple languages. The main focus of the materials adaptation and workshop themes was how to identify the language children are expected to ‘produce’ in written form, or orally, in the subjects being taught. We also looked at which tasks would be best for helping the students to produce this language. 

Science Art at the Guggenheim! 

The answer to providing this ‘support’ can be found in language awareness activities where students mechanically identify the language they need. ‘Underline verb phrases used for describing structure, function and location in the following text’, then together with the teacher students organise the verb phrases into groups and these phrases are used along with a visual/table/diagram to ‘make sentences’. Visuals themselves are the best way for ‘guiding listening’ in the content materials where a visual such as a diagram of the digestive system is labelled while the students listen to a teacher explain how it works. This visual then provides a ‘semi-script’ for learners to produce the ‘language of digestion’ and guide their speaking, or writing on the topic.In time we hope to provide supplementary sheets of ‘language’, ‘visuals’, and ‘tasks’ to accompany the source materials.

Spain - Basque Plurilingual Education
Spain - Basque Plurilingual Education

Basque Plurilingual Education
Dec 13-15th 2004

As part of the Basque government initiatives in developing a plurilingual approach to education, three days of workshops were organised for teachers from the INEBI and BHINEBI programmes from Dec 13-15th, 2004.
25 English teachers came from Gipuzkoa to meet in Lasarte on day 1 where the focus was on content development through language.   

Lasarte Training Centre


In Bilbao at the Luis Briñas Secondary High School on day 2, 26 subject teachers working through the medium of English worked on the theme of language skills development through content.

Finally, in Durango, day 3 repeated the first day’s programme for over 60 language teachers from Alava and Bizkaia.    


Durango Language School


Colleagues may remember that the INEBI/BHINEBI project has been running for a number of years now, and that there are considerable materials available from the project at the website set up to aid dissemination.


More specifically, these are materials written for each of the years of the project through primary into secondary school. Primary 4 materials have recently been edited and uploaded as part of a move to update the resource base.The secondary subject teachers in the group are relatively new to the project and are working with a mixture of enthusiasm and caution. There was particular interest in the question of how to best develop techniques for ‘guiding’ reading and listening, and ‘supporting’ speaking and writing in content materials. Lui the secondary coordinator has been working hard recently on the latest materials which are now in the secondary section of the programme website. This topic is entitled ‘Taking Care of the Earth’ and looks at the planets, characteristics of planets, the Earth, and environmental problems facing us today. You’ll recognise evidence of the efforts put into this ‘guidance’ and ‘support’ in this latest batch of materials.

An example of a frame for guiding learners listening to their peers presenting on the topic of ‘planets’ from the latest pack of materials from the Basque content and language integration project…

Basque children are presented with a certificate in recognition of their attempts to alter their lifestyle in favour of the environment…   … and they sign a ‘contract’ explaining their personal plan of action. 
Participants in the three days were also presented with the Science Across the World programme (, with particular reference to the materials related to ‘Taking Care of the Earth’. Topics related to climate change, global warming, alternative energy, pollution in the Science Across programme are useful for the colleagues preparing for the masses of ‘contracts’ they will receive from their learners in that the materials all involve learners investigating their environmental behaviour and exchanging this information with partners in other countries. 
… students investigate use of energy in the home in the Science Across the World programme…

The INEBI/BHINEBI programme is at a significant stage in its development as Rosa and the advisors will soon have to make decisions about which direction to take in the future. Ideas are, among many others, to begin the process of documenting and recording good practice; to attempt to expand the programme by reaching out to new generations of teachers coming into the system; updating the materials database.It’s bound to be interesting - watch this space!!!

Spain - News of a English Teachers' conference with a CLIL theme from Lui García Gurrutxaga
Spain - News of a English Teachers' conference with a CLIL theme from Lui García Gurrutxaga

News of a English Teachers' conference with a CLIL theme from Lui García Gurrutxaga
Jan 11th 2007

Basque English Teachers' Association
20080 Donostia

Dear friends and colleagues,
After 5 years of silence BETEA is back!. We have organized the :VI beteaTeachers’ Day on February 3rd 9:30- 13:30 in the Centro Cívico La Bolsa Eraikia in Bilbao.  We are also aiming to renew and enlarge our membership base so we are enclosing a membership form and would like to encourage you to become a member if you have not been one before.
Hoping to see you in Bilbao on February 3rd  .
BETEA’s best wishes for 2007.
Lui García Gurrutxaga
BETEA President

Betea is back !!!!!!
VI betea Teachers’ Day
February 3rd 9:30- 13:30

Centro Cívico La Bolsa Eraikia
Calle Pelota Kalea

Can you think of a betea way to spend your Saturday morning?
Come and bring a friend!

Sponsored by the British Council

Linking Science and Literature (Tim Herdon)
11: 00-11:30
Coffee Break ( Courtesy of the British Council)
11:30- 13:00
Linking Science and Literature (Tim Herdon)
13:00-13:30Hello Yellow Theatre Groupbstract:  Linking Science with Literature
Linking hands-on science experiences to children’s literature has a beneficial effect in building skills in both curricular areas. Interest in both science and reading increases substantially, and knowledge of science content and reading skills are mutually reinforced.
In this talk we will look at the concepts of balance, gravity and centre of gravity.  We will look at the implications of these concepts from the points of view of scientific enquiry and a story for children.  It will be a hands-on session in which we discuss  ways of linking literature with science.  We will also build balancing devices with different materials to explore the concept of balance and the variables affecting balance.  The activities will be most relevant to 10 – 14 year old children.Tim Herdon: Biodata 


By train: RENFE to Abando and 5 minutes walk or RENFE cercanias to Termibus and then tube from San Mamés to Casco Viejo. (6 minutes)
Also EUSKOTREN to Atxuri.
By bus: from Donostia, Gasteiz or many other towns of Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia - Termibus and then by tube from San Mamés to Casco Viejo (6 minutes).
By car:  We strongly recommend to use public transport but if you insist in coming by car, remember that the Parking in Plaza Nueva is closed so you
will have to park either in the new parking in El Arenal or in Pío Baroja (in front of the Town Hall on the opposite bank of the river).

Please confirm your attendance by January 31st:


Spain - Basque English Teachers' Association Conference
Spain - Basque English Teachers' Association Conference

Report on VI BETEA Teachers’ Day

Saturday 3rd February saw 40 of us gathering in a room inside a lovely old building – Centro Civico La Bolsa Eraikia – located in the heart of Bilbao’s Casco Antiguo, the historic city centre.  

The president of BETEA, Lui Garcia Gurrutxaga, kicked off the day’s proceedings by welcoming all  participants to the relaunch of BETEA’s activities as a teachers’ association.  Michael King, director of the British Council Bilbao took up the baton by wishing BETEA every success in the future, and impressed  everyone present with a short speech in Basque.  
The theme of the day was ‘Linking Science with Literature’, which was a  great opportunity to explore the rich possibilities that a cross curricular approach offers and to enjoy a number of hands-on science activities.  We started with a story, ‘Mirette on the high wire’, which is about a famous high wire walker – Bellini – who has lost his nerve and is only able to regain his self-confidence with the help of his young student, Mirette.  After reading out the story, we looked briefly at Bloom’s taxonomy as a framework for lower and higher order activities stemming from both the language and science aspects of the story. 
After looking at lower order language activities involving comprehension and summarizing tasks, we moved on to the physics of balance.  We looked at how to identify the centre of gravity in objects and  people  and we looked at what factors affect physical stability and instability. 

Not surprisingly it was an ex-yoga teacher who was able to show us that the most stable posture when standing on one foot involves distributing your body mass as widely as possible. 
We then looked at how shifting the centre of gravity in four uniform blocks affects stability, and tried to work out how to place the blocks so that they extended as far out over  the edge of the table as possible without tipping over. 

In the second part of the morning we looked at possible higher order activities.  On the language side we explored the notion of balance in metaphors and in the idea of polarized opposites occurring throughout the story (such as fear/confidence, impulsiveness/caution  etc.).  This took us out into more general notions of balance, and we saw how it is an important aspect of, amongst other things, accounting, justice, yoga, poetry and art.  We saw how our intuitive sense of balance regarding rhyme and rhythm enabled us to fill in the gaps in a Lewis Carroll poem, we looked at the idea of compositional balance in a Seurat painting and compositional and physical balance in a Calder mobile.  This took us back to physics again and two challenges to round up the session.

First challenge:  to make the pencil balance on its point using wire and cloths pegs (as weights).  After a while participants realized the trick was to lower the centre of gravity with the pegs, giving the pencil  much more stability. 
Second challenge: to construct the tower–with-the-most-lean using blutak and  toothpicks.  Towers had to remain standing for at least  two minutes when finished.  There were a number  of ingenious designs around, such as this one. 

This tower looked certain to be the winner, until it started leaning and then actually collapsed, well before the two minutes had passed! 

For teachers who are excited by the idea of linking science and literature in their teaching, there is a very strong rationale for doing so.  The two curriculum areas mutually reinforce each other, and active experience of science in a story context helps develop process skills in both language and science. 

It was definitely a great pleasure to spend the morning working with such a responsive, committed and stimulating group of teachers.  I came away from the session with the strong conviction that CLIL is thriving in the Basque region of Spain, and that primary and secondary students here  are the lucky benefactors of highly enriched educational opportunities. 

Tim Herdon

Spain - Content and Language Integrated Learning: The Basque Country
Spain - Content and Language Integrated Learning: The Basque Country

Content and Language Integrated Learning: The Basque Country

This piece appeared as a short article in the Humanising Language Teaching Magazine, Year 9 Issue 3 May 2007.

Spain - CLIL article: Foreign Language Competence in Content and Language Integrated Courses David Lasagabaster
Spain - CLIL article: Foreign Language Competence in Content and Language Integrated Courses David Lasagabaster

CLIL article: Foreign Language Competence in Content and Language Integrated Courses David Lasagabaster
June 27th, 2008

There are some very interesting and significant conclusions made in this article which looks at gender and social differences and achievement and also presents results of CLIL groups in comparison with control groups.

Spain - Bilingual Conference, Bilbao
Spain - Bilingual Conference, Bilbao

Bilingual Conference, Bilbao, Spain
29th, January, 2009

I was very privileged to be asked to delivery a plenary talk at a bilingual conference organised by the Gaztelueta Foundation in the Basque Country in Spain.

The conference brought together approximately 200 educators from all over Spain to the Congress Hall in Bilbao for one day to discuss issues to do with multilingualism in a part of the world with a lot of experience of its own in this area!

I have to say a special thanks to the conference organizers for their care and attention.  It was a pleasure from start to finish.  We had everything to hand for the duration of the event and of course there was the famous hospitality as well!  I should also congratulations.  The programme was very impressive, filled to the brim with presentations, talks and discussion both specific to the Basque Country but also bringing in expertise from elsewhere.

Flier from the conference

Congress Hall, Bilbao, example of renaissance architecture in Bilbao

The conference hall filling up

David Marsh spoke about foreign language competences and the way ahead

Rosa Aliaga gave a history of the trilingual project in the Basque Country:

The panel was set questions and interacted with the audience.
I was asked: For countries in difficult economic times, CLIL is a way to optimize resources, what does the government have to do to promote, foster it?  

Do Coyle spoke about latest developments in methodology and training

and focused specifically on how to bring ideas and theories into classroom practice.
You have to start with a vision!

Title - CLIL in Natural Science Subjects: the role of language
Abstract - This presentation aims to set out clear parameters for identifying the language of natural Science subjects.  The presentation also then goes on to present instruments for developing this language in the classroom. 
There are a number of ways of looking at language within specific Science subjects.  We can look at the subject-specific language itself which makes up much of the content curriculum of a subject-specific topic area like ‘cells and tissues’ in Biology.  We can investigate the general academic discourse of the topic which interests us and see how it is used in class.  Lastly, we can examine the role of the non-academic language of the classroom.  All of these perspectives make up the complete picture of the discourse of the language of a Science subject.  Knowing what language is used in these dimensions can help us plan for the development of this language both in the input and in the output of the content of the subject.  This presentation will present ways and means of identifying and organizing the language of Science from these three perspectives.
Another area of particular interest in integrating content and language in Science education is that of tasks.  There are two main areas we need to examine: firstly, we need to look at how learners are guided in processing input language in Science.  This means how learners are supported in their reading of Science text, and how they are guided in listening to Science language.  The second area is to do with output.  Students may need considerable support in producing the language of the Science subject through writing and speaking.  CLIL practitioners need to know how to provide this support.  This presentation will offer guidelines and examples for materials and task design for Natural Science Education through the medium of a foreign language.

Introduction to my talk, you can see the title and abstract. 
If you'd like to know more, get in touch (

I basically talked about what the language is within natural science subjects and how it can be embedded in content tasks.


Can we plot and map all the key vocabulary in content subjects?  I think so.


Language for talking about graphs showing free fall and acceleration.
Can we identify and categorize key structures beyond vocabulary in content subjects and make it accessible to learners to help them carry out the tasks?  I think so.

The rear of the Congress Hall, just as impressive as the front.

Well looked after, intellectually stimulated, good food, great company.
Just hope they ask me back again!

Spain - A week's inservice training for the BHINEBI project
Spain - A week's inservice training for the BHINEBI project

A week's inservice training for the BHINEBI project, Durango, Basque Country
30th Nov - 4th December, 2009

Basque Primary and Secondary CLIL Project
I arrived around lunchtime on Sunday to a blustery Basque country.
Rosa Aliaga who coordinates language teacher training for the Basque government invited me to do a week's work with her project...
I took a look at rock formations on the coast.

... drove me slowly back to San Sebastian with a coffee and nibbles stop along the way.

Well, what a view ...

... great welcome to San Sebastien!

Day 1 - Monday
Rosa kicks us off with some inspiration about the INEBHI-BHINEBI project. I've always thought it was an inspiring project, truly amazing what they've achieved. There are multilingual curriculum materials for the whole age range from year 1 primary to year 4 secondary.

Day 1 of the course 20 people came together from a variety of contexts, but all either English teachers or subject teachers or BHINEBI teachers.

They came for practice in the use of the materials of the BHINEBI project as well as ideas, a refresher, the chance to meet up with like-minded colleagues...

I’d been looking forward to this week for the simple reason that the project is really good and one I use myself in my own classes in Bulgaria from time to time.


Day 2 - Tuesday

Worked on reading. I presented a number of tasks which created interaction within the reading activity. This means that the students have to talk about the text and the content with each other while reading the actual text.

We quickly realised that my programme needed to be flexible as I jumped in head first into CLIL – Identifying language demands of content when the teachers simply wanted to talk with the experienced colleagues about practical issues, how long does a unit take? How do you deal with the copying of the resources? Some of teachers had used the programme, some had never used it and because there is so much to take in, the best way to get the teachers to know the resources was to have them work in small groups dealing with individual units, focusing on specific aspects.

Wine and cheese! Please!


Then I went to the Conservatorio in Bilbao to talk to 120 hipi teachers about supporting language in the curriculum for 3 hours with Basque and Spanish translation.

They have witches in the Basque countrya bit like Baba Yaga in Bulgaria.

Then we investigated the BHINEBI resources for reading activities and the teachers were asked to identify what is asked of the students, how they should do the reading, if they thought it was a good reading task, why, if not, why.
They presented their findings back to the group.

The sun came out for a group photograph.


Day 3 Time Content
Wed   2nd Dec
14.309.30-9.45Homework focus9.45-11.15CLIL Assessment11.15-11.45Break11.45-13.15Assessment in BHINEBI13.15-14.30Preparation for internet session Homework: YLST SIG DiscussionEach unit of work leads up to a product and so each item and activity contributes in some way to a final outcome.

It was a very intensive week. I found it very hard. I think I'm getting old but doing a 5 hour session with a short break in the middle is just a bit beyond me these days, even though the coffee and pinchos were first class.


We had a half way feedback session with a post-its pros and cons activity.

I went back to work with the Hipi teachers. It was quite a challenging set up. I don't speak much Spanish, no Basque and the colleagues had come wanting ideas about supporting language in the curriculum.


Apparently the second day was better as I ran around the audience trying to get them to do a Question Loop in Spanish. There is a comic side to this. I think the audience were pleased though not to have to sit and just listen for three hours.

Day 4

Mila, Geography and English teacher, gave a presentation on how she used the BHINEBI resources in her school.

The colleagues were all ears!



... where you can hear the silence ...


It gets windy!

Day 5


Closing activities
Macmillan sent us some freebies including VPS Science and Geography! Thanks Macmillan!

Kakun! Thank you once again for the lovely DVD, my daughter loves the clowns!

Durango had a book fair on while we were there.


Outcomes included:- a googlegroup ( for the BHINEBI participants and the plan is to include more practicing teachers to the group.- a wikispace ( for Hipi teachers, I've promised to contribute where I can but I'll have to do something about my Spanish and Basque! I've already made contact with colleagues in the UK working with 'new arrivals'. Let's hope they can share good practice with Hipis in the Basque country.



Two things strike me about this experience:- the huge achievement the BHINEBI project actually is. It's a complete curriculum which gets the teacher away from the textbook, focuses on content topics, skills and concepts to teach language, and it's been written for the entire primary and lower secondary curriculum.- the draw CLIL has for teachers (Hipi teachers) working with children from none native speaker backgrounds, supporting their language in the curriculum

I'll be going back!
May - Gextelingua, June/July - Teacher Training for Hipis and Science teachers.

There are three documents linked below with examples of text, language and task from this project.

Spain - New dedicated CLIL textbooks for Geography and History!
Spain - New dedicated CLIL textbooks for Geography and History!

CLIL books from colleagues at ELEANITZ

Phil Ball has been busy with the textbook writing team in the Basque Country.
There are two links here to their CLIL Geography book and
CLIL History book series.

New CLIL Geography textbook!

Phil Ball announces the publication of another dedicated CLIL textbook, this time for Geography.
There is a flier here, but you can find all the necessary information if you're interested at the site itself:


Please direct any interest to Phil  
They've been busy in the Basque country!!! Well done!

New dedicated CLIL textbook for History!


Phil Ball and Harri Beobide are working on a new History textbook for 15-16 year-olds for Spain, whose contents may also fit many European history programmes.  No matter - the idea is that the book (which covers the 18th century to the present day) is an example of a dedicated CLIL textbook, designed to be taught in the L2/L3 classroom.  Anyone interested should write to  Interested parties will receive a pdf version of the book, a free teacher's guide (in Word) with extra materials and resources, plus a free sample copy of the book when it is completed (soonish!).  Don't miss out!   Meanwhile, click on this link to get an idea of the book's content and style. 

History - ESO 4

Well done!

Spain - 10th anniversary conference of GETXOLINGUAE
Spain - 10th anniversary conference of GETXOLINGUAE

10th anniversary conference of GETXOLINGUAE

May 12th and 13th, 2010
I had a terrific visit to Getxo in the Basque Country despite concerns that the volcano had its eye on me. As it was, the travel was very smooth and I spent some good time with a great crowd of people.

First of all, and I know it's not the most important thing, but it's so predictably good that I have to mention the food. I think the Basque have a patent on good food to the extent that even the fast food is good!
I met with Maite, the president of the Getxo Berritzegunea organization, Loli my very kind coordinator, and colleagues for dinner and I think the waiter was a little disappointed that we didn't eat more from the sweets on offer.
Loli Iglesias introduces me to the audience, thanks Loli!

The next day began with opening talks, then Daniel Cassany spoke about new literacy and literature challenges for schools.
I skipped two Basque talks, am ashamed to say, but I have researched the possibility of learning Basque through the Boga programme, it turns out you have to be living in the Basque country so I was pointed to another site and registered, even nibbled through the early lessons, will go back to that as soon as I can arrange a habit around it, learning Basque.
World Cafe discussion    

My talk followed lunch. Torture, but delicious torture. It's not easy to present practical stuff to a sitting audience of 300 with no room for movement. I tried my best to show practical activities for project work in the classroom. Some of my favourite activities to do with my own students and on projects I've worked on with them.

I then took part in the World Cafe and met some English teachers, one Belen, who reported that she was teaching using the Inebi project, good for her! And she was very happy with it as are her students.

We contributed to a decalogue for modern language learning skills, our topic was speaking. You can catch up on all of this, blog, reports, pics and all at the Getxolinugua website:

A lot of the activities and projects I do come from Science areas of the curriculum and so if you're interested in bringing content projects into your classroom, Science or other, take a look. Science Across the World is a great place to start.  
Presentation agenda

You can get your students investigating their genetic heredity

Why not do a project on cosmetics, and make hair gel, shampoo in the classroom? 

You can explore the solar system with DIY rocket building

Or you can investigate road safety, speed test your students and see how safe they are on the roads.

Language teachers are constantly being asked to bring the outside world into their classrooms. One of the best ways to do this is to engage learners in project work which gets them to investigate their world and the world around them and work on this in the language classroom.
This workshop aims to do four things:
- create discussion about the value of project-based language learning;
- present a range of project topic areas for use in the language classroom;
- give participants hands on experience of aspects of project work from these topics;
- offer colleagues materials and ideas to take away and use in their teaching.
Expected outcomes
Colleagues will be able to go home equipped with all they need and will also be given a handout with links to a number of project initiatives to get them started on the road to real-world project work for the language lesson.

I can't claim to have provided colleagues with hands on practice of the activities I presented. It was impossible to offer practical tasks in the forum I talked to. Having said that, there was great interest in the ideas and projects and I'm sure colleagues will follow them up and get in touch to collaborate further.

My PPT presentation on Projects for language teachers is linked below for download.