Putting CLIL into Practice - Flipped Training
'Innovative in-school professional development in CLIL for practising teachers'
- short informative and comprehensive theoretical input in plenary bursts
- one-to-one intensive collaborative work on specific subject needs
- closely facilitated research work (and/or assignment work if demanded by local training)
- classroom (joint) peer observations and feedback
- ongoing up-to-date theoretical input with online archived content for reference
I spent an interesting time visiting a professional school of commerce in Switzerland recently. The school had been preparing for recognition as a 'bilingual school' and was working towards having this status formalized in student graduation diplomas. It was the first initiative of its kind, but is sure to grow as more families, businesses and students look for a professional education through the medium of English or other language.
It was a challenging experience for me, but one which made me make some changes to the way I offer consultancy and professional development input to teachers. The reason for this is that the participant colleagues were all practicing teachers, who were very busy, with dense curriculum content to teach and some with a lot of experience in teaching their subject through English.
They didn't want to sit and be 'taught' in a classroom format.
I basically 'flipped' my content. What that means is that I laid out my content on the table showing the colleagues what material, ideas, resources I had, and what I thought I could offer. We then discussed what they would like to focus on, I gave short plenary bursts of input summarising and exemplifying the main points and we agreed then that we would break out from a plenary to subject-specific groups for consultancy workshops and discussions based on the brief input. The teachers chose what to focus on reflecting their most immediate teaching and learning needs.
Initially, I found this a little uncomfortable as it took 'control' out of my hands beyond the plenary inputs. But, with the experience of the series of visits, I can see now that it has been a very effective approach to interacting with a group of teaching professionals with a need for some development input to feed into their teaching and learning and creating ways and means for this 'input' to become part of their every day routine as opposed to 'in a training room'.
What follows is a summary of the CPD process as it panned out over 12 days and 4 visits.
If you think this may be of interest in your school, get in touch. I'd be happy to discuss the content and options for making a programme fit your and your school needs.
Plenary Focus Points
1 3D CLIL
Three dimensions of content and language integrated learning involve conceptual, procedural and linguistic content. Each is explored, explained and exemplified.
2 Guiding Input - processing text content
Learners frequently meet new content in written text forms. This session explores genre, readability and a wide range of text and task types for the CLIL classroom with suggestions for DIY tasks.
3 Guiding Input - processing multi-media content
Much of the curriculum content in schools today is in non-text form such as video, animation, slideshows, audio recordings and many more. This session explores knowledge structures in multi-media content with a view to exploiting these structures for guiding learners through the input content.
4 Supporting Output - spoken production
Students who are asked to speak in a curriculum subject in a foreign language may need scaffolding and embedded language to help them produce the spoken content. This session looks at how to scaffold spoken output, and what language to embed in task instruments.
5 Supporting Output - written production
Some curriculum subjects demand that students write specific document types (matura diploma papers, for example). This session looks at producing writing frames for a range of different text types as well as embedding language within these structures.
6 Subject-specific Language
Key terminology from curriculum subjects is often highlighted in textbooks, occasionally with glossaries offered with definitions. CLIL students need techniques to help them deal with the weight of 'new key words' they meet in the curriculum. This session looks at identifying, organizing and memorising subject-specific terminology.
7 General Academic Language
Unlike subject-specific language, general academic language can be 'invisible' in course materials. It is not specific to any single subject and is frequently cross-curricular in nature. Often taken for granted, general academic language is picked by exams report writers as being a key factor in downgrading student scores in exams. In CLIL, students need to be taught this language, this session explores how to teach general academic language.
8 Lesson Objectives in CLIL (3D)
This session returns to the concepts, procedures and language of 3D CLIL, but with a view to identifying these dimensions in lesson objectives. It is common to find only 'conceptual' objectives in curriculum lesson plans. CLIL learner need teachers to be clear also about the 'how' (procedures) and the 'means' (language) of lessons and make these dimensions all salient in lesson objectives.
9 (In)formative Assessment for CLIL
CLIL learners bring differentiation necessarily to the forefront of any evaluation plan. Unlike summative assessment, (in)formative assessment is an ongoing process that demands that the teacher be continuously gathering information about her students, in order to prepare subsequent lessons based on the information collected.
10 Auditing Subject Language
A longer term project for CLIL teachers is plotting out the key curriculum language of the subject taught. This audit may include subject-specific language, general academic language, but also include the peripheral language of the classroom 'chat' and 'organization', or may focus on one or more of these layers of language. Ultimately, this language content should be shared across school departments to look for overlap and inform for 'joined up' curriculum planning.
One-to-one subject-specific break-out groups and workshops
An immediate benefit to this intimacy with the subject is to be able to talk at the very level of the lesson with the teacher in question. If a teacher is concerned about specific vocabulary, we discuss that. A spin-off is that the initial discussions always lead to discussion of other areas of methodology and resources, a win-win situation.
- Examining specific subjects and their curriculum demands. What can be done in the foreign language? What can't?
- Identifying areas in the curriculum for providing support (scaffolding and embedded language)
- Working on and planning specific lessons collabortively with the trainer
- Investigating specific task design for curriculum subject/s
- Examining language within curriculum subject/s, making decisions about language demands on students, discussing ideas on what to do about language demands
Peer Observations and Feedback Sessions
Teachers don't always see what goes on in their classrooms. Having a peer watch with a specific agreed focus offers a mirror on the classroom for the teacher to look into, take observations away from and think about consolidating, altering, adapting future lessons based on the feedback.
- Teaching observation set up with a school colleague as observer along with course trainer
- Specific focus points for observation during lessons - watching CLIL instruments in action, do they actually work?
- Collecting evidence and discussing observation notes in feedback sessions with observers
- Identifying future areas for ongoing self- and peer- observation
The intimate and intensive nature of discussion in the school, with the group of colleagues and with the school director led to a brainstorming of 'follow up' to the visits, planning for ongoing CLIL coordination in the school post-CAS training.
The following is a summary of the ideas proposed for follow-up CLIL coordination:
1 CLIL 'Department' meetings- Agree a calendar of short meetings for colleagues teaching through English
- Agree an agenda with these colleagues for these meetings (It could be a moment where teachers exchange ideas/activity ideas, troubles, difficulties or successes with students, how well/bad students do in class)
- Present minutes with conclusions, questions, issues to school director
2 Clarify a shared 'vision' for teaching through English at the school- What is the school aiming at? (how much, how often subjects taught through English?)
- Begin to investigate what it will take for the school to 'get there'
3 Find answers to school policy questions
- Make proposals as to which subjects should be taught through English (e.g., when a subject is expected to be examined in French, is it justifiable to have classes taught through English?)
- Propose grade level for starting teaching through English for each subject
- Is there an argument for offering parts of curriculum subjects in English as opposed to the whole subject? (Which subjects and which parts of the curriculum lend themselves to this option?)
4 Methodology issues
- Consider what is the right balance expected of 'delivering the subject curriculum' and 'developing skills through the subject'.
- Carry out small in-class research activities into different dynamics which seek to enable all students to contribute in lesson 'dioalogue'.
- Investigate which skills are essential in which subjects and plan for integration of these skills into classroom practice.
- Research the use of language support sheets in class. Collect examples of agreed good practice and make these available to all.
5 Cross-curricular coordination
- Can there be coordination between the English classes and the subject class. Investigate this cross-over (e.g., where is general academic language covered in the English curriculum? Does this English language content transfer to the subjects taught in English?)
- Carry out small projects of collaboration between the English department and subject department/s where the English lessons deal with language which is essential for the subject lessons.
- Carry out a longer term audit of the language of the subject curricula, identify where the weaknesses and strengths are and make provisions to fill in the gaps. Agreement, for example, could be found as to what to do about language overlapping between subjects, language which carries different meaning between subjects, etc
- Carry out a task audit. The task audit would ideally provide an overview of the types of things students are already currently asked to do, but also offer a range of ideas for further activity types that colleagues could try out in their classes.
Get in touch if your school is interested in similar 'flipped' CLIL training - firstname.lastname@example.org
- Lycee Jean Piaget, Neuchatel, Switzerland
I spent a short session with the teachers from this school, but was interested to learn that the school offers subjects through English and German foreign / second languages and the focus is a broad range of subjects including Biology, Maths, History, Sport, Arts, Geography, Philosophy, Economics.
More on this initiative - CLIL for Teaching Professional and Vocational Students
- Berufsbildungszentrum Olten, Switzerland
I spent a day with the teachers from this school, working with students already at work in apprenticeships, but who return for further study, largely in the care industries, but including other areas of the economy and a wide range of subjects now to be taught through English.
More on this initiative - CLIL for Teaching Professional and Vocational Students
Ecole Professionelle et Commerciale de Nyon
I did three days of training in the professional and commercial school in Nyon, Switzerland on March 17-19 2016.
I worked with 9 teachers from the school from Economics, Accounting, Maths, IT, History and Environmental Studies. It's a quite unique school in that all the students who attend are actually working or in apprenticeships and they come to school for study to get a 'matura' or a school leaving qualification. The students can include teenagers or adults as the classes are open to adults who've entered the world of work but decided to go back to school to get a qualification.
The training initiative is part of a move to offer schools the opportunity to be given a 'bilingual' status. The training will be for 12 days over the coming year or so.
As you might imagine it was a busy time, with classes going on, exams taking place, teachers coming and going to classes. On top of that, there was a general feeling that a 'ready-made' course just wasn't what the teachers needed. I'd prepared for the meeting with quite an amount of apprehension if I'm honest as I knew that there was some dissatisfaction among some of the teachers at the idea of 'going back to school'. I think for this reason, I'd over-prepared. This allowed me ultimately a lot of resources to pick and choose from.
When I got to the school the school director after introductions, as well as the course provider, did a very good thing. They left us to it. This removed any need for a 'formal' pitch of the course and we could get down to discussing the teachers' needs. I introduced myself to the teachers and then simply suggested that we negotiate the agenda for the training. This discussion led to us 'flipping' the course. By this I mean I still had my prepared content to offer and there was a certain amount of focused input in plenary, but the agenda was set by the teachers themselves. How did this work? In actually fact, a focus from me led to the teachers breaking off to work individually with my visiting them to discuss their particular needs and what I might be able to offer. During discussion areas of interest came up and I drew this together back in a short plenary focus with the whole group. This focus then led to a further break-out into subject work with my facilitating.
It's certainly an intense way of working, and I felt very nervous about leaving the agenda so loosely dependent on feedback from the teachers. As it was, I think we achieved a great deal. I'd like to thank the History department in particular for inviting me to observe a class. Being able to sit in a lesson and see and hear how things are going was a valuable experience.
The first thing to say about the school is that it looks like a lot of the student body is already functionally bilingual in English, with the latest cohorts sitting a Cambridge Exam as entry level to the courses. The subjects already taught in English are very dense and content heavy subjects like Economics. Many of the other subjects will be taught at a later date in English. I quickly realized that the best thing I could offer would be techniques for dealing with subject-specific terminology and in fact that is where we started.
The focus points we initially included:
general academic language
guiding learners through input
working with text input
working with multi-media input
A significant discussion we had was around language production. Namely, to what extent should the students be taught how to talk and write academic subject language. My feeling is that it is part of a CLIL approach. But there was some feeling that there's no need to focus on this aspect of learning. It's enough that students understand, that their language develops 'naturally'.
An example of this can be seen in the following question:
You can see in the part of the answer that is given that a 'specific' kind of language is demanded in the text. In order to get the marks, I argue, the students need to produce sentences which describe the feelings and reactions of the Germans to the treaty. This 'academic language' can tend to be invisible, and I think it needs to be made visible in the classroom.
A CLIL approach can offer a method for dealing with this language AND at the same time offer conceptual structures for guiding learners through input content. Such a structure with a prompt 'read the text and find aspects of the treaty the German people reacted badly to' guides students in their search for the key content.
The map above allows students to find and note the main aspects of the treaty. But, crucial to CLIL, is to find a way to offer key academic language to students to 'support their output' in the subject. We can do this by embedding key phrases around the conceptual structure.
Now, there is one way of looking at it that suggests that students will 'pick up' this language along the way. It's a very 'native speaker' approach to teaching. I think it's a little risky to assume this, and suggested that we can do students a great service by making this language salient. It's not language teaching, it's CLIL.
I'll be less nervous about the next visit, and in fact, know that I'll have a lot to do back at home in preparation. This will have me teaching myself basic accountancy, investigating History themes for conceptual structures and general academic language, looking at PPT in Economics themes for ways of guiding learners through their lectures. The environmental studies subject is a very motivating and exciting initiative. Imagine, students preparing for professional positions considering issues to do with sustainability as part of their studies. I'll also be looking for English-medium resources for teaching Microsoft applications, and business letter writing.
I've never worked in this way before, building and setting the development agenda DURING the course, but I have to admit that while it is a challenging environment to work in, it is a buzz, and, what is more important, we achieved our goals!
The colleagues enjoyed the Bulgarian experience I'd prepared and tasted delicious savoury bits and pieces from back home. I'll have to prepare some sweet treats for the next visit in June.
A fuller description of the entire process is given in this site.
I'd be interested to hear from anyone involved in similar 'flipped' training.
I love visiting French-speaking countries, but sadly don't get the chance much professionally, where I might get to enjoy the spin-offs of speaking the language AND doing some work at the same time.
Well, when I got the invitation to speak at the 'Study Day on Immersion' organized by the Ministry of Education in Geneva, you can imagine I said 'yes'.
It is also an event which is right up my street when it comes to having something to talk about and offer teachers new to CLIL, or looking for new ideas in CLIL. I met Christiane Lofgren at the CLIL Policy Dialogue event at Lake Como some months ago and she suggested there may be an event coming up, would I like to join in.
My contribution will be as follows:
Vocabulary teaching and learning in CLIL (immersion)
This plenary will look at the issue of teaching vocabulary in CLIL contexts. A major issue for learners is the weight of new vocabulary in a CLIL course. The talk will focus on two areas. Firstly, what vocabulary are we talking about? The plenary will identify different layers of language in any CLIL classroom and propose making strategic decisions prioritizing vocabulary. Secondly, what can we do with vocabulary once we’ve identified it? The plenary will offer a range of approaches to presenting vocabulary innovatively and to learning vocabulary with the aim of offering participants principles for vocabulary teaching and learning in CLIL.
Teach yourself CLIL in 10 minutes per day
This workshop follows on from the plenary with the same title and will focus on adapting materials to make vocabulary learning easier and more attractive for both teacher and student in a CLIL lesson. Participants will be asked both to create and to carry out a number of vocabulary activities as learners using a range of content materials. The workshop will then take principles for vocabulary teaching and learning in CLIL and invite participants to discuss the activities they experienced based on these principles.
The plenary and the workshop follow broadly what you'll find in Putting CLIL into Practice if you read the book.
You can find the full programme at the foot of this page.
I've promised my teachers some real Toblerone!