Getting learners to speak English regularly in lessons is one of the challenges for teachers. The task gets even harder when the teacher wants to implement speaking activities into CLIL lessons.

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. Quite simply, it is the teaching of subjects to students through the use of a target language — that is a language different from their mother tongue. For example, you can teach Arts, Science, Maths, Geography, or any other subject in English. For example, in the text below, students learn how the wheel was invented and developed over time. They practice reading skills and learn new topic-related vocabulary. 

Screenshot 2020 12 28 at 20.19.58 SkyteachHowever, making students speak on CLIL topics is a hard task. Students mention a lot of difficulties connected with the use of the target language in CLIL, mainly because of the lack of appropriate language, and the fact that it doesn’t feel natural to communicate with classmates in a foreign language on such topics. One way of overcoming these complaints is by giving them hands-on, language-related tasks or games that can only be completed by using the target language.

In this article, we will present a couple of techniques that will work great in a CLIL lesson to improve speaking skills.

Information gaps

An information gap is based on creating a situation in which learners need to communicate in order to get some specific information from each other, and therefore to complete the gaps in worksheets.  

Some ideas for information gap activities in CLIL lessons:

Find Someone Who…

Students are given a list that might include facts relating to the topic, opinions about the given topic. They need to walk around the classroom asking each other questions to find a person that can answer a specific item on the list. So a part of students can be given information (answers) and the other part is given a question part. They interview as many students as possible to find the answer to their question. 

Picture Pairwork’

Two students have pictures of the same scene or image, but each picture has several (small) differences. The students need to communicate with each other in order to discover these differences. Good for learning and testing out new vocabulary and for practicing questions. The pictures can be related to specific subject content — for example, landscapes in Geography, two similar graphs in Economy.

Talking Into Drawing

One student has a picture and must describe that picture to their partner who then makes a drawing of what they are being told. This activity can be connected to such subject content as describing a diagram or illustration in a science lesson.

Pyramid discussions

Sometimes referred to as ‘think/pair/share’, this type of speaking task is structured in three phases, beginning with the learner thinking on their own, moving to a phase in which they discuss ideas with a partner, to a final phase in which ideas are shared as a class.

This technique might be a good way to prepare students for whole-class discussions. It also gives the teacher more opportunities to monitor and observe language use in different pairs and groups.

 Project or Presentation 

This has become a classic classroom activity because it compels student engagement with both the subject and the language. For example, students can be asked to make a short presentation on a given topic. As much as possible, don’t interrupt the presentation even if you hear wrong use of grammar. 

This way, instead of being an unnerving exercise, this can actually be a confidence-building one. It lets everyone know that they can handle the target language, that even if they commit mistakes it’s not the end of the world. Apart from language use, they learn information about the subject.

 Practice these CLIL teaching techniques in your classroom and success will be guaranteed.

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