Painting the CLIL picture

Kazantzakis: ‘You have your brush, you have your colors, you paint the paradise, then in you go.’

If you happen to wonder what CLIL is, here is the answer…

CLIL stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. What that means in real life is learning another (content) subject such as physics or geography through the medium of a foreign language as well as learning a foreign language by studying a content-based subject. In short, content subjects are taught and learned in a language which is not the mother tongue of the learners.

CLIL is often used as an umbrella term, referring to a wide range of teaching strategies where the student is the protagonist of the learning pathway.

 Text by:Maria Diavati

CLIL may be the best fit that provides learners with 'comprehensible input' in low anxiety situations, containing messages that students really want to hear. As an established teaching approach, it has been considered as a ‘lever for change and success in language learning classroom”. CLIL is enjoying popularity across the world…. but not in Greece.

Coursebooks have CLIL pages, CLIL showers, and the bolder ones will introduce some geography or scientific experiments. Unfortunately, Greece is still one of the very few European countries which have not adopted CLIL as a mainstream form of teaching and learning.

To extinguish the drill-and-kill teaching style there is much more that needs to be done than CLIL showers. And if we CLIL with history and geography, with a focus on the attainment of facts we are still on the wrong track as we still persist in subject-based learning. If we CLIL only with projects, we run the risk of missing the main objective: to integrate language and content in a mutually beneficial role.

 This dual-focused educational approach is exactly what its name indicates: DUAL. It is the perfect blend of language with non-language aims.

CLIL is not and should not be the fun time of our current curriculum, part of the factory model of education, insisting on standardized courses, standardized testing, and standardized views of human resources.

What if we replaced traditional subjects like geography or history with what the new era calls for?  

My favorite term to use when I talk about CLIL is fusion. A perfect fusion of content, didactics and of course, high quality education. To enhance CLIL and transform the learning experience we should focus on content, content relevant to our current reality. Since learning is a holistic process of adaptation to the world, the content we will choose should take learners to an aesthetic learning experience, not anaesthetic one.

Skills like social intelligence, systemic logic, creative thinking, reasoning analysis, how to make things, and how to learn should be prioritized. How? New subjects should be introduced! Enhance the CLIL effect with art, stories, nutrition, wellbeing, marketing for teenagers, social studies, environmental studies, subjects that students have never been taught and whose content will motivate them, engage them and of course, liberate them.

Deep learning comes from the addition of emotional drivers such as imagination, intrinsic rewards, experiential truth, aesthetics, intuition, passion, and wonder. When you mix these together, you can achieve a kind of spontaneous combustion—an explosion of questions and creative activity that makes traditional learning seem tame by comparison. We need to (re)connect students with their emotions, with their senses, with their concept of what’s possible in life. Instead of only taking in, they must be asked to give out, to contribute something new. Creative achievement requires an act of courage, which in turn builds character.

We are language teachers, someone might say…

So what? We are educators who should not allow ourselves or anybody else to be eroded by our culture of easy multiple choice!

Let’s start painting the CLIL picture!