• Itziar Hache

What CLIL means to me

In the second in a series that celebrates the contribution of our colleagues, we asked this challenging question to Itziar Hache, who lives and works in Bilbao, Spain.

Currently, Itziar works as a teacher in adult education, but she has worked in several other education sectors, including teacher training and professional development, making her input all the more valuable, in our opinion.

Read on to discover Itziar’s considered opinion about CLIL, a subject very dear to her heart.

What do I know about CLIL?

As in many other teaching approaches (applied to languages or otherwise) the beauty of CLIL lies in the eyes (or the practice) of the beholder, therefore I’ll give an overview of what I’ve learnt about CLIL from my experience as a teacher, teacher trainer and CLIL material developer.

CLIL is not merely approaching language teaching from a different angle. It requires a holistic view of content teaching, in which language is the trunk to which the ivy of whole learning will cling and grow.

And, to extend the analogy, that trunk is just a bare bud with a fragile stem in the case of very young learners or beginners (or so it would seem), whereas the input provided by the learning environment is actually fertilizer, working on the sapling’s roots and helping the future trunk to develop a strong, initially invisible, foundation.

That sapling will need scaffolding, support, backup which will be provided mainly, but not solely, by the CLIL teacher.

That language support cannot (and should not) be the same in every class, or for every group or learner. Each person develops different strategies to convey what she or he knows to other human beings. Some learners want to be precise as well as right; others are willing to use other means, such as graphics, to ensure they are communicating the right message or answer. Thus, CLIL teachers should be committed to a holistic learning process, which accommodates a learner’s language learning.

So, what’s essential for a CLIL teacher?

Based on the above, effective CLIL teachers must provide learners with:

  • learning opportunities: classroom situations and environments with which they can engage. Neither content and language output are beyond learners’ capabalities;

  • activities, projects and learning sequences which include room for different learning styles, which are not too open to improvisation, yet are flexible enough to allow for changes if learners demand or need them;

  • a well-planned sequence that will prove effective when the learning focus moves from the teacher to learners;

  • joy and fun, which does not mean that every activity must become recreational. If learning content and language becomes fun, it is probably because the other points above were provided. If the lesson you have planned does not make you feel excited about seeing the outcome, students will feel the same.

My CLIL tips

So, my top tips when preparing CLIL teaching are:

  • Keep a global vision of learning when planning your CLIL lessons.

  • Find balance between learners’ previous knowledge and new content.

  • Always bring enthusiasm to your lessons.

  • Find and explore you and your learners’ strengths and weaknesses.

  • Be ready to make mistakes and encourage your learners to make them, too. It’s the only way to ensure effective learning.

  • And, of course, have fun!

Good luck!

By Itziar Hache and Ana Demitroff

Bio Itziar: Based in Bilbao, Itziar has worked in all sectors of state education. She started at a village school, as a Primary teacher, but she went on to work as a Professional Development Adviser for the Basque Country Education Department and as teacher at the Official Language School. Currently, she works in Adult Education for the EPA (Educación de Personas Adultas).

Bio Ana: Ana has been in the classroom longer than she cares to admit, but she still gets a kick from the experience and continues to learn from her colleagues and students at the You First Language Centre.