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How should CLIL work in practice?
by Alex Mackenzie
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Obviously for the General English classes we employ enthusiastic, suitably trained EFL teachers. Our teachers are both energetic and energising. For the CLIL courses we look for teachers who hold an EFL certificate as well as a degree related to the subject they are teaching- as EFL teacher s have degrees in everything but language it isn’t too difficult.

One potential pitfall is the way teachers are currently being trained; this article is not the place to go into the failings of this but many teachers, even experienced ones, can be quite against changing their ways. To adopt this style of teaching you have to be open-minded and confident about running a class in this manner.

We have our own in-going training programme at the school; we open teachers’ eyes to the possibilities of this type of teaching and, so far, it has been very successful.


 We’re all aware of the endless debates there are about grammar- how best to teach it, can we teach it at all, etc. One thing I think we can all agree on is that focusing on single (or even 2 or 3) grammatical structures and practicing them intensively in class doesn’t really do the trick. The minute the student walks out the door they will, more than likely, be making the same mistakes. We, in the industry, have been looking at grammar in this way for years; think of it from a student’s point of view- they look at the same language time and time again. By the time a student reaches upper-intermediate, for example, they might have studied certain forms three or four times. It’s true that learners need to know different things about the same grammar at different levels but I feel that you often reach the point where you are going through the motions- you teach grammar simply because you think you should.

CLIL is not language teaching without grammar; it’s present and it’s contextualized too. The idea that grammar can be dissected into individual chunks doesn’t really work in my opinion. Grammar, I believe, should be looked at in a more holistic sense- using contexts and functions to lead the way- using the students own language competences as a starting block for what to teach- using grammatical awareness raising activities like in TBL.

The Future of CLIL

I’m not going to hypothesise on the future of secondary school education throughout the whole world and whether bi-lingual schools and tuition is the way forward but I will say that I believe CLIL has a lot to offer us, as EFL teachers. It’s a methodology which presents student-centered lessons, recognises that the students are worthwhile individuals and allows students to really communicate in a classroom environment. It is a move away from how things are presently done but, I believe, it’s a positive shift.

As language teachers we should always be looking forward, always looking for ways to better our teaching and for ways to make the language learning process easier and more enjoyable for students. The principles behind CLIL do just that.

I very much hope you have found this paper informative and thought-provoking. It’s not intended to be a rant, sermon or bible, but is my opinion of how things should work and how we are going about it in my school.


CLIL Matrix: Central Workshop Report 6/2005 Marsh et al.

Profiling European CLIL Classrooms Marsh et al.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) at School in Europe Eurydice Survey

Content Based Instruction: A Shell for Language Teaching or a Framework for Strategic Language and Content Learning? Fredricka L. Stroller

CLIL Content and Language Integrated Learning Lena Tidblom


Alr¡ex Alex Mackenzie is Academic Director/Co-owner at Mackenzie School of English, Edinburgh. The school specialises in providing innovative education, culture & activity programmes to groups of learners at secondary school age with task-based, content-driven General English lessons as well as CLIL courses. He taught in Poland for six years and has been based in Edinburgh for three, working in both public and private sectors. His main areas of interest are CLIL, task-based learning, syllabus design and learner motivation.

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