Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Multilingual families a linguistic treasure for Europe

Today I am writing to invite you to take part in a new project:  Multilingual Families.

 Multilingual Families is a European Union funded education project that will support and inform immigrant or multilingual parents how and why to raise their children multilingually in an informal setting and will provide resources for:

  • Families
  • Teachers and stakeholders 
  • Children 
Resources will include:
  • Sample guides and videos
  • A  pack for teachers
  • A community space for productions
  • A repository of information on how to bring up children with 2 or more languages
The outstanding added value of the “Multilingual Families” project will be availability of materials for parents and children in all the partner’s languages (CZ, PL, EN, ES, DE) plus a further 2 common immigrant languages that are prevalent in each country as well. A total of 17 languages. 

   The project materials will be piloted to test their suitability for the target groups and to receive    further feedback   for improving the materials and to gain experience for the long-term            implementation of the materials.

   The materials will be tested by:
  • Piloting workshops and online webinars of the guide for teachers and social service support staff
  • Piloting by parents through teachers or social service staff
  • Children will pilot in schools.
Due to its doubtless high quality, Multilingual Families was  honoured to be the European feature project of the week for the European Commission Languages Newsletter

The Facebook page of the project  (Multilingual Families - EU project)  is being posted regularly with news of the project and items of interest in the area of bringing up children multilingually. 

If you are interested in taking an active part in the project, sharing your concerns and experience, you can fill in this online form: 

For any further information you may need, please write an e-mail to: 

Thursday, 21 November 2013


As you showed great interest regarding summarizing in our last seminar session, I have decided to write an article on it. You can read it by clicking on the book below:

Monday, 14 October 2013


We are starting our CLIL seminar in Getxo 2013-2014 with an essential  feature of   education: the development of skills that will enable our students to apply the knowledge they have learnt to solve problems, investigate the world and make judgements. This is just one of the many definitions of "cognitive" or "thinking" skills.  

Unfortunately, I must admit I  agree with John Clegg  that " the truth  is that schools don't often teach these skills explicitly. Instead, teachers hope that their learners will pick them up".  In my view, this is specially true regarding HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills).

Therefore,  my aim is to  help  pave the way for  developing  thinking skills in different subjects by  providing teachers with activities that focus on the thinking skills that should be worked on with students and the language support that is undoubtedly a must when we are implementing a subject through  English or another language which is not the students' mother tongue. For instance, students cannot synthesize a text on deforestation if they lack the  strategies that should be used to summarize a text  as well as the linking devices that connect different ideas and the vocabulary related to the topic ( not the words that appear in the text they have been given but synonyms and expressions that enable them to paraphrase without copying from the original text). 

The session on October 15th will focus on describing what thinking skills are, considering a possible classification of thinking skills and  starting to discuss  some simple activities that teachers often use to develop thinking skills in the classroom. 

Next session will take place on November 19th and we will analyze  some activities that  can be used in different content areas  to facilitate  the acquisition of cognitive skills by students. I will place special emphasis  on the language support that students will need to carry out the proposed tasks. Above all, I will provide teachers attending the session with examples on classifying and synthesizing.

Monday, 23 September 2013


Welcome to a new school year which will bring all of us new opportunities to deepen into our knowledge  about the teaching-learning  process  of English as a foreign language.

One of the aims of the seminars I will be developing in Getxo will be to increase sensitivity towards language diversity in the classroom and to provide teachers with resources so as to make students actively engaged in this challenging aim.  This is why I have decided to write my first entry on this blog on an event which will sure help all of us to create the proper atmosphere to value language and cultural diversity among our students. I am referring  to the European Day of Languages, which on  the initiative of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg,  has been celebrated every year since 2001 on  September 26th.

How can teachers and students get involved in some way  in the European Day of Languages?

FOR TEACHERS of languages or, indeed, of other subjects the Day offers multiple possibilities: the opportunity to learn about other cultures, traditions and languages which are not normally presented in the classroom; the opportunity to promote the pupils creative talents by putting on sketches illustrating the languages that they can speak, set up language cafes, highlight all the languages spoken in the school…

Don’t forget to check out the material available for download.

STUDENTS will  learn more about language diversity  by taking  part in these fun online activities

I hope you will participate because the EDL website is now available in 25 languages so you will find everything you need for your linguistically diverse classes. If you want to promote your event, you can tell your local newspaper or join  the Facebook group on this. Please,  don't forget to mention the address of the EDL website

Before meeting all of you in October, let me finish by thanking all of you for the interest you are showing in the seminars  and in the different training events I am organizing around English language teaching. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013


I wrote about CLIL Magazine some months ago and I am happy to write again about it because the Spring issue can already be read here.

I am sure you are going to find  lots of interesting articles in this second issue. As I know the areas of interest of all of you who attend the seminar, please allow me  to remark on the following ones: 
Exploring the advantages and disadvantages of using Drama in the classroom to help motivate learners
CLIL up your lesson: A new series of articles focused on what you can do in your lesson to use CLIL. This issue we will focus on the subject P.E.
Every teacher is a language teacher: An article by Bart-Jan van der Lindert on the importance of using English in your class as a bilingual teacher
The importance of making your target language expectations clear  (This has been the focus of some of our seminar sessions so I reckon it is going to help you back up our firm belief that students need specific kinds of scaffolding in  CLIL classes ).
Why the flipped class will flop: An opinion article by Brad Philpot. You can also join the discussion about this article online.
CLIL in Biology: two "organic" activities
There are many other articles that you will enjoy reading and when we meet  again in October,  we will talk about them. 
From these lines, many thanks to Patrick de Boer, Chief Editor of the CLIL Magazine, as well as to all writers who have contributed to it.

Friday, 31 May 2013


PopuLLar is a European Union- funded, innovative, education project designed to harness music, the primary social interest of secondary school students, into their language learning. 
There is a huge need to motivate secondary school students, in particular, to learn languages, focus digital competences and be creative; and music is the key.

The project will ask students to write their own lyrics to songs of their choice. They will then translate their songs into the target language they are learning, The students will then record their song (audio or video) and share it with students all over Europe. 

Students will be able to combine their love of music, with creativity, literacy, digital competencies, group collaboration and, most importantly, use foreign languages. 

PopuLLar is a project that is 'owned' by the students, they work autonomously and collaboratively, teachers are guides to the project process.

As at this stage of the academic year I know  you are awfully busy, now you can just enter here to find a good summary of the main features of the project.

As for registration, it  should be done before July by filling in this  simple questionnaire 

Last but not least, I would like to wish you all the best for your  well-deserved summer break. Thank you very much for your enthusiasm and active participation in our CLIL seminar in Getxo. We will meet again in October  so as to go through the steps that will help us to work on this project and also to plan our CLIL schedule for 2013-2014. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013


Today I would like to tell you about a  CLIL magazine which was published last winter 2012 and which contains a variety of articles covering CLIL, from teaching Mathematics to making the maximum out of mini-whiteboards. The magazine also includes very interesting information about the newest publications as well as professional development courses for CLIL teachers.

It has been written for teachers and by   teachers and experts on CLIL have contributed  with numerous articles.

You can read the magazine here

The second number of CLIL Magazine will be published on May 13th.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


The ECML is a Council of Europe institution based in Graz, Austria. In cooperation with the Language Policy Division of the Council the Centre functions as a catalyst for reform in the teaching and learning of languages.  The ECML is undoubtedly a reference point for all who are interested in excellence in language education. 

From these lines I would like to recommend a kit of CLIL units that has been the fruitful outcome of the CONBAT project   (CONTENT BASED TEACHING + PLURILINGUAL/CULTURAL AWARENESS). 

The units have been developed in English, French and Spanish and are aimed at Primary and Secondary levels. Each of the units has got detailed information about the author(s), target group, subjects, aims, competences, timing and needed resources. There are materials for teachers and for students in both pdf and Word formats. You can access the units from here.

Allow me to end this entry by giving you a piece of advice: scroll down the ECML home page till you get to the bottom, click on "register" and spend a couple of minutes to fill in the requested information because registering will give you free access to loads of interesting publications related to key language issues. The book of the month, "A Framework of Reference for Pluralistic Approaches", offers  a very powerful description of reference descriptors, attitudes, competences and resources that can be developed by pluralistic approaches. 

In my view, the sections on culture and attitudes come at just the right time for our seminar sessions which now  are being focused on CLIL planning with the 4Cs. 

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

eTwinning: a platform for teachers to develop collaborative projects in Europe

Today I'd like to remind all of you of the unique opportunity to be part of the most exciting learning community in Europe. The eTwinning Portal  allows you to do so as it provides online tools for teachers to find partners, set up projects, share ideas, exchange best practices and start working together.
The benefits of eTwinning are many, among which I'd personally remark the impact on students' learning. No doubt it is a rewarding experience for teachers too. However, it is not the purpose of these few lines to describe the innumerable advantages of getting involved in an eTwinning project  but to congratulate the winners of the National Awards 2013 and to provide you with the links to the projects corresponding to Secondary level: 

The project  Addressing the energy crunch, every little action counts focuses on energy and sustainability. (14-16 years) (Different subjects)

The Bermuda Triangle is a project in which students find out interesting facts about unusual events, objects, phenomena in their countries. The incentive for this is the mystery of Bermuda Triangle. (12-16 years) (Different subjects)

Picture yourself : taking pictures as a starting point, the students write and interact about teenage related topics: their lifestyles, their background and environments, their icons, their worries and concerns. The idea is to share their experiences with other European teenagers while improving their English and reinforcing their ICT skills. (16-19 years) (English, Citizenship, Tutorials)

Triangles Explorers is a Maths project . The students  learn about the triangle as a geometric shape. They  use Geogebra, ICT program, to find geometrical forms and construct them in class. Simultaneously, they use the English language to communicate and learn Maths and Maths language. (16-19 years)
Maths is B.E.A.U.  (that is, Beautiful, Easy, Amusing and Useful) is another Maths project that allows students  to explore together new ways to communicate Mathematics and to develop new teaching methods. The idea is to motivate students with everyday-life contexts and also to look for contexts that are experientially real for the students and can be used as starting points for progressive mathematization. (16-19 years)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013


The collaboration in a Comenius Regio Project between nine bilingual schools from Huelva and eight from Bournemouth has resulted in the development of thirty-two units on Science for both Primary and Secondary levels.

Each of the units includes a General Planning, Teacher's Guide and Resources.

As we agreed  in our last seminar session, on March 19th our  group work will focus on  analyzing how to plan a CLIL unit successfully by keeping in mind  both language objectives and subject objectives. Apart from analyzing the units we are using in our CLIL contexts in the Basque Country, we will take the opportunity of exploiting some of the units elaborated by Huelva and Bournemouth bilingual schools.

You can access the units from here

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


                                                                    UN Women

UN Women is the  new United Nations agency whose mission is to empower women and girls around the world. This year, International Women's Day will focus on ending violence against women, which is a top priority for UN Women. They believe in the power of music to change the world and so does Beth Blatt, who   wrote the lyrics, inspired by the incredible stories of women UN Women have helped. She  asked Graham Lyle ("What's Love Got To Do With It," etc.) to write the music, and he partnered with Somalian-British singer-songwriter Fahan Hassan.         

One Woman was the grand finale of the UN Women  launch ceremony on International Women's Day, 2010

Three years later, "One Woman" is ready. On March 8th -- International Women's Day -- they will release the song which  is aimed at  touching  the hearts of people everywhere. 25 internationally-acclaimed artists have taken part in the recording of the song. 

They sing for these women:
  • Cathy Eatock is an aboriginal woman and survivor of child sexual assault who pressed charges against her assailant despite resistance from her own community.
  • Mayerlis Angarita, a survivor of the armed conflict in Colombia, is using the power of words and the recovery of collective memory as a healing mechanism for the ravages of conflict and as a tool to raise awareness of women's rights.
  • After being attacked with a knife by in-laws, Shehnaz Bano filed a case under India's Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act -- a move that allowed her to escape the spiral of dowry-related abuse and likely saved her life.

You can read about these courageous women if you enter the  (s)heroes  page  at the top of the screen (just below the title "One woman")  and you can watch some video clips with the artists' views on women's  rights by clicking on the   artists page. 

Apart from enjoying the song you can check how much  you know about   some facts on violence against women by taking the SAY NO QUIZ .  (What's more, every point you score counts towards the Say NO action counter.). 

Therefore, why not buy a song, take a quiz or donate  a tweet  if these simple 
actions can help improve women's lives all around the world?

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Today I have decided to write a post on an issue that worries us both as parents and as educators since many of us have had to give guidance to our sons/daughters/students on how to choose a career path.   In spite of the severe economic crisis we are going through, I reckon we should encourage our youth to take ownership of their lives, choose something they like, master it and then make a living by doing what they love most.

Therefore, to help young people make the correct choices perhaps we could start by asking them: What would you do if money were no object? This is a question British philosopher and writer Alan Watts (1915-1973) asked himself and I would say he gave a truly appropriate answer   in an amazing lecture from his last years.

I believe his speech could be the starting point for a very interesting debate in our Citizenship/ Philosophy/ Tutorials classes.  

The  following video  summarizes the ideas of his lecture quite accurately:

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Describing paintings in English

Describing paintings is an ideal way to make students practice their vocabulary in all sorts of fields and language levels. It is also suitable for the advanced learner of English as a complete description should include the artist’s intention and the impression on the viewer.
  It's not easy to follow a picture description if the writer jumps randomly from one point to another.  Therefore, make sure that your picture description is logically structured, for example: 
     - From left to right (or from right to left)
     - From the background to the foreground (or from the foreground to the background)
     - From the middle to the sides (or from the sides to the middle)
     - From details to general impressions (or from general impressions to details)
The structure you finally choose depends on your taste and the picture you want to describe.
    - Short description of the scene (e. g. place, event)
    - Details (who / what can you see)
    - Background information (if necessary) on place, important persons or event
   - Name of artist and picture, year of origin (if known)
   - Short description of the scene (e. g. place, event)
   - Details (who / what can you see)
   - Impression on the viewer
   - Artist's intention
   - Perspective, colours, forms, proportions etc.  
 If you want to practice describing paintings, check out the websites of some galleries and write down expressions that might be useful for your descriptions. 
On the website of the National Gallery in London for example you'll find lots of interesting paintings with descriptions.
The website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art  provides a detailed description of a painting with interesting background information, e. g. how to use colours, how to give the impression of movement or perspective etc.
Without having to “travel” so far, Bilbao Fine Arts Museum offers both a wide range of paintings and descriptions on line which you can access from here   as well as some educational programmes for teenagers
A pack of on-line resources to help you work on Art in your classroom can be found on the website of the Tate Gallery in London

Monday, 28 January 2013


The Roles of Language in CLIL

If time allows us, on our session on January 29th  I'd like to spend some time on the roles of language in CLIL which have been very thoroughly studied by Ana Llinares, Tom Morton and Rachel Whittaker in the book "The Roles of Language in CLIL" published by CUP.  
"The Roles of Language in CLIL" provides a theoretically based approach to the  integration of language and content in Primary and Secondary contexts addressed to a range of stakeholders in Content and Language Integrated Learning. Adopting the framework of systemic functional linguistics, this book raises practitioners' awareness of how language functions in CLIL. 
Drawing on their wide experience as CLIL educators and researchers, the authors explore data collected in real CLIL classrooms and provide a rich description of how CLIL students' language works and may be expected to develop.
One of the authors of the book, Ana Llinares, is a Senior lecturer in the English Department, Madrid Universidad Autónoma and she will be delivering a talk on this topic on May 15th at Getxolinguae. It is therefore a good idea that we have a look at her work before the conference takes place