Wednesday, 10 December 2014

eTwinning projects: a way to develop creativity, CLIL and key competences

Over 500 of the most innovative teachers and Education experts from across Europe met in Rome, from 27 to 29 November, for the 10th annual eTwinning Conference. The topic of this year’s event was “Opening Education” and how eTwinning can promote creativity and innovative practices in both teaching and learning.  I would like to highlight three powerful outcomes of eTwinning: 

 - eTwinning has started a new collaboration with the e-safety label project.  We were talking about the importance of  Internet safety in one of our last seminar sessions and I wrote a previous entry on this issue. It is, in fact, one of the most important topics schools must look into at the moment so taking part in this project is highly recommendable. 

- eTwinning projects and CLIL:  If you enter the e-Twinning project Kits, you will find  ready-made projects for your classroom on different content areas and for different ages. The kits can be downloaded in PDF version and you can rate, comment and browse other teachers' opinions on the kits.  The winner projects videos are subtitled in 25 languages. The one below these lines won the award for the category ages 12-15: Health4life:

- eTwinning has launched a new publication on key competences entitled "Developing pupils competences through eTwinning". It explores the 8 Key Competences for Lifelong Learning -Communication in one's mother tongue; foreign languages; digital skills; basic skills in Maths and Science; learning to learn; social and civic responsibility; initiative and entrepreneurship; and cultural awareness and creativity- and how they can be addressed at school through the eTwinning projects. You can download the publication in English from here
Let me finish by encouraging all of you to take part in an eTwinning project which will, undoubtedly, enhance your teaching skills and be very beneficial for your students. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

International Day for Human Rights on December 10th

Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who campaign for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.  The website displays  lots of resources for the classroom in different languages but today I would like to recommend a  human rights cross-curricular teaching resource for secondary schools. It contains eight lesson plans  which  can be used separately or as part of  a series of carefully planned sessions  across the year. The accompanying CD-ROM contains all the resources together with short film clips and accompanying resources, which you can also order by filling in this form .
Right below you can find a short summary of each of the lesson plans and the links to access them:  
  •  Lesson 1 - Understanding human rights: Introducing human rights with images, activities and a short film
  • Lesson 2 - Human rights in the UK: Making the Human Rights Act come alive with real-life cases and a presentation activity
  • Lesson 3 - Dying to give birth: Using key mathematical skills to assess maternal mortality in different countries
  • Lesson 4 - Mi dia, y los derechos: Comparing the daily lives of students in the UK with young Spanish-speakers across the globe
  • Lesson 5 - Freedom of expression: Exploring the right to free speech through film and text using key communication and critical thinking skills
  • Lesson 6 - Refugees and asylum: Dramatic role play activity using a tru story to understand and empathise with asylum seekers and refugees
  • Lesson 7 - The death penalty: Discussion and debate about the death penalty using global facts and a real case
  • Lesson 8 - Taking action: A short film case study giving real-life context for developing campaigning skills.
The lessons plans provide you with power point presentations, resource sheets, video clips and teachers' notes. All of these resources can be downloaded for free and  you can also order the whole pack of lesson plans  by filling in this form.

Plenty of interesting topics  for you classroom in English, French and Spanish  may be found under the title "Thematic issues" on the United Nations website. Do not miss the special section they have prepared for  International Human Rights Day on December 10th

Last but not least, if you wish to work on language thoroughly, you will have a great opportunity to do so by downloading the lesson plan ESL Holiday Lessons offers here.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

On-line Argia magazine in English


Our next seminar session will aim at showing  how newspapers and magazines can be superb tools to help CLIL practitioners develop different curriculum areas. From these lines, I would like to share a new section of Argia magazine which offers a variety of news related to English and the Basque Country in  clear, accurate English. 

Please, add this web site  to the pack of resources I have already shared  with you  and the next time we meet  I will suggest ways of using this new source as well as  many other on-line magazines and newspapers   with our teenage students who are learning different areas through English.  

Friday, 21 November 2014

International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is observed on November 25th because of a horrific historical event. On this day in 1960, three sisters were brutally killed in the Dominican Republic. The Mirabal sisters were political activists. They campaigned against Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship. Their brutal execution triggered the anti-Trujillo movement and within a year the Trujillo dicatorship came to an end. The sisters were referred to as the "Unforgettable Butterflies" and they have become a symbol against victimization of women. 

To raise awareness and trigger action to end the global scourge of violence against women and girls, the UN proposes 16 Days of Activism against gender Violence. Enter the UN website and choose among the many proposals the ones you find the most suitable for your students. 

A good way of starting could be this quiz to test your students' knowledge on this issue.

"In the words of"  is also a very interesting reading proposal because it features first-person articles written by celebrities, well-known personalities and women's wights activists. 

Last but not least, I reckon that  boys  could benefit from knowing about the heforshe campaign that was born to underline the role of  so many men who in recent years have started to stand up in addressing inequalities and discrimination faced by women.  Emma Watson's speech at the  UN Headquarters can be an excellent resource  to raise awareness of the need for boys and men's collaboration to fight gender inequality:

You can find the script of her speech here.

Finally, if you want a ready-to-use lesson plan that helps you to work on language while developing this topic, do not miss the proposal taken  from 
a great website with many lesson plans.  I have  downloaded it for you  so you can access it from here.

I hope that the ideas I have laid out above enable all of  us  to make our students  reflect upon the causes and consequences of gender inequality and, above all, teach them to respect the value of gender equality so that they are able to know a different reality in a near future.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Cyberbullying, sexting, grooming are  starting to get into our dictionaries because unfortunately traditional bullying has evolved into a new way of humiliating  or harassing kids and teenagers. Cyberbullying means that someone  may be harassed  by someone else hiding behind his or her cell phone or computer screen.  I reckon that our role as teachers must include setting out clear standards of behaviour when they use the Internet, social networking sites and mobile phones. 

An example of a classroom practice that can help to  make our students aware of the dangers of the net is this sequence by Pilar Torres, a Secondary English teacher from Angel de Saavedra High School in Córdoba.  In this project, students listen, speak and write in English about computers, social networks and internet safety. Regarding language, they will learn the vocabulary related to the topics mentioned before and they will be provided with  a very meaningful context to use the modal verb "should" to give advice  to their peers.

The final outcome of the project is a digital poster that includes advice on internet safety and a very useful rubric to assess both the format and the content  in the poster is suggested by Pilar.

Some other related resources may be:

Digizen website

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Nowadays, all CLIL practitioners can get material for their content areas from a variety of sources, such as the Internet or from coursebooks. However, on many occasions materials have to be adapted so as to make them easier for students. I have written other entries on this blog on the convenience of providing students with visual scaffolding so today I would like to give some clues on how to make content in a Music lesson easier for students without diminishing the amount of content-obligatory language.
Content-obligatory language could be defined as the language needed for subject matter mastery in the mainstream classroom. This language consists of words, structures, collocations  and functions which are essential for the topic they are studying.

CLIL students will also need content-compatible language, i.e. the everyday kind of language which is useful for both the study of a specific topic and for general use  (verbs like blow, hit, play which will be useful in a Music lesson but also in everyday situations)
I have mentioned the word language twice so it is important to stop at this point to clarify that the  CLIL teacher focuses on language only in the sense of enhancing the effectiveness of this role; he or she should not spend his/her time  explaining the difference between the past simple and present perfect. That is precisely why coordination between language and subject teachers is essential in order to identify language problems in the topic in advance so that they can be dealt with effectively.

Let’s focus on a text that can be part of a Music lesson on the orchestra (string instruments) and see how we could make it easier for students while respecting the necessary amount of content-obligatory language.  This is my proposal.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


October is already here  and that means I have the pleasure of welcoming all of you who have registered for the CLIL seminar in Getxo Advisory centre to our first seminar session together next Tuesday, October 21st. Certainly it is a blessing to have the responsibility of trying to facilitate the work of fifteen teachers from different Secondary schools who implement diverse areas in English: Technology, Geography, Science, Physics and Chemistry,   Philosophy, Citizenship, Ethics, Drama and Computer Science. 

My main concern for this first seminar session is to start developing   some of the many common goals that all CLIL practitioners must have, independently of the area they teach. Therefore, I will be focusing on:

-  The need of sharing  the  challenges, objectives and assessment criteria  of our project with our students

-  The language needs with respect to content

- Classroom language for planning and carrying out tasks in any area

- Scaffolding strategies to make content acquisition easier for students
  (Have a look at the consequences of a failure in scaffolding in the image above these lines)

- Language skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing): how to introduce them, when, how often, etc.

-  Use of the mother tongue in CLIL contexts as a bridging tool

-  Web-based resources to facilitate the learning process

- Examples of  CLIL practice through video viewing and follow-up by seminar members

It seems we know to which port we sail  and that is indeed the first step to favourable wind. Welcome aboard  our CLIL ship!

Thursday, 29 May 2014


Our last seminar session this year 2013-2014 took place last May 27th and I was very happy to check that all teachers attending  it are eager to continue developing their multilingual projects at schools.  Therefore, we will go on with our seminar sessions in October and keep on paving the way for  multilingualism at Secondary level in our schools. 

Throughout this year I have received several e-mails from teachers who are ready to start implementing Maths so that is why I have decided to write my first post on this area.  

Obviously, basic goals would be to engage students in understanding Mathematics while improving their English competence. In my view, three main  instructional strategies should be developed: 

- Make Maths comprehensible

- Provide opportunities to talk

- Support talk

It goes beyond the scope of this post to develop each of the strategies above in depth but  I would like to encourage teachers who will be facing this challenge by suggesting some of the strategies that are proved to be very helpful to support learners: 

- Identify a Math and a language goal for each lesson

- Build language scaffolding (sentence frames)

- Create vocabulary banks

- Use manipulative materials

- Present problems in familiar contexts - we will be more successful in        motivating  our students if we make them     face  meaningful everyday    problem      situations as much as possible.

- Prepare visual support that facilitates the acquisition of new content.

- Enhance partner talk as well as choral responses.

- Design different questions and prompts for different learners' levels

- Provide students with good models, demonstrate what you need from them

- Make abundant use of yes/no questions with beginners and allow for non-verbal responses too.

- Be aware of the purpose for language: to describe, to hypothesize, to compare, to differentiate...

Undoubtedly, a challenging task ahead. We will talk about how to develop the strategies above in due course but now  let me share with you a basic list of web  resources  that can help you with the planning of your Maths lessons.

As Humphrey Bogart would say,  I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship - between Maths and English in our case. Therefore, let us enjoy it together after our well-deserved rest. 

Looking forward to meeting all of you, Math and non-Math teachers, in October.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Digital citizenship or how to use technologies in a responsible and safe way

Our students are very familiar with the use of technologies but they need a bit of help from parents and educators on how to become responsible digital citizens. That is why today I would like to recommend a website which shares very good advice and resources on issues such as social networking and cyberbullying  and how these affect their own and other people's online experiences and behaviours.   Enter here to see how many practical proposals for the classroom you can find. 

There are plenty of resources  that will be helpful for classroom purposes but I would like to remark on the video proposal you can use to deal with the complex issue of cyberbullying.  Character interviews as well as question worksheets are provided here 

Friday, 28 March 2014


There is a big difference between watching a video and learning something from a video.  Regarding CLIL contexts, there is no doubt that videos are a great opportunity to employ authentic material and resources, but we should make sure that we  design specific tasks to boost students’ understanding of the content area which is being implemented through English.  

 Today I would like to share with you  a very interesting research carried out by Cristina Oddone.  Her paper reports on a research study that focused on the use of videos for task-based learning of scientific subjects through English in Secondary education.  You can read her research here. You will find not only a very complete description of the reasons for exploiting these audio-visual aids in the CLIL classrooms but a practical example for Science classes on the structure of DNA. Activities are included in her paper and you can watch the video below these lines:

Another practical contribution to our CLIL classrooms is the blog  by Angela Ruiz, Bilingual Coordinator at Pedro Espinosa High School (Antequera, Málaga). This blog provides Secondary teachers with a collection of videos and worksheets on Social Studies, Science and Physical Education.

My heartfelt congrats to Cristina and Angela from here.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Comenius CORE: CLIL Objectives and Resource-Kit in Education

The  CORE project uses systematic, qualitative methods of action-research to investigate the implementation of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) “on the ground” in Primary and Secondary schools within a variety of socio-linguistic contexts in five European countries: Norway, Spain, Lithuania, Italy and Greece.

By clicking on the link above you will learn about the main objectives of this powerful project but  through this post I would like to  remark the quality of the video resources they have developed because they are undoubtedly very clear examples of good CLIL practice.

Find  some of the videos they have created below :

The Cartoon Character’s House - Technology in English from Kunnskapsfilm on Vimeo.

Step-by-step procedure for this Technology lesson that focuses on Architecture (scales and floor plans) can be found here.

Drama in English from Kunnskapsfilm on Vimeo.

See complete lesson plan for the Drama unit here.

The two videos above were produced by schools in Mallorca.  Norway has shared  this  video lesson on Human Rights.

Apart from commenting on these high-quality resources I would like to let you know about the course they will arrange in Palma de Mallorca from  October 18th till October 24th, 2014.  Click here to find all necessary information about it.

From these lines my congratulations to all participants in this project and my heartfelt gratitude for having shared your outcomes with all CLIL believers.