Teacher talk in CLIL contexts

One of the most recent topics of debate among educators is related to the amount of talking time teachers should spend in their lessons. There is considerable agreement that teachers should make  an effort to reduce their talking time in order to enable students to communicate and, thus, learn. 

However, reducing teacher's talking time and increasing students' choices to communicate becomes a true challenge when we are implementing our subject through the medium of English. The CLIL teacher's speech has to be extra-comprehensible so it needs to have certain specfic features. 

I will focus on this issue in our February seminar session but I will try to arise your curiosity before attending the session by pinpointing the strategies a CLIL teacher can use to reduce his/her talk and make it more effective: 

1) Collegiality is a must if we want to achieve a successful delivery of CLIL lessons.  Collegiality can be defined as collaboration between subject teachers and language teachers. Ask the English teacher of your school to work on the language demands of your content lesson and your students will be able to express what they know about the unit you are focusing on.

 In my view, collegiality also includes working in cooperation with teacher trainers. After having worked with a high number of CLIL teachers for fifteen years now, I can say that anticipating the language demands of  CLIL units and helping teachers by preparing the worksheets on language support students would need has always been very useful to enhance both  understanding and students' output.

(For example, in our seminar session I will provide you with language support on the language for predictions and the language for comparison based on a plan on climate change. 

2) Interactive talk: give your discourse a clear structure (now today we are going to learn three things; we’re going to learn firstly this, secondly this and thirdly this). Interact with students throughout your delivery. Use students' names and help them by letting them enough time to respond and also by allowing linguistically simple answers - at least at the beginning of the process. In CLIL lessons you have to help your learners in a way that is different from the help you would give then if you implemented your subject in L1. This extra-comprehensible aid kit will include being aware of students' difficulties when they speak in the target language and finishing their sentences by providing them with the words they lack, for instance. 

3) Visual support :  charts, diagrams, posters that support learners when they listen to you but also when they have to speak about the contents of the lesson.

4) Make the language for learning explicit: students know the language to classify, compare, contrast, summarize, define, hypothesize... in L1 but not in L2 or L3. Therefore, make it explicit for them. 

Using English for Academic Purposes platform can be very helpful to support students' output across the curriculum. By clicking on "functions" on the left menu, you will acess examples of texts and language for the most common functions used in academic writing. 

5) Use different mechanisms for repetition of basic concepts, be redundant: this does not mean that you have to be boring. What you should do is rephrase, say things in different ways to facilitate comprehension. 

6) Allow silence to be part of your class: students need time to think and this time increases if they are asked to give an answer in a foreign language.  Therefore, allow them to be in silence before they respond. 

To sum up, try to reduce  your talking time and make it more effective by following the clues above. 

For those of you who are working on climate change, may I ask you to listen to what this wonderful girl said in such a convincing way a couple of months ago. You can also carry out the tasks  Tedtalks.com offers or create your own lesson plan. 

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