Writing in the content areas (I)


I am aware that CLIL teachers are very concerned about students' written productions across the  curriculum. Therefore, today I am  going to start by sharing the conclusions of a  research which   was  carried out two years ago in Granada.   The participants were  a total of 112 students who  were in   the fourth year of Secondary Education. All of them came from public schools. 

The groups were organized into: ‘CLIL group’ ,who studied their Secondary educational period following a CLIL pedagogical approach in English,   and ‘Non-CLIL group’,  who studied their Secondary educational period in Spanish, being the subject of English as  a foreign language a part of the official curriculum for Secondary Education.  All participants were Spanish native speakers and learners of English as a L2 ranged in age between 15        and 16 years old, which means that age was  not a factor that influenced the results.

As the analysis of the written productions of the students proved, the  CLIL group outperformed the non-CLIL group in relation to the written competence. 

Hence, it can be stated that the implementation of the CLIL approach has a positive effect on the written competence in a second language. These findings are limited to this particular study but we can claim that  there are  numerous studies that have drawn similar conclusions.

Nevertheless, if we analyze the errors in the CLIL group, we clearly see that we must keep on trying to find the most effective ways to motivate students to write and  ease their  writing process.

(Professor Silvia Corral Robles from the University of Granada has kindly shared her research paper with all of us. You can access it from here).   

In this first post on writing in the content areas,  I would like to highlight the importance of  purpose-driven writing.  Therefore, before considering how to provide students with frames to support their writing, let's begin by analyzing what type of texts our students need to write in specific content areas. Different authors classify  CLIL texts into different types but for the scope of this entry I will just share a couple of  tools that will be enough to foster our personal reflection on the issue:  

  • the first tool is from www.teachit.co.uk, a very useful platform that comprises a range of creative, engaging and effective approaches to support Secondary teachers across all subjects. You can click here to see this tool on CLIL text types.      

Once students have understood there are different text types with their different purposes, work with examples: show students good  examples  and ask them to think about the features that make them say it is a good piece of writing. Why not show students weak examples too?  My students loved this mixture and they were able to identify why some texts are effective whereas others are not.

When we host our next  online seminar,  we will see how many of the aforementioned text types your students are producing or have to produce and we will provide you with a variety of writing frames that will make the  task easier.  For those of you who may not be familar with the concept of writing frames, you can have a look at this  example for Geography and History  and this one for Science.

Looking forward to knowing  about your personal experience and  classroom strategies so as to improve students'  writing competence across the school subjects.  

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