Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is becoming increasingly popular in primary schools around the world. In this article we will look at a variety of year round ideas that encourage teaching content area concepts in English.
CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is a term that educational professionals in primary schools are becoming increasingly familiar with and, in recent years, a number of language educators are making use of CLIL to promote meaningful learner engagement with language. In this article, we will look at some year round ideas and suggestions to bring content areas in English into the classroom through easy to carry out tasks and activities.
New Year’s Celebrations (Socials)
Talk to the pupils about what they do with their family on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Write some of the ideas on the board or on poster paper. When they have brainstormed their own traditions or local traditions, explain some customs in other areas of the world. For example, in Austria children are given good luck toy pigs on New Year’s Day; in Greece children eat Vassilopita (St. Basil’s cake) on the first day of the New Year. Whenever possible, provide visual support (photos, web pages, PowerPoint slides) to help understanding. Different pupils or groups of pupils can pick a country and make a poster or write a short, illustrated report on how New Year’s is celebrated.
Chun Jie (Chinese New Year) (Socials)
Take a look at the Chinese New Year festival (Chun Jie) with the pupils. Explain that this celebration symbolises the beginning of the year and a fresh start to life. Traditionally, Chun Jie celebrations start on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. During Chun Jie families decorate doors and windows and enjoy sweet rice cake. Children receive Hong Bao (red packets or envelopes with monetary gifts) and enjoy parades with colourful dragons that wriggle through the streets.
Chinese Dragon Puppet (Arts and Crafts)
Pupils can make a Chinese dragon puppet to celebrate Chinese New Year in class. There are suggestions online for how to make puppets, for example: www.show.me.uk/site/news/STO971.html or http://www.tammyyee.com/origamidpup.html. Alternatively, pupils can come up with their own designs.
Spring Potato Pets (Science; Arts and Crafts)
Pupils or groups of pupils can make ‘potato pets’ and grow ‘hair’ on their backs using grass seeds or alfalfa seeds. Pupils cut a section of the potato (on what will be the animal’s back) and scoop out a few spoonfuls of potato. They draw a face on their pet, add toothpick legs, and sprinkle seeds onto dampened cotton wool on the animal’s back. Place the pets in a safe, sunny place and watch their green hair grow. Pupils can make daily or weekly observations in their notebook or on a chart.
Water Cycle (Science)
Talk to pupils about the fact that there is a limited amount of water on the Earth and explain that water keeps going round and round in what is referred to as the ‘water cycle’. Talk to the pupils about the main parts of the water cycle (evaporation, condensation, precipitation, collection) and use visuals to show how the different parts of the cycle link together. Encourage children to draw and colour their own water cycle diagram.
April Showers (Maths)
Place an ‘April Showers’ chart on the wall in the classroom where pupils colour in the number of days in April that it rains. At the end of the month they can calculate the percentage of days that it rained in April.
May Day (History)
Explain to the pupils that the celebration of the onset of May traces back to Ancient Rome where a celebration which was known as Floralia took place each spring. It is said that this festival that was in honour of the Goddess of Spring and Flowers (Flora) began around the year 258 BC. After the occupation of Rome many countries took on the festival of Floralia which eventually became known as May Day.
May Flowers (Arts and Crafts)
Pupils can make May flowers out of coloured card, tissue paper or recycled material (egg cartons, fabric). The flowers can be used to decorate the bulletin board, windows in the classroom or school corridors.
World Environment Day (Socials; Arts and Crafts)
On June 5th, 1972 the United Nations established The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The UNEP’s responsibilities include keeping an eye on the global environment and helping countries solve regional problems by working together. Many countries participate in the World Environment Day by planting trees or by organising fund raising events. Pupils can work in groups to make posters describing ways we can help the planet (recycling, using bikes or walking instead of driving, planting trees, respecting the environment, etc.) and hang them in the corridor of the school on June 5th to encourage other pupils to be environmentally conscious.
Star Gazing (Science)
Start off by explaining to the children that the stars they see at night are not the same as those seen by children in other parts of the world and that different constellations are visible in different hemispheres once the sun sets. Point out that in the Northern Hemisphere summer is a great time to star gaze as it’s usually warm at night and doesn’t tend to rain as much as in other seasons. Draw a picture of the Big Dipper on the board and explain that this is one of the best-known star formations. Point out that it looks like a ladle or ‘dipper’. Show images of other popular constellations such as Orion’s Belt or the Ursa Menor (the Little Bear/Bear Cub) then encourage children to draw different constellations or to invent their own constellation.
The Tour de France (Physical Education; History)
Find out how many pupils in the class have bicycles, enjoy cycling or enjoy watching cycling events. Ask them if they have ever seen or heard of the Tour de France and elicit information from them about what it is, where it takes place or how many people participate. Explain that the ‘Tour’ takes place in July and that it is cycle race across France. Tell the class that sixty cyclists participated in the first ‘Tour’ which took place in July 1903, but only twenty one of the cyclists managed to finish the almost 2500 kilometre race. Over a hundred years later, the ‘Tour’ is one of the most popular international sporting events. In 2008, 180 cyclists took part in the almost 3500 kilometre race. If possible, bring in a map of France and plot out the stages of a Tour de France on the map. For more information on the ‘Tour’ go to: http://www.letour.fr/us/homepage_horscourseTDF.html
Hats On (Socials)
All over the world, especially in hot climates, people wear hats to help keep them cool. If possible, bring in a sun hat and point out that wearing a broad-brimmed hat offers shade from the hot sun. Talk to the pupils about different hats and head coverings around the world and, if possible, bring in visuals to show different headgear. Explain that in Southeast Asia most hats are conical-shaped and made of straw while, for example, in Palestine and in other countries, boys and men often wear a cloth head covering called a keffiyeh to protect them from the sun. In many parts of Africa and India people wear turbans when the weather is warm. If possible, bring in different images of hats, turbans and headgear then encourage the pupils to work in pairs or groups to design a warm-weather head-covering and to share their idea with the rest of the class.
Autumn Leaf Rubbings (Arts and Crafts)
Tell the children to collect leaves that have fallen off the trees in the playground or in the neighbourhood. Show the leaves to the class and explain that they are going to do leaf rubbings. Demonstrate the activity then hand out white paper, leaves and crayons to pupils or groups of pupils. On a piece of paper, place the leaf vein side up then lay another piece of paper on top. Select a crayon and, if there is a wrapper around it, peel it off. Turn the crayon on its side and rub over the sheet of paper until the leaf image appears. Show the rubbing to the pupils then encourage them to do their own using different sized leaves and different colours.
World Food Day (Socials; Health Education)
In 1979, on October 16th, the World Food Day was proclaimed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The aim of this day is to draw attention to the fact that nearly half the people in the world do not have enough to eat and that millions die of starvation each year. Explain that, for example, half the world population depends on rice as their most important filler. Point out that wheat and corn are also very important staples for a millions of people. If possible, take a look at a world map and talk to the pupils about different areas where people have not got enough to eat. Encourage them to come up with suggestions on how we can help others. For more information on diets around the world go to: http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/agexporter/2000/Apr/diets.htm
In Japan, on November 15th or the closest weekend, they celebrate “Shichi-Go-San” which means “Seven-Five-Three”. This is special day when girls of age three and seven and boys of age three and five dress in their finest clothes and visit shrines and temples. After the visit, children are given a long, thin, red and white sweet called ‘chitose-ame’ in a long, white paper bag with symbols of good luck such as the pine tree, bamboo, the crane or the tortoise. If possible, bring in pictures of Japanese children celebrating Shichi-Go-San to show the class. Ask the pupils what types of clothes they wear for special occasions and if there is a special sweet or food associated with these events.
Impressive Ice Experiment (Science)
Fill up a glass of water and place and ice cube in it. Ask the pupils if they think you will be able to pick up the ice cube using a string (without picking up the ice cube). See what they think. Lay a piece of cotton string across the ice cube, count to ten and lift it. They will see that the string does not ‘stick’ to the ice cube. Show them a container with salt and ask if they think you will be able to lift the ice cube using salt. See what they think. Place the string on the ice cube again, sprinkle salt over the string, count to ten then lift the string. What happens? It sticks! Do the experiment again if need be and have pupils record the results in their notebook.
Through CLIL, pupils develop language skills while simultaneously becoming more knowledgeable about the world around them. There are endless ways that English teachers or content area teachers can link language and content in order to make learning more real and meaningful for their pupils.
Good luck and happy teaching!
Nina has been teaching at all levels since 1990 and for the past eight years has been involved in educational consulting and teacher training. She has given workshops all over Spain and overseas and has collaborated with the British Council and the Ministry of Education on professional development programmes. She is a materials writer for ELT and CLIL books and has published several articles. She currently works as a freelance author, teacher trainer and educational consultant. For more information http://ninaspain.blogspot.com
This article was originally published in Modern English Teacher Magazine, 2008.