“Want to increase motivation, confidence and attainment in your MFL students?” (Who doesn’t?) Well this was the strap line for last week’s CLIL conference in Sheffield Hallam and it didn’t disappoint. Well organised over two jam -packed days, many of the National and International Leaders in CLIL were there, including Professors Do Coyle and Philip Hood as well as Dr Russell Cross from Melbourne University and others from Australia and Canada and many from across the UK. As with all good conferences, we ranged from high -level overviews to the nitty gritty of good classroom practice and quite a lot in between! One of the great highlights for me was to attend workshops led by three London teachers – Marily Troyano, Noelia Rivas and Sara Montero, who have been working closely with us at Network for Languages, London for the past three years in the LSEF project and more recently, the Legacy Fund project, funded by the GLA.
These three teachers were good practitioners when we met them, but encouraged by the work we did together in these projects, they tried their hand at CLIL for the first time. They were, it has to be said, hugely enthusiastic – CLIL had had a reinvigorating effect on their teaching, for one thing, but they saw very quickly that it did increase “motivation, confidence and attainment” in their pupils, as promised above. So they would have been very enthusiastic ambassadors for CLIL on these things alone, but being the astute teachers they are, CLIL had to be road tested for its durability, its versatility, its sustainability and its rigour. And it passed their tests on so many counts. Their workshops demonstrated so much of this it would be impossible to give a full account here, but read more about it in the case studies on this website and dip into their resources which they have made available for teachers to use. http://www.networkforlanguageslondon.org.uk/resources/
Noelia underlined a point made by Philip Hood during the conference, who encouraged teachers to be “contextually sensitive.” She uses opportunities that come up to integrate her languages work into the already existing creative curriculum at her school.
And Sara finds at her school that some core subjects are “off limits” because with the large percentage of EAL pupils, the priority is for them to understand key words and concepts in English first, whilst there is flexibility in other non-core subjects for her to use a CLIL approach teaching the content of the lesson in Spanish. There is not a “one size fits all” CLIL model and what made the two days at Sheffield Hallam so interesting was the wide variety of excellent practice. A conference such as this always throws up new ideas and makes us challenge ourselves further. As Marily said herself – “We are researchers as teachers, always seeking to respond, modify, improve our practice.” Our thanks to Dr Kim Bower for her kind invitation to us to present our work and to all those who made the event so memorable.