The six stages of a CLIL Lesson: Overview

May 15, 2015


Welcome to the CLIL Blog! This is the very first post on new part of the website and the beginning of another one of my CLIL projects. I look forward to supplying you with information regarding CLIL and in this specific article I would like to focus on CLIL lesson planning.

Clock in hand
CLIL lesson planning does not require constantly checking the time.

Why plan a CLIL lesson?

I am not much of a planner myself. Or, if I am being completely honest, I can plan very well. I just don’t follow my lesson planning. Just setting myself a couple of goals in a lesson helps me to stay focused. Having to look at a paper every couple of minutes to check what the next part of my lesson is going to be is no fun at all is it?

Does that mean I don’t prepare my lesson? Not in the least.

It is important to think about your goals for a lesson before you start. How can you teach your students new things when you don’t know anything about where you are going to get them? We all know this, and some teachers (who have earned my respect time and time again) can actually prepare their lessons almost to the minute without straying from it during a lesson.

I can’t do that.

I only plan three things in advance: The lesson goal, the homework (which is subject to change anyway) and the activities I might do in my lesson.

The lesson goal

So what is a lesson goal? It’s quite simple really: What do you want your students to have learned by the end of the lesson? A typical lesson goal is phrased something like: “My students can …” or “My students have learned …”.

When I graduated college and became a teacher, I actually phrased my goals exactly like that. Now I just write down the end of the sentence, because I know it’s my goal to make my students understand.

The homework

Do I have to explain? Because I always talk too much I have to make sure that my students have time to work on their homework in my lesson as well, and to force myself to give them enough time for this I do plan the amount of homework ahead. This also helps to keep track of the progress of all of my classes.

The activities

This is the fun part. I like trying out new things, sometimes I even feel sorry for my students when I feel like treating them like guinea pigs while testing new activities.

However, CLIL activities can be used in a lot of different ways. I myself noticed rather quickly that in order to structure when to use what I had to think of a system that worked as a way to plan my lesson ahead of time. A kind of framework.

This framework is the way I plan my lessons now, and I hope it can help yours as well.

The CLIL Lesson Framework

The six lesson stages can be used as a check list
The six lesson stages can be used as a check list

In my opinion, a typical CLIL Lesson (or actually, any lesson for that matter) can be simplified into one framework:

  1. Beginning of a lesson
  2. Discussing homework
  3. Instruct students
  4. Individual work
  5. Group work
  6. End of a lesson

These six stages of a lesson appear in many different books about education in many different ways. Sometimes a few stages are added, other books use less of them. For me, these six are a great way to structure my lessons.

Just like my way of teaching, this framework should be applied in a flexible way. The beginning and the end of a lesson are kind of fixed (obviously) but the other stages can be mixed up, skipped or applied multiple times in a lesson. For example, when you know the instruction stage is going to last too long, you can create multiple short moments of instruction.

In this article I will shortly explain all of these different stages. In future articles I will talk about each of this in more detail.

Beginning of a lesson

This is the moment you activate your students. You motivate them to engage with your topic and activate their prior knowledge. Remember, they might have forgotten what happened the lesson before and to ensure they understand the bigger picture you will have to help them to put everything in perspective.

Discussing homework

Although this stage is skipped or at least minimized in a lot of lessons, it is important to help your students to learn from their mistakes. Helping them to check their answers, correct themselves and help each other to understand the ‘why’ is one of the most important tasks of every teacher, in my opinion.

Instruct students

Obviously you will have instruction moments in every lesson. This is another moment to make sure your students are engaged instead of leaning in their chairs and watching you do all the work. I have had students who were genuinely annoyed when I forced them to participate in my explanation, because they had gotten so used to just sitting back and relax during this stage of the lesson!

Individual work

Students have to learn to do things themselves. Yes, they have to learn to cooperate. Yes, they can learn a lot from each other. But at some point, they have to do it themselves. That’s why it’s vital that you also incorporate individual working moments in your lessons.

Group work

CLIL Lesson Group work
An important aspect of working together is information exchange.

Collaborative learning is important and is a great way to help your students to engage with the second language they are learning. Also, when students explain things to each other, it shows their mastery over the content and can create a boost in their self confidence. That’s why I think well organised (!!) group work is important and should be done in every lesson.

End of a lesson

I am sure it happened to you as well at some point. You are right in the middle of a short instruction or still helping out a student when the bell rings and the lesson is over. That’s not the best way to end a lesson, this is actually a good moment to engage your students in a reflective activity and develop them into critical thinkers themselves. This is tricky, I know!


The first post of this blog is a long one, thank you for reading it all the way to this point. I am curious though, what do you think?

How do you plan your lesson?

Let me know in the comment section below!

Want some ideas for your lesson? Download the “CLIL Guide” with 5 activities you can try in your lesson immediately by signing up below.

See you next time!


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