Three CLIL Activities to start a lesson

June 15, 2015


Lesson stages

Beginning of the lesson | Discussing homework | Instruct students | Individual work | Group work | Lesson Reflection

The opening of a lesson is an important moment of your lesson in which you establish the contact with your students and set the stage for your lesson. Just a few things you are expected to establish in the first few minutes:

  • Getting the students’ to unpack their bags
  • Establish a personal connection
  • Activate the students’ prior knowledge
  • Possibly make students switch language
  • Motivate students to participate in your lesson

That’s a lot right?

Don’t worry. With the three activities below you will cover most of these points. And the best part: you don’t need to prepare anything for it!

CLIL activities to start a lesson

  1. Last lesson…

Ask you students to finish the sentence: “Last lesson I learned …”. You can make this harder by making them write down at least three things. After you allowed your students a minute to write something down (making sure everyone participates) you select random students to tell you what they still remember.

  1. Brainstorm

Pinpoint random students and ask them for something they remember from last lesson. A word, a phrase, a sentence. Anything. Write these down to generate a list of topics. You can even create a follow-up assignment by asking students to create a sentence with at least three words that were just mentioned.

  1. Opening question

Write down one or more questions related to the previous lesson and ask students to answer these questions on their own. You discuss the answers after a couple of minutes, allowing some time to focus on the language aspect of their answer.

In my case, I always write down three questions. A text based question, a question which motivates the application of something the students learned and a question which poses more of a challenge.

What makes these activities CLIL?

In my opinion CLIL is about motivating students to speak English (or another second language). All of these three activities make sure that happens. Students have to think about words and sentences, write them down and voice them. As I teach Mathematics I use these activities a lot to motivate the explanation of certain phrases as well as short recaps of previous lessons. This way my students use the target language already in the first five minutes of the lesson!

I quite often choose students randomly, either on my own or by using Classdojo. This assures two things: students are aware of their responsibility and you don’t always choose the students who raise their hands first. In my experience this helps students to focus a lot quicker than if I only respond to students who raise their hands.


Opening CLIL activities are important to every lesson and are a great way to help students to start using their second language.

Try it out! Use one of these three activities and randomly select students. Be sure to help them with their answer in case they find it hard or scaffold their answers to help them.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions! Also, don’t forget to sign up for my Twitter or other socal media accounts in case you don’t want to miss out on the weekly posts!

  • really like an idea that CLIL is not just about subjects, it is also about motivation to use a target language – simple warm up activities

    • Indeed, CLIL is in my opinion all about motivating students to use language. Good luck with using these activities!

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