3 ready to use activities to activate language in your lesson

September 14, 2015


The number one priority of every CLIL teacher is to activate language. To do that, teachers themselves speak English all the time, but teach a subject of their own.

Nothing new so far

However, with the focus primarily on the subject, language can fall behind. Or worse, you might revert back to your native language to explain something because students don’t understand you.

That is why it’s important to practice language occasionally. I am not saying you should plan one every lesson (I know I don’t have time for that) but it can be a rewarding change of scenery if you try to do it once in a while.

Below are three language exercises to activate language I found very useful myself. Some CLIL activities might be a little childish for older students, but these work with all age groups.

  1. Self made word list

A lot of schools use a PIF (Personal Idiom File) for either all subject or just a few. However, if your school does not use such a system, you can use this activity to make sure students are aware of the difficult words or phrases they encounter as well as learn how to learn from that.

Applying this activity to your lesson

  1. Students read through the chapter
  2. Students make a list of words they don’t know or don’t understand
  3. Compile a list of ‘top ten most difficult words’
  4. During the chapter, refer back to the list of words once these are encountered. Students write a description or a synonym
  5. At the end of the chapter, ask for the lists and check if they have completed it

I even made crosswords at some time, using the descriptions of students which had to solve at the end of the chapter. It was simple but fun way to use language in my lesson

  1. Word to sentence

Just a short activity that can even be applied during an explanation. Language learning starts with learning words, after which sentences are formed. These sentences are combined into pieces of text, but the first step of this process can be quite daunting for students already.

So, let’s make them do it on their own!

Applying this activity to your lesson

  1. Mention two words that have to do with the current topic
  2. Students create a sentence using these two words
  3. Make sure to mention the length of the sentence (not just three words)
  4. To allow thinking time for every student, make them write down the sentences
  5. After some time, discuss the sentences (and reward creativity points)

Possible variations

  • More than two words
  • Words completely unrelated to each other
  • Students choosing words for each other
  • Let me know if you know more!
  1. Word snake

This activity requires a little preparation time. You have to think of a word related to your topic after which you think of descriptions for words that have starting letters that make up the original word.


Let me clarify with an example:

Original word: Maths

Hint words with descriptions:

  • Multiply: What you did with 7 and 8 to get 56.
  • Adding up: What you did with 3 and 9 to get 12.
  • Triangle: A shape with three angles
  • Hollow: When a shape is empty
  • Solid: When a shape is not empty

Applying this activity to your lesson

In your lesson, all you have to do is provide the descriptions and ask your students to find the original word. This can be adapted to any level of difficulty.

As always, a great follow up to this is asking students to do this for each other.


I hope these three activities to activate language help you with activating language in your lesson. I use these activities myself with great pleasure and students work really well with them.

Let me know your thoughts or ideas!

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