3 things every CLIL teacher should do (and how to do it)

September 22, 2021


Yesterday I asked in the Online CLIL Summit Community on Facebook what the participants thought every CLIL teacher should do. And as the list grew, I realised this might be more than a bit overwhelming for new CLIL teachers. So here is a (short) list of things I think a CLIL teacher should do. And it includes the how, not just the what.

Estimated time to read this article: 6 minutes

According to the list a CLIL teacher should:

3 things every CLIL teacher should do (and how to do it)

Click to enlarge

And the list might just have gotten longer by now.

Now don’t get me wrong, I agree with all of this.

It’s just that I don’t think they are all CLIL specific. I think many of these things (if not all) also apply to non-CLIL learners.

But there are some things CLIL teachers should keep an eye on.

Maybe more so than regular teachers.

Key Take Away

Try not to be overwhelmed with all of the information related to CLIL. Start small.

What CLIL is about

In my opinion, CLIL is about two things

  1. 1
    Motivate the use of language (preferably output)
  2. 2
    Make sure all students are engaged with the content

I know, I know.

The title of this post is ‘Three things every CLIL teacher should do’

The third ‘thing’ is actually linked to the first two.

Simply because we as teachers can ask a lot of students, but if we never check if they understand or provide them with feedback to improve, it might be very hard for students to actually grow and improve.

Hence the third ‘thing’ is: provide feedback.

Let’s discuss them in a bit more detail

Key Take Away

The three things every CLIL teacher should to:

1. Implement language

2. Motivate engagement

3. Provide feedback

1. Make language salient

In the great book "Putting CLIL into Practice" by Phil Ball, Keith Kelly and John Clegg, the statement is made that language should be made ‘salient’.

In other words: it should be at the centre of attention. Students should always be aware they are learning a language.

I agree with the wholeheartedly

Does that mean they should always talk? Absolutely not.

But it certainly helps if you occasionally help students think about the language they use.

And how they have to use it.

It gets more complicated if you actually want students to produce spoken language output.

After all, you only learn a language if you use it, but it is hard to use if you never practise.

One way to do this is by using the Secret Student activity.

In my experience this works like a charm to motivate language output.

And not just that, it also helps students to become more proficient with the target language!

Key Take Away

Making language salient basically means making students aware that they are (also) learning a language.

2. Make sure all students are engaged

This is typically something that makes a lot of sense, right?

Obviously, you want all students to be engaged in your lesson. Who wouldn’t?

Here’s the catch though.

Making sure that all, I repeat, all students are engaged, you have to make sure not a single student can sit the activity you are doing out.

In other words: students should feel like they have to contribute to the lesson and feel they will be held accountable.

Okay, again, sounds fancy and all, but what does this mean?

Whenever I visit schools and observe lessons, I quickly see the student(s) who are slightly less motivated then the other students to learn.

Sometimes it is only one, sometimes it are a couple of students.

In my opinion, it is up to the teacher to motivate these students to participate.

A couple of possible ways to do this are:

  • using ClassDojo to randomly select students, instead of asking students to raise their hands.
  • using Think-Pair-Share to ask students to first discuss answers in pairs before sharing with the class
  • implement student thinking time and provide a minute for all students to write down their answers.

With these kinds of strategies, students know they can be selected at any time and ‘I don’t understand’ is not an option anymore, as they have had time to think about it.

Key Take Away

Making sure all students are engaged can be challenging, but is key to increase the effectiveness of your teaching.

3. Provide feedback

If students do something and do not know if they are on the right track, it can be quite hard to improve their skills.

So far for the open-door conclusion.

The questions is obviously: how do you do this effectively, without it costing a lot of time?

Just giving grades might not always be the most motivating thing to do.

In my opinion, setting up learning objectives at the beginning of a lesson is a great start.

This allows you to check back at the end of a lesson, for example by asking students to grade their own level of understanding on a scale of 1-10, and raise their hands if it is lower than a 6.

Using this type of quick reflection moments certainly help to provide you with valuable information on the learning process of the student.

You can also provide different types of feedback, like recasting or clarification requests.

These most often work best in situations where you have to provide feedback on spoken output.

Key Take Away

By providing feedback on the use of language, you motivate students to improve and do better.


You might have noticed I did not discuss the fact CLIL only works in a second language.

That is because I don't think it does.

In my opinion, non-CLIL students can also benefit from focus on language.

Or from being held accountable during a lesson.

A colleague of mine once said: 

“If a non-CLIL teachers is not a good teacher, students might be able to compensate. However, if a CLIL teacher is not a good teacher, students will fail” 

And I honestly think there is a certain truth in that.

What do you think?

Do you feel CLIL should only be used in a second language setting? And do the activities mention in this post feel like something you can try?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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