5 ideas for engaging CLIL activities in class

May 6, 2022


Want to implement CLIL activities in your lesson, without any preparation time? These five activities might just be what you are looking for!

Estimated time to read this article: 7 minutes

One of the questions I always ask after a workshop is ‘what is the most important thing you learned during this workshop?’. And very often the answer to this question is either:

“That CLIL is easier to implement than I thought”


“The practical lesson ideas shared during the workshop”.

So, this week, I want to share 5 of those easy to implement, practical ideas to show you that implementing CLIL is NOT ‘hard’, ‘difficult’ or ‘takes so much time’.

Actually, all of these CLIL activities require no preparation time at all!

Here we go!

1. Alphabet

Want to let your students realise how much of the language they have mastered? This is my favourite activity to do just that!

This is an activity that is a bit like a scaffolded brainstorm.

Students have to come up with words related to a certain topic. But the difference with a ‘regular brainstorm’ is that the different words need to start with different letters.

I would always start by asking students to make a list of a to z in their notebooks. Every letter is worth one point, multiple words starting with the same letter don’t count.

The result of the alphabet activity on the topic 'mathematics'.

The time limit would be a maximum of 2 minutes, after which I would give them the topic to think about.

The sheer amount of words students come up with is not just a great way to see what they already know, it is also a great way to make them realise how many words they already know related to the topic at hand.

And by discussing the different words and trying to ‘complete’ the alphabet, students might hear words they had not thought of themselves.

Emphasising this is obviously a great way to make language salient.

Key Take Away

The Alphabet activity is a great way to make students aware just how many words in the target language they have mastered already.

2. Homework Discussion

One possible way to increase student engagement while discussing homework is by asking students to discuss homework in pairs within a certain time limit.

When the time is up, I would select one question I would like to see explained. I would provide an additional minute for students to think of the best way to explain that question (making language important again) after which I would randomly select a student to explain the homework assignment.

Additionally, one could ask students to present this in front of the classroom and give the other students a task like ‘think of a question to ask’ or ‘what feedback can you provide on the use of language?’

Key Take Away

Giving some time for student to prepare how they want to explain something, they have some time to think about the language involved.

3. Scan the chapter

Often the language used in a paragraph, section or chapter can be a challenge for a student. And as a teacher, you cannot be expected to explain every single word.

Asking students to filter out the difficult words themselves and keeping track of a personal idiom file (PIF) is a way to focus on this a bit more.

I would often ask students whenever we would start a new chapter to ‘scan’ the chapter, see if there are any keywords they thought were tricky and make a list of difficult words.

During the chapter, I would often ask if a word or phrase I introduced was on anyone’s list and mention the description they could use to complete it.

At the end of the chapter, I’d ask students to show me their word lists and check if they were now complete.

Key Take Away

The Scan the chapter activity can be used to help students become aware what new words they might encounter and scaffold this prior to the learning.

4. Describe in your own words

To check if students already know a certain word, or check if they now understand what a new phrase is about, you can ask them to describe it in their own words.

But that is not all.

I would not just ask them to describe this in their own words, but actually include a word limit.

For example: Explain what an isosceles triangle is in 15 words or less.

That way, students are ‘forced’ to think about what words they have to use, to make sure they stay within the word limit.

Making language an important element of this activity again.

Ow and just so you know: there will always be at least one student who uses more than the maximum. I seriously don’t know why…

Key Take Away

By asking students to describe a phrase in their own words with a word limit, they have to think about what specific words they can and cannot use.

5. Word to Sentence

This is an activity I would often use either at the beginning or at the end of a lesson.

The purpose is simple: I share two words related to the topic and students have to create a sentence with both words in it. In a way the words make sense.

To make it more challenging you can also share three or four words and ask students to include as many words as possible.

Not only does this activity focus on the content (students have to think about ways to link the words within a certain context) but also on the language (students have to write sentences and include grammar rules and related words).

Hence: a CLIL activity!

Key Take Away

The Word to Sentence activity is a great way to see if students can put (new) phrases in a specific context.

CLIL activities overview

Would you like to have an overview of these 5 CLIL activities with procedures and additional ideas? Just click the button below to download this free overview.

Want more of these activities? One of the perks of joining the CLIL Community, apart from monthly Q&A sessions, monthly bonus training, an extensive online course and a network of international CLIL teachers, is the fact you get access to 40+ CLIL activities like this.

Monday 16th of May 2022 will the first day the CLIL Community will be open to everyone who wants to join, so be sure to mark that day in your calendar 😉.

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