Last week I was invited to give a workshop at a CLIL Conference in Belgium. Apart from the fact I thought this was a great honor, I was even more surprised to hear that bilingual education has only just started in Belgium. To be allowed to help out fellow teachers develop their own ideas and materials is a great experience. And I even learned something new!
The key speaker: Teresa Ting
CLIL expert Teresa Ting, Universitá della Calabria (Italy), was the key speaker of this event.
I was surprised to notice she created a workshop -like atmosphere in the large conference room we were all situated. With a few simple tasks and a hand-out all of the adults were figuring out biological assignments.
Not quite sure what to think of this, I did the tasks, thinking I was expecting more of an in-depth academic talk.
I had drawn my conclusion too early. As usual.
After having done the assignments, Teresa discussed the different tasks and showed the decisions she had made to come up with the different tasks. A very interesting thought she discussed was to replace instruction with tasks and let the students create the ‘academic’ texts that would need checking.
CCD and LCD
Teresa Ting also talked about balancing the level of the language with the difficulty of the task. This makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
If the content of a new topic is unknown, you should focus on the content more than you focus on language. In other words, the content cognitive demand (ccd) is high. To make sure the content is understandable, the language cognitive demand (lcd) should be low.
In other words, the language used to explain difficult content related topics should be simple.
The other way around also works. If you want to focus on language tasks, make sure the content is not too high a level otherwise students will not understand the task.
Task driven instruction
The key speaker had done a great job motivating me to think about the way that I teach. Could I create more task driven assignments that could replace my instruction?
I think I can.
It takes time though. Probably a lot.
The problem I have with this type of ideas is that it works great if you have multiple hours to prepare for one hour of class. Quite often it is the other way around: You have to teach multiple hours a day with little time for preparation.
I don’t mean any disrespect in any way, I highly appreciate these types of talks. As mentioned, they motivate me to think about how I can improve my lessons.
The next thing to do is to start developing this type of lesson.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks I’ll see if I can replace some of my instructions by tasks. I will publish my ideas on this blog when I have taught the lessons.
Do you have any ideas? Let me know! Share your ideas!
You can read the article Teresa Ting based her presentation on online. It’s quite an interesting read! You can also find the original illustration of the balance of CCD and LCD on this website.