Combining two “classic” CLIL activities to create a new one!

June 4, 2018


My poor test dummies, I mean, students..

As you are probably aware, I try out new CLIL activities in my lessons every now and then. To be honest, I would to do it more often, but I am not always in the most creative mood. Last week however my creativity sparked again and I decided to try out something new!

And it worked like a charm!

The original activities

I combined two activities that are already CLIL themselves: “What did we do” and “Word to Sentence”.

What did we do?

I normally use this activity at the end of my lesson, to check if the students indeed achieved the same learning objectives I was aiming for. After asking them what we did, I make them write this down with a certain limited amount of words, forcing them to think about how to say it in English.

Why is this CLIL? They are thinking about the subject content and how to explain that in English. Also, they all do it on their own, knowing I will ask some of them for their personal answers, so they are all engaged.

Word to Sentence

This is a typical language-based activity that is simply fun to do every now and then. After introducing a couple of words, students have to come up with sentences using these words.

Again, this is CLIL because the words are related to the subject and students have think about how to use them in a context. Also, they will all think of different sentences, so they are all eager to work on their own. Or that is what you hope, obviously.

The way you introduce these words can be done in a lot of different ways. You can ask students to find difficult words in the new paragraph, provide the words yourself to force them to think in a certain direction or ask students for the words themselves.

What did I do?

I combined these two activities at the beginning of my lesson to see if the students remembered the phrases introduced in the previous lessons and could formulate sentences using these words. Preferably sentences that make sense.

This is what I did:

  1. I ask my students to close their books but keep their notebooks opened.
  2. They would get 1 minute to write down as many words they could think of that we discussed in the previous lessons
  3. After that 1 minute I asked students for their answers and wrote those down for everyone to see
  4. When all words were assembled, I asked students to select (a minimum of) 5 words from the list and write two sentences using these 5 (or more) words. They could distribute it the way the wanted it themselves (1-4, 2-3, etc. 5-0 was not allowed)
  5. After the students wrote their sentences, I would ask them what the sentences were and ask them to clarify if needed.

The time element in the first part of the activity was done to make sure all of them were focused. Obviously not every student works all that great when time pressured, so feel free to do this your own way.

By focusing on the previous lessons, I activated prior knowledge and got all the students in learning-mode. Also, by asking them to do it on their own, the students could focus on their own work and not be distracted by others.

The result?

The topic I was discussing was “Area and circumference of a circle” (I know, terribly exciting).

The words mentioned by students were pi, area, perimeter, circumference, circle, rectangle, length, cm2 etc. Once the word “Calculator” was mentioned I stopped the discussion, because the phrases became to general for the purpose of the activity.

Despite the fact students were not allowed to open their books, they did come up with a lot of sentences that could have been written in the book. Like “You can calculate the circumference of a circle using pi” or “The word circumference is used to describe the perimeter of a circle”.


I was surprised by the sentences some students came up with, both in a positive and in a negative way.

Some students shared sentences with a combination of words that would normally not make any sense, but with their creative writing they did a great job.

Other sentences were describing wrong formulas and allowed me to provide feedback to the student concerning the error. This is obviously a great way to see if students indeed understand what you did so far.

Please, feel free to try this in your lesson and let me know how your students performed!

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