How to design a great CLIL activity

March 7, 2016


A lot has been written about CLIL activities. The very good book “CLIL Activities” by Liz Dale and Rosie Tanner, but also “CLIL Skills” and “The TKT Course CLIL Module” are very interesting reads if you want to find inspiration for your own CLIL activity.

However, I still hear teachers say they think CLIL is a lot of work. They say they don’t want to ‘change their entire lesson’. They ‘don’t have time‘.

I think this is nonsense. I create CLIL activities on the fly while teaching, without any preparation. And I think you can too.

Key aspects of a CLIL activity

Before I show you how to prepare for a CLIL activity, let me tell you what I think should be included in every CLIL activity:

  • A subject topic and learning goal

In other words: What will your students know or be able to do when the activity is finished? Do you want to introduce a topic or is it more of a rehearsal exercise?

  • A language goal

Obviously. It’s Content and LANGUAGE integrated language. Simply ask yourself the question: what can I do with language? This can be very small or very big, depending on the situation.

  • An active learning component

Every student should be participating and has to have a certain level of responsibility. Ask yourself the question: How do I make sure every student is involved?

If you cover these three aspects, you have yourself a CLIL activity!

Preparing a CLIL activity

So how do you prepare? Quite often, I don’t. As I said before, I quit often come up with ideas while teaching. If I find that I have some time left or want to do something different, I think of a way to use the current topic and do something together. But that did not happen in a day.

Your situation might very well be different. You might prefer preparing a CLIL activity before hand or you might need to copy or prepare materials. That’s all fine as well of course.

If you sit down to create a CLIL activity for the next lesson, think about your topic and answer the three questions above:

  1. What is my learning objective?
  2. What is my language objective?
  3. How can I make sure every student is involved?

Sometimes the language might actually be more important than the subject, but that’s up to to you. I personally like doing a language exercise every now and then, like the Alphabet activity.

Other ways to make sure you integrate language is by asking students to write something down and discuss this in pairs later on. No matter the subject, you just used language. If you follow-up with the assignment that someone will be randomly selected to present the answer, everyone will participate otherwise they might end up not being able to answer questions.


It sounds so simple, yet I know that it can sometimes be hard to come up with activities on your own. I used to read through some books that discuss activities simply to find ideas. This can be books on CLIL, but also on ‘regular’ didactic. You can integrate the language aspect yourself. Books that can be a great resource are:

  • CLIL Activities, Liz Dale and Rosie Tanner
  • CLIL Skills, Liz Dale, Wibo van der Es and Rosie Tanner
  • The TKT Course CLIL Module, Kay Bentley
  • (For Dutch readers) Handboek RRTI, Marinka Drost & Petra Verra
  • (For Dutch readers) Activerende didactiek en samenwerkend leren, CPS

Why CLIL is NOT hard to do

CLIL activities are the core of our lessons. They facilitate a certain degree of variety as well as a different approach to language learning. But they do NOT have to take a lot of time, nor do they need to be prepared ahead very thoroughly. Many teachers think you need to prepare a lot, I hope I just showed that is not the case. You can find a wide variety of CLIL activities on this website, I hope I have motivated you to keep trying to create your own.

And please share! Together we know so much more than on our own!


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