Rosie’s favourite activity: The CLIL Ball

March 26, 2018


A creative approach to CLIL

Guest post by Rosie Tanner, Part 2 of the “Practical CLIL ideas” series 

The CLIL ball is one of my favourite activities. You can use a CLIL ball to activate prior knowledge about a topic or about language or to revise or assess what your CLIL students have learned. I have used the CLIL ball at all levels of training: bilingual vocational education, secondary schools, in higher education and in sessions for coaches and trainers. Why is it so effective? I think because it is flexible, fun and easy to create. And if you are convinced about an activity such as this, it’s easy even to get adults to play it.

Materials needed

A blow-up plastic ball that you can write on (so a light colour)

A permanent black pen


  1. Write down about 30 questions that you would like to ask your students. Write them all over your blown up ball, using the permanent pen.
  2. Ask your students to stand in a circle. Make sure everyone can see each other.
  3. Instruct your students that when they receive the ball, they answer the question next to their left thumb. Throw the ball to a student. S/he answers the question next to his/her left thumb. If s/he can’t, help with some prompts.
  4. You can choose: the student throws the ball back to you or to another student. S/he answers the next question.
  5. Continue until the energy level goes down.


Here are four examples of questions I have used. You will notice a variety of questions, which work on both content and language. I usually write about 30 question on a ball, but here are examples of sets of eight questions:

1. For CLIL secondary school teachers in Japan, revising CLIL

  1. What does CLIL stand for?
  2. What is the CEFR?
  3. Why was the CEFR created?
  4. Give an example of something that makes an English lesson “CLIL”.
  5. What is hard CLIL?
  6. What is soft CLIL?
  7. Name the 4Cs of CLIL.
  8. What is activating in CLIL?

2. Activating lecturers in higher education, struggling with teaching speaking:

  1. What is your greatest challenge in teaching speaking?
  2. What is your burning question about teaching speaking?
  3. What is your favourite website for ideas on teaching speaking?
  4. Describe your most successful speaking activity.
  5. What do you need to be able to teach more speaking?
  6. How can your colleagues support you in teaching speaking?
  7. How are pupils tested on their speaking?
  8. Why are information gaps important in teaching speaking?

3. For teachers working in vocational education revising working in hotels:

  1. Name five jobs related to hotel and catering.
  2. What are the different courses of a meal called?
  3. What is an appetiser?
  4. Say four things you have to do in the kitchen to work hygienically.
  5. What are five tasks that a receptionist must do?
  6. Name five companies that work with counter clerks.
  7. Name the eight things you find on a business card.
  8. Spell your name using the telephone alphabet:

4. For teachers of mathematics

  1. What is an integer?
  2. What is a numerator?
  3. What is a denominator
  4. what is a fraction?
  5. Give an example of a fraction.
  6. What is another word for divide?
  7. what is another word or phrase for subtract?
  8. How do you say 14 x 5 in English?

Good luck with creating your own CLIL balls!


Rosie Tanner trains and advises CLIL teachersand institutions. More information can be found at

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