The perfect CLIL lesson (and why it doesn’t exist)

September 5, 2022


Quite a few books have been written on CLIL and preparing a lesson, almost to the point that you'd think there is something like a 'perfect CLIL lesson'. In this post I share why I think it is important to plan and why it is okay to deviate from that planning sometimes.

Estimated time to read this article: 3 minutes

A plan might go wrong...

“Anyone knows a word with a J?”

Last week I started a lesson with the Alphabet activity, to activate prior knowledge from before the Summer break and motivate engagement.

In the end we found maths related words for almost any letter, except for the J. (If you know one, let me know).

“This is going really well” I thought to myself …. until I looked at the clock.

The activity lasted for more than 30 minutes and I had very little time left for the actual teaching of this lesson.


I know. I am the only one whose time management skills might be a little off sometimes, right?

But just in case you also experience this every now and then: don’t worry.

Actually, a lesson rarely goes as planned.

And if you feel like you are on the right track, an ambulance might pass by and all the students will be distracted (as if they have never seen one before in their life…)

That is totally okay.

The perfect lesson does not exist. The perfect CLIL lesson does not exist.

..but you still need a plan

That does not mean you should not prepare your CLIL lessons. I am a strong believer in good preparation following a certain structure. And I know students like this as well.

Please don’t feel like it’s the end of the world when things go off track.

I remember years ago, when I was still a student, something dramatic happened in our neighbourhood and our teacher dropped the entire lesson plan, asked us to sit in a circle and talk about how we felt about that.

The fact I still remember to this day, shows how important it can be to change your planning based on the circumstances.

And even if less dramatic things happen, you might simply have planned a little bit too much in your lesson.

Whenever that happens to me, I often just think about how I can reuse the activity next lesson.

Planning CLIL activities

For the record: I don’t just do a CLIL activity ‘for fun’ or because I ‘have to’.

Some people seem to think CLIL is all about ‘doing activities’ just for the sake of having done ‘some CLIL’.

Just like I would when it comes to learning goals for my subject, I teach certain activities with an end in mind.

For example: I teach my students how to take notes the first couple of lessons and scaffold that a lot, only to remove those scaffolds later and get them to do this on their own.

I want to get to the point where say “We are going to do the ‘Answer these questions’ activity” and students immediately know what to expect. One cannot do that without proper introductions and explanations.

What about you?

What I am trying to say is this: Preparation is important, but deviating from your planning is not a bad thing.

A school leader once told me: 80% is also okay, don’t try to get 100% every lesson, you will only feel bad about yourself.

A lesson that turned out to be quite important for me to learn: The perfect CLIL lesson doesn't exist.

What about you? How do you deal with lesson planning and time management in your lesson?

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