Why student thinking time is essential in a CLIL lesson

June 8, 2021


Do you allow student thinking time in your lesson? Sounds like an obvious question, right? Yet, this is something that does not happen enough in my opinion.

Estimated time to read this article: 4 minutes

Engagement in a CLIL lesson

The way I look at CLIL is simple: make sure all students are actively engaged with the target language. But actually applying that is not.

After all: how do you make sure that all students are engaged?

In my experience I still see a lot of teachers asking students to ‘raise their hands’ or ask open ended questions to the entire class.

Not wrong in and of itself, but not very CLIL.

The problem with this way of working is that you allow the ‘quick thinkers’ to respond.

Or even worse: no one responds at all.

I have seen both things happening during lessons I observed.

Which is a shame, because this can easily be remedied with a small change.

Key Take Away

CLIL is about making sure all students are engaged with the target language.

Motivation to perform

If students who prefer to work a little less notice the smart kids get the turn when they raise their hands, they obviously will be less motivated to do the same thing.

And I am sure you recognise that.

This is not only the case for ‘lazy’ students. There are also students who might simply find the content difficult.

Or have trouble keeping up with the language, which is something that is not strange in a CLIL lesson.

You can scaffold the language here, but if students do not get the time to actually think about it, they will not improve their language.

And isn’t  that actually what CLIL is about?

If we want to motivate all students to be engaged and produce language output, asking only the smart and motivated kids to quickly respond might not be the best approach in my opinion.

The obvious next question than is: what is?

Key Take Away

Not every student is equally motivated to answer questions ask to the class.

One small change to increase student thinking time (and increase language output)

Next time you want to ask the class a question, follow this step-by-step plan:

  1. 1
    Ask the question you want to ask
  2. 2
    Give students at least 20 seconds to think about the question and write down the answer on a piece of paper
  3. 3
    Randomly ask a couple of students to provide the answer

Notice that by providing student thinking time, all of the students have time to come up with answers.

This not only allows for more engagement (after all, you can easily notice it when students are not writing anything down)

It also increases language output, as all students are writing in the target language.

And by asking random students for the answers, engagement is increased again.

Simply because all students realise they might be the ones who have to answer, so they better have something on paper.

Key Take Away

By providing student thinking time, all students produce language output and all students are engaged with the task.

Considerations when implementing student thinking time

Does this mean you can never ask a question to the class?

Sure, you still can. But do make sure you vary your questions a bit.

Try to have various moments in your lesson all students have to do something.

What if I do not have pen and paper ready?

You can still ask students to think about the answer for a moment, before asking for the answer.

This activity (and many more) is also mentioned in the book “How I wish I’d Taught Maths” by Craig Barton. Not a CLIL book, but a great read nonetheless.

After all, we all like students who are motivated to learn, right?

What do you think? Does this sound like something you can implement in your lesson? Let me know your thoughts!

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