Why working individually is also CLIL

October 12, 2015


Facebook live recording on "Silence in a CLIL Lesson"

Lesson stage: Individual work

Lesson stages

Beginning of the lesson | Discussing homework | Instruct students | Individual work | Group work | Lesson Reflection

CLIL is all about creating language output and engaging students. That leaves no room for individual, silent work. Right?

I don’t agree

Why working individually is a good thing

First and foremost, I use the moments of individual work to “cool down” the students. With group work, game like tests and active participation during the instruction, the silence of the individual working stage of a lesson is a welcome change of pace.

Both for me and the students.

Students tune down and refocus on their tasks. Without the ‘distraction’ of having to help out their partners or pay attention during an instruction, they can work on their own and apply whatever they have learned at their own pace.

Not all students work at the same pace right? So this is the moment they process and apply, which might simply take a bit longer than you expect. Also, as each student has a different learning style, this part of your lesson will give enough time for students to work on these.

Secondly, students have to rely on their own strengths and weaknesses. This will, hopefully, help your students to develop the capacity to learn on their own.

Without assistance from their fellow group members

Without assistance from you

A problem? Not so much. Students have to start relying on their own strenghts when learning to learn on their own. This will help them develop learner autonomy. In other words: They become independent and individual learners. As educating is all providing students with the skills for self development, this is a no brainer.

“Active” vs “Active learning”

Mike Ollerton, a respected fellow Math teacher and teacher trainer, mentioned the following (and I quote)

My perspective is that ‘active learning’ is often misconstrued with regard to the meaning of the word: ‘active’. I believe it is important for students to engage in forethought and afterthought (reflection) and both of these can be used for silent thinking time.

I could not agree more.

Active learning does not imply jumping around the room or constant debates and discussions.

Active learning is about being engaged with the content. Being motivated to work.

Silent thinking time (or student thinking time as it is also referred to) is a great way to facilitate a moment of reflection without distraction, allowing students to think about what they have just learned.

But I have a question..?

This is the first thing a student will say if I tell him or her to stop talking. Generally speaking of course (I don’t know if your students do the same thing)

Luckily, this response can be easily tackled with a set of instruction that identify the steps to take when “you don’t understand something”.

Step 1: Read the instruction in your book

Step 2: Look at examples in the book and compare them to your own question

Step 3: Look at your previous assignments and find similarities

Step 4: If none of the above help, ask the teacher

These steps can be changed according to your audience of course. You might add “look at the answer book”  for example.

If these steps are identified, clearly presented and students know you will only help them when they have covered these steps, almost all of them will be able to work on their own a lot better.

Almost. There’s always a lazy student who simply wants help, or worse, the answer.

Make sure you don’t give in to these questions to soon. Supporting lazy behavior is counterproductive when working during the silent part of your lesson.

Or even in education in general for that matter.


Should individual work be a part of every lesson? Not necessarily, although it would be a nice goal.

The moment of reflection as well as the opportunity for self paced working and learning styles are, in my opinion, strong arguments to try to establish this important lesson stage.

Not to mention the relaxing impact it can have on both you and your class.

With all of this focus on silence and self reflection, you might think group work is a bad thing. I assure you, it’s not! I will talk about that part of your lesson another article, so be sure to stay updated!

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