Classroom language in CLIL Creating connections, building bridges Learn a new language and get a new soul. Czech proverb
Classroom interaction fosters language learning
If you do use your students’ mother tongue more than English in your spontaneous, interpersonal communication with students remember that:
The concept ‘classroom language’ refers to any type of language in any situation in the classroom. It can be talk between the teacher and the learners or among the learners themselves. Teachers can control some part of this language, but what students learn in the end often depends on the spontaneous and unpredictable.
• using the mother tongue is easier in the short term, but the effort you make to use English will bring better results in the long run.
The most frequently used interpersonal language in the classroom is language used to give instructions (“Come here please!”); to praise and encourage (“Well done!”); to control the class (“Please be quiet!”) and so on. These are the most common examples, but classroom language can be much richer and it deserves special attention in CLIL classes.
hey, wake up, your head is in the clouds!
• for many learners the teacher is their only contact with English. • learners should perceive English as authentic, real and natural.
Remember! Don’t limit yourself to just a few old expressions. It might be a good way to develop routines at the beginning, but eventually you will become repetitive. Add variety. Surprise your students with new expressions!
Yes, sorry, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed today!
How to exploit classroom language effectively Have a look at these ideas about how to use classroom language effectively and help your students benefit to the maximum. ➜ Sound natural
Appropriate stress and intonation can be more effective in getting meaning across than the perfect pronunciation of individual sounds. When using new expressions speak clearly and not too quickly, but don’t forget to link words naturally. ➜ Add variety gradually
As learners become familiar with expressions in English, introduce a bit of variety, for example: • “Close the door, please!” • “Could you close the door, please?” • “Do you think you could close the door?” • “This noise is terrible! I think it’s high time we closed the door!” • “How can you stand this noise?! We can’t work with the door open!” ➜ Don’t worry about
perfect comprehension Try to get used to speaking English in the classroom even when you know your students will not be able to understand you completely. It’s amazing how much they will understand without you using their mother tongue. ➜ Use the Sandwiching Technique
In general, always try to avoid translating, but if you see that lack of comprehension provokes frustration, use ‘sandwiching’ to get your meaning across. Say the expression in English, say it in the students’ mother tongue, and then say it in English again: “Fold it in half … Dóblalo en dos … Fold it in half!” As soon as they get familiar with the expression, eliminate the mother tongue.
➜ Be consistent in your repetition
Don’t expect your learners to hear an expression once and remember it. We all need to hear something many times before it sticks in our memory. Always accompany the new expression with appropriate facial gestures and body language to make it more memorable. Get you students to repeat occasional expressions in chorus, as this builds up confidence. ➜ Don’t over-pressurise
After the students repeat the new expressions in chorus, you can ask for individual repetition, but don’t over-correct or over-pressurise learners into production before they are ready. This is a sure way to make students lose any confidence they have with the language. ➜ Accept ‘hybrid’ forms
at the beginning Accept students’ efforts to use English with a positive attitude, even if they use a hybrid, ‘Spanglish’ form at the beginning. ‘Spanglish’ structures are the evidence of progress and a normal characteristic of bilingual learning. However, don’t let your students get lazy. When you know that they do know how to say something, don’t let them off and accept it in Spanish. Don’t allow them to ask their classmate for a ‘lápiz’ when they know the word ‘pencil’ perfectly well.
Classroom language in CLIL
➜ Use wall displays
As learners get older, introduce some of the expressions they are already familiar with in written form. Make cardboard strips with the expressions clearly written on them , for example: “Can I go to the toilet, please?” Then stick them on the wall, and simply point to them when you or a pupil uses the expression. This will help them to associate the written form with the already-familiar spoken form, making the task of learning to read in English easier.
Classroom management tip Give the children English names in your CLIL classes! This new identity will help them to distance from possible negative previous learning experiences in the subject you are teaching them. Start your first CLIL class with a list of most common English first names. Once each student chooses their name tell them to write it on a piece of cardboard. Attach a length of string to each card, so that the children can wear them around their necks.
➜ Strategies to avoid teacher
translating • Young children enjoy ‘playing’ with language. Find a puppet or mascot who only understands and speaks English. • Another good strategy is to give individual students the right to translate. If you see that one student obviously has understood quickly, get him/her to explain it to the rest of the class in the mother tongue. In this way, you as the teacher avoid using the mother tongue.
Remember! Refining and enriching students’ language is one of the main challenges facing a CLIL teacher. Purposeful, easy to understand and easy to remember classroom expressions are a rich source of new language for learners. All that is needed is a little effort on our part to incorporate these expressions into teaching and to exploit them to the full.