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C L I L In Primary School By Barbara Buchholz MA College of Initial Teacher Education, Eisenstadt, Austria, presented at CLIL workshop Vienna University, July 2005 This presentation looks at Primary curriculum (very briefly)

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c l i l



By Barbara Buchholz MA

College of Initial Teacher Education, Eisenstadt, Austria,

presented at CLIL workshop Vienna University, July 2005

this presentation looks at
This presentation looks at
  • Primary curriculum (very briefly)
  • CLIL in primary school (i.p. Basic Interpersonal Com-munication Skills - BICS)
  • Action research in general
  • An action research project on BICS – A case study at an Austrian primary school

© Profil

what does the curriculum say
What does theCurriculumsay?
  • English language acquisition should be expe-rienced within concrete and situative activities based on children‘s everyday life. (Aller Anfang5/98:12)
  • The English language should be applied inte-gratively within other school subjects (Sciences, Maths, Music, Physical Education) ...(ibid. page 15)
  • In these subjects English should be used as a means of instruction over certain periods of time in order to explain, describe or show simple facts ...(ibid. page 14)

A call for CLIL ...?

the curriculum frame
The Curriculumframe
  • English as a foreign language (EFL) is compulsory from year1
  • No additional lesson time provided for EFL in year 1 & 2;

one lesson per week in year 3 & 4

  • EFL is integrated in other school subjects (except German)
  • Main objectives focus on communicative FL skills
  • Didactic principles include monolingual and cross-curricular English Language Teaching (ELT)

A breeding ground for CLIL...?

integrating fl clil
Integrating FL = CLIL ?


“How is the FL to be integrated?“

The answer to this question is a matter of definition (and of teachers‘ views)

AA matter of time slots in general primary tuition:

There are five minutes left until the break, so let‘s do a little English...

BA matter of subject swapping:

In our music lesson we‘ll learn an English song today.

CA matter of teaching the obvious:

Let‘s talk about animals: fish swim, birds fly...

DA matter of content based language teaching:

Today you‘ll learn about the water cycle.


A, B, C or D?

“The discussion around that question is still ongoing and needs serious attention.“

what is relevant for primary clil
What is relevant for Primary CLIL?















Primary teachers‘ FL competence

Native speaker assistant‘s support

action research definition
Action Research - Definition

Action Research is a family of research methodologies which pursue action (thus is change - improvement) and research (thus is enhancing understanding) at the same time.

It uses a cyclic process alternating between strategic action and systematic reflection.

(Dick, 2000)

the action research spiral
The Action Research Spiral

Action research is perfectly suitable for case studies.

In most cases action research is pure qualitative research.

the action research cycle
The Action Research Cycle



& questions


analyses &






& data




in practice

Planning of

action steps

the research case
The Research Case


the research organisation participants
The Research OrganisationParticipants
  • 25 primary pupils aged 9 (third grade English emphasis class, i.e. 2 English lessons per week plus EFL integration from year1)
  • A teacher colleague as non-participating teacher observer
  • A pupil‘s mother as outside observer
  • A native speaker assistant as ‘language consultant‘ and outside observer
  • Myself as class teacher, inside observer and participating teacher-researcher
the research organisation setting time
The Research OrganisationSetting & Time
  • Original settings in primary school, classroom, school yard, gym
  • Normal English lessons respectively
  • Integrated English instruction sequences
  • School breaks
  • Research period: February to September 2002
the research methodology instruments techniques sources
The Research MethodologyInstruments, techniques & sources
  • Research diary & fieldnotes
  • Lessons observations
  • Peer observation
  • Audio tape recordings
  • Students‘ inventories
  • Students‘ interviews
  • Students‘ protocols (initiated after first spiral)
  • Classteacher‘s documents (lesson plans, records, protocols)
  • Relevant literature and curriculum
  • Triangulation & discussion (teachers and students)
problem identification
Problem Identification

“Long-term” problem: Students’ avoidance to speak English

Initial Problem:

Although receptive FL communication skills are sufficiently present, most students lack the productive component. Thus resulting in the fact that oral interactive communication as such cannot take place and Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills (BICS) are not existing.

Therefore, young FL students need special communication training, particularly in speaking.

Research questions

problem identification16
Problem Identification

Initial research questions

  • Why do students predominantly speak German during English lessons?
  • Why do students permanently switch codes, even though the classroom language is English?
  • What can be done to improve the classroom discourse situation?


the research process exploration reflection
The Research ProcessExploration & Reflection

First inquiry steps

  • Self – reflection
  • Literature
  • Documents

Teacher talk in lessons

‘Quick translations‘ vs ‘Explain in English‘

Amount/occasions of peer talk in class

Buckmaster vs Krashen

Peltzer-Karpf‘s studies on bilingual primary education

Studies by Johnstone, Gerngroß

Vygotsky‘s ‘Zone of Proximal Development‘ (ZPD)

Lesson plans: exact definition of language goals

Course books, teaching material etc (languages mix)

the research process exploration first inquiry steps
The Research ProcessExploration - First inquiry steps
  • Concentrate teacher‘s own perceptions:

When exactly do children switch codes?

Are emotions helpful or distractive?

Does hearing German have any negative impact?

  • Teacher observer‘s appraisal: ‘Differing‘ views
  • Exploratory teacher discussion: ‘Common‘ fact
  • Students‘ discussion: ‘Lack of chunks‘
  • Research Diary
  • Preliminary Inquiries

First conclusion

the research process first conclusion
The Research ProcessFirst conclusion

As the classteacher I had to accept, that there was a need to change my

own unstructured approach and more or less random use of L1 / L2.

Teacher and students had to avoid language mix without any exception.

In order to achieve this, appropriate action steps were to be developed.

They should meet students‘ needs.



Creating a monolingual FL classroom language

environment will provoke (predominant) monolingual

FL classroom discourse that is conducive to develop

basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) for

content and language integrated learning (CLIL).

End of first spiral

first spiral results
First spiral results

Research Issues

  • Language management
  • Language education
  • Language contents




Social interaction

Consequence measures


Communication tools

Output remedies

Subject-specific terms

Supplementary material

further spirals action strategies
Further spirals -Action Strategies
  • The EZ
  • Flag-Is-Up

Language Management

The ‘ English Zone‘ – an ‘as-if‘ monolingual model

Spatial division of language environment

No German at all – and for all!

Free access, voluntary stay

Inclusion of devices (PC, piano, reading corner, pet)

Expanded EZ

Regular ritual – action and shouts

Hoisted flag and classroom door

further spirals action strategies23
Further spirals -Action Strategies
  • Social interaction
  • Matchstick system
  • Red card

Language Education

Games, drama, cooperative tasks

Group monitors - group awards

‘Refugees‘ and ‘penalty‘

further spirals action strategies24
Further spirals -Action Strategies
  • Posters
  • Stickers
  • CTA

Language Contents

Speech models



Dialogue sets



Music or FL background

further spirals data collection
Further spirals –Data collection

Teacher‘s reflection (permanent)

Outsider observation

Teacher observation

Peer observation

Tape recordings

Students‘ discussion

Teacher observation

Peer monitoring

Students‘ protocols

Teacher observation

Outsider observation

Students‘ discussion

  • LanguageManagement
  • LanguageEducation
  • LanguageContent
further spirals results
Further spirals –RESULTS





  • Surprising success – very high motivation to speak
  • Average 85% of pupils used EZ even in the breaks
  • 75% more speaking activity (words & phrases)
  • Active use of passive vocabulary doubled (words)
  • High effort was made – no one wanted to leave the zone
  • NLP and role-play happened unconsciously
  • Speaking blockades were overcome – no ‘stuck-states‘
  • Voluntary brain wreck exposed students‘ idleness in former settings
  • 17 pupils built an ‘English Zone‘ even at home
  • Arguments about peer observation rules
  • Students‘ observation records were biased
  • Danger of temporary restriction of EZ‘s appeal
further spirals results27
Further spirals –RESULTS




Red card

  • Stronger impact of all interactions in the EZ
  • Less pressure – EZ could be left
  • More flexible implementation
  • Children ‘invented‘ English learning strategies (in L1)
  • 75% appreciated justification/rewarding system
  • Code-switching rate decreased from 25% to 2%
  • Students as organisers – raised self-esteem

- Applicable only in EZ

  • Very strong effect – only 4 cases in 2 weeks
  • Deterring rules (the penalty - ‘a housewife‘s job‘?)
  • Action step dropped
further spirals results28
Further spirals –RESULTS








  • Very high motivation through active participation
  • Children‘s genuine conversation phrases recorded
  • Creative hands-on learning with script and text
  • Contextualized language application done by students
  • All children involved autonomously at flexible levels
  • Boosting effect on English peer talk (15% - 65% average)
  • Wide scope for inspiration (choice of CTA topics - CLIL)
  • Decreasing embarrassment in speaking English
  • Concentration plus fun maintained – no one left out
  • Diversion, improvisation, pantomime – adventurous but serious language learning, self-directed and rewarding
  • Monolingual FL classroom discourse periodically realised!
  • CTA results not transferable to working situations
  • Posters/stickers and CTA need lots of space and time
the action research cycle29
The Action Research Cycle





& questions


analyses &






& data




in practice

Planning of

action steps

research evaluation
Research Evaluation

Inventories & interviews

Students‘ feedback on action steps

research evaluation31
Research Evaluation

Inventories & interviews

Students‘ feedback on the observers

research evaluation32
Research Evaluation

Inventories & interviews

Did you improve your English?

research evaluation33
Research Evaluation

Inventories & interviews

How do you like speaking English now?

discussion students comments
Discussion & students‘ comments
  • I didn‘t know how to speak English and what to say...
  • It‘s so cool to really speak English...
  • We want to keep the English zone in our classroom...
  • I‘ve always wanted to know what‘s „Halt den Mund!“ in English...
  • First they (group monitors) were unfair, but it worked out finally...
  • The CTA is my favourite game... In English only...
  • Now I‘m not afraid anymore of travelling to England.
  • It was great to see that I speak a lot better than my elder brother.
  • I helped my mother translating an English pop song.
teachers quotes
Teachers‘ quotes
  • I never thought that this is going to happen…
  • (Teacher observer)
  • It was amazing when children started speaking unconsciously…
  • (Native speaker assistant)
  • I could not believe what I saw in that class…
  • (Headteacher)
parents quotes
Parents‘ quotes
  • I‘ve also benefited from that project by adding a big deal of
  • everday English to my business vocab ... (Outside observer)
  • My children are building an “English zone“ at home... (Mother)
  • My younger son is challenging his elder brother –
  • he speaks much better English … (Father)
conclusion answering research question 1
ConclusionAnswering Research Question 1

Why do students predominantly speak German

among each others during English lessons?

  • Thoughtlessness
  • Pure idleness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of vocabulary
  • Lack of language structures
  • Embarrassment
  • Fear of being laughed at
conclusion answering research question 2
Conclusion Answering Research Question 2

Why do students permanently switch codes,

even though the classroom language is English?

  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • No vocabulary available
  • No language structures available
  • Teacher uses L1
  • Shyness
  • Inhibition & fear of being corrected too often
conclusion answering research question 3
ConclusionAnsweringResearch Question 3

What can be done to improve the classroom

discourse situation?

  • Set clear goals and reflect on achievements
  • Set spatial language environment zones
  • Make vocabulary available (stickers)
  • Make language phrases accessible (posters)
  • Use L2 only
  • Set flexible steps towards self-directed learning
  • Motivate for practice (topics beyond schoolbooks)
  • Provide tools for peer- and self-control
action research aims achieved
Action Research Aims Achieved


  • Overall FL competence improved
  • Receptive and productive FL use increased
  • Better quality lessons
  • Monolingual English classroom periodically present
  • BICS predominantly realised

Whenchildren find themselves in the company

of others who speak other languages, they will

make aneffort to understand and use the new

language. (Brumfit, 1991)

Exploit this benefit for your English lessons!

thank you for your attention

This action research project was carried out

during my MA study in Education

(Foreign Languages Pedagogy Focus )

at Norwich University, England

2001 – 2004

Barbara Buchholz