“Teacher, I don’t think we are going to improve our English level because we are not learning grammar, and I think that grammar is essential”. I often hear this comment in my classes, specially in the 2nd year of the Teacher Training Degree, and I have been thinking over this for a good while. Even if CLIL provision offers many advantages in comparison with monolingual content learning, there is still an open debate around the need of offering language focus session to students. Is teaching content through a second/foreign language enough to help students develop their communicative proficiency in it or should we be providing them with language focus moments?
In my opinion, language focus moments are those in which the teacher has to explain how a linguistic structure works so that students can use that language function to complete a task which mainly focused on content. For example, if I give my students a list of True/False sentences, language associated with ‘negotiating meaning’ and ‘expressing agreement and disagreement’ will appear. I can just let my students use the language they already know to do that OR I can show students a number of stem sentences or key phrases they can use to extend their linguistic repertoire. I don’t need to stop the lesson and say ‘Hey, let’s see some grammar’, but I will point out that these expressions are related to language functions needed to complete the task successfully. They can use ‘basic’ expression or be a little bit more daring and start using the ones I’m proposing.
I guess that many of my students have been learning English with grammar books, grammar activities, grammar teachers…, and probably their parents too. Their vision of language is reduced to ‘learning grammar’ and not to ‘acquiring a good communicative competence’. This ‘mental frameworks’ students have will hopefully change while they experiment CLIL lessons and develop a better communicative competence thanks to an integrated grammar. And if the loop input theory is not wrong, we will then be helping infant and primary children to enjoy more effective CLIL lessons in their schools.
What’s your opinion about language provision in CLIL? Which are your language-focus moments? Should content teachers be reponsible for this or just language specialists? Which are your students’ mental frameworks? I’d love to read your views on this. Thanks in advance.
Image taken from Wikipedia.