At Huili Schools, we aim to motivate our pupils to learn and communicate in Chinese and English with equal fluency. A Huili pupil will demonstrate an understanding of both cultures that is equal to, or even greater than, their peers in other schools. One way we guide them towards realising this ambition is through ‘content and language integrated learning’ (CLIL). This is an approach which allows for holistic language development where learners are empowered to share their ideas and thoughts creatively in an intellectually challenging environment.
There are four distinct areas which underpin the design of CLIL: content, communication, cognition and culture, all of which interact in unison to engage with the learning mind. In future postings, I will share examples and thoughts about how these different elements work in practice.
With any language learning, and no matter what the language, it is imperative to instil the need to want to learn another language. As individuals, our motivation to learn new languages is varied and is influenced by a range of factors. Some of these influences are extrinsic, such as getting good grades, securing a desirable career or winning an academic prize; other factors are intrinsic, such as sparking cognitive curiosity or wanting to engage with a specific language and its culture. Whatever the incentive is, the key is to find what motivates each individual by providing them with thought-provoking and engaging content.
CLIL methodology links language to the acquisition of the four key skills we use to communicate effectively, notably: listening and understanding, speaking, reading and writing. CLIL then combines these skills with knowledge of the linguistic conventions or grammar of the language to underpin the language learning process.
In our schools and Wellington Academy programme, we achieve this by providing a curriculum with content that enables the learner to explore a focused question in depth, where they can apply cognitive, social and linguistic skills and then to solve problems collaboratively with others. These are essential attributes for any global citizen. The learning themes in lower primary provide a platform where children can apply their cognitive and problem-solving skills through a second language. As pupils move through the school and subjects become more discrete, it is essential that a clear, planned and purposeful language acquisition strategy is in place to support the second language learning process.
Our lessons provide the pupils with the language that they need through visuals, actions and a rich sensory learning experiences where children are exposed to the tone and rhythm of the language. Pupils can then apply the language vocabulary and structures with confidence to explore the subject. Example questions might be: “Why do people communicate?” or “How do we celebrate?” and are open-ended enough to allow pupils to approach them with an open mind and think of a meaningful, creative response. In a CLIL learning environment, teachers use novelty and surprise to hook the learners’ interest; this may be through an exciting visual or multi-sensory object. Pupils are actively encouraged to take risks in a low-anxiety environment as they explore and share their thoughts and feelings through language.
CLIL is a research-based approach that helps pupils acquire the vocabulary, grammar and skills proficiency (including creative thinking, analysis and discussion) they need to engage fully with a new language. Our immersive curriculum is designed around CLIL to spark our pupils interest and imprint the desire to learn, celebrate and love language.
By following a cognitive process in learning a second language, our pupils also strengthen their first language acquisition, equipping them with the cultural competence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills and values required of today’s global citizens.