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CLIL as the Way to Catch Students’ Attention

5 months ago
by Zofia Aktonorowicz-Sobótka

Have you ever wondered what your “ideal” class would look like? Imagine entering the classroom with your students eager to listen and immediately perform all the tasks you had prepared for them. Imagine teaching students who understand everything you explain the first time through and politely sit still without murmuring or disturbing you. Imagine not having to throw in special lessons designed to entertain everyone because they do whatever you want them to without complaint. Your approach is teacher-centered, but no matter. It’s working.

On the other hand, think of the worst “nightmare” class. Students running around? No one listening? A lot of noise in the classroom? And poor you losing your temper? Now there is one thing, visible in one and not in the other, that these two situations might have in common. Do you know what it is? Even though their behavior is different, the students might be bored in both cases. After all, most of what they are doing is just listening. And even if you think that the first situation is better, I would not be so sure.

As teachers, we should give our students opportunities to learn and think critically. What is more, we should discover unique ways of inspiring our students to learn. How can we do so? Here comes the answer. It is a four-letter answer that totally changed how I teach: C L I L. Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is an approach that concentrates both on content and additional language simultaneously (Coyle, Hood, & Marsh, 2010).


As explained in the FluentU Blog:

CLIL is simply the teaching of subjects to students in a language that is not their own… Just as “integrated” suggests, a CLIL class hits two birds with one stone: the subject matter and the target language. But let’s be clear, CLIL is not a language class. It’s a subject class taught in a certain tongue. While students are learning about the subject matter, they’re also learning a new language alongside it.

It is a great way to get away from a focus on language. It is also a way to integrate real-life problems, teach critical thinking, and bring the world inside the school walls.

When you enter the classroom, you just have a few seconds to catch your students’ attention. No more, just a few seconds. Try starting a lesson asking your students what they think about the latest news. Or ask them to figure out how deforestation will change their lives. Start with something extraordinary that will start your lesson with a challenge. Using a little bit of CLIL – even if it is just to start your lesson and catch students’ attention – will change the way your students think. And that’s it – whether they are bored or not depends on how you begin.



Zofia Aktonorowicz-Sobótka is a graduate of Warsaw University, Faculty of Education and European Studies, who received Master’s degrees from the two faculties in July this year. She is the author of an E-portfolio website:, which combines work, curiosity, and development on the unique way of becoming a teacher, and is interested in CLIL, early immersion programs and Multiple Intelligences.



Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D. (2010). CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


The article was first published to the Bulletin of the  JALT Brain and Education SIG, Volume 5, Issue 1, ISSN 2434-1002, January 2019




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