CLIL – The Four Cs

I’ve recently started teaching a TKT CLIL course for local primary and secondary teachers. It’s my first time teaching on this course so I’m doing a lot of reading and research to keep one step ahead of the course participants. I thought it would be useful for me to write a blog post to get some basics clear in my head.

The first thing that I noticed is how many acronyms there are! As if there aren’t enough in TEFL, now we’re talking about LOTS and HOTS and BICS and CALP. It’s a lot to take in!

What we keep coming back to, though, are the four cornerstones of CLIL: the four Cs, so let’s look at those…

Content: CLIL is as much about the subject you’re teaching as it is the language. This is a change for me as I’ve always been a language teacher, so for the topic to suddenly be part of the aim, not just a vehicle for language, feels a bit odd. I like it though! The aim of the class can actually be for students to know more about humans’ ability to survive on Mars, not just using that to teach second conditional for example.

Communication: Students need to learn specific language to talk about subjects. They’re also encouraged to work together, promoting the use of authentic language together.

Cognition: Students are encouraged to think in lots of different ways, from easier tasks like dividing into categories, to more challenging tasks like evaluating and predicting.

Culture: This is my favourite part of CLIL – the opportunity for students to explore and learn about different countries, cultures and customs. It’s so important in a monolingual classroom where all students share more or less the same background. It’s particularly important in the place I’m teaching right now. There’s a huge amount of migration that the south of Italy is having to deal with at the moment. Soon there’ll be an influx of first-generation citizens into the school system. For this reason it’s so important that students are culturally aware of what’s happening around them.


As well as teaching the TKT course, I’m also teaching a CLIL course once-a-week in a local primary school. The kids are six years old and their English level is very low, so we’re pretty restricted in what we can achieve each week. But here’s what we did last week…

Our topic at the moment is geography. A simple classifying activity, followed by making a paper plate planet, then colouring, cutting and sticking animals either onto sea or land depending on where they live.

Next class we’ll be moving onto more cognitively challenging tasks – Italy’s place in the world related to other countries. I’ll try and get some pictures!



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