The CLIL Resource Pack

by Margaret Grieveson, DELTA Publishing - Reviewed by Siobhan Chapman, IH Prague

CLIL, or Content and Language Integrated Learning, is the term used to describe an approach to language teaching whereby English (or another foreign language) is used to teach another curriculum subject. With CLIL, as the introduction to this book says, “language is used to learn as well as to communicate and it is the subject matter which determines what language needs to be learnt”. For me, it is an approach which offers an interesting alternative to traditional communicative EFL teaching and is something I am currently experimenting with my own students.

The CLIL Resource Pack by Margaret Grieveson and Wendy Superfine offers a range of CLIL activities based on 10 topics suitable for primary and lower secondary students and has an accompanying CD of IWB and audio material. It opens with a very brief four page introduction before moving straight onto activities and lesson plans. Each of the topics in the book is presented at three different levels – the first level is suitable for students of 8-10 years, the second for students of 10-12, and the third for students of 12 and upwards. There are two lessons for each level, each intended to provide 40-50 minutes of material.

The book itself is very easy to use – each lesson comes with full teachers’ notes, including warm up activities, a range of follow ups, links to useful websites and suggestions for further cross curricular links. One of its great strengths is the breadth of material provided – every lesson has both an IWB activity and a photocopiable activity page, and many have audio tracks – and, as such, it could be a great timesaver for a busy teacher.

However, this book is not without its limitations. Whilst the majority of the lessons I have used so far have been engaging and motivating for my students, options are limited. With two lessons per level per topic, this gives the teacher a maximum of 20 possible lessons for a class, not all of which are equally interesting. Many resource books also suggest activities which are easily adaptable for a range of different topics, levels and ages but I have not found this to be the case here. It is easy to expand on the suggested topics, but the actual materials provided are very much single use – having taught ‘Animals in danger’ once, I am fairly sure that my students would just groan if I brought it out again.

For my particular circumstances, one of the book’s apparent strengths has actually been its greatest weakness. As mentioned, there is a wealth of IWB material, much of which is central to the lesson, as well as recommended videos, websites and online activities. Unfortunately, I am teaching in state school premises which have no IWBs, no access to computers and no Internet connection. Thus, while I have enjoyed playing with the IWB activities in front of my laptop in the comfort of my living room, my students have no idea they even exist – instead, I have had to try to adapt them to be as low technology as possible. I don’t think I am alone here – many EFL teachers, and indeed many state school teachers internationally have far from ideal access to technology and, in these cases, this book becomes significantly less useful and time-saving.

My final contention with this book is its choice of topics. All but one of the 10 are wholly science based (eg. Living Things, Life Cycles, Physical Processes and Light and Sound), while Unit 9, Environmental and Global Issues combines science with a look at communication and community. This is no problem if you are specifically looking for a book on teaching science through English, but as this book makes no mention of that and describes itself simply as  a ‘CLIL’ resource pack, I was expecting more range. Admittedly, cross curricular links to other subjects (including Literacy, Music, Geography and Art and Design) are suggested, but I would have preferred a greater breadth of topics across the curriculum to begin with – for example, OUP’s Cross-Curricular Resources for Young Learners offers full units on subjects such as History.

In conclusion, while this book offers some well-planned lessons based around age appropriate engaging topics, in my opinion it might be better suited to a teacher looking for science based materials to supplement a syllabus rather than to me, an EFL teacher looking to use CLIL materials across a range of curriculum subjects.