At Huili we aim to instil in young people the motivation and desire to learn and communicate in Chinese and English with equal fluency. A Huli pupil will demonstrate a cultural capacity and cognition which exceeds that of their peers across the world. One way that this bold ambition can be achieved is through planned and purposeful immersive language pedagogy, 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 a low-anxiety yet intellectually challenging environment.
There are four distinct areas which underpin the design of CLIL; these are 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 of these in practice.
First and foremost, with any language learning, and no matter what the language, it is imperative to instil in the learner the need to want to learn another language. As individuals, our motivation to learn a language is varied and is influenced by a range of factors. Some of these influences are extrinsic, such as getting good grades, securing a good career or winning an academic prize; other factors are intrinsic, such as sparking cognitive curiosity or arousing an intellectual interest and fostering the desire to engage with a specific language and its culture. Whatever the incentive is, the key is to find what motivates an individual by providing thought-provoking and engaging content.
CLIL methodology links language to a specific domain of learning, or content, to the acquisition of the four language skills we use to communicate effectively, notably: listening and understanding, speaking, reading, writing. CLIL then combines these skills with an embedded knowledge of the linguistic conventions, or grammar of the language to underpin the language learning process, thus enabling the language learner to understand the purpose, process and inherent benefits of 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, all of which are essential attributes required for success as a 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, modelled and scaffolded by the teacher. Pupils can then apply the language vocabulary and structures with confidence to explore the subject engagingly. Example questions might be “Why do people communicate?” or “How do we celebrate?” and are open-ended allowing pupils to think and engage with them openly and provide a choice on how they may respond to them.
In a CLIL learning environment, teachers use novelty and surprise to hook the learners’ interest; this may be through an exciting visual, multi-sensory object or artefact. Pupils are actively encouraged to take risks in a low-anxiety environment as they explore and share their thoughts and feelings in the language. All these approaches are brain-friendly and promote higher order thinking. David Marsh, a leading language expert who coordinated the team that launched the concept of CLIL, states that higher order thinking can kick in very quickly from a relatively low linguistic exposure to learning.
CLIL is a research-based approach which creates the intrinsic need to acquire the vocabulary, grammar and skills proficiency including creative thinking, analysis and discussion that allow learners to use the additional language in context and depth. Our immersive curriculum is designed around CLIL to light a spark and imprint the desire in our pupils to learn, celebrate and love language.
Our pupils develop a ‘metalinguistic ‘ understanding and can reflect on and discuss the language learning process through a learning narrative. This awareness of the cognitive process in learning a second language has a strengthening impact on first language acquisition; it equips learners with the cultural competence, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills and values requisite of 21st Century global citizens.