CLIL – Social sciences in English

Lisbeth M. Brevik, subject and language teacher
Kastellet skole, Oslo, Norway
15.05 minutes


CLIL (Content & Language Integrated Learning) is an approach where the content in a subject is done in a second language. The aim is that the pupils will improve their skills in both the subject and in the second language used.

The pupils we meet in this film usually have social sciences lessons in English. The topic for this specific lesson – Human Rights – is covered both in the curriculum for social sciences and in the subject English. This opens for a cross-curricular approach. When the pupils work they mainly use English, both in written work, discussions and in the final presentation.

The lesson is organized as a group work around the title: Human rights in the USA and South Africa. The groups can choose between three different tasks:

  1. To present major events in the Civil Rights Movement in USA or in the fight against apartheid in South Africa
  2. To compare two well-known Civil Rights activists in USA and South-Africa
  3. To compare the Civil Rights Movement in USA with the Civili Rights Movement in South Africa

The pupils and the teacher start the lessong creating a word bank with relevant and useful words and expressions for the topic Human Rights. It’s important that the pupils build a vocabulary before the groups start working with the task, making them feel comfortable both in the subject and in the use of the second language.

In the groupwork the pupils use reading strategies techniques, like timeline and VENN-diagram to organize and get an overview of the content. At the end of the lesson each group presents its work.

At Kastellet skole a model for differentiation was chosen, which gives the pupils the opportunity to decide how much and when they are using the CLIL-language. In the Social sciences lesson the teacher gives instructions and supervises in English, but the pupils have a say whether to use source material either in English or Norwegian or both: this permits all pupils to get the learning outcomes they should.

The discussions and conversations between the pupils during the group work happen in both English and Norwegian. The groups decide themselves if they should do the presentation in English or not: in fact leading a discussion on this subject level or giving a presentation in English can be both challenging and motivating.

Through the use of English source material and the classroom language, pupils’ skills in reading, understanding and speaking English increases. In this way the pupils are stimulated to try to express themselves both orally and written about complex subject issues in a second language.


Questions to discuss

  1. What are the learning benefits of using the CLIL approach?
  2. What subject related and didactical challenges might CLIL teaching represent?
  3. If you should do a similar CLIL-lesson what would you do different?
  4. What would you do as a teacher to create a safe environment both linguistically and in the subject for classes starting using CLIL?
  5. How would you like to try out CLIL at your school?


The Norwegian Centre for Foreign languages in Education’s links about CLIL:

List of schools trying out CLIL in Norway 2009-2011 (In Norwegian)