How CLIL helps English language learners

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by Walter Henderson, Jr., Senior Supervising Editor of ELT

What is CLIL?

As outlined in this article from the British Council, CLIL [klɪl] is a tongue-twisting acronym that stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. It generally refers to a popular approach where students learn about a particular subject or topic in a foreign or second language. A CLIL lesson strongly resembles an ELT lesson in that there is an integration of skills.

The principles CLIL teachers incorporate in their lessons are:

  • clearly defined lexical forms, and structures
  • varied activities, materials, and other tools for learning
  • plenty of opportunities for listening and reading as well as oral and written production
  • frequent use of images, mind maps, photos and posters
  • effective pair and group work

CLIL is akin to CBI (Content-based Instruction) in that the focus is not on the English language, but on what is being taught through the language.

What are the components of an effective CLIL lesson?

  • The text isn’t long, but it’s interesting in its simplicity.
  • There are some difficult words, but photos and illustrations help in a way that translation into the mother tongue isn’t needed.
  • There are opportunities for listening, speaking, and reading.
  • Students can practice what they learned without referencing the text.
  • Extension activities can include role-playing, asking questions and giving responses based on the activity depicted in the lesson images.
  • Free production may include pair practice, short dialogues, language games, decision-making activities, and simple questionnaires.


Because of rich, meaningful context, students can learn English without explicit teaching. With CLIL, you stop being the English teacher for a while and become the subject teacher. Because the content is learned in context, students have an easier time retaining the lesson in their long-term memories and remember useful English vocabulary.

Contact us to learn how Westchester can help you to create engaging, effective CLIL lessons for English Language Learners of all ages.

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