CLIL in Practice – An Example Activity

CLIL in Practice – An Example Activity

What is CLIL? 

2200500024_e93db99b61.jpgThe acronym CLIL stands for “Content and language integrated learning” and was coined by David Marsh to denote an approach to language teaching with a dual aim, namely learning a foreign langauge and simultaneously learning something new about a subject, new content.  

In their 2010 book, Coyle, Hood & Marsh present four components – the 4Cs  – of CLIL

Content (What are the learning outcomes regarding the subject content?).

Cognition (What higher-order thinking skills are included to encourage meaningful learning?). 

Communication (What language and skills will be learnt and what langauge and skill swill be practised?).

Culture (How can the activity promote awareness and tolerance in students, and an interest in looking beyond the ‘self’?) 

Here is an example lesson project that encompasses the 4Cs of CLIL:

Example CLIL Project: Mock general election


In this project, one class group is one constituency in the UK. If you have several class groups, each of them can represent one constituency. If students or teacher need a basic introduction to egovenment/parliament and elections in the UK, the PPT below can be used [3].

Students in the class / in each class are divided into~5x pairs or small groups , each of which represents one of the main British political parties (e.g. Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens). Each group nominates one candidate, whose name will appear on the ballot paper (the teacher should make these [1]).

In their party groups, students research the general philosophy of their party and use the party’s website and other promotional material to inform themselves about the main policy ideas of their party. This can be done as homework or in class, and can be supported by providing a webquest or worksheet where necessary – this can also be used to introduce and practise key election / political vocabulary. If this is done in class, with further research at home, the teacher could also provide basic information about the parties to help guide students [2].

Once they have a general idea about their party, students should create a slogan to accompany their election campaign. This can also be written or edited after the next stage.

Students are asked to choose 4-5 main policy areas which they deem most relevant to the target voters in their constituency, and to find examples or data which support their party’s policies in these areas. The teacher could also provide statistics, graphs, etc. as data which the students can analyse  to find the most pertinent points for supporting their party’s ideas. This can also be done as homework, and students can then divide up the policy areas to research.

Students watch an example party political broadcast – this should be from a party that is not being used in the mock election, so as to avoid unfair advantage! Students should be guided to notice useful phrses or features of the language (& persuasive techniques) used in the broadcast, and should take note of these. This is best done in class so the teacher can monitor the language noted. A worksheet could be provided with questions to guide students’ attention to specific points of the speech.

eu-parliament-strasbourg.jpgFocussing on the policy areas they have chosen and the supporting evidence they have analysed, and employing the language features they noted down from the party political broadcast, the party groups then create short speeches / party political broadcasts (max. 5 mins) to present and promote their policy ideas to the class group (=target voters). To ensure that all students speak, each one can present one policy idea. Students can also create one poster or PPT slide to advertise their party, main policies, and candidate.

Whilst listening to the parties’ speeches, the audience takes notes on the key policies and how well supported they are in the speech. They can be instructed to use these notes to make their decision about who to vote for.

ballot-1294935_960_720.pngOnce all of the speeches have been heard, the room can be re-arranged to make polling booths, where students will be able to cast their vote anonymously. The teacher hands out the ballot papers, and provides a ballot box for the students to cast their vote in.

Either the teacher, or 2 nominated students count the votes and present the results.


As an extension, students can be invited to discuss the electoral system and analyse the results – this could also be given as a homework writing task.


[3] PPT on government/parliament and elections in the UK: PPT UK Elections

[2] Basic information about political parties (adapted from YVote): Election-political-parties info

[1] Ballot papers (adapted from YVote): Election-ballot-papers_enlarged_with-text-fields

The 4Cs of CLIL in the example activity


  • Understanding the electoral system (first-past-the-post) of UK general elections
  • Understanding the general approaches and some main policy ideas of key political parties in the UK
  • Understanding the principles of British democracy, parliament and government



  • Analysing input texts for biased information
  • Analysing data regarding policy topics
  • Evaluating relevance of various policy topics to the class group (=target voters)
  • Synthesising information from various sources into speech



  • Election-specific language 
  • Argumentational language and techniques of persuasion 
  • Grammar for referring to future time
  • Public speaking skills
  • Functional / operational language to facilitate group work



  • Promoting tolerance of various political views
  • Comparison links to political parties in students’ home country/ies
  • Actively engaging students with the issues around them
  • Helping address the trend of voter disengagement amongst young people
  • Enabling students to become informed and questioning citizens

4 thoughts on “CLIL in Practice – An Example Activity

  1. Nice. But it raises lots of questions, not least the 4Cs issue. First I’d call it a ‘task’ (not an activity), and a teacher might need an indication of how long you would expect this to last. Language teachers usually spend 3 or 4 days on a chapter in a textbook – they’re not used to extending things beyond that, and have issues with the ‘shape’ of content. But this would be a good way for them to learn, granted. Another issue is that the title of the project needs to nail the objective more clearly. As you obviously think (by the look of this task), ELT can employ conceptual (and procedural) objectives and assess them – but the overall objective here is unclear. A teacher of politics, for example, would do this with narrower aims, of course, but they would be more identifiable. Your problem here is that by trying to marry the task to the 4Cs, you lose the focus – and that’s the problem with the 4Cs! It’s a conflation, not a guide.

    It’s easy to see the problem here (despite the potentially good project). What does the assessment consist of? How are the students assessed? It’s a crucial question, because imagine they put a month’s slog into this (I would certainly reserve about 12 classes for this, possibly more) – and then the only vague assessment tool is the vote itself! But the vote doesn’t really cover the criteria for WHY you would vote for one party or the other. So…’d have to go back to the 4Cs, but modify them considerably for the kids to understand. Actually, you probably wouldn’t bother doing that, and actually write out a list of criteria in order to help the kids vote. Or they themselves could do that (better). But that’s where the 4Cs fall down flat again, because you wouldn’t use them for the assessment (they’re too wide), and so… question is….why use them in the first place? For me, the criteria in ‘cognition’ are the best, but you’d still have to convert them into identifiable procedural/competence-based criteria that align with the sort of criteria you would normally find in this particular discipline. The language features are identifiable, yes, and here they’re correctly described as just a part of the package – but you’d still have to come out with tighter assessment criteria, to show how the CALP could be valued (by the constituents).

    Good stuff though. It’s potentially a really good project.


    1. Hi Phil,
      I must apologise for my really slows response! But I want to thank you for your comments.
      I guess different peope use ‘task’ and ‘activity’ differently, and this could maybe even be called a ‘project’. In my setting (in English lessons / Britisch culture classes at a university), I set up the activity by getting students into groups and doing the introductory things in about 20 mins at the end of one lesson one week. They then work at home on the party political broadcast, and the following week we have a 90 minute class where they finalise the ‘broadcast’ in groups, we hear all of them, and then we run the election.
      The aims are for my students to get to know the different political parties in the UK, and to practise using langauge in a persuasive but formal manner. They use some critical thinking skills along the way. In my classes, this work is not assessed formally, but I can give feedback on langauge accuracy and use. I used the four Cs here to show how this kind of activity can be fit into a CLIL framework, because I think a lot of teachers find CLIL a rather abstract concept and I jsut wanted to show how one small activity (/task/project) can already be ‘CLIL’, if you like.
      Hope that answers some of your questions! And thanks again fro dropping by my blog 🙂


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