fruit-tree concept

– motivation in the EFL classroom

About the Fruit-Tree Concept

by Sue Vernon-Schad

The full version of the paper available under:

Keywords: CLIL, Art, Storytelling, low-achievers, motivation, multiliteracies, language portfolio, plurilingualism, teachers’ role, Hauptschule, differentiation, cross-disciplinary, multimedia, EU, graphic novels, visuals, organization, language awareness, transculturism, project, competencies, affective learning.


CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), also often called bilingual education, in various academic subjects (social sciences or Biology, for example) is presented as the educational “cure all”. However, if one looks a little closer, the results are not quite as impressive: those seen to be excelling are high-achievers from the onset – with or without innovative didactical approaches. If one looks at the academic state of the lower third of the population, it becomes clear that a change is absolutely necessary if we want all of the next generation to really be prepared for life in the 21st century.

This paper presents the development of an innovative Storytelling based Art-CLIL, called the Fruit-Tree, which would be suitable for the implementation in classes of secondary level low-achievers. This concept has a practical orientation and, despite the possibilities for formal language practice, concentrates on everyday communication and opportunities to keep students motivated. Art and foreign language lessons are combined to offer more language contact time in the timetable whilst offering a structure which allows a high level of student orientated autonomous learning as the student can choose a range of tasks guided by the teacher and a task tracking sheet, and progress is documented in a portfolio, which should become an official document. The teacher is unburdened of the central role and despite continuing being a manager and encourager, he or she should be a fellow wonderer and learner. I state that this model really does have an added-value, a characteristic argument claimed by elitist CLIL concepts which I refute. Based on the most current cross-disciplinary research, it has been established that the development of creativity is the key to the future. Within the Fruit-Tree concept, multiliteracies – not just the functional ones – can be developed. I trace the progress of my considerations by establishing the school context and the relevant theoretical structures, as well as examining the current research of CLIL pilot studies and experts’ views on this subject. Furthermore, I describe and critically evaluate some own projects based on Storytelling (graphic novels) carried out in several classes which would be suitable for such a concept. The Fruit-Tree concept addresses problems pinpointed in the examined literature and studies and offers solutions to these.

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