I am sure everyone has heard of bilingual lessons, usually in Biology, History or similar subjects and indeed these lessons are often used as a selling point when promoting a school. But is the argument of using these lessons really valid? I have no idea why any teenager would need Biology/Geography jargon in everyday life (At the bus-stop: “Oh, I think we can expect some heavy precipitation later on”) and wouldn’t it be important to learn the perspective of your home country before you start looking at things from a different point of view (one of the arguments for History in English)? And what about those students who aren’t so good at English? They are robbed of the opportunity to learn the content of the said subjects. This is not just one of my ideas but observations of a teacher who carried out such lessons (see Chapter 4.5 http://independent.academia.edu/SueVernonSchad/Papers/1980113/Fruit-Tree_Concept_Storytelling_as_the_core_element_in_Art-CLIL_classes_especially_with_low_achievers_ “A CLIL Worst Case Scenario).
Art lessons have the added advantage of not competing with the subject content for grades. A student can be creative (or not) independent of linguistic ability. I see the further advantages being that there is a certain amount of action and authentic everyday speech (giving tips, requesting, explaining). This is good for the weaker students who would have more language contact timewise without the pressure of possibly missing content information due to incomprehension.
However, at this point, I realised that if we were to have an increased exposure to the language, we would need adequate language input, which painting or drawing alone would not offer, so that some students would not be able to escape tuition completely – especially the quiet ones. After being introduced to digital stories, I realised that this is one great approach to combining visuals with language (both spoken and written) with a further advantage of allowing students to practise their IT skills which are often not as well-developed as many adults think (just last week I showed a year 8 student how to insert a photo into a word-document and others how to send an attachment in an email which are fairly basic tasks).
This gave me the idea for the practice but it still didn’t deliver the language input: I then visited a Storytelling seminar which promoted the skill of oral storytelling and then I was hooked and my concept which has been developing for years started to take on a more concrete form.
I have found some good sites and shall include them here and some time, but the first I found, I think I was contacted via Facebook was cockroachesandladybugs.blogspot.de which also promotes Art-CLIL (but without the Storytelling) and has some good ideas and a nice collection of links, including one for the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. Art can be as personal or transcultural as you want to make it – and for the more advanced students, the teacher can include academic content.
Taking a story (language input), related themes can be developed visually and/or through language. A student could re-write the story from another perspective, illustrate it, make a digital story of it or do a factual project (research and presentation) on a theme presented in the story. For example, if we took Little Red Riding Hood, a student could present the work of a forester or do a project about wolves, but others could make puppets and write a short play based on the story – the possibilites are endless. The main objective is to engage each student in the language and have a “product” at the end of a period of time. A strong student will automatically be more ambitious in the use of the language and may manage more projects in the same space of time than a weaker student – this is true individual learning.