“Dans ma trousse, j’ai…”SIoE conference offers inspiring models for learning in a foreign language

The inaugural Association for Language Learning /SIOE cross-curricular language learning conference took place this summer at the SIOE.  For the first time academics and practitioners from Anglophone countries and similar contexts across all phases converged to explore how content and language integrated learning pedagogy could be applied to different contexts and subjects.  The range of factions from which delegates came was also a first: EAL/TESOL/EAP/curriculum subjects/ and foreign languages. Perhaps we should not have been surprised at the number of delegates and eminent scholars from as far away as Australia and Japan who attended the conference… though we were, as were listeners of BBC Radio Sheffield.

Difficult to capture the buzz from the outset of the conference but this account from one captures a taste:

Delegate’s impressions

I have just spent 2 days at the 2017 Inaugural International Conference on ‘cross curricular language learning’. The SIOE in partnership with the Association for Language Learning (ALL FLAME) brought together an impressive array of internationally acclaimed researchers, writers and teachers in the field of language learning, many of whom are experts in CLIL : ‘Content and Language Integrated learning’, which aims to teach subject content via a foreign language (Hood & Tobbut, 2009). This temporary, international ‘community of practice’ was the catalyst for great opportunities to think about both our own classrooms and global classrooms.

 Highlights from the keynotes included a fascinating presentation on ‘pluriliteracies: creating motivating conditions for progression –at any stage, in any language’ by Professor Do Coyle which situated CLIL pedagogy firmly in the EAL arena.   On day 2 I loved Phillip’s message that integration of foreign languages was valuable wherever and however it occurred: a daily “Buenos días “ ,” ¿Que tal ?” and “adios” to your Year 3 class might not seem like much but these greetings and farewells are   all part of embedding the language;  a simple but powerful way of  using L2  for an authentic purpose . This purposeful and meaningful use of the foreign language contrasts with the decontextualised learning many of us have experienced. It is not uncommon for a pupil to encounter a foreign language through the narrow prism of their pencil case, pets or favourite colour (Bower, 2017).  What Phillip articulated so powerfully was that through the fusion of content and language we can open the door to a myriad of engaging, inspiring, meaningful and creative contexts and, in the process, give learners a much richer and cognitively challenging experience.

Key messages to share with trainee teachers and with colleagues in school: 

  • Primary or early years teachers who use CLIL can enhance learning so much when teaching a Foreign Language. Primary teachers are already well versed in the necessary subject knowledge and the practice by which to communicate it!   
  • It’s understandable that some practitioners may worry that that they don’t have the confidence or competence to teach in a foreign language. This isn’t total immersion! Have a go! You can use English where necessary- there is no compulsion to carry out all your classroom business and interactions in the foreign language. The key is that the children are interacting with authentic foreign language content resources.

Check out the keynotes and workshop highlights via the following link:  Conference PresentationsSome highlights were:

  • the water cycle in Year 6, the life cycle of the butterfly in KS1. (Eric Carle’s , ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar ‘ ( La Pequeňa Oruga Glotona ‘ was used to great effect ) Noelia Rivas and Sara Montero
  • rainforest animals and the ancient Egyptians KS2 Victoria Cooke
  • Using movement and dance to tell an intriguing story about pirates – in French! Elaine Minett and Laure Jackson
  • Access resources via: google sp; goofle fr

For all these  examples of joyful learning, CLIL was not presented as the  panacea for  foreign language methodology , and indeed the challenges  presented in the UK  by  gaps in teachers’ ‘ subject knowledge –be language or content-  and the imperative  for funding for appropriate  CPD was much discussed. Yet despite and possibly because of  these barriers, delegates departed with a renewed commitment to playing their part in promoting  a creative, cognitively challenging, intercultural, purposeful approach to foreign language learning. I’m look forward to the 2nd conference!

Impact from the conference

‘All teachers are language teachers’ (Coyle, 2017) … at Sheffield Hallam University we look forward to developing links across the curriculum, particularly in EAL/EAP and subject contexts as we explore how elements of CLIL pedagogy can be effectively employed across the curriculum.

  • We have a SIG for second language acquisition, a sub-group of the language and literacy research group. Contact Kim k.bower@shu.ac.uk
  • An internal group of academics was formed at the conference to further cross curricular language learning in Anglophone contexts beginning with a symposium at ECER 2018 and a book currently under review.
  • Interest in collaboration between the SIOE and ECU Perth was firmed up as a result of delegates from ECU University, Perth Australia attendance at the conference and a memorandum of agreement is now in place.

…so watch do join us, come along to CLIL 2019 (June 28/29 SIoE) – register your interest via: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/2019-international-conference-cross-curricular-language-learning-clil-registration-40868421549

and watch this space!


Bower, K. (2017) ‘Speaking French alive’: learner perspectives on their motivation in Content and Language Integrated Learning in England., Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching. doi:10.1080/17501229.2017.1314483

Carle E. (translated by Esther Rubio) (1991) La Pequeňa Orgua Glotona , Hamilton, London.

Coyle D., Hood P. & Marsh D. (2010) CLIL : Content and language Integrated Learning , Cambridge.

Sally Hinchliff, Senior Lecturer and Dr Kim Bower, National Teaching Fellow 2018