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Putting CLIL into Practice, Oxford Handbooks for Language Teachers

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 34 Number 3 Summer 2017

Phil Ball, Keith Kelly & John Clegg (Eds.)

Oxford University Press (2015)

ISBN: 978-0-19-442105-8

Implementation of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) in the European context has been successful in the past decade and has flourished also owing to recent boom in publications, one of which is the excellent, comprehensive, and exhaustive Putting CLIL into Practice which blends methodology, theory, and practise. It is a much-awaited publication which newly formulates the scope and aims of CLIL, appearing after a short silence since Do Coyle & Marsh’s (2010) first milestone CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning.

As the authors emphasize, CLIL is indeed a relatively broad term which has been adopted in secondary education to include not only standalone lessons where subject-specific content is taught alongside improving English proficiency, but to also indicate a more thorough practise which might result in reaching beyond single lessons by devising long-term schemes closer in their method to bilingual curriculum. In fact, authors (and founders of the CLIL approach) such as Do Coyle and Marsh, or more recently Dale and Tanner (2012), have formulated their concept of CLIL and offered a distinction between ‘soft’ (focus on language, usually a short programme) and ‘hard’ (taught by subject teachers, focusing primarily on subject knowledge) CLIL, the difference being also in the number of hours available for developing both subject and language skills. The authors of Putting CLIL into Practice assert that the publication is aimed at both groups of teachers and educators who make content part of their English language instruction. In their Introduction to the book, they define the method as: “…by no means a uniform set of practices; neither does it necessarily provide principles which apply in every circumstance: what works in one place may not work in another.” Importantly, however, Ball, Kelly and Clegg (2015) rightfully distinguish between CLIL and bilingual education as such, clarifying that this method involves also content-based lessons taught by language teachers and covering in places only a part of a curriculum.

The introductory chapters thus provide a concise and clear review of CLIL practices, and establish the unique nature of a possible programme, which results in practical guidelines in the last part of the book entitled Managing CLIL in Schools (Chapter 9) and Training Teachers for CLIL (Chapter 10). Defining Parameters (Chapter 2) brings features and characteristics of CLIL closer to the reader by grouping these fundamental principles into 10 simple steps from conceptual sequencing to the crucial three dimensions (conceptual aim, procedural decision, and language), supporting student output to supporting thinking skills, a pillar of the CLIL method.

The core of the book, Chapters three to six, then detail the above mentioned steps by looking at the relationship between content and language, foregrounding the principles of language in CLIL and devoting equal space to exploration of subject-specific and academic language development through practical examples preceded by theory formulated in short introductions. Scaffolding techniques are outlined in the two most fruitful chapters on Guiding Input and Supporting Output, guiding the reader through a variety of directed activities related to texts (DARTs), and examples of how to strengthen students’ productive skills alongside receptive skills.

The other group of material, represented by Designing Materials for CLIL (Chapter 7) and Assessment in CLIL (Chapter 8) closes the theoretical part and transitions into practical approach, offering a series of examples of scaffolding and drawing our attention to the set of competences necessary for assessment in CLIL lessons, with a handful of excellently designed rubrics and templates which can be easily adapted and applied to one’s context.

Indeed, the practical material in Putting CLIL into Practice is definitely a strength, together with visual material, charts and graphs which guide the reader through and stand as examples of successful practise. There are tasks at the end of each chapter, which make the publication interactive and allow the reader to review their newly-gained knowledge.

With its rich material, hands-on activities, and strong methodological framework, Putting CLIL into Practice is aimed at teachers, graduates on teacher training programmes, EAL coordinators, as well as curriculum designers. This is clearly another milestone in CLIL research.

Jana Pridalova


Dale, L. & Tanner, R. (Eds.) (2012). CLIL activities: A resource for subject and language teachers. Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Do Coyle, P.H. & Marsh, D. (Eds.) (2010). CLIL: Content and language integrated learning. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Further Reading

Deller, S. & Price, C. (Eds.) (2007). Teaching other subjects through English. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Mehisto, P. & Maria Jesus Frigols, M.J. (Eds.) (2008). Uncovering CLIL: Content and language integrated learning and multilingual education. London, UK: Macmillan Books for Teachers.