CLIL Glossary

This glossary contains important terms and their definitions from the CLIL Essentials course.

Browse the glossary using this index

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In Do Coyle's approach to CLIL, the 4Cs of content, communication, cognition and culture are seen as a useful guide to defining teaching aims and learning outcomes. Culture is also linked to citizenship and to community (Mehisto, Marsh and Frigols).


Activating prior knowledge

Activating prior knowledge means encouraging learners to produce language or ideas about a subject before it is taught, using knowledge learned previously.

  • Tell me six words connected with electricity.
  • Think of three sources of electricity.

Additional language

In CLIL, the learners' additional language refers to any language other than their native language. It is also called the target language.


In language teaching and learning, assessment is the process through which a judgement is made about how much a learner has learned in relation to the defined objectives of a course. It helps to show what they have achieved, or how well the learner is using language as judged against defined general criteria of language performance, i.e. their language proficiency.

There are many ways to arrive at this judgement, and language assessment may include components of self assessment, peer assessment, formal assessment through tests, informal assessment through teacher observation against criteria, and continuous assessment of classwork.



Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills (BICS) are language development for social intercourse.

In Jim Cummins' research with immigrant pupils in Canada, most learners were found to achieve BICS after two or three years of education in the majority language. Language events are context-embedded (those which are used in everyday conversation with visual contextual support). Tasks associated with BICS are usually comprehensible and less demanding. Cognitive processes are linked to BICS, for example, identifying specific information, naming, matching and sorting objects into sets.


In CLIL, a bilingual teaching context is where learners study curricular subjects in two languages: their native language and the additional language.

Binary keys

Binary keys are based on splitting information into two parts, using a progressive series of questions, each of which has only two possible answers, e.g. Is it a mammal?


Brainstorming is a technique to encourage learners to produce ideas quickly without critical examination or evaluation.


In pairs, you have two minutes to write down all the words you know about spiders.



Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is language development for academic learning.

Jim Cummins observed that it takes seven to eight years for L2 learners to attain a level of English suitable for academic school study. Language events are context reduced (little support) and cognitively demanding. Meaning is accessed primarily through the language, e.g. listening to lectures on abstract topics or writing essays, and learners require control over the use of grammar and vocabulary. Language is more abstract and less personal. Cognitive processes linked to CALP include identifying criteria, justifying opinions, forming hypotheses and interpreting evidence.

Can do statements

Can-do statements indicate to learners what they are expected to do by the end of a unit, module or course, e.g. can organise factual information, can describe a process.

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