Section 4: Language Scaffolding for Writing and Speaking

Examples of language support for writing and speaking

Writing and speaking share similar needs when used in a CLIL class:

  1. It is very difficult, even in L1, to write on a 'blank paper'. Similarly, it is also difficult to improvise a speech in L1.
  2. Headings, connectors, word banks and sentence starters are a good support for both writing and speaking.
  3. When the command of the foreign language is not very high, reproducing standardized phrases and sentences may be the best option for both writing and speaking.

These needs are the base for the following list of activities. These will provide you with different task types to implement language scaffolding for writing and speaking. As in the previous section, keep this list near you when you are preparing your CLIL unit. It is useful to combine different scaffolding exercises.

You can also access this document in PDF format: Scaffolding for writing and speaking - Task types

Scaffolding for writing and speaking - Task types

Below, you will find examples of each task type proposed from different content areas. Using these you will have useful and practical ideas on how to give support for writing or speaking.

1. Writing frames:
Writing frames are essential in CLIL. They provide learners with the structure for a piece of writing and help to organise a text or speech. Writing frames are very versatile: they can be used in different contexts and can be modified easily to be reused in different areas. They are also good to prepare a speech, and so are a good tool for oral work. You can find many different types or writing frames here: Reading quest
Maths: Maths problem with equations
Science: Lab Report; Scientific Method; Thesis-proof
Art: Commenting a work of Art
Social sciencies: Discursive writing
Music: Sounds
ICT: ICT project
Technology: Technology project
2. Words/phrases:
Word banks and phrase banks are very helpful to begin writing or saying different kinds of sentences. They provide a sense of language for learners, and do not take much time to prepare for teachers.
Art: Van Gogh's 'Wheatfield with Crows'
Maths: Maths project; Trigonometry investigation
Economy: Company structure; Jobs
Social sciences Climate
Connectors (general): Connectors; Openers and connectors
3. Substitution tables:
Substitution tables are the best option for learners with low level command of the foreign language. They provide full sentences with multiple combinations. Perfect for essays or speeches with a repetitive structure. Unfortunately, they take much time to prepare for teachers.
Science: Neutralization; Blood
Greek mythology: Judgement of Paris; Geography of Greece
Maths: Equations and identities; Domain and codomain
How to make a good substitution table?

The purpose of substitution tables in CLIL is to support learners linguistically, providing the necessary scaffolding and allowing learners to focus on the conceptual question at hand. Therefore, they are a perfect tool to support writing or speaking. However, they are one of the hardest scaffolding tasks to prepare for CLIL teachers. Here are some ideas to create them and an example for a science project on 'Melting' (from a paper by John Clegg: Language demands - John Clegg):

  1. What do I want the learners to say or write? It seems obvious, but most of the tables fail in this first step. Once the teacher has thought about the final product, it is easier to plan a good substitution table.
  2. Analysing language demands. For example, will for prediction, past simple for reporting, present simple for generalising.
  3. Building a repetitive structure with multiple combinations. Learners will have to select the most convenient items from a table to express their thoughts and build standardised sentences.

Example. Substitution tables for 'Melting'.

Melting 1 - J.Clegg Melting 2 - J.Clegg Melting 3 - J.Clegg Melting 4 - J.Clegg

Exercise 1

Make a substitution table from a text. Provide the final text you want your students to write or say. Write out the main ideas and put them, if possible, into a similar sentence form and make a table. Here you can try with the following text:

Text for substitution table

Scaffolding Oral Communication

Possibilities for oral expression in the classroom include much more than just individual speeches or group presentations. Oral communication activities (including assignments that are a small or a large percentage of the final course grade) could engage students on a different pedagogical stage than just writing and passive learning.

Six Types of Oral Communication Activities. There are six broad types of oral communication activities that might be incorporated into curricula in many fields of study. Some are realistically possible only in smaller classes, while others are appropriate for large lectures as well.

On their own, any of them can help students learn course materials or ways of thinking (speaking to learn). Incorporated more systematically into a broader curriculum, they can together help move students to become more proficient speakers.

  1. One-on-One Speaking (Student-Student or Student-Teacher): Can range from moments punctuating a lecture, where students are asked to discuss or explain some question or problem with the person next to them, to formal student conferences with their instructor.
  2. Small-Group or Team-Based Oral Work: Smaller-scale settings for discussion, deliberation, and problem solving. Appropriate for both large lectures and smaller classes and allows levels of participation not possible in larger groups.
  3. Full-Class Discussions (Teacher- or Student-Led): Typically less agonistic, argument-based, and competitive than debate and deliberation but still dialogic in character. It has the quality of creating an atmosphere of collective, out-loud thinking about some question, idea, problem, text, event, or artifact. Like deliberation and debate, a good way to encourage active learning.
  4. In-Class Debates and Deliberations: A structured consideration of some issue from two or more points of view. Debates typically involve participants who argue one side throughout, while deliberation allows for movement by individuals within the process. Both feature reason-giving argument. This can be applied to issues of many kinds, from disputed scientific facts to theories, policy questions, the meaning of a text, or the quality of an artistic production.
  5. Speeches and Presentations: Classically, the stand-up, podium style speech delivered by an individual from an outline or script. It also includes group presentations or impromptu speaking. It has a strong element of monologue, but dialogue can be built in with question and answer or discussion with the audience afterwards.
  6. Oral Examinations: These can take place in the teacher’s office, in small groups, or before a whole class. They range from one oral question on a written exam to an oral defense of a written answer/paper to an entirely oral quiz or examination. This is difficult with very large groups, but an excellent way to determine the depth and range of student knowledge and to stimulate high levels of preparation.

Examples of oral work.

  • Small-Group or Team-Based Oral Work. Mathematics: The Pythagorean theorem. With special thanks to Imma Romero. Mind the extensive use of language scaffolding.

  • Full-class discussion/deliberation. Business studies: Investment appraisal.

  • Speech. Chemistry: Acids and alkalis.

Exercise 2

  1. Are you familiar with the Six types of oral communication activities? Take a pen and write which ones you would like to add in your CLIL unit plan, approppriate to your school/classroom context.
  2. Open the file Oral Interaction Activities and choose some of them. Your final project must include oral interaction tasks. Try to find the ones which might develop your students oral skills better in relationship with the topic you are planning.

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