Webinar: Teaching subject and extracurricular classes to ESL students

Are you looking to go beyond the standard ESL curriculum by offering subject or extracurricular classes to your students?

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is growing in popularity within the ESL teaching community, with research suggesting it significantly boosts both language and subject learning. It is also an excellent way to engage intermediate to advanced level students in widening their English language skills, as well as being excellent preparation for those looking to study abroad in the future.

Abridge Academy offers a range of subject and extracurricular courses as part of our Ultimate Curriculum membership, covering everything from science to debating. We were delighted to be featured in the ESL talk podcast, discussing how to teach these subject lessons or extracurricular classes to your ESL students:

See below for a summary of some of the key points from this episode:

What kind of CLIL classes can you offer?

There are a broad range of classes you could offer beyond the standard ESL curriculum:

  • Subject-focused classes, e.g. science classes: teaching students a school subject in English.
  • Extracurricular classes, e.g. creative art activities, taught in English.
  • Advanced skills coaching, e.g. debating or public speaking.
  • Conversation and discussion clubs, e.g. a weekly news reading and discussion club or book reading club.

You could offer these as your main focus (e.g. promoting yourself specifically as a debating coach), or as bonus extension courses to supplement your students’ core ESL classes.

What are the advantages of CLIL?

These kinds of classes can be particularly popular with students for a variety of reasons, depending on your niche.

For lower-level students, extracurricular classes can be a fun way for them to practice English in a different context. This helps keep them motivated and engaged in English learning, as well as providing opportunities for more authentic language use.

Intermediate and advanced level students often have more specific goals in mind – for example, they may be planning to study abroad or work in an internationally-focused company in the near future. For them, subject-focused classes can develop their subject-specific English and ability to more confidently use English in an academic or professional context. Additionally, they can focus on advanced skills such as public speaking, which will greatly assist them in their future career.

For teachers, offering these types of classes can help you reach higher-value niches, thus increasing your earnings, as well as helping you stand out in a competitive market.

How can ESL teachers make lesson material more engaging?

Here are some useful strategies to better engage students in your online CLIL classes:

  • Use teaching materials specifically designed for online teaching, for example the Abridge Academy curriculum. Our lessons are super interactive, with drag-and-drop activities, games and quizzes – much better than screensharing a passive powerpoint!
  • Use games from websites such as WordWall to provide more fun practice, particularly for reviewing new vocabulary or labelling activities.
  • Choose a specialist virtual classroom platform such as Koala Go. This allows students to be fully immersed in an online learning world, with built-in tools to enhance learning (SUCH a game-changer compared to Zoom!).
  • Combine different formats, e.g. switching between your lesson slides, virtual whiteboard, video focus mode, game player mode, etc. This adds more variety into your lessons so students can maintain focus.

What are some effective strategies for integrating language and content instruction in subject classes for ESL students?

There are whole books and courses on this topic, so it’s difficult to summarise in just a short podcast episode! One key idea that has always stuck with me though is this quote from one of my teacher trainers: “every teacher is a language teacher” – back when I was doing my science PGCE. The idea is that all students, even native-speaking students, benefit from subject-specific language instruction.

Here are a few example CLIL lesson activities:

  • Labelling diagrams with keywords or completing cloze text activities to teach scientific vocabulary.
  • Introducing sentence scaffolds such as “As the <independent variable> increases, the <dependent variable> <change>” to describe trends in scientific experiments.
  • Using audio or video in listening comprehension activities when presenting new subject content.
  • Developing speaking skills with group discussion / debate sessions and presentation tasks.

It’s important to incorporate all language domains (reading, writing, speaking, listening, vocabulary, grammar) alongside subject teaching. I would also emphasise the benefit of teachers being dual-certified in both ESL and subject teaching, or collaborating with each other to share expertise.

How can you effectively assess students’ progress in CLIL classes?

One of the biggest challenges with these types of classes is that students may have wildly different English and subject levels – for example, they may have an excellent knowledge of history from school, but with only an A2 level of English they would struggle to communicate this. It is therefore important to plan assessments in a way which accommodates this.

Teachers should also take a holistic approach to assessment, not just one formal summative written test. Use oral exams, presentations, coursework, essays, reports, etc too, as this provides opportunities for students to demonstrate their skills across a broader range of contexts and formats.

Finally, bear in mind the importance of formative assessment (assessment for learning) throughout your classes. Informally assessing and adapting your teaching around your students’ needs ensures they are able to make maximum progress in your classes.

Want to start offering subject or extracurricular classes for your ESL students?

Sign up now for the Abridge Academy curriculum! In particular, the ultimate curriculum membership includes access to our niche expansion courses. This includes topics such as news reading and discussion, debating and science. You can try it out for free!

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