CLIL: Exploiting an Interactive Text

In an earlier project, we looked at the relationship between content and language through a reading text on the subject of miniskirts:
This project was aimed at raising the awareness of subject teachers (in this case lecturers from the faculty of fashion and design) of the need to provide language support to students working in the medium of English. Amongst the tasks suggested in this project was the notion of an interactive text which could not only be exploited for language, but also used as away of increasing learner motivation and self-study.

Aspects of this project have been developed, including learner training in techniques of organising knowledge, analysing language and project work based on texts culled from the Web.

For learners, a simple procedure needs to be established. Following a familiar CLIL format:

  • Processing the text
  • Organisation of knowledge
  • Language identification
  • Tasks

Here is a text as an example:

Jeans are trousers traditionally made from denim, but may also be made from a variety of fabrics including cotton and corduroy. Originally work clothes, they became popular among teenagers starting in the 1950s. Historic brands include Levi’s and Wrangler. Today Jeans are a very popular form of casual dress around the world and come in many styles and colours.

The earliest known pre-cursor for jeans is the Indian export of a thick cotton cloth, in the 16th century, known as dungaree. Dyed in indigo, it was sold near the Dongarii Fort near Mumbai.

Jeans were first created in GenoaItaly for Genoese sailors. The first denim came from NîmesFrance.

During the 1960s the wearing of blue jeans became more acceptable and by the 1970s had become a general fashion in the United States, at least for informal wear. Notably, in the mid-1960s the denim and textiles industry was revolutionised by the introduction of pre-washing by Donald Freeland of Edmonton, Alberta. The popularity of jeans continued through the 1980s and 1990s, and the average North American now owns seven pairs.

Outside of the United States, particularly in Russian popular culture, blue jeans were and are fashionable, symbolising American culture and the good life were somewhat expensive. In Spain they are known “cowboys” and in Chinese, jeans are known literally, “cowboy pants” indicating their association with the American West.

By the 1990s, the brand was facing competition from other brands and cheaper products from overseas. Production facilities in Canada and the United States closed and supply of finished products came from places like ChinaHong Kong, and Vietnam.

(adapted from

Students are given the text, asked to identify key content and to ‘map’ the text diagrammatically in order to produce a framework for note taking:

Students are then asked to notice the language in the text, in this case divided into three categories, collocations, subject-specific vocabulary, and structures. The first paragraph is analysed here:

made from/made ofa variety ofpopular amongform ofknown asdyed infirst created in/by/asdenimcottoncorduroybrandcasual dressstyledungareesindigo
passives for describing a manufacturing processreduced relative clauses

Notes are made by expanding the ideational framework, and lexis is recorded in a thematically organised notebook: (see appendices 5 and 6 for examples).

Students, individually or in groups, are then asked to choose an aspect of the original text, search on the Internet, and produce a short interactive text of their own. The starting point for this is either a search-engine, or a link from the original passage which could be e-mailed to the class as an interactive text. An example of a student-generated text might be:

Levi’s® is a brand of riveted denim jeans manufactured by Levi Strauss & Co.

Contrary to an advertising campaign suggesting that Levi Strauss sold his first jeans to gold miners during the California Gold Rush manufacture of denim overalls only began in the 1870s. Levi Strauss went into partnership with Jacob Davis, who had the idea of using copper rivets to make the jeans stronger.

In 2000, the “Laundrette” advert for Levi’s 501s was named the 6th best television commercial of all time. The advert featured the song I Heard it Through the Grapevine by soul and Motown legend Marvin Gaye

Levi’s new RedWire DLX Jeans will have an iPod remote control and docking station fitted in its pockets, and comes complete with attached headphones. They will cost $200.

In early 2006, Levi Strauss & Co. was the high bidder in an eBay auction for an authentic pair of original Levi’s 501 blue jeans, paying around $100,000 for the item (Economist, 2006).

The opportunities for project work and self-study are limitless. The above passage might lead to further fashion related studies, or other topic-based work on American history, music or media technology. The passage might also be used for content and language analysis as in the original passage. This work could be directed or left entirely to the students according to their interests. What is clear is that the combination of stimulating content and technology can only foster both higher motivation levels and increased learning of both subject matter and language.

 first published 12 September 2006                                                                     

Related Posts