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Meet the Authors of Oxford CLIL Literacy

We sat down with the authors of this new series for Primary to find out more about this methodology, and why it is so beneficial in the CLIL classroom.

  • First of all, what is literacy? Is there a Spanish equivalent of this concept?

Susan House (SH): It is difficult to find a simple Spanish translation for “literacy” because it involves a collection of skills: oral expression, analytical and critical reading skills, and creative writing skills.

Katharine Scott (KS): We usually describe literacy as the core piece that holds a structure in place. In this case, it brings together English Language and CLIL in the classroom.

  • How does Oxford CLIL Literacy aim to introduce this methodology in the classroom?

SH: Oxford CLIL Literacy is a series we have created to provide a complete series of books, available for each level of Primary. Each book contains a story and literacy activities aimed at developing the three essential skill sets (see table). When writing these stories, we always had the contents of the curriculum and the reading age of the students in mind.

KS: Each unit is divided into sequential sections that help the students to recognise the subject matter, gather more detail by reading a text and produce their own creative writing.

By starting with pre-reading literacy work, we aim to prepare the students for the main features of the story. They then carry out activities, which include expressing their own ideas, to achieve a deep and active comprehension. The closing activity focuses on creative writing. In order to provide additional support, a model text related to the story is used as a basis for the students’ own piece of writing.

  • What are the benefits of literacy?

SH: By developing students’ literacy skills, we aim to better prepare the students for the challenge of understanding and internalising concepts they will be learning in the other subject areas. With literacy, students learn how to tackle texts on three different levels: explicit meaning: this refers to the meaning of words and structures in the text; implicit meaning: we often call this reading between the lines; beyond the text: as the students read, they enrich the text with their existing knowledge of the socio-cultural context.

  • What kind of students would benefit from learning with this methodology?

SH: All students benefit from having a dedicated literacy programme! In fact, in many countries literacy is a school subject in its own right and has a dedicated hour a day. In schools following a bilingual programme we find that literacy is often the missing skill for connecting the content areas to the language development. Students sometimes struggle to deal with concepts in a second language, and this is usually because their literacy skills are poor.

KS: Oxford CLIL Literacy series has resources for six to twelve year-olds, since this is the initial stage of literacy development. What we particularly like about this series is that the illustrations for each level have been designed to fit the age of the student.

  • Which topics are covered in this project?

KS: The themes of all the stories are closely connected to the curricula for Natural Science and Social Sciences. Each story has been written as a stand-alone narrative designed to encourage the students to enjoy reading, whilst relating it to topics in the subject areas mentioned. The language is also benchmarked to the standards for each year. Our aim when creating these materials was to help to reinforce content covered in both CLIL and ELT classes.

  • How do you use Oxford CLIL Literacy in the classroom?

SH: Oxford CLIL Literacy has been designed to give teachers maximum flexibility of use. We know that most teachers use a standard textbook and this series is an addition to that as it offers reinforcement. Some teachers may prefer to set aside a certain number of lessons a month for literacy; others may prefer a block of lessons between different teaching units. What we wanted to achieve was a programme that adapts to the needs of the class and the constraints of the timetable.

  • How much class time does Oxford CLIL Literacy require?

KS: Each book provides a core of fourteen sessions of about twenty minutes. This can be extended by using the extension activities in the digital teacher’s book, and/or the interactive activities in the digital pack. The programme can also be reduced in terms of class time by setting some or all of the reading for homework.

  • Why is literacy so relevant in Spain?

SH: The learning of English within Spanish Primary schools is shifting up from standard ELT programmes to bilingual programmes, which require a deeper understanding of the language. The skill sets developed in a literacy programme help students acquire a deeper understanding of concepts they are learning in the subject areas taught in English.

  • Is this the beginning of an educational trend?

KS: Certainly! We believe this methodology is a “game changer”. As the trend in English Language Learning becomes more integrated into the general learning objectives, the students need different kinds of skills and, above all, they need the key skill – literacy. Keep your eyes open, because there is more Oxford CLIL Literacy to follow!

  • What did you most enjoy about the process of creating this project?

SH: Writing stories has always been a central part of our work. This time, however, we wrote stories with the specific aim of developing literacy skills. There were many challenges, as we did not want to compromise on the creative features of a story, but it was enormously rewarding to tell some of our favourite stories and to design activities for developing the students’ creativity.

KS: Normally, story work tends to be all in-put and very little out-put, but in the Oxford CLIL Literacy series we were able to put a lot of emphasis on teaching the students how to work creatively themselves, which was a new challenge for us and something we believe the students will enjoy doing.