Newcastle.. why Valencian CLIL teachers loved it!

Hundreds of Valencian school teachers arrived in Newcastle upon Tyne sponsored by the Spanish government to learn more about our Content and Language Integrated Learning Courses (CLIL). Read this blog post from the view point of one of our teachers, Helen Barrett.

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By Helen Barrett - Teacher - uploaded 25/11/2019

This summer our beautiful city was visited by over a hundred teachers from Valencia, Spain. They came to explore the city, enjoy the famous local nightlife, improve their English, and of course, to learn more about CLIL: Content and Language Integrated Learning.

With this is mind, 50% of classroom time was dedicated to General English, and the other 50% to CLIL training. Some of our course participants were already using this methodology in schools in Spain, and others had previously trained in CLIL. Many, however, were new to it! Our courses aimed to provide an in depth look at CLIL for all of them, with plenty of time for discussion of the relevant concepts and ideas for activities, lessons and course design.

Through group work and debate we were able to take advantage of participants’ broad range of experience across CLIL, subject teaching, and both teaching and learning of English. We discussed the advantages of CLIL, challenges faced by teachers, and practical application techniques. As a tutor it was exciting to meet other teachers from a range of backgrounds, share classroom anecdotes and learn about different school systems.

At the end of the CLIL component of the course, participants sat the TKT: CLIL exam, gaining an internationally recognised qualification which is awarded by Cambridge. Every day during the course we went through a sample section of the exam, giving participants a chance to check their understanding and see how the exam works, and at right before the, we went through a mock exam. So, on test days candidates seemed relaxed, and already looking forward to their celebrations!

Our participants spent the rest of their ‘class’ time studying General English with other learners from around the world. They had the chance then to focus more on grammar, vocabulary and skills, and, because it was summer, go on educational excursions in and near Newcastle. I enjoyed having some of the Valencian teachers in my own General English classes, getting to know them better as individuals and showing them some of my own favourite places such as The Great North Museum and The Free Trade Inn, which has a glorious view over the river Tyne, and whose location was gradually revealed by a series of clues.

Our visitors also had plenty of opportunities to enjoy Newcastle and the local area - I remember particularly popular activities on the school’s social programme being a free salsa class and a boat party on the river Tyne. I know we tutors enjoyed recommending our favourite pubs and restaurants to our classes, as well as comedy nights and more.

Personally, my favourite part element of the courses was the opportunity for cultural exchange. Some difference were obvious: with Valencia hitting temperatures of around 40˚ in July and August, our course participants were also relieved to find Newcastle a lot cooler, and greatly amused by their British tutors struggling at the height of our own summer! During the course, I was preparing for my wedding, and I learned a lot about Spanish weddings, as well as gaining advice for my own big day! The highlight, though, was a party organised by some of our groups to celebrate their last day with us. Our participants provided a feast comprised of at least three types of Spanish omelette, plenty of delicious tapas, and dishes I’d never tried before such as tomato and scrambled eggs. We chatted and listened to music, and even tried some traditional Valencian dancing. Sadly my phone broke shortly afterwards and I lost my photos, but I’ll always have the memories!