Drama and CLIL

A new challenge for the teaching approaches in bilingual education

by Susana Nicolás Román (Author) Juan José Torres Núñez (Author)
©2015 Monographs 170 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 194


Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) has transformed the educational scene and brought about a revolution of teaching methods and principles in the bilingual education environment. The major challenge in the implementation of a teacher education curriculum in CLIL is the integration of different teaching approaches to promote content and language mastery. What is certain is that there is no fixed model for CLIL and that for resources to be effective they have to be contextualized and motivating for both teachers and students. The four Cs (Content, Cognition, Communication and Culture) proposed by Coyle (1999) as framework for CLIL implementations find in drama a powerful meeting point to develop communicative skills and beyond. CLIL opens new possibilities for the implementation of drama in its multiple varieties: role-play, simulations, drama activities, educational drama and so on. This book proposes articles on the possibilities of drama as a challenging learning experience from primary to higher education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Drama and CLIL – and Language Learner Autonomy: A personal experience
  • Defining language learner autonomy
  • Developing language learner autonomy
  • Points of contact between Autonomous Language Learning (ALL) and Drama and CLIL
  • An example of autonomous language learning at beginners’ level
  • An example of ‘Make a play’: a personal experience
  • Comments on the product
  • Evaluation – the pivot of learner autonomy
  • Concluding remarks
  • References
  • Introduction
  • Drama and CLIL: The power of connection
  • Introduction
  • As English moves from foreign language to basic skill
  • The question of motivation as a crucial factor in the classroom
  • Motivation through connection
  • A definition of Drama
  • How Drama is used in the classroom
  • A definition of CLIL
  • How CLIL is used in the classroom
  • Conventions: The five dimensions of Drama
  • Conventions: The five dimensions of CLIL
  • Connecting Drama and CLIL
  • A comparison of thinking within the discipline of Drama and in CLIL
  • Educational Drama and thinking skills
  • Drama conventions suitable for CLIL classrooms
  • Some useful process Drama conventions (a selection)
  • Conclusions: the “new” paradigms of Drama and of CLIL
  • References
  • Playback Theatre: Embodying the CLIL methodology
  • Introduction
  • What is Playback Theatre?
  • Components and the process of Playback Theatre
  • A) The story
  • B) The ritual
  • The Context
  • Fields in which PT is practiced
  • In education
  • In social change
  • In companies
  • In psychotherapy, hospitals and mental health services
  • The harmony of Playback Theatre and CLIL methodology
  • Linguistic elements of PT and CLIL methodology
  • Models of PT in the CLIL classroom
  • Social Sciences:
  • Maths
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Theatre Acting in Second Language Teacher Education
  • Introduction
  • Teaching as a performing art
  • Acting methods in teacher education
  • Practical acting tasks for training courses
  • Task 1: Masks Off
  • Task 2: Light in the Blindness
  • Task 3: A Slow Motion Life
  • Task 4: Silence of Mirrors
  • Task 5: Work Your Fingers
  • Task 6: Happening
  • Task 7: Walking in the Dwarf Village
  • Task 8: Home Sweet Home
  • Task 9: Say What You Mean
  • Task 10: Talk to Your Other Self
  • Rehearsal 1: A writing task for teacher identity
  • Rehearsal 2: Observing Personal and Professional Selves
  • Rehearsal 3: Identifying Personal Sources and Motivations
  • Rehearsal 4: Identifying the Teacher Role
  • Rehearsal 5: Rehearsing the Teacher Identity
  • A Sample of Integrated Drama Lesson Plan
  • DRAMA ACTIVITY: After the murder of Mr. Whiskas Catmund
  • Story:
  • Procedure:
  • Steps:
  • Language & Skills involved:
  • MATERIALS (Role cards, Flash cards, some probes)
  • 1. National Anthem
  • 2. Oath in the Court
  • 3. Top-secret letters
  • 3.1 Letters for Jurors
  • 3.2
  • 3.3
  • 3.3
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Developing creativity through the Mantle of the Expert technique: A personal experience
  • Introduction
  • Theoretical basis
  • What is creativity?
  • Developing creativity
  • Drama in foreign language teaching
  • Teacher training
  • Dorothy Heathcote: The Mantle of the Expert approach.
  • Mantle of the Expert: definition
  • Role of the teacher
  • Guidelines
  • Practical experience
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Linking theatre to CLIL in Secondary Schools: Bilingual Plays
  • Introduction
  • Theatre and CLIL in the foreign language teaching
  • Towards a different type of theatre for the CLIL approach: bilingual plays
  • Classroom implementations
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Readers’ Theatre in the CLIL classroom
  • Introduction
  • Defining Readers’ Theatre
  • Benefits of using Readers’ Theatre
  • Readers Theatre and CLIL
  • Content
  • Communication
  • Cognition
  • Culture
  • Implementing Readers’ Theatre in the CLIL Classroom
  • Traditional model
  • CLIL teacher-guided model
  • CLIL student-centred model
  • Useful resources to get started with Reader’s Theatre
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • List of Tables and Figures
  • Notes on Contributors



Drama and CLIL – and Language Learner Autonomy: A personal experience

When I was asked to write an introduction to this book, I immediately accepted. Even though I am not a specialist, neither in CLIL, nor as a teacher of drama, I am a strong believer in making use of these two educational approaches when it comes to good language learning. The chapters included here definitely support this belief. They provide the reader with excellent examples of different ways of working with drama and CLIL. They show that among many other positive effects “the two approaches motivate students through engagement and connection, but they are also connected in their holistic nature, engaging the whole learner in the learning process” (Hillyard, in this volume). When looking at the examples, though, I find it striking that a third approach – namely language learner autonomy (LLA) – where learners are expected to “be in charge of their own learning” (Holec 1981: 3) is almost lacking. In most cases, the examples given and activities suggested are teacher-directed and lend themselves to a large extent to rather traditional language teaching and learning methods. As neither drama nor CLIL are committed to any methodological language learning approach, Dieter Wolff (Wolff 2011: 71) points to this possible tendency: “teachers often tend to fall back on rather traditional language learning methods arguing, for example, that content subjects cannot be learned without a terminology which needs to be acquired through learning lists of words”. A possible solution could be to embed CLIL as well as ← 9 | 10 → Drama in a learner-centered concept of effective language learning and teaching – autonomous language learning.1

In order to support this view, I will start out by defining learner autonomy as well as describe the cornerstones in the development of language learner autonomy. I shall then go on to mention points of contact between these cornerstones and the examples of drama and CLIL in the book – in order to make the suggestion of embedment feasible. The example of Making a play in an autonomy class consisting of beginners in a Danish comprehensive school hopefully underpins the suggestion. I will finish with a few concluding remarks.

Defining language learner autonomy

The term learner autonomy was first coined in 1979 by Henri Holec (Holec 1981: 3). Many definitions have since been given to the term, depending on the writer and the context. For this introduction I have chosen to use the so-called Bergen definition, which adds the social aspect of (language) learning to Holec’s definition:

Learner autonomy is characterized by a readiness to take charge of one’s own learning in the service of one’s needs and purposes. This entails a capacity and willingness to act independently and in co-operation with others, as a socially responsible person. An autonomous learner is an active participant in the social processes of learning, but also an active interpreter of new information in terms of what she/he already and uniquely knows (qtd. in Dam 1995: 1–2)2

The concept language learner autonomy stresses the view that the learner’s agency is – as far as possible – channelled through the target language in the autonomous language learning environment (cf. O’Rourke / Carson 2010). ← 10 | 11 →

Developing language learner autonomy

In the process of making learners willing to take charge of their own learning and capable of doing so (cf. the Bergen-definition above), it has turned out that the following key-issues – or cornerstones – in the organisation of the autonomy classroom are of utmost importance.3


Figure 1. Cornerstones in the autonomy classroom. ← 11 | 12 →

Points of contact between Autonomous Language Learning (ALL) and Drama and CLIL

Even though the examples of drama and CLIL in this book do not incorporate learner autonomy as a general concept, most of the cornerstones in the autonomy classroom:

  1. engaging the learners’ identity and thus their interest and motivation,
  2. authenticity when it comes to interaction and communication,
  3. building on “old knowledge” and thus activating their pragmatic competence,
  4. giving learners choice in order to make them reflect and in this way responsible for the choices made, and
  5. social learning,

are well represented. The few quotes below are intended to illustrate the points of contact between the three approaches. They are taken from the chapter by Susan Hillyard, The Question of Connection: Connecting Drama and CLIL as Motivating Forces in the Classroom and the chapter by Nailya Garipova, Linking theatre to CLIL in Secondary schools: Bilingual Context Plays, but they could easily be extracted from other chapters.

In her introduction Susan Hillyard points at the importance of bridging real life with the classroom and thus give the learners a chance to make use of old knowledge: “The word ‘connection’ in the title thus refers to the connection between the two disciplines [Drama and CLIL] and to the way in which both act as motivating forces for students in language classrooms by helping them to make the connections they need between their real lives and classroom life”. When it comes to identity and motivation she refers to Hadfield and Dornyei (2010): “If the person we would like to become speaks an L2, the ideal L2 self is a powerful motivator to learn the L2”.

Naylia Garipova, among others, sees working with theatre as a possibility “to create the working atmosphere needed to stimulate the pupils’ motivation and cooperation”. When working with the type of ← 12 | 13 → theatre in question, bilingual plays, she adheres to a number of principles – 12 in all – from which I will mention two dealing with choice: “All the students of the group can take part in the adaptation and elaboration of the plays. They will choose the parts voluntarily”. And: “The theme of the play should be interesting and amusing and must be chosen by the pupils” (Garipova, in this volume).

Under the heading ‘Classroom implementations’, Garipova writes: “After having adapted and staged different plays, my students of the fourth year of Compulsory Secondary Education talked to me and showed the desire to create their own play”. From here on, she describes her students’ creation of their own play – where the cornerstones of the autonomy classroom, apart from integrated evaluation, are at play. Therefore, why not start from the very beginning of learning English? This is an example of the difference between a teacher-directed teaching environment and a learner-directed and -centred learning-environment. In the autonomy classroom the learners do not have to ‘learn’ to make a play. Quite the opposite. In order to engage and activate the learners from the very first day of learning English, the knowledge that they bring to the classroom is made use of – in this connection their knowledge about stories, plays and plots in everyday life as in the example below.

An example of autonomous language learning at beginners’ level

Getting learners actively involved in their own learning i.e. developing learner autonomy in an educational context, is in many cases a long and difficult process for learners as well as educators. It is difficult for learners who have been used to being spoon-fed in previous teaching/learning situations, but it is especially difficult for teachers who are afraid of losing control of the learning process. For both parties it is a question of accepting that ‘small is beautiful’ – of taking small steps of ‘letting go’ and ‘taking hold’ (Page, 1992). ← 13 | 14 →

In order to cope with these difficulties, the teacher in her role as the one to stimulate and support learning must gradually introduce possible activities – one at a time. These activities have, on the one hand, to be within the curricular demands for the linguistic development of her learners. On the other hand, they have to give scope for the cornerstones in the autonomy classroom (cf. above). The learners on their part will be asked to try out these activities and evaluate them according to whether they like them or not and whether they find them useful for their individual needs. At beginners’ level these evaluations are initiated and guided by the teacher.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (April)
Mantle of the Expert Coyle four Cs CLIL
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 170 pp.

Biographical notes

Susana Nicolás Román (Author) Juan José Torres Núñez (Author)

Susana Nicolás Román is a Professor in the English Department at the University of Almeria (Spain). She holds a PhD in English contemporary theatre. She has published several articles on educational drama and two books about the female characters in Edward Bond’s plays. Juan José Torres Núñez teaches English and American literature at the University of Almería, Spain. He is the author of bilingual plays (English/Spanish), which grow out of his PhD on Theatre Arts and the Teaching of Second Languages. He is also the author of a novel and five poetry books. A selection of his poetry has been translated into Russian.


Title: Drama and CLIL
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