Developing collaboration within language subjects: Activities


Plurilingual teaching intervention

Read an example of a plurilingual teaching intervention  in a Finnish secondary school. In the intervention teachers of both Finnish and English tried to figure out ways in which to integrate these two subjects, and even to enhance their 13-year-old pupils’ awareness of their diverse language competencies.

Think about ways in which you could implement these ideas in the language of schooling classroom. Come up with other kinds of activities that would make use of all the language repertoires of the pupils. What do you think about the questions mentioned at the end of the report? Discuss with fellow students.

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Developing collaboration within other subjects: Activities


Academic language versus everyday language

Part 1. Compare texts

Read the texts below and consider how you could focus your students’ attention on the differences between the linguistic means adopted in each one:

The extended drought caused the crops to fail, resulting in a widespread famine and many deaths, especially among the children and the elderly.

There was no rain for a very long time. The farmers had planted crops like maize and wheat and corn, but because it didn’t rain, all the crops died. Because there were no crops there was nothing for the people to eat, and they became very hungry. Because they didn’t have enough to eat, many of them died, especially the children and old people.


The example is a quote from Gibbons 2009: 5-6.

How would you get your students to consider the following issues?

  • Why are there difficult concepts in different disciplines? What are they needed for?
  • What concepts are important to learn and which are worth understanding in the context but not needed to learn productively?
  • What is everyday language needed for?

Part 2. Develop a follow-up task to the exercise above

  • How would you strengthen students’ ability to apply and transfer skills learnt from reading one text to another?

Part 3. Observe language use in the classroom

Visit in pairs a classroom of a subject of your choice (not a language subject). Observe the language used by the teacher and the students. If possible, video the lesson(s).

Prepare for the observation by making a list of 3-5 questions about issues you would like to learn more about. For instance, you might focus on following issues:

  • How does the use of academic language and everyday language alternate in the classroom discourse?
  • How is academic language supported by everyday language?
  • What are the roles of spoken and written language in the classroom? What mode is used most frequently?
  • How are students engaged in substantive discussion?
  • What observations can you make of their language use?

Consider ways in which subject teachers and language of schooling teachers could collaborate to integrate two subjects and how this could help the students perform at school.

Make field notes and share your observations with the other pairs. If possible, try out some of your ideas for collaboration.

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Language use in science

Look at the physics text below. How would you use that text to encourage pupils’ versatile language skills in the language of schooling classroom?

Nature of light

Light is transverse, electromagnetic wave motion that can be detected with the human eye.


Light is produced by one of two methods:

  • Incandescence is the emission of light from "hot" matter (temperature T ≳ 800 Kelvins), 
  • Luminescence is the emission of light when excited electrons fall to lower energy levels


Like all electromagnetic waves, light can travel through vacuum. The speed of light in vacuum is represented by the letter c from the Latin celeritas — swiftness. The speed of light in vacuum is fixed at 299,792,458 m/s and this fundamental quantity is related, for instance, to the current definition of the meter. The speed of light in a medium is always slower than the speed of light in vacuum. The speed of light depends upon the medium through which it travels. The speed of anything with a mass is always less than the speed of light in vacuum.

Light and colours

The amplitude of a light wave is related to its intensity. Intensity is the absolute measure of a light wave's power density. Brightness is the relative intensity as perceived by a typical human eye.

The frequency of a light wave is related to its color. Monochromatic light is described by only one frequency. Laser light is effectively monochromatic. There are six colors each associated with a band of monochromatic light. In order of increasing frequency they are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Polychromatic light is described by many different frequencies. Nearly every light source is polychromatic. For example, white light is polychromatic.

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Use the text above to create tasks that guide students to:

  • identify the typical features of the given text type
  • employ the relevant reading strategies together with their background knowledge
  • identify the keywords and essential definitions
  • explore the topic in different languages to deepen their understanding
  • search for more information on the topic in other languages
  • compare texts (or parts of the texts) in different languages
  • discuss the topic and write derivative texts.

Share your ideas in the group and learn from the others. Consider jointly ways how you could strengthen students’ ability to transfer skills learnt in one subject to others. 

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Definitions as a genre

Texts related to natural sciences are filled with different types of definitions. In order to understand the texts and consequently produce their own texts, students have to be familiar with the textual and linguistic features of definitions.

Your colleague asks for your help to better cater for learners with limited skills in the language of schooling (see the text below). How can you help your colleague in supporting integrated language and content learning in such a way that the students learn to:

  • identify definitions in the text and to recognise the way the definitions are constructed (keywords and their explanations)
  • focus on the linguistic features of the definitions (typical verbs, idioms, etc.)
  • use their plurilingual resources to explore and compare the definitions in different languages
  • construct new definitions and use them in a textual context?

How would you collaborate with the physics teacher in order to strengthen the students’ language skills and their knowledge of physics?

Physical characteristics of sound

Sound is longitudinal, mechanical wave motion. Sound is produced by a vibrating object. Sound always propagates in a medium, which means that it cannot travel in vacuum. As a consequence, there is no sound in space.

Sound waves consist of areas of high and low pressure called compressions and rarefactions. A region of increased pressure on a sound wave is called a compression. A region of decreased pressure on a sound wave is called a rarefaction.

The frequency of a sound wave is called its pitch. High frequency sounds are said to be "high pitched" or just "high"; low frequency sounds are said to be "low pitched" or just "low".

Humans are generally capable of hearing sounds between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. Sounds with frequencies above the range of human hearing are called ultrasound. Sounds with frequencies below the range of human hearing are called infrasound. Typical sounds produced by human speech have frequencies on the order of 100 to 1000 Hz. The peak sensitivity of human hearing is at around 4000 Hz.

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