Keith’s Blog

How to Keep High Content Rigor in CLIL

Content and Language Integrated Instruction (CLIL) provides a challenge for teachers–students may be ready for certain content cognitively but not linguistically in English.

One way this is often approached is to lower the standards for content and language.

But is this really necessary? Perhaps not.

Tan Huynh offers a three step approach to addressing this challenge:

  1. Identify the thinking required (Content)
  2. Identify what ELs can do (Language)
  3. Create can-do opportunities (Content and Language Integrated)

“Instead of having ELs do a different task with a simpler content objective, give ELs a task that helps them do the thinking that the task requires.”

Read more about this process with an example here:


GraphoGame: Kids Learn to Read

I was reading about research in neuroscience and literacy and how the emphasis on visual aspects of literacy development may not be the whole story.

Newer research suggests that sound also plays a part and that deficiency in the ability to process sounds may cause issues in literacy development.

This research inspired the development of  GraphoGame.

According to the website, “GraphoGame is an evidence-based educational decoding and phonics game for learning and training phonemic awareness, decoding and fluency. All content is researched by academics in the fields of early childhood development, neurolinguistics and neuropsychology”

It’s not free, but it seems interesting. May be worth exploring, particularly if you have young learners who are struggling.

Learn more at their website:

A Glocalized EMI Framework

During my time teaching in Taiwan, almost all of the curriculum materials I used came from either England or the United States.

While the materials were certainly very high quality, there was a certain disconnect between the experiences of my students and the materials’ content.

With this in mind, I would like to propose a different approach to English Medium Instruction (EMI)*–a Glocalized EMI Framework.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

APA CITATION: Graham, K. M. (2018). A glocalized EMI framework. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Retrieved from

*I use the term "EMI" as an all-encompassing term for any content-based language program in countries where English is not the local language.

Framework Explained

Let’s start with what “glocal” means. It’s simply the combining of global and local.

In my framework, you will notice the local takes up the majority of the space. This is because I believe education should be drive by local needs, not the needs of some far away place that makes textbooks.

However, global surrounds the figure because in today’s world, you cannot ignore the needs of a global community.

Both global and local matter.

As for the three dimensions of professional development, curriculum, and instruction, all three inform each other.

The way I imagine it beginning is that during professional development, teachers will discuss what the needs of their students are and, from that discussion, develop or compile curriculum materials and instructional strategies to meet those goals.

After a year of implementation, the results of the curriculum and instruction outcomes would be examined in professional development. If the curriculum worked but perhaps the instructional strategies were not as successful, then professional development would focus on improving instructional practices. If the curriculum had issues, professional development may focus on a re-design.

In summation, my Glocalized EMI Framework considers both local and global needs, driving  professional development, curriculum, and instruction, all which inform each other.

What do you think about this framework? Let me know in the comments!

Every Expat Teacher in East Asia Should Study Confucianism

I am currently taking a Philosophy of Education class, and it is arguably one of the most important classes I will take in my degree.

Aside from the fact that Dr. Patrick Slattery at Texas A&M University is one of the most brilliant and thought-provoking people I have ever met (with hilarious stories of growing up Catholic), the course has really evoked many thoughts on what it means to be an educator.

Each of us were asked to choose a philosophy to study independently, and I chose Confucianism.


Because I have spent most of my teaching career as an educator in Taiwan at schools that have pushed away Eastern thought and promoted Western education. In short, I wanted to know more about what we were suppressing.

Confucianism is complicated, and I am far from really understanding it due to conflicting interpretations, but one thing I do know is that all expat teachers in East Asia should study it.

I think to really understand those we work with in Confucian societies like Taiwan, South Korea, etc., we must understand Confucianism. I have witnessed many arguments (and perhaps engaged in a few) that could have been explained (though not necessarily resolved) by differences between Western thought and Confucianism. Here are a few:

  1. Westerns are individualistic; Confucianism is about community.
  2. Westerns work in absolutes; Confucianism changes based on context.
  3. Westerns think linearly; Confucianism is cyclical.

Obviously these are generalizations and not meant to mean EVERYONE is like this, but they are good starting points for conversations about differences.

I will intentionally leave this post short because (a) I’m a Ph.D. student and have no time to blog, and (b) I would prefer readers to think about what this means for them.

So on that note, tell me your thoughts on the three items above and what they mean to you.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more on Confucianism and other philosophies down the road.


Improving Content and Language Integrated Tests

It is really hard to write a great test for students, but those of us who teach language through content have double the trouble.

Our task- balancing the content and language assessment in one test.

For many teachers, their tests probably either lean toward the language side or the content side. For me, I was  guilty of learning heavily toward the content side.

So how can we move toward a more balanced approach?

Johanna Leal may have a solution.

Leal conducted a study in Columbia with third grade science teachers who taught through English. She had the teachers use an assessment grid she created and tracked their test questions over a school year.

The assessment grid has the following categories for test questions:

  1. Quadrant 1: high content / low language
  2. Quadrant 2: high content / high language
  3. Quadrant 3: low content / low language
  4. Quadrant 4: low content / high language

At the beginning of the year, the teachers leaned in favor of content, much like I used to. But at the end of the year, after using the grid, their tests were more balanced.

Interested in learning more about the grid and the test making process? Check out the article here:

Do you have any test making tips? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments section!

[AsiaTEFL 2018] Attitudes Toward EMI in East Asia and the Gulf: A Systematic Review

This presentation is on a systematic review on attitudes toward English-Medium Instruction in East Asia and the Gulf by Keith M. Graham and Zohreh R. Eslami.

Presentation Slides: AsiaTEFL 2018 – EMI Attitudes – Keith Graham

Would Ideo's Annual Review Re-Design Work in Education?

Teachers often speak very poorly of administrator observations for a variety of reasons.
And by speak poorly I mean they loathe them, usually with a few expletives.
As teachers we know feedback is valuable, but often times we find the observation process either as “a waste of time” or worse, demoralizing.
I recently read about how the design company Ideo came into the Hogan Lovells Law Firm and re-designed their annual review for lawyers.
Here’s how the annual review worked after the re-design:

Within every four-month period, associates are supposed to actively solicit feedback from three different people they’ve worked with, including partners, assistants, and peers. Each of these feedback sessions is supposed to take the form of a 10-minute-long conversation, using a card with guided questions to keep the dialogue focused on what the person can do to improve. Once the associate has had all three conversations, he or she has another with a peer to talk through the feedback–almost like you’d do with a friend–help them process it, and think about how to incorporate it into their lives. (Article)

Naturally I couldn’t help but wonder what this might look like in a school.
I imagine it would involve observations still, probably by fellow teachers (or admin if the teacher so chooses). I suppose this brings the first problem – Would teachers be willing to give up their time to do this? Maybe for a more equitable and valuable evaluation, perhaps, but I could see this needing to be preceded by a lot of “selling” to the teachers.
But let’s say we get past that. The part I am really interested in is What would the guided questions on the card say?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Making Science Easy for ELLs

***This post is a re-post of my article on the ESL Best Practices Blog.***
If I asked you what is the hardest subject to teach to English language learners (ELLs), what would you say?
Most teachers would definitely say science!
But what makes science so difficult for ELLs? Lee and Buxton (2013) have an answer:
“ELLs frequently confront the demands of academic learning through a yet unmastered language without the instructional support they need” (pp. 37-38).
In this post, I will discuss strategies that can help address each of these difficulties.
Continue reading “Making Science Easy for ELLs”

A reminder of how our ELL students feel

This is a clip from a short film about immersion education. It shows a recent immigrant, Moisés, in an American math class.
While short, this video really hits home how our English language learners often feel in content-based classes. It is a reminder for teachers to use strategies that help support ELLs with barriers they may be having with language.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.