The effects of using cognitive discourse functions to instruct 4th-year children on report writing in a CLIL science class


school genres
cognitive discourse functions

How to Cite

Roca de Larios, J., Coyle, Y., & García, V. (2022). The effects of using cognitive discourse functions to instruct 4th-year children on report writing in a CLIL science class. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 12(4), 597–622.

Number of views: 457

Number of downloads: 764


The present study analyzed how a group of young Spanish-speaking English as a foreign language (EFL) learners in a content and language integrated learning (CLIL) science class responded to an instructional unit integrating attention to functional language and an inquiry-oriented approach to science. Working in cooperation with the researchers, a year 4 primary school teacher implemented a teaching sequence on levers with 48 9-10-year-olds over three weeks. The sequence, which was intended to raise the children’s awareness of the demands involved in understanding (content goals) and expressing as written reports (rhetorical goals) how levers work, scaffolded their activity from item-based writing to the production of full texts. On completing the unit, each child independently wrote a report on levers, all of which were analyzed from the perspective of cognitive discourse functions and ideational meaning. The results of these analyses are discussed in terms of their significance for CLIL writing with young learners.


Accurso, K., Gebhard, M., & Selden, C. (2016). Supporting L2 elementary science writing with SFL in an age of school reform. In L. C. de Oliveira & T. Silva (Eds.), Second language writing in elementary classrooms: Instructional issues, con-tent-area writing and teacher education (pp. 126-150). Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Artieda, G., Roquet, H., & Nicolas Conesa, F. (2017). The impact of age and exposure on EFL achievement in two learning contexts: Formal instruc-tion and formal instruction + content and language integrated learning (CLIL). International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 23(4), 1-19. DOI:

Brisk, M. E., Hodgson-Drysdale, T., & O’Connor, C. (2011). A study of a collabo-rative instructional project informed by systemic functional linguistic theory: Report writing in elementary grades. Journal of Education, 191(1), 1-12. DOI:

Bruton, A. (2013). CLIL: Some of the reasons why … and why not. System, 41(3), 587-597. DOI:

Christie, F., & Derewianka, B. (2008). School discourse: Learning to write across the years of schooling. Continuum.

Coetzee-Lachmann, D. (2007). Assessment of subject-specific task performance of bilingual geography learners: Analyzing aspects of subject-specific written discourse (Doctoral dissertation, Osnabrück University).

Coyle, Y., & Cánovas Guirao, J. (2019). Learning to write in a second language. The role of guided interaction in promoting children’s interaction from model texts. CLIL Journal of Innovation and Research in Plurilingual and Pluricultural Education, 2(1), 21-30. DOI:

Coyle, D., Hood, P., & Marsh, D. (2010). CLIL content and language integrated learning. Cambridge University Press. DOI:

Dalton-Puffer, C. (2004). Academic language functions in content and language integrated classrooms: Defining and hypothesizing. Vienna English Work-ing Papers, 13, 23-48.

Dalton-Puffer, C. (2013). A construct of cognitive discourse functions for conceptual-izing content-language integration in CLIL and multilingual education. Euro-pean Journal of Applied Linguistics, 1(2), 1-38. 216-253. DOI:

Dawes, L., Dore, B., Loxley, P., & Nicholls, L. (2010). A talk focus for promoting enjoy-ment and developing understanding in science. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 9(2), 99-110.

de Oliveira, L. C., & Lan, S. W. (2014). Writing science in an upper elementary classroom: A genre-based approach to teaching English language learn-ers. Journal of Second Language Writing, 25, 23-39. DOI:

de Oliveira, L. C., Jones, L., & Smith, L. C. (2020). Interactional scaffolding in a “first-grade” classroom through the teaching-learning cycle. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism DOI:

Evnitskaya, N., & Dalton-Puffer, C. (2020). Cognitive discourse functions in CLIL classrooms: Eliciting and analyzing students’ oral categorizations in sci-ence and history. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilin-gualism DOI:

Fang, Z., & Wang, Z. (2011). Beyond rubrics: Using functional language analysis to evaluate student writing. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 34, 147-165.

Fernández-Sanjurjo, J., Fernández-Costales, A., & Arias Blanco, J. M. (2017). Analyzing students’ content-learning in science in CLIL vs. non-CLIL programmes: Empir-ical evidence from Spain. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bi-lingualism. DOI:

Forey, G. (2020). A whole school approach to SFL metalanguage and the explicit teaching of language for curriculum learning. Journal of English for Aca-demic Purposes, 44, 100822. DOI:

Halliday, M. A. K. (1978). Language as social semiotic. Arnold.

Halliday, M. A. K. (1993). Towards a language-based theory of learning. Linguistics and Education, 5(2), 93-116. DOI:

Hermansson, C., B. Jonsson, M. Levlin, A. Lindhé, B. Lundgren, & Shaswar, N. A. (2019). The (non)effect of joint construction in a genre-based approach to teaching writing. The Journal of Educational Research, 112(4), 483-494. DOI:

Hodgson-Drysdale, T. (2014). Concepts and language: Developing knowledge in science. Linguistics and Education, 27, 54-67. DOI:

Hu, J., & Gao, X. (2021). Understanding subject teachers’ language-related pedagogi-cal practices in content and language integrated learning classrooms. Lan-guage Awareness, 30(1), 42-61. DOI:

Humphrey, S., & MacNaught, L. (2015). Functional language instruction and the writing growth of English language learners in the middle years. TESOL Quarterly, 50(4), 792-816. DOI:

Klein, P., Haug, K., & Arcon, N. (2017). The effects of rhetorical and content subgoals on writing and learning. The Journal of Experimental Education, 85(2), 291-308. DOI:

Lahuerta, A. (2020). Analysis of accuracy in the writing of EFL students enrolled on CLIL and non-CLIL programmes: The impact of grade and gender. The Language Learning Journal, 48(2), 121-132. DOI:

López-Ramón, M. J. (2015). Exploring the dialogic classroom interaction and development of content knowledge in a CLIL and L1 primary science classroom (Unpublished master’s thesis, University of Murcia).

Madrid, D., & Pérez Cañado, M. L. (2018). Innovations and challenges in attend-ing to diversity through CLIL. Theory into Practice, 57(3), 241-249. DOI:

Martin, J. R., & Rose, D. (2008). Genre relations: Mapping culture. Equinox.

McCabe, A., & Whittaker, R. (2016). Genre and appraisal in CLIL history texts: Developing the voice of the historian. In A. Llinares & T. Morton (Eds.), Applied linguistics perspectives on CLIL (pp. 105-124). John Benjamins. DOI:

Meyer, O., Coyle, D., Halbach, A., Schuck, K., & Ting, T. (2015). A pluriliteracies ap-proach to content and language integrated learning: Mapping learner pro-gressions in knowledge construction and meaning-making. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 28(1), 41-57. DOI:

Moore, J. (2019). Choice and constraint: Using SLF genre theory to teach primary-grade students to write arguments about literature. Journal of Writing Re-search, 10(3), 429-464. DOI:

More, C. M., Spies, T. G., Morgan, J. J., & Baker, J. N. (2016). Incorporating Eng-lish language learner instruction within special education teacher prepa-ration. Intervention in School and Clinic, 51(4), 229-237. DOI:

Morton, T. (2020). Cognitive discourse functions: A bridge between content, literacy and language for teaching and assessment in CLIL. CLIL Journal of Innovation and Research in Plurilingual and Pluricultural Education, 3(1), 7-27. DOI:

Nashaat-Sobhy, N., & Llinares, A. (2020). CLIL students’ definitions of historical terms. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. DOI:

Parkin, B. M. (2014). Scaffolding science: A pedagogy for marginalized stu-dents (Doctoral dissertation, University of Adelaide, Australia).

Pérez Cañado, M. L. (2016). Are teachers ready for CLIL? Evidence from a Euro-pean study. European Journal of Teacher Education, 39(2), 202-221. DOI:

Polias, J. (2010). Pedagogical resonance: Improving teaching and learning. Spe-cial Issue of NALDIC Quarterly, 42-49.

Polias, J. (2016). Apprenticing students into science: Doing, talking & writing scientifically. Lexis Education.

Rose, D., & Martin, J. R. (2012). Learning to write, reading to learn: Genre, knowledge, and pedagogy in the Sydney School. Equinox.

Santiago Schwarz, V., & Hamman-Ortiz, L. (2020). Systemic functional linguis-tics, teacher education, and writing outcomes for U.S. elementary Eng-lish learners: A review of the literature. Journal of Second Language Writing, 49, 100727. DOI:

Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective. Lawrence Erlbaum. DOI:

Smagorinsky, P. (2008). The method section as conceptual epicenter in con-structing social science research reports. Written Communication, 25(3), 389-411. DOI:

Valverde Caravaca, R. (2019). Effective questioning in CLIL classrooms: Empowering thinking. ELT Journal, 73(4), 367-376. DOI:

Veel, R. (1997). Learning how to mean: Scientifically speaking: Apprenticeship into scientific discourse in the secondary school. In F. Christie & J. R. Martin (Eds.), Genre and institutions: Social processes in the workplace and school (pp. 161-195). Continuum.

Vollmer, H. J. (2008). Constructing tasks for content and language integrated learning and assessment. In J. Eckerth & S. Siekmann (Eds.), Task-based language learning and teaching: Theoretical, methodological, and ped-agogical perspectives (pp. 227-290). Peter Lang.

Whittaker, R., & McCabe, A. (2020). Writing on history in a content and language integrated learning (CLIL) context: Development of grammatical metaphor as evidence of language learning. In R. Manchón, (Ed.) Writing and language learning: Advancing research agendas (pp. 309-332). John Benjamins. DOI: