Sara Davila is a Learning and Language Acquisition Expert. She is a teacher, materials writer, researcher, and teacher trainer who has worked in a variety of contexts in the education field. In this series of articles, Sara talks about Lost Learning – that is, the classroom and teaching time students have lost during the pandemic.
In today’s article she explores mediation and how it can be used to help students communicate during these challenging times. All the Learning Objectives (LOs) from the activities were taken from the Global Scale of English (GSE). Discover more with the GSE Teacher Toolkit.
Social distancing has brought us opportunities to rethink tried-and-tested activities and teaching practices. So far in this series of blog posts, I have covered how to manage information gap activities and how to use flash cards to scaffold conversations, while still social distancing.
But there is still an unexplored opportunity – and it happens to be a perfect way to support our students in developing their conversation skills. It also incorporates techniques that can lead to real, lasting language learning success for our students.
What is it? Well in this article, we’re going to take a look at mediation techniques and how they can bridge the communication gap.
What is mediation?
Mediation is one of the four modes of activity (CEFR) described in the Common European Framework of Reference. It sits alongside production (speaking, writing), reception (listening, reading), and interaction (interaction in speaking or writing). Mediation is the language skill most focused on the social aspect of communication.
The skill is related to how we negotiate communication with others. It includes everything from using gestures or drawing pictures when you can’t find the right word, to looking something up in a dictionary or checking the translation before speaking out loud.
Mediation is central to how successfully we use all the various tools, resources, and skills to communicate with others. Developing mediation skills improves how learners can hold conversations without getting frustrated and helps to support successful strategies for long term language use.
It is also a skill that we can easily use in a variety of language learning settings, including blended and hybrid classroom environments. It helps facilitate meaningful collaborative experiences focused on real world topics that are relevant to your learners. As a note, you can find mediation skills in the GSE Teacher Toolkit for quick reference.
Opportunity: Mediation Activities
Skills Appropriate for Young Learners | General Adults (LOs)
|Can take simple notes at a presentation/demonstration where the subject matter is familiar and predictable and the presenter allows for clarification and note-taking.||Mediation Note-taking (lectures, seminars, meetings etc.)||32||A2 (30-35)|
|Can convey (in Language B) the main point(s) contained in clearly structured, short, simple texts (in Language A), supplementing his/her limited repertoire with other means (e.g. gestures, drawings, words/signs from other languages) in order to do so.||Mediation Processing text in speech||35||A2 (30-35)|
|Can collaborate in simple, shared tasks, provided other participants speak/sign slowly and that one or more of them help him/her contribute and express his/her suggestions.||Mediation Collaborating in a group||42||A2+ (36-42)|
Skills Appropriate for Adult | Academic | Professional Learners (LOs)
|Can take notes as a list of key points during a straightforward lecture, provided the topic is familiar, and the lecture is both formulated in simple language and articulated clearly.||Mediation Note-taking (lectures, seminars, meetings etc.)||46||B1 (43-50)|
|Can summarise (in Language B) the main points made in long texts delivered orally (in Language A) on topics in his/her fields of interest, provided that he/she can listen or view several times||Mediation Processing text in speech||49||B1 (43-50)|
|Can use questions, comments and simple reformulations to maintain the focus of a discussion.||Mediation Collaborating in a group||56||B1+ (51-58)|
One common focus of mediation is mediating meaning conveyed in a text. A text refers to any presentation of communication, so a text can be a list of ingredients, a restaurant menu, a video, or a podcast. Mediating a text follows a fairly consistent format and can be quickly adapted for various configurations of students.
- First, learners are matched with a partner (for individual work) or placed in a group to work together.
- Individuals, or groups, are given a letter denoting a role (e.g., A, B, or Group A, Group B).
- The groups then review something together. For example, if we are addressing family relationships and emotions, one group might read poems about families, while a different group reads a one or two short stories about family interactions.
- Each group takes notes about the content that are important for others to know.
- After that, this mediation activity is much like a jigsaw, in which new groups are formed to share information.
Considering the following options for your mediation activities, allowing learners to focus on negotiating meaning in a variety of media informed and supported lessons.
Use mediation in hybrid and blended classes by partnering or grouping students attending class in person, with those attending class remotely.
- Have two students, or two groups of students, watch different videos on the same topic. They should take notes about the subject to share in group work.
- Prior to listening/watching, have students watch the video without audio and predict the information they may hear.
- Encourage students to review all the surrounding content. This might include video introduction text, other links that appear with videos, information in comments.
- Encourage students to use dictionaries to look up unknown words, and actively use those words when describing the information.
- Encourage students to use a variety of translation tools to check the correct presentation of specific phrases, and actively use those phrases when presenting information.
- During discussions, encourage students to use gestures, act out information, or draw pictures to keep the conversation going when a word is missing, or the grammar rules are unknown.
- During online discussion, ask students to use the chatbox to ask L1 questions (in their native language), and use microphones to respond to and clarify questions in L2 (in English).
- Assign mediation roles to individuals or group members to help keep conversations and communication going when challenges arise (e.g. Dictionary Hero – looks up words; Super Actor – acts out phrases; Communication Chief – will answer L1 question in L2).
Seek out short videos, documentaries, or podcasts on topics of interest to your learners. Preview for your class and assign specific time sections to help focus learners when the ‘text’ you want to use may be too long. You can break up one 15-minute text into 3 five-minute samples to use in a short series of three lessons.
Mediation is needed to transition
There will be many types and forms of mediation that will take place in our world this year. We will need to mediate the transition from less social interaction back to a world with more social interaction. Also we will need to continue to mediate our personal habits, remembering to wash our hands and clean surfaces. Finally, we will need to mediate ways to travel to and from our schools, virtually and in person, while maintaining safe practices.
As the world changes, we will also need to mediate communication more and build the skills to create and sustain conversations that will help us navigate our changing world. It’s a big challenge, but a great opportunity, and I can’t wait to see all our successes.