If you saw my Sponge Chat with Riccardo Chiappini and Ethan Mansur, then you’ll know that I have been using their amazing book, Activities for Mediation. I’ve had this for a while now and while I won’t say too much yet, I will say that it took me a while to write this review simply because there are so many activities to try out. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Activities for Mediation is a resource book for teachers looking to incorporate mediation into their classes. It introduces mediation in a user-friendly manner, covering more than just the basics, and it also provides a whopping 184 pages worth of activities with detailed notes on how to use and variations possible. The book itself is organised into six chapters, each with a different mediation focus, and the contents pages have been organised in such a way that you can choose based on mediation-focus type, learner level or task-type, a truly teacher-friendly overview.
What I like
- Introduction to mediation is clear: When I got this book, I had a rough idea of mediation is, but this introduction cleared up any doubts that I had. But I would go one step further and say that any teacher, regardless of experience level, could read the introduction chapter to this book and come away with a clear understanding of what differentiation is. One of my teachers came up to me the other day and mentioned that the introduction had made things a lot clearer for them as well, so it’s not just me!
- Quantity of activities: No joke, there are forty lesson plans in this book – and that’s not counting all the variation notes. For those of us that need to plan syllabi or provide teachers with ideas to cover learner needs, this is one of the resources that is great to have on hand.
- Clear lesson plans: Whilst I found the overall layout of the lesson plan initially ‘overwhelming’, once you get into a few lessons and take the time to read each of the sections in the plan (around 5 minutes), you get used to the layout and then understand where you need to look for the ‘essential’ information. The essential information is clear and there are plenty of extra ideas, variations, etc. for those in need. What I thought was really in-touch with current-day teaching was the section in the plan related to online work. A nice touch.
- Helped with local exams that contain mediation tasks: In Spain, the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas exams are popular, and some of them contain mediation activities (something I find fascinating and wish other exam boards would consider). We recently had a learner come to academy seeking preparation for this exam, and many of the activities in this book came in handy when planning his individual syllabus.
What I didn’t like
Apart from a few minor editing errors (which are not that important anyway), the main gripe I have with this book is actually related to the listening resources. In the activity Metanotes, learners need to listen to different parts of a lecture that focuses on different ways to take notes – they later then come together to share this information in a jigsaw style activity. The only way to share the listenings, however, is through the Delta Augmented app. It wasn’t a problem to get learners to download the app (they were adults in this class), but I can imagine this being a potential barrier in class with teenagers. The way to work around this, of course, would be to record yourself using the scripts provided and then have your own audio files.
Who should use this book?
- Teachers: Probably the most obvious choice. Teachers from all contexts will find this book useful. There are tasks appropriate for A1-level learners, and then there are tasks appropriate for the more advanced C1- and C2-level learners, meaning that you’re not ‘limited’. I also found this book helped for both exam and non-exam classes, so if you’re a teacher and you’re teaching General English, you’ve got loads to choose from; and, if you’re teaching for an exam, there are some great tasks in here as well (try Nail your essay!).
- Academic managers: Those of us involved in planning syllabi will find an enormous amount of value in this book. Not only because of the sheer amount of tasks that can be used, but also because there is a very useful section on how to create your own tasks.
An example lesson – Breaking news
This lesson started with me giving a news report, but without learners knowing what it was. I then elicited from learners the genre of the text, and we boarded the features of a news report. Later, we identified the 5 Ws and H that reporters use when reporting a story. The materials in the book lays this out really nicely (see pictures below). Learners were then asked to watch a video clip on their phones (I created a QR code that linked to this video), and complete their 5Ws and H.
We then went for a walk outside and sat on the bench and had a talk about something unrelated – I wanted to get their minds on something else for a few minutes. When we returned, I then paired learners and they had to come to an agreement about what happened in the video (they weren’t allowed to use their notes straight away). This was interesting as plenty of unplanned, emergent language came out, and learners were co-constructing their understanding of the text.
From here, learners were then tasked with planning their own news report, using the 5Ws and H. I had them write their plans (from memory, time limit was 7 minutes), and then they had to go away and practice their news report. When they were ready, they then recorded their news report (without their plan) on their phones and emailed it to me, so I could give them feedback in the next class. Here are some of their completed worksheets and ‘plans’:
Unfortunately, I can’t share the audios, but I hope you get the idea. I know that they had loads of fun, and plenty of ‘learning’ took place. I’ve included a snapshot of the procedure from the book. You can see that I deviated a little.
I had a conversation the other day, and someone said that mediation was basically just a fancy way of saying translation. Previous to reading this book, I might have agreed with them. Now, however, I am certain that it is much, much more, and there is a lot of pedagogic value that mediation activities can bring to the foreign language classroom. Activities for Mediation has been a great addition to our resources shelf, and I am sure that you’ll find just as much value as we have. If you have used any of the activities, please let me know your thoughts!
P.S. You can also check out the YouTube review! More to come 🙂
Title: Activities for Mediation
Authors: Riccardo Chiappini and Ethan Mansur