Beyond Borders: Crafting Holistic English Language Learning Experiences

In today’s global context, ELL teaching transcends traditional boundaries. It’s about empowering students to navigate the world confidently in English while nurturing their role as proactive global citizens. Including examples from Your World, the Pearson coursebook for teenagers, this blog explores crafting impactful learning experiences that blend language mastery with environmental and emotional intelligence.

Embracing Emotions: It’s Essential

 

Understanding emotions is crucial in our learning journey. Acknowledging and expressing feelings like frustration or sadness is vital for mental wellbeing. By integrating emotional literacy into ELL, we promote resilience, aiding students in articulating their experiences and building emotional strength alongside language skills. While it’s important we find solutions to problems it’s also important we allow ourselves time to get through negative emotions before moving on.

Using Role-Plays for Deeper Learning

Role-plays about common, and sometimes painful, dilemmas, such as a lost phone, serve as springboard for broader lessons and greater scope for empathy when considering world issues. These scenarios encourage students to articulate feelings, and solutions in English.

Practical Example: The Broken Phone Scenario

  • Problem Identification: A student expresses the frustration of losing a phone, discussing immediate feelings and their root. Also look at potential impacts like the environmental toll of manufacturing one mobile phone.
  • Sustainable Solutions Discussion: Shift focus away from the broken/lost phone to eco-friendly resolutions, while acknowledging it’s incredible annoying to break a phone, what are the next steps? Could repairing or recycling be viable options? This conversation fosters critical thinking and eco-consciousness. It also focuses on finding a solution from within rather than simply “buying a new one”
  • Mental Health Benefits: Having a broken phone and an enforced digital detox for a few days can do wonders for your mental health. Perhaps take the chance to plan a few “phone free” activities students could do it their phone was broken for an entire weekend!
  • Role-Play Expansion: Students brainstorm and role-play scenarios offering sustainable solutions, practicing English while embedding sustainability in their thought process.
  • Global Impact Reflection: Conclude with a discussion on how individual choices, like opting for repaired or second-hand electronics, contribute to global sustainability efforts. Remind students there are many ways they can make a difference in the world. This is just one tiny solution.

Celebrating Diversity: A Europe day Celebration

After engaging with the Europe Day Competition from the workbook, a natural progression is to host a Europe Day celebration in the classroom.

This event can serve as a celebration of the European Union’s cultural diversity. Imagine a classroom transformed into a mini-Europe, where each corner represents a different member state, adorned with national flags, traditional costumes, and homemade replicas of famous landmarks. Students could share insights into each country’s contribution to environmental sustainability, highlighting how these nations are pioneers in renewable energy, waste reduction, and conservation efforts.

Europe Day Celebration:

  • Team Formation and Role Assignment: Students assess their strengths and interests. It’s important that everyone has a chance to present how they want to present. There’s a chance not every student will want to stand in front of a class and read a powerpoint. Look for other presentation options and roles.
  • Research and Presentation: Each group selects an EU Member State. They will beyond flags cuisine and capital cities. Allow students to look into areas like language, and cultural expressions though art. Assed to that encourage deeper research into climate policy and other areas related to the Sustainable Development Goals.  It only take a second to find out how much energy is produced by using renewables in Iceland. (Spoiler alert, it’s 99%)
  • Cultural Exchange and Reflection: Students prepare and share their presentations, engaging in a rich exchange of cultural knowledge and language practice. This activity not only enhances understanding of diverse cultures but also fosters a sense of European unity and global citizenship.

This celebration would not only solidify students’ research and presentation skills but also deepen their understanding of the interconnectedness of European cultures.

Through activities like a “taste of Europe” food fair or a collaborative art project depicting Europe’s scenic diversity, students can experience the joys of cultural exchange. Such a celebration reinforces a shared commitment to fostering a peaceful, inclusive society. It’s an opportunity for students to practice empathy, appreciate diversity, and understand their role in the global community, all within the enriching context of learning English.

What next?

We don’t need to reimagine ELL, we don’t need to reinvent it. By integrating emotional literacy, environmental consciousness, and cultural diversity into our curriculum, we’re not just enhancing language skills—we’re empowering students to make meaningful contributions to the world. This holistic approach prepares them to face future complexities with resilience and empathy. It ensures students leave our classrooms ready to enact positive change. Together, we’re shaping a generation that values sustainability, emotional wellbeing, and global unity.

How Can Mediation Skills be Taught in the Classroom?

Mediation skills are a vital tool of communication both in your own language and also in the language you are learning. To communicate, we all have to take information, understand it, and then explain it to others. This sounds simple and easy, and you may ask, why do we need to teach this in our lessons? It takes a unique set of skills to be able to do this well and not to be either too dominant or unforthcoming when speaking with others, thus we need to focus on helping our students to develop this skill in class. Furthermore, it is a key assessment component in many exams, and the CEFR upon which many exams are based, breaks down the meaning of using mediation in groups and the English level to which they correspond:

Mediation scales

(Image taken from Completing the CEFR Descriptive Scheme: The CEFR Companion Volume, 2022)

 

What is mediation?

In simple terms, mediation means the ability to read or hear a message, understand it and then communicate it appropriately. This is more than just simple interaction, as mediation implies skills like leading a discussion, managing conflict within a group, proposing solutions, simplifying a message and so on. It requires the speaker to be aware of who they are speaking to and the context they are in to communicate successfully. The Council of Europe has broken down this concept into the image below:

Mediation

(Image taken from The Council of Europe, 2020)

As you can see, these skills are not only useful for students to use at school but are the types of skills most in demand by universities and employers. They are often referred to as future skills or employability skills in teaching course books. These refer to skills that cannot be carried out successfully by technology and still rely on humans to act. It is therefore well worth working on these in class to prepare our students for the future.

 

Teaching mediation skills in class

Your World, the Pearson course book for teenagers, is a great example of a book that consistently incorporates teaching future skills in class, especially mediation skills. Let’s look at an example of how to teach a mediation skills lesson in class. The lesson example comes from Your World 2.

Activity 1 & 2:

Mediation activities

 

The aim of the activity is for the students to participate in a group discussion and make a decision.

The mediation skill in practice is to collaborate in a group, work towards a common goal and give the opportunity for everyone to contribute their opinion. If we refer back to the Council of Europe mediation levels above, this activity is aimed at students wishing to achieve a B1 level.

Mediation

 

The activity begins with a warm-up for students to recall vocabulary regarding holidays and practice speaking interaction skills. The prepare stage helps students to understand and respond to the reading task about different styles of holidays. They are practicing their comprehension skills and learning new vocabulary. These four holiday suggestions will be used later in the mediation task.

Activity 3:

Mediation activity

The next stage is the scenario. It gives a realistic reason for students to talk together and presents some problems that they must consider when discussing. For example, it talks about what Sophie and Alex like and do not like which will also have to factor into what the students themselves like and dislike. This type of activity is by far the best kind of collaboration activity as it asks students to solve a problem together, as they would in real life. The question asks students to summarise in their own words what they have to do (which is another mediation activity: understand and summarise a text). An example answer could be: We need to agree on the best summer holiday activity for our group of friends.

Activity 4:

Mediation Activity 4 - Your World

The activity now clearly shows the students the aim of the activity. The aim is not a linguistic one – it is not ‘I will practice the present perfect’ (the course book has other grammar pages where this type of aim can be found) – but instead it is ‘ask others for their opinions, listen to their opinions and express your own opinions clearly, but respectfully.’ We obviously want students to practice their English language skills, but the focus in on how they interact in a group in order to achieve a desired outcome.

As the activity is clearly labelled as ‘mediation’ and the aims are written down in an easy-to-understand way for the students, they are very clear on how you will be assessing them as the criteria for success is clear for all. Furthermore, to help students achieve the task in English, there are some useful language expressions which students have already seen in an earlier unit in a different context, so it is an opportunity for students to practice and reinforce what they have seen before. As teachers, we can always extend the list of phrases if we feel our students need an extra challenge, and we can add in a pronunciation stage here to make sure that our students will be saying these phrases correctly.

Activity 5 and 6:

Mediation activities - Your World

Now students attempt the task. An example of a successful group task would look like this:

An example of a task that has areas to improve for next time would look like this:

Ma

Monitor students carefully as they do the task. Write down any errors they make, both mediation errors (e.g. if they laughed at a student’s idea and it was not very respectful) and also linguistic errors, such as pronunciation or grammar, but also make a note of things they did well. You will use these notes later.

Ask students to self-reflect in stage 6, which can help them to understand the feedback from you better. Students being able to recognize their own strengths and areas to improve on helps them to become more autonomous learners. Also, invite thew whole class to comment on what the group finally chose, as each group is likely to have chosen something different. Finally, you can put the positive feedback and areas to improve that you wrote down while students were completing the task on the board for whole class feedback. You can then let each group know what score they received for the task (this can be done privately or whole class depending on how you would like to give the feedback) and future recommendations.

Reflection

These types of tasks may seem very familiar to you already – setting a context for speaking, then monitoring and giving feedback. However, most teachers are still focusing on language errors during these activities. When practicing future skills such as mediation, please bear in mind that you need to be helping the students to develop other skills, and looking at the CEFR descriptors will help you when designing activities, modifying activities in your course book and then assessing them correctly. This will help students at school, during exams where they have a collaboration section that is assessed, and also in the future at university or at work.