The challenge of developing mediation tasks for our students

For our second post on mediation we spoke to Ángel Briones, a teacher at EOI Embajadores in Madrid.  Over the past year Ángel has been writing materials to both teach and assess his students around mediation.  He is currently working for Pearson to design extension mediation activities to accompany our new general adult course book, Roadmap.  Here’s what he had to tell us about some of the things that need to be taken into account when writing mediation tasks.

Question: Angel, you have been involved in writing teaching and assessment activities around mediation for your students.  What are the biggest challenges in your view?

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A crash course on mediation

The buzz word around the Escuelas Oficiales de Idiomas (EOIs) in Spain this year is mediation and the importance of teachers at these centres getting to grips with the concept cannot be stressed enough.  In a series of three blog posts we will be taking a look at some of the key issues surrounding this topic.

For our first article we reached out to Manuel del Rio and Francisco J. Pose, two of the teachers who provide teacher training at the EOI in Santiago de Compostela.  Among the courses the EOI will be offering as part of their summer training programme for teachers is one led by Manuel and Francisco on linguistic mediation.  We had a few questions on mediation and we figured getting in touch with them would be a good place to start to get some clear answers.   Here’s what they had to tell us:

Question: Let’s start with the elephant in the room: What is the big deal with mediation?  Is it really all that important in our daily lives?

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Correcting Writing: Less Red Pen and a bit more Zen

Getting into the zone

So, you’ve got a stack of writing assignments on your desk.  You have a quick glance at the correction code you use with your students.  “Gr” for grammar errors, “P” for punctuation, “V” for vocabulary, “R” for register, etc.  The pressure’s on now.  The sooner you get these back to your students the better.  They’re anxious to see their grade and you want them to make corrections based on the code and notes you make as soon as possible.  You have a quick glance at the clock and estimate that if you spend X number of minutes per assignment you might even be able to get in some lunch before your next class.  So with a steaming cup of coffee at your side, and red pen in hand you dive in.  You’re in full-on correction mode.

Ruby red pens

A familiar scene.  We’ve all been there.  And when we finish up and hand them back to our students we’re likely to feel some real professional pride at our ability to be so efficient at our job (I got them all corrected in how long?).  Oftentimes though, for me at least, this is coupled by a nagging doubt that maybe I could have done just a little a bit better.

Cop or Coach?

Did my intentions to give meaningful, personal feedback take a back seat to my robo-corrector mentality as I plowed through assignment after assignment?  After all, the power of the red pen does tend to bring out the authoritarian in us, transforming us from the friendly coach we like to think of ourselves as into the grammar cop pulling over our students at the slightest infraction: “Were you aware that you are using a register unacceptable for this genre?  May I see your certification to operate at this level please?  Put your pencil down and back away from the desk slowly.”

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