There IS only one way to teach. The only way to teach is to plan and execute lessons for the good of the students. This definitely means something different than it did in the past, as previously students may have been taught purely for the workforce, and that might have been what was needed at the time. However, in the 21st Century, to teach for a student’s best interest is to ensure that all lessons have meaning and opportunity for learning that goes beyond knowing information. I would argue knowing cannot be the first step or the end result. Knowing is only a small piece of the puzzle.
Inquiry, motivation, understanding, critical thinking, design, creativity…these are all both dependent on and necessary for knowing information. These, among a wide range of others, are skills for the 21st Century, and are all part of the puzzle of education.
It is the teacher’s job, not to impart knowledge on children, but to provide opportunities for children to explore and develop these 21st Century skills.
I have learned this lesson through online connection with various teachers. I read a blog post by April, a grade 6 teacher, and she discussed the importance of creating lessons and activities that are meaningful for students (click HERE to see her blog post). She also touched on the importance of teachers reflecting on lessons that we plan for students, to ensure that we do not just plan them to be fun, but to make sure that there is a deeper purpose and outcome of the tasks we give to our students. Our curriculum unit in this education class has accomplished this well, through backwards design, as we created every lesson with intentionality and purpose that stem from a greater goal for our students.
I have always had the mindset that school is not simply for the sake of covering a number of expectations outlined in the curriculum. School should be about learning these expectations while developing and growing in life skills. In my own education I have learned many life skills such as hard work, organization, time management, respect for others, and so much more, just by being in the classroom and doing assignments.
Through this course, I have learned that there are specific skills that children can learn, namely 21st Century Skills. There are so many resources that teachers, if they have 21st Century skills of inquiry and exploration, can find and use in their classroom, all for the greater goal of going far beyond specific knowledge, and meet goals of helping students to develop their 21st Century Skills.
I have outlined just a few of the incredible resources I have found and looked at in this course, and wanted to share with you some of my ideas of how I will implement these to provide an environment where my students can develop the 21st century literacies (global, environmental, multicultural, critical, media, character, financial, mental health, moral and technological literacy).
The first is by Ms. Cassidy and can be found by clicking HERE.
The students in Ms. Cassidy’s class created a book about First Nations culture. In this book, they learned about the culture through interdisciplinary instruction, as they explored social studies (both history and geography), science, language and art. They also made connections to the First Nations people, as they found out about their lifestyle, in relation to things the students themselves do and use (i.e. food, drink, clothing, playing with toys, etc.). Learning this multicultural literacy, students were able to see the connections with the things they do in their own lifestyle, and the lifestyle of the First Nations people. This is an incredible opportunity for students to ask questions, explore, and investigate a culture different from their own, while developing respect for that culture.
I want to use this kind of teaching in my classroom. I believe that a teacher can help students make personal connections to everything that is taught so that lessons are meaningful to them. This is a great example of how children can learn the differences of other cultures, but also gain interest and enthusiasm for understanding diversity. Critical literacy, multicultural literacy, global literacy, environmental literacy, and character literacy can all be developed using an activity like the one in Ms. Cassidy’s classroom.
Aviva has many examples of this kind of instruction, as she has taught her students lessons that provide opportunity for 21st Century literacy development. Take a look HERE!
I particularly found the first example interesting, as the children looked at the classroom calendar and found solutions to their mistakes, or discovered ways to use the resources available to find out how to spell words they needed to complete the calendar.
This seems like a simple task at first glance, but I love how Aviva takes this opportunity for learning. The students wanted to fill in the classroom calendar, because this was meaningful and helpful for them. They used metacognition to see their errors, and problem solving skills to find a solution for those errors. Through inquiry, they found a way to spell words correctly, which required critical thinking and investigation, instead of simply asking Aviva to give them the answer. They developed character literacy by using communication and collaboration skills to work together to accomplish their goal. All the while, they learned language skills that were likely part of the curriculum, but reached far beyond simply learning to spell. They also had to work with numbers to figure out the correct dates to write down information. This one, small example provides interdisciplinary instruction and 21st Century learning!
Another example of this kind of learning is seen in the kindergarten classroom outlined in the video below (found on Pinterest from Edutopia):
This video inspires me because it shows me that there is a way for students to learn the curriculum without simply being handed a worksheet and finding the answers in a textbook. I struggled with this before, because in many cases, that was how I was taught. Reflecting on my education, however, it was the few times that I learned through projects that my interest was sparked, and the knowledge and skills I learned in those projects are what I carry with me today. Now I see that I can teach my students in a different way. I can teach them without feeding them information, but by helping them investigate and discover information. There is a huge difference, and I believe that this is the difference that makes learning meaningful for students.
The reason I appreciate these examples is because students were curious about something, and found meaning in finding the answer, so they worked together to accomplish their goal (filling in the calendar in Aviva’s blog, or learning about Brazil in the PBL video). I want to embrace my students’ curiosity like the teachers did in these posts. Every part of a classroom and school day presents opportunities for learning that help to satisfy curriculum expectations, but also have the potential to teach 21st Century literacies. It is essential that I use child-centred teaching in order to take advantage the curiosities and inquiries of my students (and not suppress them to fulfill my own lesson agenda!) and help them to learn what is interesting and meaningful to them.
An example of how I want to use this in my classroom might be through the curiosity of my students when it starts to snow for the first time. I could take this curiosity, and teach them about the intricacy of snow flakes, and how no two snow flakes are the same. We can then develop character literacy and discuss how every student in my classroom is different and unique, but all are special and beautiful! We could take this a step further and create an art project. Every student can design and create their own snow flake and practice language by writing a story about what makes them unique. I could teach critical thinking in science by talking about what causes snow to fall, and bring in global literacy in social studies and geography to find out why it snows in Canada, but not in Mexico.
These are just the start of what could come of a question about snow flakes. The greatest part about this kind of inquiry-based learning is that my students will be the ones to decide where this project could go next! The most important part of this is that I am willing. Children are curious, so it is the teacher’s role to let that curiosity flourish into learning and growing.
There are great possibilities of allowing students to look with curiosity at the world. I was blown away at this post by Ms. Cassidy. Check it out HERE!
It just took the compassion, character and moral literacy of one student wanting to make a difference for the whole class to be able to help make a difference for a member of their community, and to teach students important lessons about the world.
This post shows an excellent example of how teachers can foster care and compassion in students, while teaching them 21st century literacies and skills. Ms. Cassidy allowed her students not only to learn about a woman with a disability in their community, and learn about the challenges she faces, but to go another step and to put their new knowledge into action.
In addition to these literacies, children were able to develop technological literacy by not only watching a news cast in action but by being a part of it! They also were able to learn about business and financial literacy in discussion of their community member Emmy, and her business.
This example is an important one for all teachers to see because it shows the value in putting aside the lesson plan you have made, and making the most of what is important to students. The literacies that were developed in this example could not have been developed through hypothetical examples in a textbook. I commend this teacher, and want to follow her example in my classroom. I want to encourage respect and compassion in my students, and use every opportunity to talk about our part in the community. Coincidentally, much of the social studies curriculum throughout elementary school discusses the part students must play in their world. I want to help my students to learn these lessons through real-life examples, and give them meaningful, real opportunities to play their part in the world. I can do this by letting my students think about problems they have seen in their community. Together as a class we can decide on one or two that we would like to help with and play our part. We can then brainstorm ideas of what is needed, and how we can help in a practical way. I have known many children to be compassionate, as seen in Ms. Cassidy’s classroom, and so I am excited to see the kinds of things my students care about, and the solutions they come up with to help. More so, I am excited to see this care and compassion in action! This is certainly no waste of time in the classroom. Students can learn about the world, and about the curriculum this way, and they can learn the 21st Century literacies. There is no better opportunity in my opinion, then to teach children with real-life, meaningful examples.
This IS the only way to teach!
21 Signs You’re a 21st Century Teacher