Written by Andrew Ellingsen and Sarah Zbornik, DCSD Instructional Coaches
One of the “buzz words” in education recently has been the term 21st Century Skills. With everyone from US Representatives to President Obama to countless other celebrities and politicians weighing in supporting the idea, the term is often thrown around without a lot of context.
What are the 21st Century Skills? Who is responsible for teaching them? Why should we care?
The Partnership for 21st Century Learning (www.p21.org) groups a disparate set of skills together as 21st Century Skills. The skills are grouped into four main categories:
The last group, the 4 Cs, are also listed by the Iowa Core Companion as “Universal Constructs” because of the manner in which they can be woven into classrooms regardless of grade level or subject matter.
Because of the universal nature of these skills, the responsibility for teaching them isn’t isolated to an individual teacher or course. Rather, it falls to all of us to incorporate them into our classrooms where appropriate. Should we throw out all of the other good teaching we’re doing to highlight only the 21st Century Skills? Of course not… That being said, there are likely places in each of our classrooms to weave the 4 Cs into the myriad ways students interact with content knowledge.
Earlier this month, the College & Career Clubs hosted a webinar titled “Crisis in Middle School: Catching Them Before They Fall Through the Cracks.” In it, the moderator shared that academic readiness in 8th grade impacts college & career readiness more than anything that happens academically in the high school years (The Forgotten Middle, published by ACT). By the time a student is in high school, if they don’t see a) that what they’re learning is connected to life after school and b) that they are capable of having a meaningful future once school is done, there is a much higher likelihood that they will end up dropping out of school.
The presenter went on to share that one of the primary ways to engage students in the content is to create project-based learning. Having a chance to take what they’ve learned and apply it to solve problems in real-world situations allows students to engage with the 4 Cs in a meaningful way and to identify their own skills, interests, and strengths.
By incorporating the 4 Cs into a student’s daily experience with school, we can make a significant impact that will long outlast their time in our classroom. Developing skills in Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, and Collaboration can not only encourage students to engage with the curriculum in more meaningful ways but also prepare them for a future the world we’ve come to know as a quickly shifting landscape of new technology, innovations, and careers.
Where do the 21st Century Skills fit in your classroom? How can you incorporate them into the teaching you’re already doing? Join the conversation by commenting below!
Written by Brigit Storhoff, 7th Grade ELA & DMS Collaborative Teacher
I love sitting down with our ELA department to talk about reading and language arts. I especially love sitting down with our department when we don't have an agenda! This is when I learn about the happenings in my colleagues' classrooms.....the fun strategies they're implementing, the books their students' are reading, the quality of writing they are seeing, while discussing how our students from past years are doing as they move up a grade. These laid back, no expectations conversations remind me why I love teaching ELA, and I always walk away with inspiration to try something they've shared with me. This is how I learned that Taylor is using Kid Blog to document what her students are independently reading this school year! (genius!)
Taylor has always required her students to complete a weekly reading log during the week in previous years. The students updated this log as they read their books and handed it in to her at the end of the week. Once the students got a device in their hands, she started to brainstorm ways she could replace the 150 sheets of paper a week by using a tool on the computer. Each student in 6th grade has a Kid Blog account, and it has now replaced the paper reading logs her students used to share their independent reading with her.
Taylor has seen many positive outcomes in her classroom because of this change. She says, "The kids love sharing this way. It gives the students the ability to share with their peers, which is much more engaging to them than just turning a reading log into their teacher once a week." Students not only can share their blog with Mrs. Amundson, but they can read each others' posts and comment on what their classmates are reading! Taylor also says it's a great way for her to visually see what the students are reading each week (they have to take a picture WITH their book!) The students are very honest in their independent reading progress since they are being held accountable in this way.
As we have learned with technology these past two years, the benefits also bring challenges. Taylor shared with me that she spent some time teaching her students what type of content to put on their blog to make it applicable to the specific weekly assignment. She also needs to teach and remind students how to appropriately comment on other students' posts. "A challenge," she says, "but a great skill for students to learn!"
Taylor's goals for her students this school year in regards to independent reading are to help students monitor their weekly progress, set and meet reading goals for themselves, and visualize all of the books they read throughout their 6th grade year!
Take a peek at a few screenshots from her students' posts!
Written by Tara Duerre, DMS Special Education Teacher
It’s 2015. I’ve been using the internet for over 15 years and yet here I sit, writing my very first BLOG. When I heard about this new blog for DMS, I felt excited to have this additional tool where we can share ideas, celebrations, goals, professional growth, and ah-ha moments.
I’m working with Mr. Peterson and Mr. Kelley this year specifically targeting reading fluency with a group of 13 students. High class numbers, wide range of students’ individual strengths and needs, and simply taking longer than usual to teach class procedures has made the beginning of this year seem more challenging than most, but on a positive note, I see growth and progress, maturity, and collaboration already with our students after the first quarter. Working with these two talented teachers is quite rewarding for me as well. Finally, the people holding TLC grant positions have provided us with additional support and learning that helps us grow professionally as well as provide our students with an additional breadth of ideas and strategies.
As a special education teacher, my main focus is often reading comprehension, but over the years have had specific students with fluency as their #1 need. A few years ago I piloted a series of interventions (FAA - functional academic assessment for fluency) with the help of Chami from the AEA and saw huge results. Three of the four students ended up exiting from special education services within 1.5 years of receiving the intervention. I’ve used it sporadically over the past few years with specific kids whose targeted need was fluency and it has still proved to show surprisingly drastic growth.
This year, there is a group of 13 students who require direct fluency instruction. Yep...13. I’ve done this with groups of 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, but 13. YIKES! A few days were spent getting the program set up with audio passages shared with each student, class computers set up, and the checklists made. Students go through a series of centers and practice fluency. Centers include:
The first day I think I had 15 grey hairs grow in, but gradually over the past weeks only 1 or 2 is popping up after our intervention class. The students are now working almost entirely independent throughout the centers and even ask me when they see me in the hall “Are we coming up for fluency today?” So I do believe they see the benefit, confidence, and growth in themselves and their reading. We have only graphed a baseline, but over the next 6 weeks will be watching closely to see the results.
How about you? Have you had a successful fluency intervention? Would you like to get an up-close look at FAA? Let's talk!
Written by Steve Peterson (@insidethedog), DMS 5th-grade Teacher
I am excited to write a post for the new DMS blog. I am hoping that it will be a way to stay in touch about our teaching and to support each other as we work through the changes we make in our classrooms.
This year I’ve been working with instructional coach, Andrew Ellingson, to begin a Socratic Seminar project in my fifth-grade classroom. (Last year, I reflected on a first draft of that project on my teacher blog.)
Beginning a new round of student-led discussion is a big undertaking, especially early in the school year. But I know from last year that having students lead discussions in an orderly manner pays great dividends throughout the year.
Frankly, I have been scared to try a student-led discussion this year. The students are different than last year’s students. I am beginning earlier in the year, at a time our classroom community is just beginning to gel. Class sizes are larger, too, which makes management a bit more difficult. Needless to say, I would have found many opportunities to put off the work I need to do to make it happen if it weren’t for my regularly scheduled meetings with Andrew.
In those meetings, Andrew has helped me think through the steps to scaffold student-led discussions. Last week we tried our first one, which I video-recorded. I shared these videos with Andrew and now we have plans to review them and plan for the next phases of the project. It feels great to have his support and gentle affirmation of the work that I am doing. I find myself looking forward to our meetings and his insights about how I might solve the problems that I encounter in such a complex project.
To close, I wanted to share one very concrete early benefit of working with Andrew. I asked Andrew to help develop some charts of statement stems designed to scaffold students’ text-based academic conversations. I told him that I wanted to pair the charts with a visual metaphor of some sort so the kids could develop a deeper sense of these kinds of more abstract conversation moves. The metaphor would serve both as a conversation piece and a visual reminder as the students were learning how to talk to each other.
Wow! It sure was fun to see how Andrew took to that task! You can see some of the work we have done below. If you are interested, I shared a folder with the posters at this link .
Have you tried Socratic Seminars? Are you thinking of doing more student-led discussions in your class? Let’s talk!
Written by Heath Kelley (@6kelley), DMS 5th-grade, Collaborative Teacher
With many of my daily routines occurring to some extent in the digital sphere, I have found myself recording the activity on my computer screen more each year. I have noticed that I am also receiving an increasing number of still images or screenshots from colleagues explaining their ideas. I wonder what this means for communicating the digital functions within my classroom?
I've often asked myself - am I maximizing the effectiveness of this tool? Is there benefit to delivering instruction this way? How might students benefit from being able to share their own digital thinking? Can this be a tool to involve parents?
I did some research on screen recording and would like to share with you what I've learned and have tried in my classroom.
The real-time recording of the activity on your computer screen, that is saved as a video file. The recording may capture any visual elements occurring on your computer screen such as pictures, videos, websites as well as any audio narration.
What Tools are Available to Screencast?
How do you Share a Screencast Video?
Challenges to Making Screencasts
How Might Teachers Use Screencasts?
How Might Students Use Screencasts?
How about you? Have you thought about possibly using screencasting in your classroom? What ideas come to mind that you would like to try? Let's Talk!
Written by Heath Kelley (@6kelley), DMS 5th-grade, Collaborative Teacher
This year I have tried to streamline my use of technology tools to make for a simple work flow for my students. One question that I ran up against early on was "how can Google Drive and Schoology work together?". Here is what I discovered.
Schoology enables users to add Google Drive as an App. This function allows teachers and students to find and use anything that is within Drive. One specific integrative feature is the option for students to submit Drive files within Schoology. Below is a 15 second clip that shows a student submitting a Drive File through Schoology.
Teachers can also import content from their Google Drive. For more information about teacher or student use of Drive within Schoology, or how to add Google Drive as an App, see the following article: How do I Use the Drive App?
How have you streamlined your student workflow? Are you interested in using both Schoology and Drive? Let's Talk!
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