Although the link to this graphic seems to have been removed from the Alberta Education website from which I first took it, it provides a good understanding to what makes up a 21st century learner. In my classroom I see the three components of 1) Engaged thinker 2) Entrepreneurial Spirit and 3) Ethical Citizens playing out in many ways but not without me as the teacher understanding my subject disciplines and then translating the curriculum into meaningful learning activities.
My Project Based Learning unit on India (scroll down in this link to Unit plans to see more detail) allowed the students to be engaged thinkers, forming their own research questions, looking up information collaboratively, all the while becoming digitally literate. They learned ethical citizenship through learning appropriate and creative ways to present their information and after a lengthy discussion on the quality of life of many Indian people, I was proud of the class as they jumped at the chance to become socially responsible, globally-aware citizens and figured out a way to purchase bunnies and chicks to support two families through Gospel for Asia.
Entrepreneurial spirit is perhaps more difficult to see, but when viewed through the lens of resiliency (further explained in Chris Smeaton's Creating Entrepreneurial Spirit blog post) I can attest to the students having to face many challenges in learning how to research. Third grade is awfully young to be trying to extract and organize facts from textbooks and websites and I won't lie, there was more than a few frustrations. Yet, with guidance and support, hard work and perseverance, the students overcame their challenges and succeeded. The research portion of PBL at this stage is messy and time-consuming but really valuable in the end.
Furthermore, their learning was authentically assessed when we had a guest in to share about his recent trip to India (read about that visit here). Although he did a fantastic job and fully engaged the students long past the time originally planned, I think the students did just as much talking as he did as they "compared notes" with him. Additionally, our Skype chat with immigrants from India who now work with a student's mother, enhanced and modified some of the research even more and put "experts on the panel" for the students to gauge their knowledge.
In Math, using the Bringing Math Alive resource, allows students to engage in math activities through games, leveled questioning, and journaling. The students literally create their own textbook as the units progress, using teacher-led journaling prompts to create "rules" and examples for themselves. Word problems are embedded throughout so that the students are consistently linking real-life applications to the concepts they are studying.
|Word problems embedded in each unit|
|Math journaling to give a student-made reference for information|
Since it is my first year teaching most of the subject matter, I have worked very hard to understand each curriculum in depth. This takes time and experience to fully know how best to approach a subject like, for instance, Rocks and Minerals from Science 3. The challenge is not understanding the vocabulary or how the rock cycle works, the challenge of course is knowing which basic principles the students are going to need for the entire unit and subsequent grades, how far to take the student's inquiry, and pacing. After all, there are four more science units to cover for the year. My understanding of all my subject disciplines has grown in leaps and bounds this year and I look forward to refining it in the future through further reading, discussion with colleagues and just simply trial and error. Another quite enjoyable aspect of "research" I undertook was to read topic-specific texts alongside my students. Please read more about that aspect of my learning at this blog post: Great Reads to Keep up with Grade 3 Social (and beat the winter blues!)