In our province the English Language Arts curriculum is loaded with numerous outcomes at every grade level. While looking through these outcomes last week my attention was drawn to the concept of clarifying and extending thoughts and ideas, which is included throughout the K – 9 Program of Study. In grade 5, for example, students are expected to be able to clarify and extend by:
1. seeking others’ viewpoints to build on personal responses and understanding
2. combining ideas by using talk, notes, and personal writing to explore relationships among their own ideas and those of others, and
3. extending understanding by searching for further ideas and information from others.
Not only are teachers expected to “cover” these (and all other) prescribed outcomes, today we are wanting them to do it in such a way that 21st century competencies are being built at the same time. I blogged about the difficulty with this earlier. What follows is a simple yet innovative example of how these outcomes are being met through competency based learning.
Earlier this year our grade 5s connected with Mrs. Gray’s grade 5 class in Canton, Michigan through our school Twitter account. We got to know each other by tweeting our daily experiences and commenting on blog posts as both classes used Kigblog. Shortly thereafter a Skype visit was set up and the students were able to introduce temselves face-to-face. The level of engagement throughout these experiences was extremely high but the curricular component was missing.
Our current project, I believe, takes care of that. We are writing a story together using a Google Doc. Our students came up with a title and wrote the first part of the story. That alone was an exercise in creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and problem solving. We then sent the link to Canton, where they edited and illustrated our writing, then extended the story by a couple of paragraphs. They have now returned it to us and the students are highly engaged in illustrating and writing again. This is what I call authentic literacy, calling upon students to utilize higher order thinking skills and build important competencies they will need in the future. Here is a link to the shared story as it currently exists.
I think we have effectively addressed the outcomes listed above, and made them relevant to the students. A number of these learning opportunities are out there for our students. As teachers, we just have to go looking for them.