The Framework for 21st Century Learning cites the importance of a learning environment that provides the opportunity for students to develop competency in the soft skills that can be easily overshadowed by more concrete competencies. Of course content area mastery and a deep understanding of technology and digital information are standard components of a successful 21st century learner, as teachers we must focus on playing a role in the development of the whole child, not just the skills we can more easily measure with an assessment.
An addition I made to my classroom several years ago was holding a daily Morning Meeting, a feature of responsive classrooms all across the country. Each of the four components of a morning meeting directly relates to the development of those skills so paramount to a 21st century learner.
Morning Message: The first component of your morning meeting is the message. This is a short greeting from you to your students. I would have the message up and ready on my Smartboard each morning, and my students knew to put eyes on that the second they walked through the door. In my messages, I would greet my students, give them a head’s up on major events in our day, and often ask a thought-provoking or review question tied to previous or future learning. Also, I made it common practice to add an inspirational quote every few days. Those always provide amazing conversation starters!
Greeting: This is your students’ opportunity to practice their communication and relational skills by allowing them to greet each other by name each day. This can be as simple as going around the meeting circle and asking each student to say good morning to the class while the class responds with, “Good morning, ______,” or you can employ one of the fun greeting activities found when looking online for morning meeting resources.
Group Activity: Hands down my favorite component of Morning Meeting and a fun way for students to work on their problem solving and teamwork skills, along with giving them a space to show off their creativity. We had a handful of go-to group activities that were class favorites and it was amazing to see my students’ ability to work together grow throughout the school year. The group activity is also a great way to incorporate content area vocabulary (Pictionary with biology terms, anyone?).
Sharing: This is a prime opportunity for students to sharpen their empathy skills and if you’ve been able to foster a positive and inclusive classroom environment (something that Morning Meeting helps you do!) the conversations that can arise from these sharing sessions will sometimes take your breath away. We used sharing time to discuss successes and challenges individual and groups of students were experiencing, either personally or academically. We also found this to be a great opportunity to problem solve issues we were facing as a class such as a not so great report from a guest teacher or a breakdown in behavior around a specific routine. As their teacher, I too took this opportunity to share (appropriately, of course) and also consistently modeled appropriate and empathetic responses. On top of all that, what an authentic way to allow students to sharpen the speaking and listening skills required of them to be college, career, and community ready (SL.6. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate).
How do you find balance when it comes to all the necessary components of 21st century learning including these increasingly important social emotional skills? Share your thoughts below and don’t forget to join the #WATeachLead chat at 7:00 PM this Sunday, 12/10 when the CORElaborate team hosts a discussion on helping students become resilient, thoughtful, and well-rounded individuals prepared for success in the 21st century.