P21 offers free guidance for English teachers

English teachers now have a new free resource to help them infuse so-called 21st-century skills into their curriculum, thanks to a collaboration between the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

This new resource–a framework that provides teacher-created models for how 21st-century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity can be incorporated into English classes–is part of P21’s effort to create curriculum maps that demonstrate how to teach key 21st-century skills in the classroom. Earlier this year, the organization released similar guidance for social-studies teachers. (Read "New resource helps teach 21st-century skills.")

By offering sample lessons that combine 21st-century skills with interdisciplinary themes such as global awareness and civic, economic, and entrepreneurial literacy, the new English map gives concrete examples of how to align teaching and learning with the standards of the 21st century.

"This framework, which includes examples taken directly from proven classroom practices, represents an exciting tool for teachers and students as they move toward a 21st-century education system," said Kylene Beers, NCTE president. "The map also mirrors the evolving nature of NCTE, as we ensure our organization and members possess the tool and resources that are required for success in the 21st century."

The map cites specific student outcomes and provides models that aim to help student achievement in grades four, eight, and 12. For example, fourth graders, after reading folktales and watching two or three cartoons, might write their own contemporary version of a folktale and present it as a stop-motion or claymation film. NCTE and P21 say this activity helps students learn how to communicate new ideas to others and demonstrate originality and inventiveness in their work.

At the eighth-grade level, to help learn financial awareness and literacy, students might conduct research to answer the question: "How much schooling do you need to get the kind of job you would like to have?" After investigating salaries, employment outlooks, and education or training requirements for their possible careers, students create a chart comparing their top three to five choices and write short personal essays explaining how these choices fit their goals. As a result of these tasks, eighth graders would begin to analyze and make complex decisions, learning to identify and ask significant questions to clarify points of view.

At the high school level, teams of students might create a virtual field trip for elementary school students. In addition to creating a video and narration detailing the site, students would research background information and interview appropriate experts such as park rangers, tour guides, and historians. The students then would use a project management tool to organize tasks, assignments, and deadlines. Through this project, students would assume shared responsibility for collaborative work and demonstrate the ability to work effectively with diverse teams. They also would show creativity in planning an interactive experience for younger students.

"I commend NCTE and English teachers across the country for providing a framework that shows how the discipline is incorporating 21st-century skills," said Ken Kay, P21 president. "This work highlights the partnership’s mission to develop innovative tools that integrate 21st-century skills into the curriculum and positively impact student learning."

Additional maps will be available for mathematics, geography, and science in 2009, the organization said.


Partnership for 21st Century Skills

National Council of Teachers of English

21st Century Skills and English Map

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the “ Creating the 21 st Century Classroom ”resource center. Preparing today’s youth to succeed in the digital economy requires a new kind of teaching and learning. Skills such as global literacy, computer literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation have become critical in today’s increasingly interconnected workforce and society–and technology is the catalyst for bringing these changes into the classroom. Go to Creating-the-21st-century-classroom