How to Implement 21st Century Skills in Class

21st century skills are a real buzz-word. Let's see how we can make those easily form part of our lessons.

Coming from a background where all spheres of education are teacher-centered, many things I've read, learnt and seen online and abroad have been a big eye-opener in my career (thank you, Internet).  What I do in class and how I see education at large has taken a different turn in the past few years so it's only logical for me to continue helping my learners grow in the best possible way.

I guess there's no need to introduce the term '21st century skills', many have already done it wonderfully on this website. But basically, when my students leave the classroom I want them to be better at 1) thinking critically and/or creatively while 2) performing either independently or in groups on a global scale. This means that I'm no longer teaching just present continuous, but rather I’m trying to get the most by providing engaging content and higher level thinking tasks.

Without further ado, let's see what positive changes we can make in our classes to prepare our learners for the future.

Make the experience personal.  Our learners are our inspiration and our starting point. Finding out what they like and what makes them tick is what's going to spark their curiosity and that's, I believe, a pre-requisite for every kind of learning experience. This leads me to my second point….

Provide authentic content. Bringing content from a range of online and offline resources into classrooms keeps my students on their toes and makes their time worthwhile. When my learners come to class and know that something's NOT going to be from the coursebook I grab their attention and little light bulbs above their heads turn on. Authentic content (digital or not) benefits the 'intrinsic motivation' factor.

Opt for relevant and/or entertaining topics. As soon as we know what our students are into, we can focus on topics that are either more 'serious ', or rather, relevant like the environment, job markets, or lighter, more entertaining ones. A video of a privacy prank ( can be an example of both.

Get into 'low-prep for you, higher-level thinking for them' mode. Less is more. We teachers need every spare minute we can get, that's why I always go with the low-prep tasks if I work on engaging materials.  For example, apart from comparing these illustrations ( our learners can say to what extent they agree, if it’s too generic, how reliable the source is or what they can conclude from the comments - therefore developing their critical thinking and information literacy skills. Students can also say what group they think they belong to, take the opposite viewpoint and debate (communication, empathy). Why stop there? They can make a questionnaire and then create a pie or bar graph to communicate the results. Why not take the results outside class and make it a project by creating an advertising campaign? Options are endless.

Give feedback. This one’s a no brainer, but still it’s important. Monitoring during the activities and then reporting back on what was great, what could be better, drilling, expanding on the lexis… The learners are your biggest material – get the most out of them!

Reflect. How have you prepared your learners for the 21st century after the lesson? What went well? What could you have done differently? Take a moment to reflect on your own, with your peers, share online…

Enjoy the journey! Feeling useful and knowing you’re doing your best to help your learners grow is a fantastic feeling. Good luck and share with us how you’ve dealt with the challenge!

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