The world we live in has evolved continuously. In this era of modernization and revolutions, along with the textual lessons and content, there is a dire need to cultivate some values and skills among our learners which we prominently call as 'the 21st century skills'.
In an English language class, it is of utmost importance to consider these skills as English is the lingua-franca of the world and empowers the learners with career opportunities throughout the globe. Todays world demands collaboration, critical thinking, digital literacies, leadership, creativity and imagination. Being teachers its our duty to prepare our learners for a better tomorrow and its definitely possible to inculcate these skills among our learners as we can blend these skills in our regular lessons effectively. Following are some ways through which we can incorporate these skills among our learners.
Learners as leaders: Leadership is an innate quality and it's possible to nurture leadership in an English language classroom by assigning various kinds of responsibilities to our learners e.g. checking homework, supporting a partner, managing a group project and reporting back to the teacher, leading a project and presenting the work etc. Even learners who are slower academically can also be given leadership with some simple tasks which focus their likings. I have found my class leaders not only to be more responsible but also relishing their responsibilities proudly. By changing the leaders, equality can be brought into the class with opportunities for all. Learners' energy is also directed in a utilitarian way.
Pairing and grouping: When we talk about collaboration, pairing and grouping activities prove to be very reliable and useful. Not only are these liked by our learners but these are the pioneering steps to promote collaboration among our learners and make them sensitive towards others' needs. Heterogeneous groups allow learners of different abilities and learning styles to come and work together. Learners learn to adjust and listen to each other. Helping the needy partners and learning from others paves the way for peer learning. This prepares them for the future workplaces which demand collaboration. Homogeneous groups are also useful where learners of same learning styles work together. By putting such learners together, different kinds of tasks can be given as per the learning styles and levels. If shy learners are unable to open up in a mixed ability or heterogeneous group then they can feel more confident working with learners of their similar style. And the stronger learners can be challenged with other stronger ones for more creative tasks. Whatever the grouping style is, the results are positive and scaffolding learning in a friendly way.
Democratic class: A classroom which is run on the principle of democracy is the miniature which shapes the ideal citizens of tomorrow. For assigning various responsibilities, learners' poll can be utilised effectively. This year, for my classroom assembly, my learners asked me if they can use the 'NOTA' function (it means 'none of the above' which is an option provided at the EVM which allows candidates not to choose from the given candidates) if they don't like any candidate for a particular role. I agreed to that and learners actually used it because they didn't find the candidate suitable for the given role. Some days back they complained against the class representative and demanded to replace him as he failed to perform his duties as per the class contract. This way it's possible to promote democratic principles as well as a sense of duty in every individual.
Linking texts to ignite imagination: Imagination is the soul of human life and schools should provide the opportunities to ignite it. We can select the texts and set some tasks which call for their imagination. e.g. After teaching an extract from a classic, learners can be asked to imagine how the story would take place in current time. Role plays, visualizing a situation, writing short poems, dialogues between real and imaginary characters boost the creativity and imagination.
Associating ideas to ignite critical thinking: Often in an EFL or ESL classroom learners find it difficult to put their ideas into proper words when it comes to creative work. They can be made to work together where they exchange ideas and present their work collectively. This way they can work for the activities which require critical thinking. For my classes, group work has worked effectively where learners need to present their own ideas and responses. I use this technique of grouping to make my learners think critically and share their responses. One idea leads to another and a plethora of responses is the result. Later while collecting their ideas it is possible to address and correct some common errors as well without pointing towards any particular learner.
Learners as decision makers: In a democratic class, when learners are given the liberty to take decisions, it not only facilitates learning in a healthy atmosphere but also helps them to take responsibility on their own for their own well-being. They can be involved in taking decisions about the clasroom contract, selecting their partners or group members or choosing topics for projects. They feel valued and involve more actively when their choices are considered. I often ask my learners how much homework would they like to have as there are many subjects to study. By giving them choice I win their trust and in return they try to complete their homework in time as it is set as per their convenience. Considering their views while selecting the interaction patterns also guarantee their maximum participation.
Digital Literacies: Our learners are called the natives of the digital world. They are better than us when it comes to technology. When used in learning, technology is a proven boon and adds more enjoyment and engagement in the classes. But being digitally literate isn't enough. It has its pitfalls as well. It is our responsibility to inculcate good digital habits in our learners while using technology. Being aware of false information, staying safe from cyber crimes, knowing the difference between the virtual world and the real world and using technology as a means are some of the safety measures our learners need to take.
Education aims at developing the individuals ,making them able to survive in the world. Today's world is full of challenges and opportunities. It's our job to bring out a generation capable to sustain in this modern world. We teachers have modified ourselves time to time and I am sure we will definitely make our learners as ideal 21st century citizens.