21st-Century Skills

SIOP Strategies Support 21st Century Skills!


Communication and collaboration are among the top skills identified to be successful in the 21st Century; for English learners, these skills can be quite intimidating in the classroom. Academic language must be supported and scaffolded to help not just English learners but ALL learners in the classroom. The SIOP Model provides many different techniques to get English learners engaged in these skills. Below are my go-to techniques to get English learners collaborating and communicating in my classroom.

Inside Outside Circle:

What it is: For this teaching technique, the class is divided in half; the first half forms an inside circle, and the second half forms an outside circle around them. Each student pairs with the person across from him or her in the opposing circle.  After students respond to a question prompt from the teacher, the inside circle or outside circle rotates to form new partners.

Why it’s effective:  Speaking in pairs is less intimidating than speaking in front of the whole class. English learners have time to listen to their partner first, to hear an example if needed, and have a safe place to respond. After rotating, the English learner has 2 different responses to share with their next partner, and confidence has been built. This also is a safe place for students to work together and to work with many other students. By rotating pairs, all students see that working together with everyone is a class expectation. This not only helps students learn the content, but it also builds community in the classroom.

Variations: Teachers can use personal whiteboards for math problems; provide sentence stems for students to include, or practice specific vocabulary; teachers can have students prepare questions to quiz one another with as a form of review; teachers can use this with vocabulary cards as a form of vocabulary review; teachers can use this to have students share prior knowledge on a subject before starting a new unit, or share research from an article in preparation for a Socratic seminar. (more…)

21st Century Academic Skills in School and Beyond

By Deborah ShortImage

Increasingly educators are realizing that the development of academic language skills among all learners is important for success in school, in college, and in a career. Academic language involves decoding meaning—determining what a text says, a question asks, or a task requires, and encoding meaning—expressing one’s thoughts so they may be shared with others. The skills needed for students and workers in the 21st century include analytical reading and writing, clear communication, critical thinking, and creativity. These skills are conveyed in the new Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics and in the Next Generation Science Standards as well.

Analytical reading and writing skills build on foundation skills of early literacy, basic reading comprehension, and simple sentence formation. Making inferences about what is read and crafting an argument in writing to express an opinion pull together a number of complex cognitive processes. We must sort through multiple ideas, tap background knowledge, provide details, elaborate, and justify.

Clear communication involves the use of precise words, planning for a specific audience, and the ability to be responsive to the feedback in a conversation. If someone does not understand an utterance, then the speaker must rephrase or provide an example or find another way to make the message clear. If the listener has a follow-up question, the speaker must think about a response and then provide it. (more…)