The Four C’s : fostering 21st century skills in the lit class.

wild rumpus
from “Where The Wild Things Are”, by Maurice Sendak, c. 1963


Wild times in Ms. Bailey’s Class, folks!  But I’m eating them up.

Four things are happening in class right now:

1. My class has designed and is creating study tools for themselves and their peers.

2. My class is engaging thoroughly with literature they need to study.

3. They are using native (and somewhat native) technologies to do it!

4. Without even trying (almost), we’ve integrated the 4 C’s of 21st century learning – communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking! win, win, win, win.

Here’s how we’ve been doing it … .

1. Communication (or: A Wrinkle in Time)

“Experiment is the mother of knowledge”- Madeleine L’Engle

In case this is the first of my posts you’re reading, here’s a snapshot of what’s been happening. I’ve been looking to facilitate deep engagement with challenging literature in my students, through “digitally native” technologies- or tech that they’re already using. For my students, that means Skype, Youtube, and some Instagram and Vine – (because I haven’t figured out how to incoporate Snapchat in to lessons , although these people have).

But to go even further, I asked them to design  study tools and tools to understand literature so they can succeed on their exam. I issued a survey to them the week before, which revealed that passing their exam was their number 1 priority (not surprising). They came up with great ideas, including a pill you can take to just know everything, and a website where I’d post tutorial videos, and a trivia game.

That’s where we were after my last blog post. Next, we decided on real projects.

2. Creativity, (or: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See?)

I see an intimidating task looking at me.

From the design lab we came up with some workable projects – which the student seemed to be pumped about. The first was a “Crash Course”style video to learn Poetry. The second was a series of Instagram videos to summarize Hamlet (this will make Hamlet exactly 5 minutes long – take THAT, Branagh). The third was to translate greek tragedy to current times through Twitter. This one is the rockiest, as none of the students had twitter accounts beforehand.

We also explored some other ideas that came out of the lab. We debated “whether Hamlet should be taught in school”, and started some thematic T.S. Eliot discussions. That’s when I noticed this piece of one student’s design lab:


During the debate, the point that Hamlet is “too hard” or “confusing” came up more than once.  The students are vocal about their frustration with The Wasteland – and I found this in an early draft of their Crash Course T.S. Eliot script:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 7.19.18 PM

Tall order!

They’re still working on the script, but I think they’ve found some exciting solutions to the difficulty problem – and their own assertion that Eliot is 1. Hard, and 2. Boring.

I also found this excerpt in a first draft Hamlet Instagram script (yes, (gasp!) a script for instagram vids)

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 7.26.50 PM

They’re speaking in language they believe will be appealing/entertaining to their peers, and they’re getting some of the complexity of the text.  Exciting stuff – it’s amazing what they come up with for an authentic audience!

But we hit a wall of sorts. While each group is becoming experts in their text, they all have to know both texts for the exam in May. So I underwent Cohort 21 -style tuning protocols to get some great feedback on our class project.

3. Collaboration, (or: How to Train Your Dragon)

Twelve days north of hopeless, and a few degrees south of freezing to death…

I love to collaborate. The project tuning protocol led by Celeste were no exception. After sharing the above with the team, I received some crucial feedback.

First, I shouldn’t be doing more work than the students. (THIS WAS A HUGE REVELATION). So, instead of doing “my” part – they asked me to create a website with video tutorials on it – I assigned them “critical question seminars” to record over Google Hangouts on Air  (don’t worry, they signed a waiver). That way, the students are the ones leading the tutorials (though I’ll be leading one myself). And those who can’t make the hangout – unlike in a Skype call – can watch it later via the link provided. Another study tool down the hatch!

We’ve also been reading more together in class- that way the students can ask their questions about the lit as they come up. This is an obvious answer to my question about engaging them in the literature, but one I’d shied away from in the past.

Not did I get to collaborate with a number of insightful colleagues, but these insights allowed me to collaborate with my students to create knowledge-building, critical-thinking tutorials they can use as additional tools to study!


4. Critical Thinking (or : Where the Wild Things Are)

Let the wild rumpus start!

It’s time to reflect, revise, and remodel for the next phase of my project.

I learned something  from the second project tuning protocol where Beth Nichols shared her exciting idea to Blog as reflection in Math class. In our Google hangout we discussed the importance of reflecting in general. I decided I need to do that more in my grade 12 English class.

How has this project affected their approach to learning literature? How has it changed their classroom experience? To what extent have they benefitted from this kind of learning? To what extent are they satisfied with their designs?

In one sense, this whole process has been a prototyping and testing phase of the design cycle. This week in class, we’ll be creating our final media and reflecting (thanks Beth!) on our experiences, setbacks, and growth through the process. I’m so curious to hear what they’d do differently next time, and how they’d revise their designs. They are excellent critical thinkers already. I’m really looking forward to the criteria they’ll come up with to assess their work, and how they plan to take this experience with them into post-secondary.

Personally, my framework and criteria was the Technology Integration Matrix. I think I’m right at the Infusion level – which is far greater than we were at before.

My personal next step is to get my classroom to the Transformation level of the TIM. But as a teacher, as we all know, I’m much more enthused about the students’ experience. I’ll be sharing that in my wrap up post on the 24th!

Any thoughts until then are very much welcome!


5 thoughts on “The Four C’s : fostering 21st century skills in the lit class.

  1. I love reading your posts, Ashley! Not only are they super informative and comprehensive, but they are always entertaining : )

    I really enjoyed taking part in your project tuning protocol, and I love reading about how your action plan is unfolding. Your plan has inspired me – I’m actually going to try your project out in my Gr. 8 English class (on a smaller scale). I’m going to ask my students to develop learning tools for a particular act in the Shakespeare text we are currently reading – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” – after working through the Design Thinking process. Thank you for sharing your ideas in such great detail – you’ve motivated me to push the boundaries in my classroom!

    1. Thanks Allison! 🙂

      I hope you share how that goes! It’ll be interesting to see what the different age group comes up with, and how the ideas work with a more discrete task! Take pictures!!!

  2. I really like what you came up with for creativity and how it stems from restrictions in format and medium. Sticking to 140 characters makes them really think about what is important!

    Looking big picture, you have really exposed these students to a huge variety of technologies with educational potential – this has got me thinking about how I am going with that in my own practice. Thank for for that!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Andrew!!

      Yeah! The twitter journey has been fascinating – they’re also showing their humour. I recently saw a “selfie” Ismene posted of herself and Antigone (two of the main characters) – and it’s actually just a charcoal drawing in classic style – the antiquated photograph, I suppose.

      They have exposed me to as much as I’ve done for them. Before this project I didn’t know about Instagram videos or Snapchat stories – and I certainly didn’t realize how many students were using these tools everyday. I’m thankful that the learning goes both ways. 🙂

  3. Hi Ashely,
    Great work here – I really like the level of challenge and opportunity you are exposing your students to…not to mention yourself!

    I love that you are getting students to create their own video tutorials. @sandygibson did that in last year’s cohort with French. Check out his blog post here: and scroll down.

    As a fan of “The Bard”, I wondered about whether or not your students are losing something in the translation they are creating – but only have that little to go on. Then I thought to myself that our roles as teachers is to engage the learner in learning. As Grant Wiggins wrote, the only determinant of student learning is ‘the engagement of the student in the attempt to learn.” And that is indeed what you are fostering!

    Congrats on hitting that sweetspot where you have become the “leading learner” in your class and are modeling what learning can do!

    Looking forward to seeing you soon,

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