Students, teachers and the tools we use for learning in the 21st century are evolving. The classroom is no longer a place for memorization of facts, which students learn and then give back on a test.
Project based learning, critical and analytic thinking, collaboration within and outside the school walls are becoming the norm instead of the exception. As schools evolve so too will the skills of our children. I agree with Peg Dawson that the skills mentioned above are the ones our students will need. Think about it. Compare the amount of long term projects and collaborative efforts a child today makes to what you did in school. I see a huge increase in the amount of project and long-term assignments being given to students (even in elementary school). If that is the case then children have to be good at organization, working memory, persistence and motivation to carry a project out from beginning to end and turn it in on the due date.
The problem is that these executive functioning skills do not fully mature until 25. Until that age we lend kids our frontal lobes to help them be successful. Today’s middle school and upper elementary students are being asked to organize and time manage at an expectation level that many are not capable of yet. It is very stressful to students, because the expectation often does not match with their stage of mental development.
What is a teacher to do? In my opinion the best path is the old school games and activities that teach patience, perseverance, focus, and visualization.
Below are some old school ideas for how to improve executive function skills that will help your child be more successful with the demands of the 21st century classroom:
Old School children’s Games that teach focus, attention, patience:
Red light, Green Light
Duck, Duck, Goose
Games and activities that working memory, persistence and organization:
Music lessons especially piano, trumpet, and violin
Knitting, sewing, woodworking
The players have to picture and remember an increasing list of items. One child starts by saying, “I packed my suitcase and in it I put a toothbrush (or anything else).” The next player repeats that phrase and adds another item “a toothbrush and a comb.” Go back and forth adding more items depending on your child’s age and ability.
What’s Missing? Place some small toys under a towel or a blanket.
Let your child see what’s there, and then have her cover her eyes. Remove one toy, replace the towel, let her lift it up and try to figure out what’s missing. Variation: Show your child the toys, put the towel over them and see how many she can remember.
Card games like go fish, war, and bridge
Board games like chess, checker and backgammon
Computer or web-based games that work on memory are also great.
Discovery Education actually has some wonderful games and stories under the student tab in the tool bar across the top of the subscriber log in page. One of the game sites that offer great games for memory is found on the fact monster games and quizzes web page.
Discovery also has numerous children’s songs and audio stories that children can read along with to improve memory.
Discovery also offers a parent pull down menu with a tab called motivation station and create inspire. Both of these tabs have great ideas for games and activities to play with young children and develop better focus, memory, and motivation.
When it comes down to it the best way to prepare children for the classroom of the future is to use common sense and know that the skills mentioned above need to be modeled and practice. Games, sports and other activities like music lessons or crafts will help your child develop these skills and they won’t even know they were learning.