What kind of future do we expect for our children? This question is ever-present in the thoughts of educators and parents. One thing is for sure; their future will look different to the world we know today. We cannot prepare students for unknown future roles, but we can equip them with the skills they need so that they can adapt and flourish as socially responsible, engaged and creative global citizens. In this article we look at the crucial role schools play in helping learners to develop these global competencies.
In many ways, the language classroom is the perfect place to develop these skills. The Cambridge Life Competencies Framework (2019) outlines six key areas of competencies: creative thinking, critical thinking, learning to learn, communication, collaboration and social responsibilities. Much of the pedagogy we adopt in the language classroom naturally integrates practice in these skills. We are now going to take a look at the areas of collaboration, creativity and critical thinking and examples of how pedagogy informs classroom practice.
In class today, students are learning an oracy skill of asking for information – a vital skill when using any language. They are given a task to complete in groups, in which they plan a dream vacation. During this task, they need to collaborate with their group members to make choices and decisions; they need to listen to and accept others’ opinions; and they need to ensure everyone is working together in order to complete the task successfully.
In this straightforward task, they are not only producing relevant language but also practising the following competencies, as outlined in the Cambridge Life Competencies Framework for collaboration:
- listening respectfully and responding constructively to others’ contributions or activities;
- managing the sharing of tasks in a project;
- working towards a resolution related to a task.
Part of learning a language involves being creative with it – adapting it to our own personal needs and ways of expressing our thoughts. Language is the vehicle for creative thinking, and so neither one can survive without the other.
In this class, students have just read a story. They are each asked to choose a character and create a finger puppet of that character. Students then play out a puppet show between the characters.
Here, students are interpreting characters in a drama – they need to reflect on the identity and personality of the characters; they are adapting the story and using their own ideas to retell it; and they are using different media to create their own designs. Again, students are reflecting on past knowledge to use language creatively, whilst also developing the following competencies:
- participating in creative activities;
- creating new content from their own ideas or other resources;
- using newly created content to solve problems and make decisions.
Stories are a staple for the primary language classroom, and they provide a rich resource for building language and literacy skills. They can also be a powerful vehicle for developing critical thinking skills. During a whole-class reading context, the teacher and students read and the teacher encourages the children to think about the story through employing dialogic reading strategies. Students are asked to predict what happens, why the characters have acted as they have and what might have happened had they behaved otherwise.
During this teacher-student dialogue, students are encouraged to make predictions and estimations; they describe problems and suggest possible reasons for those problems; and they describe consequences of different potential actions of a character in a story. So while engaging with a story, students are developing the following critical thinking competencies:
- Understanding and analysing links between ideas
- Evaluating ideas, arguments and options
- Synthesising ideas and information
In 2018, the OECD recognised that schools play a crucial role in helping learners to develop global competencies. The pedagogy and communicative practices employed in the primary English language classroom make it the ideal place to take up this role.
If you enjoyed this article and are looking for ideas to implement in your classroom, then why not read our post on Ideas for extensive reading in the Primary classroom.