As the school year draws to a close, I'm starting to outline how we can push our 21st Century Skill-building even further next year. We've focused on collaboration as a key skill within all our grades. However the more we talk about collaboration, the more I hear back from people how critical that skill is going to be in the future workforce. I'm committed that we will develop our students to be model collaborators, even in the more challenging circumstances.
One way we'll approach this is by identifying opportunities for our students to collaborate with others that are not of their peer group. I think finding opportunities for students different grades to collaborate with each other will help us create teachable moments around communication challenges and creating a final product when different specialists are working in a separate time and place.
Our 5th and 3rd grade teachers are in the process of organically piloting that model in preparation for our annual Science Spectacular Week. The third graders are performing a science-themed musical (which is incredibly exciting in it's own right!) and our 5th graders are building their set. The 3rd graders submitted a design, the 5th graders sketched out their ideas, which the 3rd graders then reviewed, and the 5th graders are now building!
In the future I think we can push this process farther by scaffolding the iterations and modes of communication between the two grades and encouraging them to self-reflect at each phase of the process. For example, the third graders can verbally communicate their ideas and the 5th graders can respond in writing. Then the 3rd graders will reflect on how close the 5th grade response was to their initial ideas. The 3rd graders can then respond in writing and the 5th graders can identify how close the two written pieces were, what areas they think they can improve on and what ideas they missed the first time. Then the 5th graders could respond with a sketch and present it to the 3rd graders (using screensharing software) and answer questions. The 5th graders could then have the 3rd graders "sign-off" on a final design and host a 3rd grade visit half-way through the building process. By the end each class will have experienced how modes of communication impact collaboration and how different ideas at different stages can make a project better.
I hope to host a school-wide curriculum overview during our June professional development to identify other opportunities in which grades can collaborate on projects throughout the school year. I think working in this way will be exciting for our students, help make some assignments feel more relevant and enhance their understanding of the importance of clear communication for effective collaboration.