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ED595L   21st Century Literacy:  Teaching the Four C’s in the Information Age



Keith Manos

Course Description

This course provides teachers in grades 3-College practical, research-based strategies for creating engaging lessons that help students improve their skills at collaboration, critical thinking, communication (both print and digital), and creativity – the 4 C’s of the 21st century classroom. Teachers will learn how to make students college and career ready with lessons that adhere to Ohio’s Learning Standards, utilize technology, demonstrate professional accountability, and lead to student achievement.

Participants should bring a laptop if possible.

Course Objectives (Participants will be able to . . .)

1.         Clarify the important terms related to 21st century literacy and then design effective          lesson plans aligned with the Ohio Learning Standards and 21st century literacy.
2.         Teach the 4 C’s of 21st century learning – Critical thinking, Collaboration, Communication,           and Creativity to their students through relevant and meaningful learning activities.
3.         Create a student-centered classroom.
4.         Produce engaging lessons that foster problem solving, promote critical thinking, and involve students in collaborative work.
5.         Assess student progress with a variety of assessments and rubrics, both formative and      summative, that align with the Ohio Learning Standards.
6.         Define what it means to be literate in the 21st century.
7.         Identify websites to explore and add to their “teaching toolbox.”
8.         Apply technology in a meaningful context for either online or classroom instruction.

In short, participants should expect to leave this seminar with a series of useful, classroom-tested strategies to help their students not only become prepared for future college and career tasks but also succeed on state-mandated tests.  Creating 21st century literacy and mastering techniques for teach-ing in the information age should be a focus in all content area classrooms.

Learning Experiences

Through discussion, direct instruction, demonstrations, videos, and collaboration, participants will learn how to use research-based and classroom-tested activities that strengthen grades 3-12 students’ background knowledge of historical, cultural, and language literacy as mandated now by Ohio’s Learning Standards. 

What does it mean to be literate in the 21st century?

Students should emerge from 21st century classrooms with the skills and competencies in the areas of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking enabling them to succeed in college and/or careers.  They should be able to engage competently with technology, diversity, and documents.

Prose Literacy—the knowledge and skills to read, comprehend, and use continuous texts (e.g. editorials, news stories, brochures, and instructional materials).

Document Literacy—the knowledge and skills to search, comprehend, and use texts in various formats (e.g.  job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and drug or food labels).

Quantitative Literacy—The knowledge and skills to identify and perform computations using numbers embedded in printed materials (e.g. balancing a checkbook, calculating a tip, etc.)


Atwell, Nanci. In the Middle: New Understanding About Writing, Reading, and Learning.  Boynton/Cook Publishing.  Portsmouth, NH.  1998.

Block, C.  Improving Comprehension Instruction:  Rethinking Research, Theory, and Classroom Practice.  Jossey-Bass. San Francisco, CA.  2002.

Close, E.  A Middle Mosaic:  A Celebration of Reading, Writing, and Reflective Practice at the Middle Level.  NCTE.  2000.

Commission on Adolescent Literacy.  Adolescent Literacy:  A Position Statement.  International Reading Association.  1999.  www.readingonline.oeg.

Dinesh, Asha. “The 21st Skills Students Need to Learn in School.”  EZ School.  2013.  June 21, 2013.

Fountas, I.C.  Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6):  Teaching Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy.  Heinemann. Portsmouth, NH.  2001.

Kay, Ken.  The Leader’s Guide to 21st Century Education.  Pearson Publishing.  Upper Saddle River, NJ.  2012.

Marzano, Robert. What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. ASCD, 2003.

Marzano, Robert, et. al. A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works.  ASCD, 2001

Miller, B. “21st Century School House” blog.  2008.  June 21, 2013.

Opitz, M.  Flexible Grouping in Reading:  Practical Ways to Help All Students Become Better Readers.  Scholastic.  1998.

Rasinski, T.  Teaching Comprehension and Exploring Multiple Literacies:  Strategies from the Reading Teacher.  International Reading Association.  2000.

Sawyer, Keith.  “Assessing 21st Century Skills.”  Creativity and Innovation Wordpress blog. June 20, 2013.  June 22, 2013.

Tompkins, Gail.  Literacy for the 21st Century:  A Balanced Approach.  5th Edition.  Allyn and Bacon Publishing, Inc.   Boston, MA.  2009.

Wepner, S. et. al.  Eds.  Linking Literacy and Technology:  A Guide for K-8 Classrooms.  International Reading Associaiton.  2000.

Schedule of Tentative Activities

Day 1

Today’s Focus:  Critical Thinking and Creativity

1.    Introduction to presenter and course.

2.    Contrast between 20th and 21st century literacy and an introduction to the four C’s of 21st century learning.

3.    YouTube video presentations.

4.    Democracy activity.

5.  Overview on critical thinking, background knowledge, and Bloom’s taxonomy.

6.  Overview on Close Reading and Contextualization as related to Critical Thinking and the Inquiry Approach as related to Critical Thinking.

7.  Overview of Creativity.

8.  Summary, readings, and review.

Day 2

Today’s Focus:  Communication and Assessment

1.    Review Day 1 key points:  What have we covered so far?

2.    YouTube video presentations.

3.    Examination of Farmers’ Insurance training methods.

4.    Read “21st Century Academic,” “Teachers of the Future,” “What is Digital Literacy?”

5.    Paradoxes about teaching communication skills and the contrast academic v. workplace writing.

6.    Overview on digital literacy, emails, texting, Twitter, blogs, Watpad.

7.    Contrast Google and Bing.

8.    Review of self-correction and reflection, formative and summative assessments, rubrics and evaluation forms, and academic and workplace evaluations.

9.    Read “Guidelines for Assessing Student Learning.”

10.  Ted Talk:  “Testing, Testing” by Linda Darling-Hammond.

Day 3

Today’s Focus:  Ohio Learning Standards, preparing students for 21st century college and careers, and creating a student-centered classroom

1.    Review of Day 2 key points:  What have we covered so far?

2.    Video:  “Daddy Daycare” and emphasis on accountability.

3.    Overview on Ohio Learning Standards– important background details.

4.    Visit ODE website to contrast OLS-based lesson v. non-standards-based lesson, OLS by grade levels, and Career Tech webpages.

5.    Discussion of OLS applications, relevancy, pedagogy, and accountability.

6.    Overview on career readiness in the 21st century and career exploration in classroom lessons.

7.    Read “The Future of Work in Uncertain” and employers’ expectations.

8.   Ted Talks:  Ashley Stahl and “On Demand in the 21st Century Classroom.”

9.    Overview on creating a student-centered classroom.

10.  Read “Encouraging Student Input.”

Day 4

Today’s Focus:  Student-centered classroom and Collaboration

1.    Review how to create a student-centered classroom.

2.    Overview on teaching collaboration in the 21st century classroom.

3.    YouTube video presentations  “21st Century Skills in Action.”

4.    Analysis of selected websites.

5.    Ted Talks:  “Teaching Methods for Inspiring Teachers of the Future,”  “What 60 schools can tell us about teaching 21st century skills.”

6.    Project work.

1.  Participation in class and group discussions during each class session – 20%.

2.  Primary Source Document Assignment:   Break the stranglehold of the textbook by locating a primary source document that you can apply to a specific lesson in your subject area. This primary source document could be but is not limited to, for instance, a letter, speech, or news article that would help students understand events and/or develop better interpretations about the subject matter. Explain in a single paragraph how this document would relate to a specific lesson. This is due at the beginning of class on Day 2 – 10 %.

3.  Website Assignment:  Explore and summarize the contents of an assigned website, listing the key points and interesting information that fellow educators (and students, in turn) could find valuable.  Be sure to address how colleagues could use this website to improve their own teaching and/or engage students to improve their digital literacy. Then prepare a two-minute presentation that will be delivered at the beginning of class on Day 4 – 10%

4.  Final Project:

The variety of communication and multimodal assignment formats allows for a variety of assignment and assessment options that any teacher can use with any lesson.  That said, you are to design a single lesson, assignment, and assessment criteria/rubric for the students’ final product. This product can be generated from a reading or writing lesson. -  60%


Project Directions:

1.         The Assignment - What exactly do you want the students to accomplish?  Be very precise          and explain in 3-4 sentences the purpose for using this assignment with your students,

            answering the question:  Why am I doing this with my students?. You should also include

            here the Ohio Learning Standard(s) you want students to master.

2.         The Lesson – What are some learning activities that you will use in the classroom to

            engage students in the lesson and develop their background knowledge, 21st century literacy,         and communication skills?  Be sure to include a technology task(s) and career readiness tie-in            in the lesson, which should have a student-centered approach.  In addition, students must             have the opportunity to collaborate and use critical thinking.  List these in numerical order (a          minimum of six).   

3.         The Product - What will the final product look like - i.e., short-answer test questions,       summary, essay, report? How much writing, for instance, is expected of the students?       Provide the specific directions as if giving them to the students in either sentence or             bullet format.

[Pretend now that the students have completed their final product and are ready for it to be evaluated.] 

  4.         Provide the actual summative assessment form.  Consider:  How will you evaluate the   students?  What will be the evaluation criteria for the final assignment? What OLS standards      are they expected to have mastered?  Include the OLS on the assessment form.

  5.         What about remediation and enrichment?  Provide information about the scaffolding you

            would use for students who perform poorly on the summative assessment and the enrichment

            activities you would assign to students who demonstrate mastery. 

The final project will be turned in on the last class session.  This project is worth 60% of your grade.



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