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 21st Century Literacy:  Teaching the Five 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.

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

1.         Teach the 4 C’s of 21st century learning – Critical thinking, Collaboration,       Communication, and Creativity to their students through relevant and meaningful     learning activities.

2.         Design engaging lesson plans aligned with the Ohio Learning Standards and 21st     century literacy that foster problem solving, promote critical thinking, and involve            students in collaborative work

3.         Create a student-centered classroom.

4.         Assess student progress with a variety of assessments and rubrics, both formative and       summative, that align with the Ohio Learning Standards.

5.         Define what it means to be literate in the 21st century.

6.         Identify websites to explore and add to their “teaching toolbox” in order to 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 teaching in the information age should be a focus in all content area classrooms.

Learning Experiences

Participants will work at their own pace, and through readings, models, and videos, 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.

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.

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.    Readings: “Give Kids Real Problems to Solve – Even in Elementary School” and “Critical   

        Thinking and Close Reading.”

5.     Charles Lindbergh activity.

6.     Overview on critical thinking, background knowledge, Close Reading and    

        Contextualization  as related to Critical Thinking and Fake News.

7.    Explore websites and digital games that promote critical thinking.

8.    Overview on Creativity, including viewing videos, readings, modeling, and practicing.


Day 2

Today’s Focus:  Communication

1.    YouTube video presentations – students and social media.

2.    Contrasts between academic and career-oriented communication formats; note model

       lesson plan.

3.    Readings: “21st Century Academic,” “Teachers of the Future,” and “What is Digital


4.    Overview on digital literacy, emails, texting, Twitter, blogs.

5.    Explore websites; summarize the content of one.

6.    Overview on how to design a multimodal assignment.

7.    Overview on designing effective oral presentations.

8.    Summary and review.


Day 3

Today’s Focus:  Student-centered classroom, the Ohio Learning Standards, and assessing students

1.    YouTube video presentations – student-centered teaching and learning.

2.    Readings: “Creating a Student-Centered Classroom,” “Encouraging Student Input . . .

        According to the Experts,” and “What Student-Centered Looks Like.”

3.    Key tips on developing a student-centered classroom contrasted from a teacher-

       centered classroom

4.    Overview on Ohio Learning Standards– important background details. Reading:

       “Premise of the Ohio Learning Standards.”

5.    Examine model lesson plan.

6.    Visit ODE website to contrast OLS-based lesson v. non-standards-based lesson, OLS by

        grade levels.

7.    Video presentation: “Assessing Student Learning.”

8.    Reading: “Guidelines for Assessing Student Learning.”

9.    Review of self-correction and reflection, formative and summative assessments, rubrics

       and evaluation forms, and academic and workplace evaluations.

10. Summary and review.


Day 4

Today’s Focus:  Collaboration and Career-Readiness

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

2.    Video presentations: “Education – Collaboration” and “21st Century  Skills: 

       Collaboration – Communication.”

3.    Overview on implementing collaboration in the 21st century classroom, including

       assigning roles, using stations, and handling conflicts.

4.    Readings on how to engage students in cooperative learning.

5.    Define career readiness and then read:  “Career Readiness.”

6.    Explore the Ohio Department of Education’s webpage on teaching career skills.

7.    Overview on 21st century job trends and how students can explore career options.

8.    Explore ODE website.

9.    Read “Preparing Students for 21st Century Careers: What Major Employers Say.”

10.  View Ted Talks: “Teaching Methods for Inspiring the Students of             the Future” and “On    

        Demand Learning in the 21st Century Classroom.”

11. Review career readiness in the 21st century and career exploration in classroom


12. Project work.

ED ___ 21st Century Literacy:  Teaching the 4 C’s in the Information Age


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.




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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