We spend a very small part of our lifetime at school - just 3% - yet it is such an important time in our lives. In addition to learning numbers and letters, school influences our self perceptions, our social skills and our love of learning.
Yep, there is no doubt that a good experience at school benefits our life enormously!
Kids today have to deal with increasingly vast amounts of information and options. Their ability to cut through to what is important and to stay connected is crucial.
Educators have identified four core skills that help kids to be effective learners in this information era - these are called '21st century skills'. The four 21st century skills and the self-confidence to use them are crucial for our little learners.
The essential skills that help kids with school are:
Imagination, curiosity and trying new things are what makes us creative. Creative skills enable kids to express their thoughts and ideas more effectively. In school, creativity helps kids to try different approaches when tackling problems, developing a deeper understanding and discovering better ways to do things.
Tips for developing creativity:
- Give kids plenty of opportunities for open-ended activities - these are activities where the outcomes are underdetermined and kids can try out their own ideas e.g. construction, cooking without recipes, exploring natural environments.
- In familiar activities, change the materials, tools or location to inspire kids to try new ideas.
- Build confidence in creativity by complimenting kids on their originality, experimentation and imagination.
What is the point of knowledge or an idea if it is not shared? When kids can communicate effectively they are better equipped to participate, contribute, influence and express their thoughts. They are also better listeners, retaining useful information.
Tips for growing communication skills:
- Frequently ask kids open-ended questions - these are questions where the answers are free-form and they require kids to explore their thoughts. E.g. 'what do you think of it?', 'how can we make this better?', and 'what else could we do with that?'.
- When discussing what kids are learning in school, challenge them to explain how it may be useful in real life.
- Encourage kids to convey their hopes and ambitions (which are likely to change frequently!) to develop self-expression.
Collaborating develops social skills and helps kids to explore other points of view. Working with others reinforces learning and helps kids to develop their thinking and ideas. With practice, kids learn to be adaptable and contribute to groups in ways that benefit everyone including themselves.
Tips for improving collaboration:
- Practice negotiation skills - challenge kids to decide on something and then convince you or others to agree.
- Encourage kids to collaborate with people of a wide range of backgrounds, giving them experiences with a range of personalities.
- When kids work in teams, discuss the goals of the team and their contribution e.g. in sporting teams or after-school activities.
4. Critical thinking
Critical thinking is not teaching a kid to criticise - how annoying would that be! Rather, critical thinking is asking questions, understanding why and finding out how. Critical thinkers can be better learners, because instead of accepting facts and figures put in front of them, they explore the story behind them, developing a better understanding and more informed points of view.
Tips to develop critical thinking:
- Support kids to view themselves as great problem solvers - talk it up! It helps them to tackle problems with a positive attitude.
- Make time to help kids explore a question or topic of their choosing, letting them lead. You might look up information with them on the computer, visit a centre together, or discuss the topic with an expert.
- When talking with kids, explain your thoughts about what you are doing or deciding, such as why you chose one way and what would happen if you chose a different option.
The capability of kids to believe in themselves is linked to positivity and resilience. If kids are confident in themselves they are more likely to put forward ideas, be active participants, and hold bigger aspirations for their future.
Tips for improving confidence in capabilities:
- Support kids to develop a healthy self image by helping them to develop positive self-talk.
- Assist kids to connect with the people that believe in them including suitable family and friends.
- Give kids responsibilities that are suitable for their age, growing their self-reliance and pride e.g. making decisions that affect others.
But don't forget the fun...
At Incredible Inventors these five skills underpin our values and products: kids developing creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and confidence.
If we expanded this list from the Top 5 skills to the Top 6, we'd add in the skill knowing how to have fun. Why? Because learning is most effective when we enjoy it!