In 2015, only 30–40% of Louisiana students demonstrated mastery of math and English skills, the majority of New Jersey students in grades 3-11 performed below grade level standards of college and career readiness, and California’s assessment results demonstrated a sizeable achievement gap.
PARCC and Smarter Balanced, two next generation assessments aligned to Common Core standards, have revealed that students aren’t learning the real-world skills needed to thrive after high school. Whether you believe that third-party assessments are essential to proving the efficacy of blended learning initiatives, or you think that testing takes up too much classroom time, it’s clear that 21st century students need to learn 21st century skills. From an early age, students should be comfortable conducting and synthesizing online research, designing and carrying out an experiment, and using facts to support a complex argument.
The following activities address depth of knowledge levels 3 and 4 and represent just a few of the ways that you can prepare students for college and career success.
3 Lesson Plans for Inspiring College and Career Success
1) ELA Activity: Write the first page of an epic poem.
Aim: What makes a poem an epic?
Purpose: Understand how to identify and apply literary themes.
Depth of Knowledge: Level 4, Strategic Thinking: Connect common themes across texts from different cultures.
Description: Assign your students selections from five different epic poems. Students should identify any themes, tropes, or conventions that they notice throughout the texts and include these similarities when they write the first page of a new epic poem on a topic of their choosing. If your classroom uses iPads or other mobile devices, have students record a video presentation of their poems. You might be surprised by how your introverted students come out of their shell when given the chance to present on their own terms.
Adapt It: Substitute epic poems with sonnets, fairy tales, haikus, persuasive letters, speeches, etc.
2) Math Activity: Fraction Buddies
Aim: What is an equivalent fraction, and where do we see equivalent fractions in the world today?
Purpose: Understand how to make two fractions have the same denominator.
Depth of Knowledge: Level 2, Skills/Questions: Compare and contrast figures. Level 4, Extended Thinking: Relate mathematical concepts to real-world applications in new situations.
Description: Write unsimplified fractions on nametags (8/10, 5/25, 7/49), making sure that for each fraction there is a nametag with a different fraction of equivalent value (8/10 and 16/20, 7/49 and 2/14.) Pass out fraction nametags and explain to students there is one other person in the class with a fraction that looks different but represents the same amount as their fraction. Put on some music and give students a few minutes to find their fraction buddy. When time is up, students should be ready to explain why their fraction is equivalent to their partner’s fraction and be able to provide real life examples that support their claims.
Adapt It: For other fun classroom activities, consider replacing fractions with synonyms or equations.
3) Social Studies Activity: Current Events Roundtable
Aim: How can we solve problems in the news?
Purpose: Use class discussion and problem solving skills to envision solutions to topical conflicts.
Depth of Knowledge: Level 4 , Extended Thinking: Plan and develop solutions to problems.
Description: Ask students to bring a news article to class that identifies a problem or dilemma that needs to be solved. For five minutes, have students work independently to brainstorm a variety of solutions to the problem presented in their news item. When time is up, lead the class in a group discussion in which students share their article and solutions and the class predicts the possible outcomes of each proposed solution.
Adapt It: If you teach younger students, have your class identify dilemmas that a character faces in a book. Before finishing the book, have students guess how the dilemma will be resolved. Award prizes to the most accurate and creative solutions