Fostering 21st Century Skills in the Music Room

How does one define what 21st Century Skills are? As defined by http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework, these skills are essential for a child’s ability to learn and be innovative in a forward thinking century. These skills are also the connection between life skills, technology, and core subjects.

Dubbed as necessary in order to function in the current generation and environment. Bringing 21st century thinking mixed with more meaningful technology use and useful work related skills. The arts and especially music are a perfect place to help foster these skills and guide students to a successful future. 

There are 4 parts to these skills:

Collaboration: Students working together in activities, projects, and games. Working together towards a common goal.

Creativity: Opportunities to think outside of the box and go beyond final expectations. Activities and projects or discussions that give students opportunities to expand and create ideas all their own.

Critical Thinking: Students given opportunities to problem solve, process, sequence, and more. Getting them to think deeper and know that problems and riddles are not always solved quickly.

Communication: Learning how to communicate in an effective way that expresses ideas, emotions, problems, and praise. Students learn how to speak up, collaborative, learning how to get criticism and give criticism too.

While teaching these skills are part of a normal educational practices, being consciously aware of how you teach and reinforce these skills can help administration see how important the arts are to educating the whole child.

So what are some ways help guide students in practicing these skills in the music classroom:

  1. Being able to collaborate and work together is an important skill one must have. Have students work together often in class. Sometimes it might be the first time they have worked in a group with some students in their class. Music is all about team work, whether it is a 5 minute collaborative activity of creating movement to a piece, or a full ensemble jam session.
  2. Take off restrictions to activities and projects. Provide the framework and then let them build. Provide opportunities for them to deviate from everyone else and be original. I had my 5th graders do a project on music in commercials a few years ago, they had to create a brand, ad copy, backing track, jingle, and any props and then film it. Everyone was different and demonstrated creative thinking.
  3. Give students activities that give them thinking. Refrain from spoon feeding them information and ask questions that get them thinking. Make a point to walk around the room during work time and ask questions about what they are doing. Why did you put that there? What other things could you write? How can you add a phrase that connects those two? What emotion was the composer trying to get you to feel?

Helping students practice 21st century skills will help them be better prepared for the rest of their life. That is what education is all about right? Preparing students to be upstanding and contributing members to society? If you help to guide them even in music class, you are showing your administrators and all the nay sayers out there even how much more music and the arts are a necessary core subject because of how they contribute to a child’s growth and education.

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