Academic Tasks – A Focus on 21st Century Skills

Reflecting on elementary school days, most parents remember participating in geography bees, practicing handwriting, and completing worksheets to learn math facts by rote memorization.  If you’ve spent time in your child’s classroom lately or have reviewed student work that comes home, you realize education has changed drastically over the years!  Recently, new research has proven the benefit of engaging students in performance-based academic tasks.  What is an academic task?  An academic task requires students to move beyond practicing facts and memorizing information to apply their learning to real-world problems using critical and creative thinking.  Academic tasks often require the use of the 4 main 21st century skills- creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and collaboration.  Recently at Freedom Hill, many second and third grade students are engaging in academic tasks on a regular basis to learn fraction concepts.  Here, a student is using paper fraction pieces to demonstrate his thinking on the following problem: 2 groups of friends are going on a picnic!  In the first group, 4 friends are sharing 2 pretzel rods.  In the second group, 3 friends are sharing 5 pretzel rods.  If they share the pretzels evenly so none are left over, how may pretzels will each person get?  Who gets more, group 1 or group 2?  Show your work below.

How might you engage students in academic tasks at home?

Academic Tasks 10.30.13