What is your favorite subject?
What is your favorite genre?
What career do you imagine for yourself in the future?
These are the types of questions we should ask our students at the beginning of every year, starting in kindergarten, to get a sense of their interests. Depending on their age, we can have our students draw a picture, compose an answer, orally communicate thoughts, or complete a written survey. Each child's individual responses should be used to gear instruction by focusing on career readiness skills in grades K–12.
Teachers can effectively use this information to create units of study in science, social studies, and health. Choosing topics like agriculture, government, animals, and the circulatory system allow children to explore a variety of subjects finding out what they really like and don't like. Based on this concept, we make educational and developmentally appropriate lessons that enable students to start inventing their future.
Elementary school teachers should select leveled texts for small group guided reading instruction that match the academic strengths and weaknesses as well as the groups' favorite topics and genre. We need to use high-interest level books to increase engagement and academic success. We should also incorporate content area literacy throughout the day to expose our students to fiction and nonfiction texts that teach not only the standards, but also current events and real world experiences. With this style of instruction, curious children should start to wonder what career path is just right for them.
A schoolwide literacy emphasis is an extremely effective way to promote career readiness skills. This begins with teaching the foundations of reading in kindergarten and first grade, which is necessary for children to become independent, fluent readers in upper grades.
The ultimate goal of reading is of course, comprehension, which also requires strategy based teaching for our students to be thinkers. We should showcase the value of inquiry. Children of all ages need to be encouraged to not only answer questions but ask questions about content area text, with a specific emphasis on informational text. Six-year-olds should include who, what, when, where, why,
in their daily language and conversations. Questions should continue to increase in levels of complexity as students progress throughout their schooling career to only create broader ranges of knowledge.
The same thing goes with vocabulary. Depending on a child's background, they will enter kindergarten with a range of 500 to 1100 words. We need to incorporate daily readalouds at least one grade level ahead to increase vocabulary and utilize new words in conversation. Listening and speaking are two standards to teach oral language, but are also lifelong communication skills. Use nonfiction books, especially in science, history, and social studies are key to expanding knowledge. Reading and writing throughout all content areas opens the doors for higher level thinking and reflection.
To foster independent thinkers, we need to teach children to understand other perspectives and cultures and to determine meaning. We want to provide children with a variety of primary and secondary sources to teach children about people, places, and events. We also should teach fact and opinion in both fiction, nonfiction, and current events. Encouraging children to research facts and expressing opinions on a variety of topics is a powerful teachable moment.
In addition to subject matter, there are many things we need to teach our students to be career ready in the future. A large focus is on technology and how to implement it effectively to increase academic success. “Twenty-first century learning skills” is certainly a buzz phrase today, but it describes how we should educate the children of the 2000s so they can be successful adults in the future. Some of these skills including independence and initiative; these may be natural characteristics of some students, but are ones we have to model and teach others. Punctuality, attendance, positive attitudes, and a willingness to work are also factors that should be commended at an early age so they recognize their value throughout life.
Other career readiness skills that should be implemented during the school day include problem solving and teamwork. Problem-based learning is just one style of instruction that promotes inquiry, problem, and solution. Teamwork and collaboration should also be a part of your daily routine for the students. This will enable them to learn to work together, share, lead, and be team players.
In order for children to choose a career pathway just for themselves, they have to recognize their strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes. They also have to possess the lifelong skills to succeed. We should provide all of our students an educational experience that will allow them to be career ready for the future.
Kathryn Starke is an urban literacy specialist, children's author, and the founder/CEO of Creative Minds Publications. Visit www.creativemindspublications.com to learn more about her global educational company.
© 2013 Kathryn Starke. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise. To Raise Achievement, Let’s Celebrate Teachers Before We Evaluate Them Practice Makes Perfect, Especially in Reading