Parade Magazine is a U.S. weekly magazine that’s inserted into hundreds of local newspapers each Sunday. On August 11, their cover story was “7 inspiring ideas for a new and improved 21st-century classroom.” Because I do research as a learning scientist, and I’ve written articles with titles like “The Future of Schooling,” I read this story right away. Parade Magazine got it exactly right with these seven ideas:
- Begin the day with breakfast. Only 50 percent of middle schoolers and 36 percent of high schoolers get a regular morning meal, even though nutrition researchers say that breakfast improves cognitive function (Gail C. Rampersand).
- Emphasize learning, not testing. Too much of the school day is devoted to test prep, and subjects that don’t appear on state-mandated tests are being dropped from the curriculum (art, foreign language, science, history). (Diane Ravitch, Paul Tough)
- Teach 21st century skills. Emphasize long-term projects; use technology to solve problems; make classes multidisciplinary (Will Richardson).
- “Flip” the class. Students watch short videos of lectures at home, and then spend class time engaged in interactive labs and discussions.
- Say “Yes!” to recess. Taking breaks enhances the effectiveness of learning during the rest of the day.
- Get Creative! Creative pursuits engage different parts of learners’ brains, and contributes to problem solving and critical thinking skills.
- Go longer-and better. The school day should be expanded to match the long work days of two-career couples–up to ten hours a day (as at Hilton Elementary in Baltimore) but you can’t do the same old-style instruction all that time. The day should include eating, exercising, creative work, as well as core subjects. And one additional benefit: This can close the achievement gap, because affluent students are already getting a broad variety of after-school classes.
Kudos to reporter Michael Brick! I hope this article is widely read.
*Michael Brick, “Building a better school day.” Parade Magazine, August 11, 2013, pages 8-13.