Flexibility and Adaptability, Innovative and Creative,
Global Awareness

Note!  There are multiple lists of 21st Century Skills.  The topics below are suggested by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.  I’ve also included “health literacy” from the Iowa Core framework.  Early childhood educators have always been committed to the WHOLE child.  I believe WHOLE-heartedly that 21st Century Skills do indeed balance the academic core with children’s social, emotional, and physical well-being.

Flexibility and Adaptability
“Life is like riding a bike.  If you stop pedaling you fall off.”  Change is inevitable and children will constantly be challenged to adapt to new circumstances in the future.

Many Ways – Sing different versions of the same song or read different versions of folk tales.  Remind children that there are many ways to do things, and that’s O.K.

Variety – The Spice of Life – Vary work groups and seating arrangements in the classroom. 

  • Have students turn their chairs around and face the back of the room.
  • Let children exchange seats with a classmate.
  • Do “Tummy Time” where children lay on the floor and read, write, and work.

State Changes – How about Whisper Wednesday where you whisper all day? 

  • Turn off overhead lights.
  • Give children sugarless bubblegum to chew.
  • Have silly sock, sports day, cap day, dress up day, and other theme days.
  • Use colored paper or colored pencils.

Schedule – Write the activities in the day on index cards.  Include specials like music and P.E.  Put a piece of magnetic tape on the back of each card.  Every morning put the activities up according to the schedule for the day.

Opposite Day – Flip your schedule for the day by starting with a good-bye song and reversing the order until you end with a good morning song.  Read a book from the last page to the beginning.  Be sure and eat your dessert first when you go to lunch!

Self-Directed Learners – Make individual contracts for students with a list of assignments, centers, and so forth.  Allow them to make decisions about the order and length of time they spend on the activities.  Set a deadline for when all work should be completed.

Innovative and Creative
Creativity is the ability to look at something in a new way.  Where would the world be without creative thinkers?  It takes courage and a strong sense of self to step outside the box into a new territory.

Open Minded Teachers – Teachers need to accept divergent thinking and keep a sense of humor.

Kiss Your Brain!  An answer doesn’t have to be correct.  If children express an original idea you can tell them to “kiss their brain” as you model kissing your fingertips and touching your head.

Idle Time – The brain needs a quiet time in order to process information and make new connections.  “Brain Growth Time” (aka rest time) needs to be part of the school day.  Parents also need to be reminded that boredom is a good thing.  Children don’t need to be entertained or scheduled constantly.

Brainstorm – Provide children with opportunities to brainstorm in groups and independently.  Use attribute webs, time lines, shapes, and other graphic organizers.

Literature – Creative writing enhances literacy skills as well as original thoughts.  Children can write stories, poems, songs, plays, and so forth.   Collaborative books where each student submits a page also open the door for creative expression.  Topics might include:

OUR WISH BOOK                                                  
WHEN I GROW UP                                               
A MAGIC CARPET RIDE                                               
MY NIGHTMARE LOOKS LIKE                                   
IF SHOES COULD TALK                                               
THE DAY ANIMALS TALKED                                   
IF I WON THE LOTTERY                                                                                 
I WISH I WERE…           



Assessment Show and Tell – Challenge children to demonstrate what they have learned in a creative way.  They can sing a song, dress up, cook something, make a mural, etc.

Inventors – Check out kidinventorsday.com for links to many different competitions.

Junk Box – Recycle cardboard rollers, bubble wrap, catalogs, junk mail, bottle caps, etc. for children to create into artwork, games, inventions, and toys.
*Building traps for leprechauns around St. Patrick’s Day is always delightful!

Learning Centers – Blocks, construction toys, play dough, puppets, art media, and musical instruments all provide children with the opportunity to explore their talents and interests.

Outdoor Explorations – Nature is the perfect prescription to clear the mind and open creative thought.  Children need to spend as much time as possible on the playground, at the park, or in their own backyard.

Global Awareness
Students need the skills to work with people from other cultures.  The world is becoming smaller as we become more connected with other countries economically, politically, and environmentally.

The World Family – Sing this song to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus” as children fill in the name of their school, city, state, country, etc.

The name of my school is ___, ___, ___.
The name of my school is ___.
That’s the name of my school.

The name of my city is...

The name of my state is...

The name of my country is United States.

The name of my continent is North America.

The name of my planet is Earth.

We’re all part of the world family, family, family.

We’re all part of the world family.
Let’s live in love and peace.

What Is a Family?  Have children discuss what a family means to them.  How are families alike?  How are they different?  Let children make a book “All about Me” with family photos, pets, likes, dislikes, how they celebrate, etc.

Multi-Cultural Awareness – Display photos of different ethnic groups, homes, habitats, etc.

  • Read books about different cultures.
  • Expose children to different languages and customs.
  • Display art, clothing, toys, coins, souvenirs from other countries, etc.

International Communications – Skype or use other technology to visit with a class in another part of the United States or in a different country.

Email Pen Pals – Find out about other cultures and connect with children  around the world at www.studentsoftheworld.info.

Guest Speakers – Invite parents or members of the community who have lived in other lands or visited other lands to share experiences, photos, clothing, and other artifacts.

Internet Field Trips – Visit other states and countries through virtual field trips. 

International Tasting Party – Let each child take a different country and prepare a food from that culture.
*Plan an international potluck for families to share foods from their background.

Celebrations around the World – Explore holidays in other countries.  How are all celebrations alike?  How are they different?

Habitats – Integrate science by studying different habitats, plants, climate, animals, etc.  How does weather influence the types of homes people live in, the clothes they wear, and the food they eat?

Transportation – Brainstorm how to get from one place to another?  Look at the globe.  How could you get from the United States to Africa?  Georgia to California?  Seattle to China?  Do a graph of children’s favorite mode of transportation.

It’s O.K. to Be Different – Emphasize that friends in your classroom and people around the world wear different clothes and like different things.  That’s O.K.!  What matters is that we are all the same on the inside.  We all have feelings, we want to be loved, and we want to make others happy.  Let children do a Venn diagram with a friend and identify how they are the same and different.


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