Teaching 21st century skills is something of a current fad in all areas of education currently, and EFL is no exception. However, as Hoskins Sakamoto argued, it’s possible that we sometimes get so focused on these skills that we lose sight of our primary objective: teaching English. In her highly practice-oriented workshop, the four Cs of 21st century skills (i.e. communication, collaboration, creative thinking, critical thinking) were activated through tasks that had English language learning as the primary objective.
Two of the task types concerned manipulatives that had students physically handling words and letters to create language. The first involved paper cubes made from milk cartons, with words and pictures on each face. Students would roll the cubes (or die) and then create sentences and stories. The second used caps from PET bottles, and students would search for letters to make words. Another activity was called “six word stories”, where students are given a photo and must tell the story of that photo in exactly six words. The arbitrary rule of length works to reduce anxiety and so encourage creative participation. These and the other activities demonstrated by Hoskins Sakamoto would make a useful addition to any teacher’s repertoire. The workshop ended with a lot of cutting, pasting and drawing as participants worked together to create activities suited to their own teaching contexts.