The True 21st Century Skill
At ACDS we believe that the ability to communicate effectively is the true 21st-century skill , and that being able to convey your ideas in a variety of modes and engage in respectful discourse is essential for success in any endeavor. From the moment they begin our Kindergarten program, ACDS students are learning to be effective communicators through a sequential and in-depth curriculum that includes public speaking, writing, artistic expression, and multimedia communication. Students explore how to advocate effectively, how to listen, how to evaluate information, how to disagree respectfully, how to engage their audience, and how to root their ideas and opinions in facts.
Skills to Succeed
Percent saying which skills are most important for children to get ahead in the world today.
The teaching of communication skills is not limited to language arts class, where writing, reading, and public speaking are the central focus. In science, social studies, math, and Spanish, students are expected to use effective communication skills to work in small groups and demonstrate their understanding of a topic through presentations, essays, videos, visual models, and more. Drama, music, and art classes challenge students to use artistic expression as another powerful form of communication. Library classes in fourth and fifth grade focus on information literacy, how to evaluate sources, and how news, advertising, and commentary influence views.
Building Skills for Civil Discourse
Communication skills are also taught through our social-emotional curriculum, where engaging in respectful discourse and expressing your feelings and opinions thoughtfully and sensitively are frequent topics of conversation during morning meeting (lower school) and advisory (middle school). While doing project work in teams, students learn to negotiate, resolve differences, listen respectfully, and advocate appropriately for their ideas. Throughout each day, teachers continuously coach students to use their communication skills to advance understanding, convey their ideas effectively, navigate conflicts peacefully, and engage others respectfully.
Public Speaking? No Problem!
Beginning in fifth grade, students give a speech each year to assembled parents, teachers, and peers. This annual capstone experience, called Speeches and Sweets, provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their writing, speaking, and presentation skills in progressively sophisticated ways, until their speech resembles a TED Talk in Eighth Grade.
Speeches & Sweets presentations increase in sophistication through the grades:
Fifth graders identify and communicate a lesson learned from personal experience. They read from beind a podium with a smooth pace and frequently make eye contact with the audience.
Organization and clear explanation of ideas are key as sixth graders deliver advocacy-themed speeches. They frequently refer to notes, but no longer read verbatim.
Seventh graders enhance their speeches with visual aids, use of full presentation area in front of the podium, and rarely refer to their notes. A TED Talk structure begins to emerge.
Eighth graders are storytellers and use their voices and gestures to convey passion for their topics. They read the audience and adjust their speaking to maximize engagement.
A Focus that Pays Off
The result of this focus on communication? Students who are uncommonly good at communicating their ideas, listening to others, asking questions, synthesizing ideas, and thinking creatively. High School teachers and administrators comment that our students stand out for these skills, and our graduates note that they are often group leaders, presenters, and facilitators when they move on from ACDS. Whether they go on to be mathematicians, engineers, authors, CEOs, scientists, or artists, our students’ exemplary ability to communicate will support their success and distinguish them in their fields of study and work.