Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication are four important competences for the 21st Century student’s profile. All subjects taught at school take into account these 4Cs and teachers are continuously trying to identify the best strategies in order to strengthen these skills. New methods of teaching, new interactive tools that can be used offline, online or during hybrid lessons or updated contents define nowadays didactic strategies. Tolerance, empathy, openness to cultural diversity, independence of thought, or respect for other points of view are some of the attitudes and values that define the democratic society and are taken into account while teaching.
In this respect, during 26th – 28th of August 2021, Regional English Language Office of Belgrade, Republic of Serbia, organized The Four Cs Online Conference, an opportunity for English teachers worldwide to meet online and to share their experiences of teaching these four skills (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication).
The conference was hosted by Kevin McCaughey and Heather Benucci, English language specialists. The presentations were held by 28 teachers coming from eight Balkans countries and Romania, who shared their examples of best practices in terms of enhancing creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication during English language lessons.
The approached topics were diverse and they covered a large variety of very actual issues that have transformed the English language teaching. Among these I may mention: engagement in online lessons, using video games in order to learn English, applications and various Web 2.0 resources that can be successfully used while teaching English (Animoto, Vocarroo, City Guess, Padlet, Mentimeter etc.). Project-based activities which facilitate students’ interactions in online and offline environments (micro-projects and international projects) provided an important background for improving the four competences among students.
Strategies to develop particular language skills were also very much appreciated by the attendees of this conference:
- reading while engaging emotional intelligence within a reader-response literary analysis;
- collaborative writing;
- speaking within communicative approaches of learning;
- speaking and listening within drama plays etc.
Metacognition and motivation were also subjects of interest for presenters and participants. There were shared both theoretical aspects as well as instruments that can be applied in order to increase motivation (purpose to impact plan, use of authentic and meaningful resources) and to develop metacognition (reflective journals, feedback questionnaires, peer reviews).
I would also like to underline the fact that all presentations were interactive, being organized like workshops of best practices exchange. Speakers provided QR codes or links to Mentimeter, Slido, Padlet activities (and many interesting other tools); polls were designed for checking the participants’ experience or their opinions; questions to whom participants asked in meeting’s chat box were addressed. All these defined the conference as an important professional development event in which not only those who presented shared their experiences, but also the attendees. The conference program is available at the following link: sites.google.com/view/relo-belgrade-4cs-conference/home
The hosts, Heather and Kevin, kept the teachers engaged while proposing very interesting activities to be done on the spot or demonstrating how certain tools can be creatively used in order to spice up the English lessons. Two of these activities that I liked most and I am eager to apply at my classes are: dice games and four corners method. These can be applied while teaching online (as the specialists demonstrated us), in hybrid classes or offline.
In conclusion, the conference was a successful one, being very well organized from all points of view: speakers were provided with professional guidance in order to have wonderful presentations, with an important variety of materials that were provided to participants by speakers and hosts, the schedule was well-balanced and attention for time keeping was paid.
RELO Belgrade offered us a wonderful experience to update our teaching skills, to share our examples of best practices in terms of developing the 4Cs, to learn from our colleagues’ experiences, to develop from personal and a professional point of view, but also to make friends among our English language colleagues worldwide who attended the conference.