Easy Strategies to build Future Ready Skills

Easy Strategies to build Future Ready Skills

In his article in Forbes, “The 10 Vital Skills You Will Need for the Future of Work,” Bernard Marr shares that the skills we believe are important in today’s market are quickly changing due to automation and artificial intelligence. What skills will the workers of tomorrow need? His research indicates creativity, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, active learning with a growth mindset, judgment and decision making, interpersonal communication skills, leadership skills, diversity and cultural intelligence, technology skills, and the ability to embrace change. Do these sound familiar? The majority of these skills sound like the future-ready skills we are trying to instill in our students as educators! Creativity, critical thinking, active learning, communication skills – these are the kinds of skills we are being challenged to grow in our students for their future success.

So how can we provide students the opportunities to work on these skills while they are working with our content?

What I am learning (and I am definitely a work in progress) is that good future-ready activities do not consist of repurposed independent work in which students are ALLOWED to talk to a partner; but instead, what I’m coming to realize is, the best future-ready assignments encourage (or even require) students to work together – not because you tell students, “work with your partner,” but because the activity needs that collaboration and communication. The most powerful and engaging future-ready activities I’ve come across have been those in which the students are highly engaged – talking, laughing, and discussing the content.

An activity is truly growing those future-ready skills when it naturally evokes students to communicate, think critically, and/or be creative TOGETHER.

Here are a few ideas for growing those future-ready skills of critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication with YOUR content with small groups of students:


Get a Jenga set and write (or tape or glue printed) questions on the sides of the blocks. Students take turns pulling out a block and answering the questions. Students work in teams answering questions and taking turns pulling out blocks.

Reverse Jenga

I saw this one in Matt Matera and Jon Spike’s Master Mini-Games presentation at ISTE 2018. In this variation, teams work together to correctly answer a question in order to earn the right to pull a brick from the top-level and “fling” it at the tower in an attempt to knock it over! The goal in this game is to be the team that knocks the Jenga tower down on their turn! You better believe students will be working together helping each other to get the answers correct for the ability to throw something in your classroom!


This one is great for vocabulary or concepts that go together. Simply write them on notecards – or have students create the notecards – flip everything over and play a matching game. Match the word to the definition or the concept to its’ description.

Sorting into given groups

Provide students with a deck of cards with concepts, vocab terms, etc. and ask them to sort them into teacher provided categories. For example, if you are studying the different animal groups in 2nd grade science, you could provide students with cards with many different animals and ask students to sort them into the correct categories of mammal, reptile, bird, etc. Put some hard ones in there like whale (which students often want to categorize as a fish) so that you encourage that critical thinking and collaboration as students work together (whales breathe air – they are mammals).

Sorting into self-made groups

To kick the above idea up a notch, provide students with a deck of cards with words, concepts, or vocab terms and DO NOT provide a category for them to sort them into. Ask them to come up with the categories, sort them, and work together to write or record a flip grid video sharing what their categories were, what they put in each category, and why. That is some high-level thinking with your content!

Heads up

Provide students with a deck of cards (again, this can just be index cards with concepts written on them, or pictures printed on cardstock and then cut into card-sized rectangles). Then, simply have one student hold up a card (without looking at what is on it) and have students in their small group give them clues until they guess what is on the card. Students take turns being the one with the card on their forehead and the one sharing clues. I saw an amazing example of this on my campus in a 4th grade math classroom last year. The cards had angles on them and students were to guess right, obtuse, or acute. The conversations, math vocabulary, and laughter were amazing!


Write down concepts for students on cards. Students divide into two teams. One student picks a card and attempts to draw it for their team or partner to guess within a time limit (a 1-minute sand timer is helpful for this one). You will hear students yelling out vocabulary and helping each other as they try to guess YOUR CONTENT as it is drawn out. Points awarded each time a team correctly guesses the word.

You can play this game using paper and pencil, chart paper or a white board, or on a digital touch screen board using online web whiteboards such as awwapp.com or jamboard.google.com, or for a little help with suggestions as you draw, you could have students use autodraw.com.

Check out this example of autodraw in action as I draw terribly and autodraw snaps my drawings into perfect icons:

Oct 6 2019 8_18 PM

Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe is traditionally played in partners with a blank grid of 9 squares. Instead of providing students with a blank Tic Tac Toe board, place challenging questions inside each “box” on the board. Students must first get the question right in order to earn the right to mark either their X or O over the square. In order for students not to see the other answers when they are checking their answers, I suggest labeling each square (#1, #2, #3 or Question A, Question B, etc.) and putting the answers on separate cards face down with only the question # facing up. This way, students can self-check each answer without seeing all of the other answers.

If you’d like to try an online version instead of creating this with paper and pencil, check out Naughts and Crosses at educandy.com which will allow you to customize with YOUR CONTENT!

Board games

I started to put other specific board games on this list such as Don’t Break the Ice, Crocodile Dentist, and Cootie – but I realized the directions are really similar for almost any simple board game you might want to incorporate:

  • Split the work you have for students in half – creating “Set A” and “Set B” which have different questions and an answer key for each set
  • Divide students into two teams of two
  • Give Team 1 the “Set A” questions to solve, but the answer key for “Set B”
  • Give Team 2 the “Set B” questions to solve, but the answer key for “Set A”
  • Both teams work their own first problem and then check each other’s answers (since they have the answer key for each other).
  • If they get it right, they earn a turn at the board game.
  • Repeat until the game is won.

Note: For Don’t Break the Ice, with each correct answer, you attempt to knock out one ice cube. For Crocodile Dentist, for each correct answer, you push a tooth down. For Cootie, with each correct answer, you add to your bug.

YouTube Star

Have students create a YouTube-style how-to video with a partner on how to solve this type of problem, use this strategy, or explain this concept. Talk about creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration! Especially if you tell them the class will see it! They will be highly engaged!

Vocabulary or concepts – Frayer model

The Frayer model is a research-proven high yield strategy for student learning and retention. Have students work together in partnerships to complete one Frayer model in a collaborative slide deck. Each partnership in the class could complete one slide in the slide deck and then students could review each other on the vocabulary or concepts in quick 20 second presentations at the end of class.

Frayer Model Collaborative Slide Deck (4)

Check out my blog post for more on using the Frayer model as part of a collaborative slide deck.

Digital Board Group Activities

Have students work with a partner or small group to solve problems using the power of the touch screens in your room. Take turns using the board to reveal the questions and/or answers!


Here’s a new template I created as an alternative to a traditional “scoot”. Instead of moving around the room, assign partners or small groups of students to choose an image at random. Whichever problem appears, they work together to solve and record it on the corresponding answer document.

Soft Ball Toss - Record Sheet

Assign students to complete as many as they can within a certain time limit or perhaps assign them to complete a certain number of problems before they can move on. Because the problems are “hidden” by the images, students can’t choose the ones they think are the easiest or shortest.

Click here to grab a copy of the Fall Question Reveal Game and the

Fall Question Reveal Record Sheet to modify for your content!

Here are some other examples I have shared on my blog in the past – click the link to jump to the blog post and grab the template:

Unicorn Drag to Solve

Oct 12 2019 2_44 PM - Edited

Balloon Tap to Reveal:

Mystery Reveal:

Sep 22 2019 4_37 PM - Edited


Jeopardy Labs

I don’t know about you, but I remember the days of linking slides in powerpoint for hours to create a jeopardy game with my content for students. Jeopardy Labs has simplified this and created a way to keep score! Students can play on their own on your digital white board in small groups because the correct answer is revealed after each attempt with one click! There are over 2 million already created games that you can quickly search for and add to a lesson or you can create your own quickly and easily from scratch! It is a great way to get students working together and having fun with your content.


Provide students with different math manipulatives and ask partners or small groups to solve a problem and/or show their thinking using one kind of manipulative while the other partner or small group shows their thinking with a different type of manipulative. Then, students explain their thinking and how they used the manipulatives to each other.

While hands-on manipulatives are always my first choice, if you need a source for virtual, online manipulatives, or want to possibly assign one group to use real manipulatives and another to use online manipulatives on a digital white board, try one of these online sources:

Didax Virtual Manipulatives

Toy Theater

Flipgrid Explanation

Ask students to explain a concept using flipgrid’s new whiteboard feature! They can record themselves narrating as they write on a white or blackboard! Creativity in action!


What would you add to this list? How do you get students thinking critically, collaborating, creating, and communicating??? Please share your favorite future-ready ideas in the comments!

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