5 Secrets to Engaging Today’s Generation Z Students

By Emily Kuhn, Realityworks Communications Specialist

Born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, Generation Z students have been occupying your classroom for 4-5 years already, and this year, they will make up 32 percent of the global population. You’ve probably noticed that there are some unique differences between today’s students and their Millennial predecessors, the oldest of whom have been in the workforce for more than a decade. Today’s students are even more tech-savvy; they can multi-task even faster and they have even shorter attention spans. Generation Z students read less than 20% of text; they think in 4D, not 3D; and they are used to immediate feedback. How do you engage learners who demand connection, who will disengage with the discussion if they don’t see the relevance, and who wish to not only hear about a topic, but see it, touch it and feel it?

Adapting your teaching methods to meet the needs of today’s Generation Z students and keep them engaged is not only vital to be an effective 21st Century educator, but can help transform your students’ education. We know that the standard classroom model, where an educator stands in front of the class and lectures, no longer works – at least, not all the time. In this post, we’ll share tips we’ve learned from educators across the globe that can help you grab, and keep, your students’ attention.

1: Avoid lengthy PowerPoint presentations. We know that avoiding PowerPoint altogether is impossible – there’s a time and a place for this presentation format. However, you can incorporate quizzes, activities and hands-on demonstrations every few slides to break up your students’ attention – and help keep it.

Get more PowerPoint tips in this blog by Concordia University – Portland.

2: Use multiple teaching modalities. Videos, online activities and group work are great additions to textbook work. The key here is variety, which will not only help keep the attention of your Generation Z students, but appeal to a variety of learning needs. 

Learn more about using video in the classroom in this Common Sense Education article.

3: Create an active learning environment by using innovative learning tools. Generation Z students’ desire for social, hands-on learning experiences make interactive simulators and models a vital part of 21st Century classrooms. Our simulators and models – which include resources for Welding & Trade Skills, Agriculture, FCS, Health Science, and Anatomy and Physiology – engage students with realistic details, removeable parts and, in the case of our simulators, truly immersive learning experiences.

See all the learning aids and resources we offer for Career & Technical Education here.

4: Remember that “why” is as important as “what.” Generation Z students need to know that what they’re learning is relevant. By answering the “why” question with evidence-based reasoning before teaching the “how,” you’ll assure them that the concept you’re about to teach applies to real life.

5: Incorporate soft skill development whenever possible. Your students will come to you with a varying degree of these skills, but you know all employers will look for them. Remember that collaborative work helps build communication skills; assignment tweaks and activity changes help build flexibility; open-ended questions help build problem-solving skills; and reflection activities help build critical thinking skills.

Need more help teaching soft skills in your classroom? Our Employability Skills Program can help.

You’re already working hard to equip your students with technical and academic skills. By creating an interactive, hands-on learning environment where Generation Z students can engage in active learning opportunities, you’re setting them up for even greater success.

15 Ways to Teach Soft Skills in Your CTE Classroom

What are soft skills?

Soft skills, employability skills, job-readiness skills, emotional intelligence… there are many phrases used to describe these skills, but they all mean one thing: they are the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. They’re considered the “bedside manner” of the workplace.

We’ve heard others say, and we agree – hard skills might get you in the door for an interview, but soft skills will help you get, and keep, a job. And most importantly, that concept applies for ANY job – soft skills are vital for all career paths.

What makes them so vital?

According to a 2016 PayScale survey of more than 60,000 managers and 14,000 recent graduates:

  • 46% of managers said young workers would do well to hone their communication skills
  • 44% of managers reported a lack of leadership qualities.
  • 36% reported lower-than-needed interpersonal and teamwork skills.
  • 60% of managers claim the new graduates they see taking jobs within their organizations do not have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they feel are necessary for the job.
  • 57% of manager say they look for a candidate that is organized and can manage multiple projects.

Research like this can be found everywhere – and what’s more, educators are seeing it firsthand.

So what can you do to help your students learn these vital skills? You may not know it, but you are already teaching soft skills all the time – it might simply be a matter of emphasizing particular skills, adding time for reflection, etc. Here are 15 ways that you can address soft skill development in your classroom, building on what you’re already doing and incorporating new ideas, to help your students develop those important job-readiness skills no matter what pathway they’re on.

15 ways to teach soft skills in your CTE classroom

  1. Keep soft skills top of mind!
  2. Begin each class with a handshake
  3. Role play workplace scenarios
  4. Practice professionalism on a daily basis
  5. Implement networking activities
  6. Make intentional assignment tweaks
  7. Regularly assign collaborative work
  8. Remember to reflect
  9. Informal and formal oral speaking opportunities
  10. Use small talk conversation cards
  11. Practice giving and receiving feedback
  12. Use video diaries
  13. Coordinate mock interviews
  14. Use student planners
  15. Consider the RealCareer™ Employability Skills Program

Watch the webinar below for more details on these 15 key tips for incorporating soft skills in your classroom:

5 Key Steps for Preparing RealCare Baby® 3 for Summer Break

As we approach the end of another school year, it’s time to think about getting your RealCare Babies ready for the summer break. Here are 5 key steps to take so that they will be ready when you come back in the fall:

Step 1: Complete an inventory:

  • Gather up your Babies, accessories and supplies and take a quick inventory of what you have. Each Baby should have:
    • 2 diapers, one with a green patch and one with a yellow patch
    • Bottle and/or breastfeeding device
    • Student ID with wristbands
    • Infant Bodysuit
    • Sleepwear
    • Single Charger or 5-Baby Charger
  • Identify any resources that you need to order, like wristbands, so you have the items on hand when school starts in the fall.

Step 2: Place a resupply order: Visit our online store to quickly and easily order any consumables and resources you need for your program such as wristbands and student workbooks.

Step 3: Wash clothing and clean the babies:

  • For Baby: Disinfectant wipes, Goop® Hand Cleaner with Pumice, GoJo® Orange Pumice Hand Cleaner, Mr. Clean® Magic Eraser, or Acne Cream are all great for removing dirt and stains from Baby’s vinyl.
  • For Baby’s clothing and supplies: Baby’s diapers and clothing can be machine washed in cold, gentle cycle. Tumble dry on low. We recommend line drying to prevent wear and tear.
  • Get more great cleaning tips here.

Step 4: Battery maintenance:

  • Baby should be charged overnight, then unplugged – don’t leave Baby plugged in all summer. Ideally, your Babies should be charged for a few hours every 3 months. Haven’t used Baby since January or February? Now is the time to charge them overnight.
  • FYI: The batteries will gradually drain out on their own. Do not be surprised if the Babies start to make a popping sound while in storage. This is an indicator that the batteries are giving off their final amount of charge. Don’t worry; this is normal and the popping sound can last for a few days.
  • You can follow along with the “RCB Battery Maintenance” instructions here.

Step 5: Store Baby: Baby should be stored indoors, in a plastic bag, for optimum conditions. If this isn’t possible, every attempt should be made to keep Baby dry and clean. Note: dramatic changes in temperature can cause water condensation inside Baby. Allow time for the condensation to evaporate before use.

For more great tips and tricks on preparing Baby for summer break check out the video below:

3 Reasons You Should Be Using Your ‘Lesson-At-A-Glance’ Curricula Feature

By Denise Bodart, Realityworks RealCare Product Manager

As a teacher, your lesson plan is your road map. It’s how you plan what your students need to learn and how you ensure that learning will be done effectively during class time. It’s your go-to resource yourself short on planning time or when you find yourself in sudden need of a substitute teacher.

We understand the importance of a good lesson plan. That’s why we developed a lesson template for every curriculum we offer (and we offer a lot – almost all of our hands-on learning aids for Career and Technical Education include curriculum).

Do you use RealCare Baby® to teach child development topics? Do you use our Food Safety Kit to teach culinary skills? Do you use our nursing training tools to address basic nursing skills? Each of those products includes a robust curriculum, and each lesson includes a Lesson-At-A-Glance feature.

Here are 3 reasons you should be using the Lesson-At-A-Glance feature of your curriculum.

1. Use it to save time. 
As a teacher, your time is invaluable. The Lesson-At-A-Glance is your quick-reference guide to each lesson. It tells you what will be covered, what materials you’ll need, how to prepare and how long each lesson will take to teach.

2. Use it to quickly prepare a substitute teacher. 
The Lesson-At-A-Glance feature lists the activities, required materials, preparation steps and teaching time for every lesson. Bookmark this feature for your next sub and they’ll know exactly what they need to do for every period.

3. Use it to customize your program. 
We know you’re picking and choosing from a variety of sources to make your lesson the best it can be. Use the Lesson-At-A-Glance feature to quickly skim the covered topics and required lesson materials, and hone in on the topics that will complement your plan the best.

Wondering if your product came with curriculum? Do you need to verify that a product you’re considering includes curriculum? Visit our website, or contact us for details. We’re happy to discuss your unique program and help you determine the best way to use your Realityworks curriculum.

Student Workbooks as an Effective Instructional Resource

Educators have debated the effectiveness of worksheets, handouts and workbooks for years.  Similar to technology use in the classroom, efficacy all depends on how they are used.  Here are a few nuggets to contemplate from a review of literature on the subject:

  • Graphic organizers help learners to understand tasks by nurturing active participation, decrease dependency on rote learning and memorization, tap into learners’ prior knowledge, and show association between concepts to build new understanding (Kirylo & Millet, 2000).
  • Worksheets help students to construct knowledge, help to assess students and get feedback, are used as supplemental material to textbooks in authentic lessons, and build scaffolding for  some teaching strategies (Demircioglu & Kaymakci, 2011).
  • Using Multiple Intelligences learning theory, teachers should vary instruction and assessment strategy because all students do not learn and exhibit learning the same way (Smith 2002, 2008) Howard Gardner and Multiple Intelligences.

We are happy to announce two new student workbooks now available as supplemental resources to the RealCare Baby Simulation Experience and the Pregnancy Profile Simulation.

The RealCare Baby Experience Workbook includes all handouts needed for the simulation experience. Rather than photocopying dozens of pages, it is all ready for use in this handy workbook. Graphic organizers, rubrics and quizzes are included. Students will also complete journal and self-assessment exercises to reflect on their learning.  The completed workbook is a great addition to student portfolios for highlighting this project.

The My Life Student Workbook is a companion product to the Pregnancy Profile simulation experience. Rather than photocopying and assembling these workbooks in class, you can use that valuable time to teach the key objectives. Many of the handouts involve setting goals, reflecting on what a teen pregnancy would do to those goals and journal on a wide variety of questions relating to the impact of an unplanned pregnancy. These exercises strengthen student writing and research skills. The completed workbook provides a meaningful take-home manual that students can keep and refer to.

Follow this link to learn more about these effective student workbooks and how you can use them in your program.

5 Ways to Engage Today’s Agriculture Students

By Emily Kuhn

You may have noticed that there are some unique differences between the Generation Z students that sit in your agriculture classroom today and the millennials you previously taught. Today’s students are even more tech-savvy, can multi-task even faster and, if you can believe it, have an even shorter attention span than their predecessors. They read less than 20% of text; think in 4D, not 3D; and are used to immediate feedback.[1]

The standard classroom model where an educator stands in front of the class and lectures simply doesn’t work for these students. Generation Z students want to be successful – in fact, the desire to change the world is a hallmark of this generation – but they will disengage with the discussion if they don’t feel connected or if they don’t see the relevance.

Did I mention that Generation Z students are used to immediate feedback? Current technology has made them used to finding out anything, anytime, anywhere – the world is literally at their fingertips. Today’s agriculture students don’t just want to hear about a topic, they want to see it, touch it and feel it.

How do you engage today’s students in agriculture education?

1. Replace lengthy PowerPoint presentations with brief presentations that incorporate polls, activities and hands-on demonstrations every few slides.

2. Use videos, online activities and group work in addition to the textbook. By varying their focus, you’ll help keep it.

3. Use hands-on learning aids like our new Animal Models and Plant Science Models. These larger-than-life models can be taken apart and put back together as students explore each animal’s internal and external anatomy.

4. Don’t forget that “Why” is as important as “What.” As one of my colleagues recently informed me, Generation Z students need to know that what they’re learning is relevant, and by answering the “Why” question with evidence-based reasoning before teaching the “How,” you’ll assure them that the concept you’re about to teach applies to real life.

5. Incorporate soft skill development whenever possible. Your students will come to you with a varying degree of these skills, but you know all employers will look for them. Collaborative work helps build communication skills, assignment tweaks and activity changes help build flexibility, open-ended questions help build problem-solving skills and reflection activities help build critical thinking skills. (Our Employability Skills Program can help, too.)

With nearly 60,000 high-skilled agriculture and related job openings expected annually in the U.S. over the next five years, it’s more important than ever to ensure that today’s agriculture students are engaged. By creating an interactive, hands-on learning environment where they can engage in active learning opportunities, you’re setting your students up for success.

[1] https://growingleaders.com/blog/six-defining-characteristics-of-generation-z/

Upgraded Recently? How to Assess the New Features of RealCare® Baby 3

By Melissa Priester, Illinois FACS Teacher and Realityworks guest blogger

My school was fortunate to replace our RealCare® Baby II models with the latest generation Baby, RealCare Baby 3, earlier this fall. Because we upgraded every single one of our Babies, I felt that my students needed to be assessed, as the latest generation Baby also monitors ambient temperature, time in a car seat and clothing changes. To assess my students on these new features – and help ensure that they were all being used – I created two separate grading rubrics: One details the possible ways students can get points deducted from their grade, and the other details all possible ways students can earn points towards their grade.

RCB3-2014-GirlOnSteps

In addition to crying for care throughout the day and night, RealCare Baby 3 monitors ambient temperature, time in a car seat and clothing changes.

  • View my Baby Report Grade Deductions rubric here.
  • View my Baby Grade Sheet here.

To assess the new information recorded by Baby, I deduct 1-5 percentage points on the rubric as follows.

Baby Temperature: -1% for every 10 minutes Baby is out of the safe range. I feel that this allows students to properly adapt to the temperatures they may encounter.

Clothing: Baby must be changed at least every 8-10 hours. This allows the student to not have to change the baby while in school.

Car Seat: Baby must be out of the car seat for a minimum of 5 hours. Again, I looked at making this possible for the students who choose to take the Baby over the school week. I choose to take 1-5% points off depending on the amount of time Baby is in the car seat. I have not seen any negative with this yet, but I could assume that if the car seat detectors are not installed correctly, that could alter your data.

Again, these deductions are in addition to points deducted due to missed care opportunities and mishandling events already recorded by baby.

Additionally, I included in my rubric points for student’s daily journal entries, taking a minimum of 2 photos of Baby and taking Baby out in public. These all allow students who have difficulty with Baby to make up some lost points.

Extra credit: I also offer extra credit for those that take brief videos of themselves daily, expressing their frustrations and excitements of the day on camera.

By using these rubrics, I feel that every student now has the chance to earn the best grade possible, while I ensure that all the great new features of RealCare Baby 3 are being used.

Melissa Priester is in her 13th year of teaching Family & Consumer Sciences at the high school level in Illinois. She has a master’s degree in Education Teaching Leadership and a bachelor’s degree in Family & Consumer Sciences.

Babies Can Teach Us a Thing or Two About Kindness

By Denise Bodart, RealCare Product Manager for Realityworks

It seems that every day we hear stories about bullying in our schools and online. Many schools are trying to think “outside the box” and find creative ways to teach students important life skills like empathy, tolerance and the importance being kind to one another. This week, The Washington Post published a story about an innovative program from Canada called Roots of Empathy. Developed 20 years ago in Canada, this program is now being implemented in the United States to help curb bullying by bringing real infants intoclassrooms.

From the article: “Roots is built on a simple notion: When babies bring their huge eyes, irrepressible smiles and sometimes unappeasable tears into the classroom, students can’t help but feel for them. The idea is that recognizing and caring about a baby’s emotions can open a gateway for children to learn bigger lessons about taking care of one another, considering others’ feelings, having patience.”

(Click here to read the full article from the the Washington Post.)

Using infants to teach nurturing, sharing, cooperation and patience is not new to Realityworks. In fact, RealCare Baby has been used to teach these types of life skills in many settings in the past two decades.

In correctional facilities: RealCare Baby is used in parenting programs in correctional facilities to help teach responsibility. Inmates work with Baby and get hands-on practice in the best way to care for and nurture a dependent human being. This practice also helps prepare inmates who will be released into home settings with young children.

Corrections-500wide

In juvenile court systems: RealCare Baby is also used successfully as part of sex education and relationship courses offered in juvenile court for at-risk youth.  Participants must care for Baby and experience what it’s like to put someone else’s needs first.

In babysitting classes: RealCare Baby is a great hands-on tool for groups like the Red Cross, which offers babysitting classes. Participants will learn how to patiently care for infants in a risk-free setting until they feel confident.

In the classroom: RealCare Baby is used in 62 percent of school districts in the United States to teach a variety of skills. The Parenting curriculum in particular has lessons on nurturing, attachment and infant care. Because RealCare Baby is so lifelike, students who interact with Baby and participate in lessons taught from the curricula walk away with greater patience, understanding and empathy for others. The Basic Infant Care curriculum has a lesson specifically on soothing a crying infant and handling stress. Patience and perseverance are taught as students learn how to manage this challenging situation.

BabyInCarSeat-500wide

Around the world: RealCare Baby is used in over 90 countries worldwide.  Because infants cannot talk, their universal language is crying. Knowing how to handle a crying infant calmly is important anywhere there are babies! Baby also teaches students responsibility and how to care for someone else.

To learn more about using RealCare baby to help teach empathy and kindness, visit our website

How have you seen RealCare Babies being used successfully to teach empathy and kindness, or where would you like to see them used? Tell us in the comments below!