Thursday, May 8, 2008

Integration Across Content Areas

As a coach, I often get the opportunity to hear teacher's frustrations with never having enough time in the day to get all of the standards and content taught. They complain, and rightfully so, that there are not enough minutes in the day, and generally, the areas slighted include Social Studies and Science. These conscientious hardworking teachers know the importance of Science and Social Studies, but when something has to give, they prioritize reading, writing, and math.

Our conversation continues to turn to the integration of subjects to maximize time and get more bang for our buck. We know in theory this is the way to go, however implementation has been more difficult to achieve. In the primary grades this is easier because the teacher has the students all day and teaches all subjects. They can grapple with the placement of content on the pacing guide and tend to integrate more. In the intermediate school, Grades 2-5 at Chets, this is more difficult, because we are departmentalized. One teacher teaches only Math/Science/Social Studies and the other teacher is the ELA teacher covering Reading, Writing, Skills Block, and Spelling. Getting the two teachers to plan together in order to achieve integration is ideal, but many times with time constraints and pacing guide constraints, simply doesn't happen.

However, recently, I've heard many teachers recommit to make integration a priority. Most of the buzz is coming from our co-teach classrooms where two teachers teach together all day long. This is giving teachers the opportunity to see where the content areas logically fit together.

Yesterday, I saw a perfect example of this integration. One of the 4th grade co-teachers who is identified as the ELA lead hosted the 4th grade ELA WOW demo. The other three 4th grade ELA teachers met in her classroom for a one hour Writers' Workshop demonstration lesson on report writing. Cheryl's students, in a previous lesson, had selected a report topic based off their 4th grade social studies standards. With a Florida History topic in hand, this particular mini-lesson taught them to identify the audience of their report (their peers), survey their classmates to generate ten questions their peers had about their topic, and begin to research answers to the questions. The teacher perfectly modeled this survey strategy to her students and gave them active engagement time to practice before their work period. Students were engaged and focused on this task as they diligently took their survey during work period. In closing session, topics and questions were shared as a whole group. The teachers follow-up lesson will focus on identifying the main idea questions based off the survey and supporting questions, so students can generate their subheadings. Report writing on a Social Studies topic is clearly underway, and being able to administer a survey is a fourth grade math standard to boot! Certainly, integration at its finest!

My only regret as I looked around Cheryl's room was the absence of the Math/Science/Social Studies counterpart teachers. At the time we were watching the demo they had set off to cover content in their subject area. This was disappointing to me because at that moment ELA teachers were scribbling down notes, outlining their next steps for implementation of the same lesson, and most importantly, were clearly excited about Social Studies. I know their counterparts would have been totally over-the-top to see the excitement that was generated. And, in their defense, I'm sure no one even thought to invite them to the demo. Clearly, a missed opportunity, by no one's fault. Maybe, as integration becomes more prevalent, all team members will be present and can get excited about integration together.

1 comment:

dayle said...

I LOVE this post because this is EXACTLY what is happening right now - teachers trying to find a way to connect subjects together so students have schema to relate things together and make connections across disciplines. You are so honest to say that the Math/Science teachers weren't there, but recognizing the problem is the first step in solving it. Bet that same opportunity won't be missed again!! dayle