March 18, 2012
The combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole (dictionary.com) – the art of integrating curriculum (me).
This next year I have been asked to move from 4th to 5th and to lead the team in departmentalizing the curriculum. I get it – 5th grade will lead to middle school where students will move from class to class and need to understand the transitions. I get it – we can use the strengths of our staff to reach deeply into the curriculum. I get it – there is a better chance to differentiate for students in your subject area.
But my wondering is that bold word whole and the small word integration. My teaching as been based in two theories one is you make it real (Real work for Real audiences) and the other is teaching to the whole in curriculum and the whole child. The teaching to the whole is my worry when I think about departmentalizing. I am not sure I know how to do that. I have always strived to integrate my teaching. Everything in our world is connected to other skills and concepts. In the “real” world I don’t sit down and do math. I use math to help me solve a problem. I read to learn something so I can solve other issues or I read about things that are important to me. (Yes we need to teach some skills and concepts first so we can use them in context but..)
Here is an example of my struggle: I am getting ready to teach note taking to my fourth graders. We have to take notes about something, right?
We have been studying electricity (science) and will be reading two texts (non fiction reading) to gather information (analyze and summarize) for our final report (writing). My students will learn to look at the text first with the eyes of a historian (history and social studies) – what words and phrase are important if your report will be about the history of electricity. Our second pass on note taking will be the eyes of a scientist and what will be important to take notes on if we are writing a report about how electricity works.
As an integrationist I will focus on note taking for my mini lesson but all of these other skills and concepts will continue to be reinforced as we work. We will work to mix and match – developing a harmonious, interrelated whole. This lesson does not sit squarely in language arts, science, or social studies. It is a mixing and matching.
This type of teaching takes time, planning and deep thinking. Can it be done by a team? I think so but that team needs to understand the whole, agree to work together and support each other in the development of the whole. Whew – that is not an easy assignment for people who have worked together for years.
So, what about a new team who comes from very different theories of teaching? The question now is what needs to go into place to build that team and the mixing and matching of curriculum?
My work ahead of me!