My last few blog entries were about the Indiana SAT Assessment. Some teachers and even some counselors may have seen these blog posts and thought, “These are for the English/Language Arts and Math Teachers.” While the SAT Assessment does have a Reading Test, Writing and Language Test, and two Math Tests (one with a calculator and one without a calculator) it is far from only about E/LA and Math! All four parts of the SAT Assessment include science and history/social studies!
This leads me to this blog post. Teachers need to start helping each other and work together to educate a complete and well-rounded student. If we make a directed effort to work together, we will all win!
They say, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I agree with that and would extend that saying for schools to say; “It takes all the subjects working together to fully educate a student.” Believing this and implementing this is the key. Administrators, teachers, and counselors must step outside their small, very busy spheres of educational influence. They must connect with other teachers in other subjects and collaborate to benefit BOTH their subjects and the students.
What exactly am I proposing here? It is simple. We all need to get out of our offices and classrooms and go connect with other teachers in subjects or areas other than ours. Together we should be creating activities and lessons that cover the standards in multiple subjects and save all parties involved time and energy.
How Do We Work Together?
Let me get specific here and give some examples. Each of these examples shows just how easy it is to create connections between departments. These connections in turn make your job easier and help students learn!
Connection: Math and Chemistry
When I was a math classroom teacher, I taught unit conversion in Algebra 1. When we worked on distance, rate, and time word problems, my students acted as if they had never seen unit conversions before. I would tell them they were doing these exact same activities in Chemistry. They responded, “That is not how my Chemistry teacher does it!”. And they were right.
Then it occurred to me. Why am I reinventing the wheel? That day I went to the Chemistry teacher and said let’s work together on this. The Chemistry teacher showed me exactly what they were doing in science and from that day on, I have taught unit conversions the way it is taught in Chemistry classes. My job just got easier, and my students better understood what I was teaching them!
You may be thinking, "Well, math and science fit well together so that was an easy connection. What if I teach Physical Education or Visual and Performing Arts? How could these subjects connect to Math or English/Language Arts?". The connections are not as hard as you may think. It just takes a few minutes of teachers sitting down together to brainstorm the connections.
Connection: Math and Art
In math, proportional reasoning is huge! Guess what? In Art and Ceramic classes, proportional reasoning can easily be taught. Think about the color wheel! Primary colors are the basis of ALL colors. Mixing the colors properly is a perfect proportional reasoning activity. This activity also crosses over to AP Computer Science and Web-Design. The color wheel and mixing colors are the basis for programming colors using the RGB coding for colors on a computer screen.
Connection Math and Physical Education
The connections between Math and Physical Education also work very well. Having students calculate their average feet per step is an excellent example. These measurements can differ greatly from person to person.
This is also necessary to know so that all our smartwatches calculate our steps properly. Having students calculate their average speed when they run or walk the mile is both a Math and Physics activity. Both these activities can be extended in so many ways. Check out these elementary lesson plans for example.
Connection: Biology, Social Studies, and ELA
What about the connections between Biology, Social Studies, and English/Language Arts? Genetically Modified Organism – GMOs are a very hot topic in society right now. They come up in science discussions, economic discussions, and in many reading passages where the reader must discern what is accurate and not biased misinformation.
In Biology, they discuss genetics in the standards B.4.5 and B5.5. Having students read, write, and discuss various issues around GMOs in Social Studies would be a perfect connection. There are already lesson plans developed for just this. You can easily connect GMOs and English/Language Arts. Yes, there are lesson plans already developed for this too.
Connection: World Languages, Math, History/Social Studies
Using common currency is a great way to tie World Languages, Math, History/Social Studies, and English/Language Arts together. Talking about travel and the use of the different currencies from around the world and the current currency exchange rates ties so many things together for students.
I have been very fortunate in my educational career to be able to travel and study the educational system in Japan, Brazil, England, Kyrgyzstan, and all over the United States. Dealing with the local currency and currency exchange rates was an extremely important Math lesson. There are wonderful lesson plans that connect all of the subjects for this topic together. Having students explain what they would buy at a grocery store to fix a nice dinner then have students give the names and costs of each of those items in the appropriate World Language would be an incredible activity.
You could extend that in a Social Studies class by asking the students what kind of taxes might be charged on these items in the appropriate country where they are purchasing the items. You do not have to reinvent or do these lesson plans on your own. They are already done for you like they are here!
I could go on and on with examples and lesson plans that already exist that do exactly what I have been discussing here. It is NOT about me sharing lesson plans here. It is about YOU getting out of your office or classroom and connecting with your colleagues and planning a great lesson that benefits everyone. When learning is connected across subjects it validates the lessons and puts the learning in context. If students see how the material they are learning is connected to their lives outside of school, it solidifies the relevance and importance of what they are learning.
What I have discussed here is not revolutionary or anything new. What I have written about is the fact that it is imperative, due to time constraints and the massive amounts of information we are being asked to impart to our students, for us to take time to do cross-curricular projects.
It really is not that hard and connects the student’s learning in so many ways. I hear the phrases “Researched Based” and “Students Centered” so many times these days. It is time for us to put our time and effort into the words we are saying. Making connections between subjects is the epitome of being researched based and student-centered!
So please, for your sanity and for what is best for students, connect with a colleague and plan a lesson or activity together! You will be amazed how easy it is, how many resources are out there for you all to use, and how much it will benefit you and your students.
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