And speaking of team, we all know that being a part of one gives you the opportunity to share by contributing your background knowledge, experience, and expertise. Those differences produce a wealth of knowledge. Such is the case with cross-curricular work. In a blog post written by Lucy Madden (2018), she defines cross-curricular teaching or instruction as a way to intentionally apply multiple academic disciplines simultaneously. This type of teaching is an effective way to teach students transferrable problem solving skills. It also gives real-world meaning to school assignments, and it increases engagement and rigor. All of these things noted by Madden are exactly what components of effective lesson plans should include.
For many years I had the privilege of working with one of the best Art Teachers I'd ever met. I was always amazed at his ability to draw ideas onto paper. As I described my concepts, he would bring them to life in an artistic creation. For units that I taught in Math, the Art teacher would have my students work on projects that connected the unit to Art (ex: creating 3-D shapes using construction paper, or different types of clocks from around the world when we worked on telling time, etc.) As I reflect on the years that I worked with that particular teacher, I realized that our work together allowed my students to gain a deeper understanding of both content areas. My students were able to recognize attributes of 3-D shapes as well as draw and label them. Although they were going to meet those goals as part of our learning target, I believe they grasped certain concepts a lot faster because of the work that the Art teacher and I did together. My take-away from that collaborative work with the Art teacher all those years ago left me thinking about how finding willing participants and discovering connections make cross-curricular work a win-win for all students.
Find willing participants
It's important for teachers to look for those opportunities in their lesson plans where cross-curricular work can impact learning. In the case of the Art teacher at the school where I was a classroom teacher, he would always place a blank monthly calendar in our mailboxes in the Teacher's Workroom. Teachers would fill it out and jot down plans for specific activities/lessons that they were teaching in the classroom for the week. The Art teacher would then follow up to see if anyone was interested in some collaborative work.
When the Art teacher and I met to discuss his work with my students, we talked about specific vocabulary that I wanted to draw their attention to during math lessons. For example, when I taught a unit on 3-D shapes, I wanted to make sure that my students had an understanding of words such as faces, vertices, edges, prism, 3-Dimensional, etc. The Art teacher wanted to make sure that students had an understanding of vocabulary specific to 3-D shapes in Art such as base, assemble, and mobile. Once we had a clear direction of the type of drawings and mobiles students would create, and we identified vocabulary, student work took shape in class. The Art teacher was always proud to escort my students back to class to allow them the opportunity to showcase their work. Sometimes we divided completed projects up so that we could display student work on the bulletin board outside our classrooms. I also displayed their work around the room. My students took pride in their work and often times referred to their project when I taught a lesson connected to what they were doing in Art.
Under the Intentional Toolkit I share a couple of articles that highlight the importance of Cross-Curricular Work; I also share a video that supports the needs of the youngest learners. As always, I hope you find these resources useful. So as you can see, Cross-Curricular work is an excellent way to increase student participation. When done in collaboration with special content area teachers, even the most reluctant students will find this type of work engaging because it challenges them in deeper level thinking. Need a reluctant student to participate in a writing lesson, solicit the help of the P.E. teacher. Together team up to find parts of the lesson were active movement can be incorporated. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how well that student responds to the lesson. So who's up for doing some amazing cross-curricular work? Until next time...go out there and be GREAT!