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Identifying Appropriate Interdisciplinary Classroom Activities

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  • 0:00 The Interdisciplinary World
  • 0:46 Background Activities
  • 1:50 Historical Activities
  • 3:11 Choosing Activities
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Teaching involves so much more than just your content area. This video lesson discusses examples of relevant interdisciplinary activities that can make your classroom cross-curricular.

Interdisciplinary World

The classroom is no longer a secluded atmosphere. The advancement of technology and communication has made school much more open to the outside world. A science classroom is no longer closed off to current events and can incorporate worldwide breakthroughs and discoveries the moment they happen. The same goes for math, language arts, history, and any other core subject. In this day and age, every classroom should be incorporating interdisciplinary activities, which are those that relate to more than one branch of knowledge.

For the purposes of this lesson, we'll focus on using interdisciplinary actions in a language arts classroom. Remember though, these concepts can be applied in any classroom and at any age level. Merely adjust the principles to match your students' specific needs.

Background Activities

Imagine you are a language arts teacher about to begin a unit on a novel. One of the best ways to incorporate interdisciplinary ideas is to focus on the background of the author and the era in which the piece was written.

For example, if the unit was on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, you can do a whole week's worth of learning about the culture of Shakespeare's time. You can cross into science class by having students recreate new inventions of the era. Or touch on history with reports on the governments and current events affecting the world in the 1500s. You can even bring in speaking and presentation skills by having the students participate in reenactments of the events of Shakespeare's life or of the world in that era.

In fact, you can even create a debate for students to research and participate in since there is some controversy as to whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote all the plays attributed to him, due to his limited schooling. Each student can be assigned to one side, find supporting research, and then have a formal debate against the other side.

Historical Activities

In addition to background on the author, there are other historical aspects for any piece of literature. For any reading you do in a language arts class, there is always some historical aspect you can incorporate into your lessons.

For instance, in Charles Dickens's novel, A Tale of Two Cities, the French Revolution plays a huge role in the story. Since this was a real event in history, you can create different activities where students are learning about this war. The activities can range from writing a research paper to building a model of the guillotine to creating artwork depicting the important events. Your students can even write and act out a play pretending to be all the rulers of different countries of Europe. If the current events are not apparent in the story, there are always important world events at the time the story takes place that you can always have students research.

Even stories written about the future can be used to learn about societal issues. For instance, George Orwell's novel, 1984, occurs in a future world where all the countries have merged into three large societies. Have your students research countries that have merged in the past and answer questions about it, like how did the mergers happen, were they for the best, or what were the downsides. Your students could then create maps and political plans as to how to go about merging all the present-day countries.

Choosing Activities

Now that you know some examples of interdisciplinary activities, let's discuss how you know if the activity is appropriate. What it comes down to is whether the activity supports your learning objective or standard. All interdisciplinary activities should aim to provide more in-depth learning of the objective.

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