The Integrated Curriculum
I remember learning in the classroom and being taught subjects in isolation. For example, I was only taught reading comprehension in reading class or math in only mathematics class but never in other subjects. I often wondered why some math concepts weren't taught in science since they somehow seemed to have a relationship. Has that ever happened to you?
Today, there is a focus on an integrated curriculum. An integrated curriculum is described as one that connects different areas of study by cutting across subject-matter lines and emphasizing unifying concepts. Integration focuses on making connections for students, allowing them to engage in relevant, meaningful activities that can be connected to real life. Can you imagine how an integrated curriculum can benefit your students? Understanding the benefits and how to effectively integrate curriculum can help teachers and students become more successful in the classroom.
Do you wonder why it is important to integrate curriculum? Think about how much you could learn in a classroom where you learn math, science and reading all in one lesson or teaching a theme-based unit that focuses on cultural diversity and incorporates core content area topics. When I taught through an integrated curriculum, my students showed higher signs of retention at an increased rate than when an integrated curriculum was not implemented. The reason for this is because they were able to more closely relate to content and make real-world connections in integrated curriculum approaches.
Students not only connect and create more real world connections in integrated classrooms, but they are also more actively engaged. Creating an integrated curriculum means that teachers are charged with having to create challenging, fun, meaningful tasks that help students connect to information. Creating a solar system unit that also requires oral language development and practice, reading comprehension skills and mathematics, can engage students far more than just a lesson on the solar system alone. Integration helps to achieve retention and engagement in classrooms, which yields higher mastery of content standards.
One final key benefit of an integrated curriculum is the ability for students to see skills multiple times. Instead of teaching comprehension strategies in just reading, teaching those strategies across multiple disciplines can give students an opportunity to see and implement it more often. The repetition of the skills being taught creates a higher level of understanding and retention of information for students in the classroom.
Think about the idea of integration as either a multidisciplinary approach or an interdisciplinary approach. A multidisciplinary approach focuses primarily on the disciplines. Teachers who use this approach organize standards from the disciplines around a theme. In an interdisciplinary approach, teachers organize the curriculum around common learnings across disciplines. They chunk together the common learnings embedded in the disciplines to emphasize interdisciplinary skills and concepts.
To create multidisciplinary integrated curriculum, develop a central theme focused on social studies and teach history, geography, economics and government in that thematic based unit. You may also achieve this by creating a mathematics thematic unit that teaches the relationship between fractions, percents, decimals and ratios. This will help students make connections to many disciplines.
Thinking about an interdisciplinary unit can be just as fun. Focus on creating a lesson on sculpting or singing while still teaching math and communication concepts. Try having your students make wind or rain machines while still teaching the interdisciplinary skills of numeracy and communication of ideas. The idea of an interdisciplinary approach is to have students learn more than just the immediate content being taught. They can learn interdisciplinary skills such as thinking skills or research skills that are integrated among all disciplines.
Here's a step-by-step method to show you how you can create an integrated lesson. Remember, the key is tying in various areas around a theme.
Step 1: Determine your topic and primary area of teaching.
For this lesson, we will choose social studies as our driving discipline.
Introduction: Brazil has large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing and service sectors, and an expanding middle class. Brazil's economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and is expanding its presence in world markets.
Step 2: Determine the activities students will engage in that include multiple areas.
- Students will analyze a reading about Brazil on economic data. (Reading)
- Students will take the data and put it in a chart to display it. (Math)
- Students will view a video clip about Brazil's economy and compare it to America's. (Technology, Social Studies)
- Students will then create a cartoon to display the information. (Art, Literature)
- Students will utilize a map, observe the land features around it, and then determine the size of Brazil using a measurement tool. (Math, Geography)
- Students will research more information about Brazilian culture, find an easy dessert recipe, and will present how to make it to the class. (Technology, Math)
Step 3: Teach it!
What wonderful classrooms we would have if integration were a part of them all. Integrated curricula are necessary to ensure the success of students in the classroom. Higher student achievement through the use of repetition and making critical connects to content, as well as increased student engagement are all benefits of an integrated curriculum. It is up to us to create meaningful units that integrate content and skills that will be beneficial for students. Through the use of integrated curricula, students will have fun, learn more and achieve at higher rates.
Review of an Integrated Curriculum
|An Integrated Curriculum
|*Connects different areas of study emphasizing unifying concepts
*Benefits include the fact that students are actively engaged and repeatedly exposed to multiple skills
*Developed around a central topic or theme that includes activities across the disciplines
Learn all you can about integrated curricula here before you try out your ability to:
- Recognize the focus of an integrated curriculum
- Discuss its benefits
- Compare the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to curricula