Knowledge shouldn’t reside in a vacuum, but, sadly, this is frequently the case in schools, especially secondary schools. We teachers have our curriculum to get through, the standards, pacing plans, preparation for state testing, the list goes on. As a result, all too often we become prisoners to our discipline, trapped in our own classrooms. Dividing knowledge into core disciplines, and even having separate blocks broken up with bells signaling their start and end, are arbitrary vestiges from the industrial factory model of education. While literacy and math literacy are indeed essential to our students futures, there is no reason that they need to be taught completely isolated from a real-world context. Showing that there is a rich interplay between the disciplines can inspire your students and make your content even more relevant.
Here are some suggestions to get started with cross-curricular collaborations.
Start with Real-World Applicability
What something going on your students lives that unifies lots of different topics? Take, for instance the upcoming presidential elections. A motivated group of math, history, and art teachers could create a great series of interdisciplinary lessons where the students stage their own elections. This would incorporate analyzing polls and graphs, writing speeches and platforms for the candidates, and creating the candidates’ logos. It could be a grade-wide, unit-long initiative involving all of the teachers (even the PE teacher could get in on the act and design a presidential workout or dance)! Whatever direction you go, think about how you can draw connections across your courses.
Start Small and Work Big
Does the idea above sounds too daunting? Start small. Reach out to a veteran teacher in a discipline other than your own, and find a time to sit down to brainstorm together. Is she a history teacher teaching about the fall of Constantinople and you are an English teacher teaching narrative structure? Collaborate on developing some lessons on writing historical fiction. What will you cover during your class time, and what will she cover during hers? What are you both excited by? Inspire one another and come up a solid plan. Once you see what worked well the first time you collaborated, you can confidently work up to a departmental or a school wide plan.
Find a Partner or Team Committed to Your Vision
Regardless of what cross-curricular project you create, the most vital part of the process if finding a partner or team that you are simpatico with, people who are excited to embed their course content into a larger framework of learning. Start from the beginning by generating a clear vision, and then follow up by creating measurable goals and objectives together. Consider making a cross-curricular rubric for the project as well. Time that you take to create these lessons will increase your students’ engagement and also strengthen your relationships with the other teachers who you work with.
Remember, think beyond your classroom- the world is your oyster!
What do you think would make for the most interesting interdisciplinary ideas for your students? Let us know in the comments.