Integrating Instruction 1–Getting Started

If you are interested in integrating instruction across all curricular areas, there is a lot of planning and prep work needed initially.  The bad news is it can take a considerable amount of time.  The good news is it’s fun, clarifying, and once you’ve done it you have a great base to start from for many years (as long as you keep teaching the same grade level).   And if you’re working on it during the school year, you can consult with your students to get their feedback, ideas, and recommendations–they are, after all, the reason for what you are doing!  Collecting information for planning throughout the school year can make the process very simple–you can start now to develop a plan for next year.

Integrating instruction is fairly easy when it is focused around themes created by science and social studies content.  These themes can be broken out and then organized according to how the content builds upon itself and relates to other areas of the curriculum.  Of course, you don’t have to completely integrate everything.  You may want to develop a single unit, purchase a unit, or get a freebie that you are interested in trying out.  Whether you are developing a thematic unit that lasts for one day, or working to develop units to run throughout a year, the process is the same.  Here’s one way to get started:

  • Locate a list of objectives and/or standards for all subjects at your grade level(s).
  • Identify science and social studies themes to be taught during the year.
  • Identify major language arts skill areas and genres you want to explore.
  • Identify major math skills.
  • Identify the major art, music, and PE skills.
  • Organize the skill areas of each subject area so that they work together.
  • Outline the units for the year.
  • Develop the individual unit plans.

The following posts will explain these steps in greater detail.  My examples will be for a fifth grade class located in southern California.

Integrating instruction makes teaching multi-graded groups of kids much easier!  It also helps greatly with differentiation:  since there is really very little difference in skill levels from one grade to the next, mixing children from different grades in your small groups, depending on individual needs, is simple.  (I spent more than half of my career working with multi-graded classes–I love them!  The trick is to treat them as one class, not two.)

Spending time with your standards gives you a very clear understanding of what you must teach.  I often found a new vision came as a result of this process.  This knowledge brings a great deal of freedom as you begin to see ways of grouping your students, and your instruction, based on specific instructional needs or even on interests, rather than on grade level designations!

If the directions in the following posts seem too complex, just try combining one science or social studies unit with the language arts instruction for a short period of time–maybe a day or a week.  I have a thematic unit about the Loch Ness Monster which takes 1-3 days to complete.  It’s a great unit for the first couple days of school–it gets everyone really riled up!


Originally published on March 1, 2010 on another website.  I’m updating the information as I republish it on this website.

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