Sunday, October 19, 2014

Island Hopping: Using a Cross-Curricular Approach to Enhance Deeper Learning

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

     Today's goal in education based on the theories and practices introduced in the Common Core is to engage the student in such a way that he/she will leave the classroom with a deeper understanding of the content presented.  My academic approach to doing this is by using a cross-curricular model to educate my students. 

    Early in the school year, we began an unit on landforms in science.  This led us into a discussion on maps in social studies. Maps brought us to the creation of salt dough islands which again brought us back to landforms but also opened us up to  a discussion on adjectives in English Language Arts (ELA) class that can be used to describe the islands. What a whirlwind! Next we used the adjectives to write a descriptive essay on each individual island. The students had to name their island, describe the landforms, discuss the island's special features, describe the weather, and describe the people that live on the island. Discussing the weather crossed  over to science class where we are doing a weather unit!  The students had to locate on our classroom maps, where in the world their island would be located! 

     We of course were not finished there. Next each student made a map of their island which included a key and a compass rose. Since the students had previously studied maps they knew exactly how to make a compass rose and a map key using symbols. In life skills class we did a two day lesson on friendly letter writing and addressing envelopes. This lesson benefitted everyone because we designed postcards to go with each island. Finally to end this cross-curricular unit each student made a travel brochure to entice others to visit their island. 

     Cross-curricular teaching is such a positive approach. First of all it builds confidence in the students because they becomes experts in a certain topic that makes them successful in more than one academic area. An example of this is when the students did their writing piece in ELA class on their island, they were already familiar with the landforms, maps, and weather that they had discussed in science and social studies. This front-loaded* the information they needed to write their essays with ease. While writing, each student placed their island on their desk to let their imaginations flow.
    Deep-learning that is gleaned through cross-curricular teaching, integrates the heart, mind, body, and soul; making each project personal. This will help the students to retain this information long into the future.
     As with Project based learning (PBL) when students use ELA skills, hands on learning, and interact with their teachers, aides, parents, and peers, about what they are creating it improves learning. PBL and Cross-curricular learning take all learning styles into account: kinesthetic,visual, and auditory so both strategies benefit the whole child and all learners involved.
Anchor Chart:  An anchor chart, builds literacy in the classroom. Teachers and students make the thinking process visible as they record their thought processes on a given subject. Anchor charts can also benefit a mini-review lesson to debrief strategies such as the students using the adjectives on their anchor charts to write the essay about their island. *See explanation on front-loading below.

   Salt-dough Recipe:
     Each recipe makes enough salt-dough for 4 to 5 students.  
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of salt
1 cup of cold water


1)  In a large bowl mix salt and flour.
2)  Gradually add in water. Mix well, until it forms a play-dough consistency (being careful 
      not to make it too moist).
3)  Form a ball and knead it for at least five minutes.  The longer you knead it, the smoother 
      it will be.
4)  Store in an air-tight container unless you are sculpting with it. I recommend chinet 
       paper plates if you are making an island such as my students did.  The end product held 
       on tightly to the plates and was quite durable. 
5) If painting your sculptures, they do not need to be completely dry before doing so.  Our 
     island projects took several days to dry.

Educator Links:
Celebrate National Day Writing

Read, Write, Think-Finding Cross Curricular Resources

Parent Links:

Ivory Soap Science and Art

Some Tips on getting the Most Financial Aide

Mitt Aubin's Book Review:

     Todays pick is:  Maps and Globes-by Jack Knowlton and Harriett Barton. This little book is quite thorough.  It gives a history of maps,a bit on early explorers like Columbus and Magellan, map language,how maps are designed, the types of maps including globes, the key, and more. This book also comes recommended by Reading Rainbow. 

*Front-loading information is a technique used in literacy to activate and build prior knowledge in the student to enhance the learning experience.

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