Is your day broken into time blocks for math and reading and science? Is there space for cross-curricular learning?
Let’s start with the question: What is cross-curricular learning? Then cover why it’s important and how you can incorporate it into your planning.
What is cross-curricular learning?
As you might guess, cross-curricular learning involves more than one academic subject area. It might blend vocabulary and science, math and art, or history, literature, and science. Cross-curricular learning helps students make connections between different things they are learning, and can foster real-life connections.
Cross-curricular learning can help students improve, take risks, or expand learning in an area they feel less confident in when they are encouraged by a subject they are deeply interested in. For example, a student who loves to cook may be more inspired to work with fractions to half a recipe than to work through a set of fraction problems during a math lesson. A student might contribute more to a discussion about a novel that is about a part of history they know a lot about.
How to bring cross-curricular learning into your classroom
Cross-curricular learning has lots of benefits for students, but you also need to meet standards for each learning area. The good news is cross-curricular learning can save you time, by letting you cover more than one thing at once.
Start with a plan. A long-term plan helps you identify what standards will be covered when. When you are planning, consider thematic units and projects. Both lend themselves to cross-curricular learning.
For example, a natural disasters research project has students studying science through the lens of weather along with skills related to research and writing a research paper. Such a project could also possibly bring in geography related to particular disaster types, such as earthquakes or flooding; history, such as the effect of the disaster historically or relating a current disaster to a historic one; and math related to statistics or other data such as wind speed, volume of water, lives lost. You could even focus on literacy and science, with natural disasters vocabulary.
One project could help students develop comprehension, vocabulary, summary writing, text marking, and critical thinking skills, along with scientific knowledge that you can map to your science standards. Shift the topic and you can get all the same literacy learning with a different set of subject standards attached. For example, explore the digestive system with a vocabulary hunt.
Thematic units are another great way to incorporate cross-curricular learning. For example, if you create a unit on space, you could include:
- a read aloud of picture books or a novel set in space
- research on different planets
- math related to a scale model
- connections to mythology in a discussion of planetary names
- science of what we’ve learned from the Mars rover
- history of the space race
- nonfiction reading skills with space-themed passages (try these Solar System Nonfiction Reading Passages Scavenger Hunts)
There are so many possibilities depending on what you want to focus on for skills and standards.
Cross-curricular learning done well, engages students and helps them make connections and stop seeing math, science, and literacy as separate things they need to learn. You may be including some cross-curricular learning in your classroom already. What else can you do to enhance cross-curricular learning for your students?