With eleven core subjects that Washington State requires we teach, it can be a daunting and expensive task to find a program that teaches all of these subjects well. The good news is that we don’t need to! Integrating subjects is a great way to increase student learning, and simplify your program.
Integrating subjects simply means that we combine subjects so they work together, rather than teaching them individually. This method is proven to increase learning, and make your program more cohesive. I categorize the eleven subjects into two basic categories, the skill-based and the content-based (plus the few that overlap both). When setting goals and program planning, I always recommend starting with the content-based subjects.
If you’re following the recommended student directed learning approach, content-based subjects (history, social studies, science, language, health, art and music appreciation) are designed around the student’s interest. It’s also important to know that you don’t have to teach all eleven subjects all year long, you just need to cover each subject at some point, and demonstrate student learning. Usually the core subjects are history, social studies, or science. The example I will give you is centered around history for an elementary age student. This method can be applied to any grade, all the way through high school.
Main Subject: Early American History
Reading: Literature-based Early American History (Beautiful Feet Curriculum is one example). This curriculum uses quality literature throughout the program.
Technology/ Occupational Education: Use kid-friendly and informational websites to further explore topics. The student learns basic computer skills and typing. Various occupations of the time can also be explored.
Writing and Language Arts: The Beautiful Feet Curriculum incorporates copywriting, but if you aren’t using a curriculum (or want to supplement), it is simple enough to incorporate writing through summaries of the reading, and creative writing about the time-period. Handwriting is practiced daily. Even though grammar should have a separate content-based source, the student should be applying the learned concepts in their writing about history. You can further work on writing and grammar through identifying the parts of speech in a sentence and walk them through using vivid language to make their writing more powerful and descriptive. This can be easily applied at any grade level. Vocabulary words can be taken from the history reading, and worked into their writing. Spelling also needs its own content-based instruction, but should be practiced and enforced through daily writing. Note on writing: There should be time allowed every day for free-writing, in which the student is free to write about any topic, and is not graded for spelling or grammar.
Science: Science and history can be really fun to integrate! Every time-period in our history has its scientific contributions, and inventors. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on science, especially if the student doesn’t have a lot of interest. For this example, there are plenty of inventions during this time period, and of course there’s the famous Benjamin Franklin to study. Great literature can be fond on Benjamin Franklin, and his inventions and scientific discoveries can be studied in a very interactive and hands-on approach.
Social Studies: Social studies and history are a natural combination. This time-period in particular has a lot to offer on this subject. The political changes in the country at that time are significant, and the founding of our nation is an important topic to learn about. The Declaration of Independence has a wealth of social topics to investigate, particularly in the higher grade levels. The geography of our country and the world changes at lot during this time period, and maps can studied (and drawn) to show the changes that took place.
Health: Even health can be integrated! Health and nutrition played a large role in the every-day life of the pilgrims and settlers. Their diet and lack of nutrition contributed to the high death rates. Diseases struck that we now have vaccines and/or treatments for now. Diseases wiped out entire Native American tribes; and nutrition caused the weakening of troops during the Revolutionary War. If you have a student with interest in science of medicine, you can investigate the medical practices of the day.
Art and Music Appreciation: This is a really fun topic to integrate into history! Art and music are a huge part of civilization from the beginning. There are styles, instruments, and composers to study throughout history. You can listen to music composed during the time-period, study the composers, and look at how musical instruments have or have not changed over time.
Math: This is one subject that can be integrated by studying the contributions to the field of mathematics during the time period. However, this may not interest many students, and will depend on the grade level. Math should still have its own stand-alone curriculum to match the student’s level.
As you can see, you don’t have to study eleven independent subjects! Choose your core subject, set goals, and get creative!