Module 6: Integrating Language Arts: Why Utilize Integrated Curriculum Design for Writing Activities?

4. Content Knowledge– The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

4.4 Designing Coherent Instruction in the area of Lesson and Unit Structure
The lesson or unit has a clearly defined structure around which activities are organized. Progression of activities is even, with reasonable time allocations.

When developing writing activities for an elementary curriculum, it is important to teach about the writing process. From many personal observations, I have noticed that some students tend to experience anxiety with writing activities. Integrating a language arts curriculum with other subject areas can help with this, of course depending on the design of learning activities. While lesson design is dependent on grade level, reading level, data gathered from preassessments, and of course curriculum standards, well-developed and meaningful writing assignments can benefit student learning outcomes.

One example of an integrated curriculum focusing on a common topic or theme can be seen in Figure 1.

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Figure 1: Example of preliminary integrated curriculum design (Drake & Burns, 2004, p. 82).

As represented in this example, rather than focus on a simple reading/writing assignment reflecting on medieval times (perhaps after reading about this subject matter in a textbook), this unit design offers students opportunities to explore content by researching other subject matter that is relevant during this time period. By designing a curriculum that integrates language arts with other subject areas, students are provided with comprehensive exploration of that subject matter. This not only allows students to explore things that may be of interest to them, it adds more meaningful knowledge to their educational encounters. Developing an understanding a medieval society’s culture in comparison to a modern day community’s, students can explore the technology of that time period, medieval religious and geographic relevance relating to the subject, and develop a basic understanding of the arts and daily life people experienced. By utilizing a layered curriculum, students can observe this information through hands-on classroom experiences, field trips, interactive constructive learning activities, and other memorable learning moments.

Furthermore, an integrated curriculum provides a preliminary research phase to the prewriting process. As represented by Scheuerman (2016), the writing process for elementary students can be simplified and outlined as follows:

  1. Prewriting: determining a subject, sensing an audience, creating a design
  2. Drafting: supplying details, writing, reviewing
  3. Revising: rewriting
  4. Editing: public draft, publication
  5. Publishing

This research phase can be utilized with individual lessons or integrated throughout a unit for preparation of a final project or presentation. The more students understand that research, experiences, and passion can drive their creative writing the anxiety and stress associated with these assignments may be minimized. Moreover, students will develop a deeper understanding of their learning prior to reflecting and writing about it.

As a future elementary teacher, I plan to utilize an integrated curriculum when possible; this will of course be based on the district policies and the school that I am employed with. Having utilized a similar process for developing, designing, and project managing interpretive museum exhibits for various ages in my previous career, I am very passionate about integrated curriculum design. I personally hope to develop memorable learning experiences for my students; an integrated curriculum can also help me to further diversify my instruction, utilizing different subject and content areas to find out what my young learners are passionate about.

References:

Drake, S. M. & Burns, R. C. (2004). Meeting standards through integrated curriculum. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Scheuerman, R. (2016). Session VI: Unit themes and language arts methods (II) [PDF document]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: https://mountainlightschool.wordpress.com/mat/edu-6363/

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