Using Standards to Write an Integrated Curriculum

The reading this week addressed many of the concerns I had when I was writing for last week’s blog post. I had wondered about how to find a common thread and plan for an integrated curriculum, especially with regard to the standards and the SBAC. One of the suggestions  in our textbook was to first find a common thread running through the standards (Drake and Burns, 2004). In their example, the teachers found that many of the standards across multiple subjects promoted similar research skills, and they were able to apply these to their theme, which was medieval times. I am now wondering if this can be applied to any grade and any theme.

They also suggested presenting the curriculum as a whole, but addressing each subject area separately for report card grading. For example, though they may be writing about how the people of the time were similar or different from the people of our time, and were learning research skills to do so, the writing itself is what the teachers would score for report cards. Their evaluation was an engaging and fun medieval fair that other classes were also invited to, and was something the students knew would be happening at the beginning of the unit.

What’s interesting to me is that academically, the students did very well, achieving standard or above standard across the board. They were learning both the content that the teachers thought was important, as well as the skills that were a part of standards. The students were also given chances to reflect on the work and show their higher-order thinking skills. Although the teachers were locked into their standards, they were in fact able to create an integrated curriculum that worked incredibly well for their students. I’d like to see one in action, especially one that uses Washington state standards.


Writing an Integrated Curriculum

This week, I decided to reflect a bit on the process of writing up an integrated unit plan, as I have been attempting to do so with the class I’m student teaching in. This week’s reading was about how to go about planning the integrated curriculum, but I’m finding that with everything that is required by district, state, and school, this is much more challenging than I’d initially thought. Aside from finding the common thread running through numerous different curricula, the work is put on the teachers to teach core subjects in a way that relates to that common theme. For example, in math, we are teaching adding and subtracting mixed numbers, as well as multiplying unit fractions by whole numbers. I can give my students themed problems to solve, but the math itself doesn’t seem to lend itself very well to an integrated curriculum. The topics do not show up organically, but are instead forced into the theme. In this, I am not sure if it is still in the spirit of the integrated curriculum.

In addition, I am concerned with the time constraints of writing an integrated curriculum. Considering all of the standards teachers need to address, especially in grades 3 and up, it seems almost impossible to write or create an integrated curriculum. I am student teaching in 4th grade, and most of what we are working on in class is geared toward the students doing well on the SBAC exams. I have heard the time after the SBAC referred to as the time “when teaching becomes fun again”. It is sad to me that standardized testing could have such an effect on whether or not teachers create an integrated curriculum. I am curious as to whether these topics can be addressed easily. Will the standards truly have such a strong impact on integrated curriculum?