Sunday, May 18, 2014

Spring Has Sprung! The Importance of Integrating Content Areas

Although I am a brand new homeschool mom of just five months, my training, research, and experience as a classroom teacher and reading specialist have greatly affected how I teach my son.

Past and current research supports integrating reading in the content areas: thematic teaching, and what we used to call interdisciplinary teaching (integrated), especially in the secondary classroom.  Along with this was the popular adage that in the primary classroom students were learning to read, and beginning in grade 3 students were reading to learn. 

 However, I disagree with this, not only because the Common Core State standards require students to read more informational texts, but because, in my opinion, it is just good, solid teaching.  As well, by integrating reading in the content areas we can capitalize on students' interests, provide authentic, real-world reading, and perhaps just as crucial, make use of the precious instructional time in the classroom.

At home, believe it or not, I have to carefully plan my daily lesson plans to maximize my time.  Homeschooling just one child (a first grader), means that he gets 1:1 instruction all day.  I have to balance the intensity of my instruction.  So, for example, science and social studies are integrated with reading/language arts. When we read an informational text in science, we read with the purpose of learning new information and we read as a "scientist".

Usually, this is what our homeschool table/classroom looks like at the start of the day.

Just like in the classroom, I use plenty of center-like activities and avoid worksheets and worksbooks as much as possible and instead make use of hands-on, kinesthetic activities.  Here, my son is placing a Bible verse in correct order, thus applying his reading/literacy skills of sentence structure, and the cueing systems of meaning, syntax, and visual.

Here he is then moving into writing by copying the week's verse.

We just finished an integrated unit on plants and seeds.  Together, we read this classic story:

Then we discussed what we learned about seeds, plants, and their life cycle, as well as the book's theme, and we completed a story summary and sequencing activities.

From there, we became scientists and used this fantastic resource from 1st Grade Hip Hip Hooray!  Click the picture below to take a look at the packet on TpT.

 Plants . . . "Growing" our knowledge of plants!

In the packet we read short passages about the parts of a plant and its life cycle.  Then we read more by reading this engaging book by Gibbons:

And all along, we were planting our own seeds, watching for the first little sprouts, examining the roots, and drawing and recording in the plant journal from the above packet.

Once spring finally arrived, we moved outside to our box gardens where my husband had planted some tomato plants, lettuce, and herbs (for me!) he bought at a local nursery.

I snapped a few pictures after we planted our seedlings and then handed the camera over to my son.

You can barely see them, but our tiny zinnia and tomato plants are in the garden!

The beauty of this unit study is that we can continue all summer long as we watch our plants go through their life cycle, and hopefully we will be able to harvest herbs and tomatoes soon!

We will keep you posted!

Share your ideas for content integration!  I love reading new ideas!

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