Scheduling the Integrated Block

I am passionate about providing the optimum learning environment for my students. I read professional literature and stalk teacher forums and blogs, constantly on the lookout for new ideas. So, creating a daily schedule should be easy, right? Not so much.

I have tried it all – scheduling separate language arts and social studies time, creating integrated projects. doing some integration while maintaining a separate independent reading block. I haven’t been able to completely reconcile what I know constitutes best practice in reading instruction (student choice! time to read!) and the equally important need for students to experience connected learning (integration) until now. Two things have made this possible – the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and accepting that a schedule should be flexible.

The CCSS are elegant. There are ten anchor standards that are reflected in both literature and informational text, and that is providing the base for my schedule. Each day we will have two independent reading sessions, one focusing on literature (student choice!) and the other focusing on informational text. I am planning on bundling the standards and looking at the same standard through the lens of both literature and informational text. For example, I will start with the elements of literature and the features of informational text, then move to the structure of narrative text versus the organizational patterns of informational text, and so on. The standard provides an automatic integration based on skill/content. The informational text choices will be based around the social studies content, providing a bridge from skill integration to content integration.

My typical schedule then, would look like this:

  • Mini-Lesson for the CCSS – Literature
  • Independent Reading/Conferences
  • Mini-Lesson for the CCSS – Informational Text (this could be very short as it builds on the previous mini-lesson)
  • Independent reading/Conferences
  • Work on Writing (this would be attached to either the Literature reading session or the Informational text session depending on the type of writing we were working on)
  • Social Studies Mini-Lesson
  • Independent Work/Conferences (Choice Board)

The entire day then has a fairly seemless feel where all learning is either integrated by skill or content, which is my ultimate goal.

The other thing is that I have made peace with the fact that this will be a “typical” schedule, but that doesn’t mean every day. I have accepted that no one schedule will meet the varied needs of either my curriculum or my students!  I have approached this year building in time for performance tasks, because sometimes a learning opportunity cannot be confined to a 30 minute block or an hour.  If a performance task meets multiple standards, and we need the day to work on it after our independent reading, then we can take the day or two days or whatever is required. I am sketching out my curriculum so that I have available “blocks” of time for my students to have those experiences.

What sort of schedules have worked for you in integrating your subjects?

8 comments so far

  1. Brandee Green (@brandeeg123) on

    Here are my thoughts. It’s funny how we have some of the same goals but our schedules would look very different. 🙂
    I would start with 30 minutes if independent reading time and conferences where students have complete choice over their selections.
    I would then teach a mini lesson for around 15 minutes. These lessons will be ELA common core standard based but I will try to focus on using SC SS standards for my books in my mini lessons.
    I will then move into my Literacy Workshop where I will have 60 minutes with 3 rotations. In those rotations, I will have small group meetings focused on the mini-lesson and other stations where students will use SS informational texts to work on other standards that I have already introduced in small groups.
    I may teach a mini-lesson from time to time before or concluding my independent reading time to focus on some of the literary standards but I truly plan to teach them together and point out the differences through discussion as we go.
    I then plan to conclude with about 15 minutes of free write journal time which I am blogging about tomorrow. I haven’t done this before, so we’ll see how it goes.
    Creating Lifelong Learners

  2. mrsgannon on

    I think one of the great things about teaching is that there are as many different approaches to content as there are teachers! I really try to focus on independence, choice, and time management so my students get their work for the week, we check in during the mini-lessons as a class, and they work independently or in pairs while I conference or call the occasional needs based group. I agree completely about the importance of choice reading, and no matter what else happens in my class we always make time for that! I’m interested to hear about your workstations – will you be blogging about those? Are you going to try and teach the SS standards strictly through trade books? Thank you for taking the time to share what you are doing!

  3. Brandee Green (@brandeeg123) on

    I have blogged a bit about a few of the stations I have used and will from time to time, I’m sure. 🙂

    As far as trade books go, yes, I do plan to do most of my SS instruction through books, but will be using videos, websites, articles, etc. Anything I can get my hands on really. 🙂 I will also have incomplete notes per SC SS standards that they will need to complete at one of my workstations each week that really hits the meat of the SS support documents for the formal tests.

  4. mrsgannon on

    A video series that is really great is the History Channel’s America: The Story of US. The Heartland episode is particularly good for Westward Expansion and the World War II episode is great as well. They are forty-five minutes long, but are terrific visuals.

  5. SGP on

    I too am trying to encourage content integration in the middle school classroom. The problem I run into is I too see the natural fit between social studies and language arts. However I teach on a team and have a social studies teacher that I would like to find ways to work with more closely. He is always open to ideas but I take the same approach as you that I need to bring his informational text into my room to support student learning on the CCSS. The problem is getting the other language arts teachers in my building to see that same natural connection. I am part of a content team of teacher leaders that are responsible for helping the school transition to CCSS and I encourage this method of integration all the time. I still run into those old road blocks where the ELA teacher wants the social studies teachers to teach reading. It is so frustration to see such an enriching opportunity that could support the strengths and weaknesses of diverse students falling to the side with old beliefs.

  6. SGP on

    I also believe as you do that social studies is a natural fit with language arts. I am in the process of helping my school transition into CCSS and one area we are trying to tackle is content integration. It seems you teach elementary school and have more control over your subject transition times. Being in a middle school I do not have that opportunity but I do have an amazing social studies teacher willing to help out in any way. One thing we are doing is as we co-plan is look at the informational texts he is using for instructional purposes in social studies. Whenever possible I find a way to use those as ELA informational instructional readings. We plan it so that I use the resource at least 2 days after him so that he has time to teach his objectives and ensure as many students get an opportunity to work with the material as much as possible. I find that once I bring it into my classroom I can focus on my objectives so much quicker because the students are already familiar with the material and there is no back tracking or read-aloud accommodations required or silent reading down time etc. This has worked great so fair. Now, on to the science teacher, she is my next resource to tap into.

  7. mrsgannon on

    It is difficult when you see something so clearly, and sometimes your colleagues don’t. I believe in those cases it is best to lead by example – work with your social studies teacher, come up with a few lesson plans and share. Be honest – what worked well, what didn’t. Ask for feedback from your colleagues. If you get a nibble of interest, maybe tackle planning an integrated lesson together. The most important thing is to keep all conversations positive and upbeat, and realize that the only thing you can control is what happens in your room.

  8. The Sanguine Schoolteacher on

    As a student teacher, I am currently observing every aspect of being a teacher, including how my mentor teachers set up their schedules. I just wanted to say that I just found your blog and your passion for what you teach and the ideas you have to accomplish it are amazing. Is there anything that you think I should focus on as I scroll through your blog?

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