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?