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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

“Integration Day”: Creating and Implementing an Opportunity for Literacy-Based Integrated Teaching by Robert Condon, Deborah Muise, Lisa Dalrymple, Therese Hersey, Karen Cyr, John Logan

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 Mt. Blue High School has been involved in literacy training and implementation for 4 years. 

It has been a cross curriculum, school wide goal - and - predictably - has built collaboration throughout the building.

Here is a proposal from their cohort 3 teachers involving their high school and tech school teachers - creating interdisciplinary units.


A Preface
The following is a collection of reflections on an idea Mt. Blue High School teachers came up with in EDU 591, a University of Maine at Farmington course for content literacy mentors. It is presented in a variety of voices, some overlapping greatly in terms of ideas and content, others not.  As a whole, this collection shows teachers with a different instructional responsibilities and approaches breathing life into a common and as-of-yet unrealized vision.

Robert Condon
Integration Day: An Introduction
            What happens when you share an idea? Sometimes the answer is collaboration.  If you are lucky, others will believe in the idea and they help you grow it. This is what happened in our class, EDU 591. The idea, or more likely the outburst, raised the question “Why don’t we do more team teaching?”  What came next was collaboration and refining a simple question into a method by which teachers could have time to plan and create integrated learning opportunities for students using literacy strategies.
            We realized one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in this initiative, as in so many others, is finding the time to execute a new plan. This is when collaboration led to synergy as brainstormed solutions knocked down hurdles and the pieces began to fit together.  We decided that planning time for integrated lessons will be made possible through the use of substitute teachers covering for one of the cooperating teachers (and the other willing to give up preparation time) to create a beneficial learning experience. Through shared planning cooperating teachers will share ideas on literacy strategies that will be employed throughout the integration process.  
            The interesting part about the discussions that have created this plan is there was almost no mention of the actual teaching of the lesson. We believe teachers will do what they do best – find approaches to material that appeal to how students learn best.  Ultimately, we hope that Integration Day meets several universal goals: teaching in ways students learn; using literacy activities that foster better, deeper understanding; and providing students an opportunity to see how understanding in one discipline can promote understanding in another.

John Logan            
A Rationale for Integration Day

            Integration Day is intended to foster collaboration between educators, integration of vocational and academic disciplines, and use of literacy strategies across those various disciplines.  Encouraging these things is important to nurturing the vibrant, productive learning environment we seek for our students.

Collaboration Between Educators
            Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral’s “Continuum of Self-Reflection” highlights an important difference between a strong educator and an exceptional one:  The exceptional teacher “pursues opportunities to work and learn with colleagues” while a developing teacher “collaborates on a limited basis.” (42)  In short, a greater ability to professionally collaborate makes one a better teacher.  Integration Day will not instantly make every Mt. Blue High School a better collaborator, but it may encourage some teachers to see more value in and grow more comfortable with collaboration.

Integration of Disciplines and Working as a Team
            A school that works together as a team will produce better results than a school divided by disciplines that are insular:  This conclusion is implied (though not outright stated) by Anne Conzemius and Jan O’Neill in The Handbook for SMART School Teams when they discuss how schools that work like systems are superior to schools that do not. (180)  For these authors, schools where professionals “interact to function as a whole” better identify patterns and underlying trends in its student population; are more aware of how parts of the school’s system affects each other; and ultimately, work more effectively to benefit all students. 
            Integration Day will not instantly produce a Mt. Blue High School that functions like a well-oiled system, but it will push us towards that laudable goal. 

Use of Literacy Strategies Across Disciplines
            If we are to work together as teachers, it only makes sense that we use effective universal thinking strategies while doing so.  International education consultant Janet Allen claims that “there is an extensive body of research supporting the effectiveness of instruction in comprehension strategies” in all subject areas.  She cites a number of benefits in using these strategies, including helping students acquire specialized vocabulary, remember content, and prioritize material (1). 

Works Cited
Allen, Janet. Tools for Teaching Content Literacy. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, 2004. Print.

            Tools for Teaching Content Literacy
Conzemius, Anne, and Jan O'Neill. The Handbook for SMART School Teams.

            Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service, 2002. Print.

Hall, Pete, and Alisa Simeral. Building Teachers' Capacity for Success. Alexandria:             Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008. Print.

Karen Cyr                                       
             Collaboration and Integration
“To the young mind everything is individual, stands by itself. By and by, it finds how to join two things and see them in one nature; then three, then three thousand…discovering roots running underground whereby contrary and remote things cohere and flower out from one stem.”

The mission of both teachers and students is to find ways to create cohesion and relevancy. We can achieve this goal by integrating the curriculum. Integration is the result of collaboration between educators in multidisciplinary groups. It is the overlapping of content and the aligning of similar yet varied curriculums.  It can be as easy as connecting one lesson to the next or as extensive as the sharing of themes and creating lessons that overlap between classes of different disciplines. 
Curriculum integration is gaining momentum in high school settings all over. This is because educators are seeing that it builds “community, fuels motivation, renews the spirit, and enhances innovation” (Conzeminus). When professionals come together and share their expertise the whole school benefits.  There is renewed energy and higher student engagement. Students feel as though the courses connect and are purposeful. They are seeing the bridges forming between school and real life.
Teachers are the most important element in this initiative. They need time to plan together and they need a supportive structure that allows for nontraditional schedules. Physical locality of overlapping discipline can also facilitate the teaming desired here. But most importantly, the school needs to adopt this new way of planning and teaching. Only then will real results occur.
The purpose of our project is to begin with a small yet powerful experience where two or three teachers, from different disciplines, are given time to discuss and plan an activity. Literacy strategies are incorporated into the lesson along with the mixing of classes. Time is built into the schedule as well as reflection pieces. Finally, this expertise will be shared with others in hopes of more collaborating in the future.
Works Cited
Conzemius, Anne, and Jan O'Neill. The Handbook for SMART School Teams.

            Bloomington, IN: National Educational Service, 2002. Print.

Lisa Dalrymple
Thoughts on Literacy Strategies
            There are several strategies that can be used in the classroom to help teachers and students.  Students need to learn the protocol before they can work on the strategies or key thoughts.  It takes repetition for a student to learn a protocol. Teaching students these thinking strategies across disciplines helps the student develop these skills.
            Strategies are used to improve comprehension and to help students process the information.  These can be very simple such as a Think Aloud.  A Think Aloud is exactly what it says.  I would say out loud to the student what I am thinking and how I am processing a problem or question.  As the teacher, I am modeling the thinking process so that the students can metacognitively improve their comprehension. The question that I present a student may be ‘how did Cortez conquer the great Aztec emperor Moctezuma?’  In a loud voice I might describe the physical appearance of Cortez and then that of Moctezuma ….
            Another great thinking strategy is the KWL.  The K is for what do I know, W is for what I would like to know and L is for what have I learned.  This is another great tool to use prior to a project, reading an article, and the list goes on.  This is quick and simple but it provides me as the teacher valuable information as to what the student knows, or doesn’t know and it helps the student recognize what they knew and what they learned. 
            With respect to specific strategies that help in writing, I love the RAFT.  The acronym stands for: R is the role of the writer, A is the audience, F is the format and T is the topic. This is fantastic for students to organize their thoughts.  I often tweak this by adding another F, F for focus. The extra focus is if I want the students to select one item to focus on from a mural or a topic we are studying.  Some teachers include an S (RAFTS) to have students reflect on a strong verb.  This strategy works well with a schematic or web diagram.  If students aren’t ready to create their own written piece or if I have them work in groups and peer edit, Google Docs is a wonderful tool to use.  I also have students Blog.  Blogging helps students produce reflective written work. 
            There are several strategies to support reading.  The one that makes sense to use all the time is the GIST.  This acronym stands for Generating Interaction Between Schemata and Texts.  This is a great summarizing strategy.  This can easily be combined with Sticky note comments, Concept sorts, word walls or digital flashcards, and picking out signal words or phrases.  The digital flashcards can also be auditory.  With respect to word walls, I don’t limit the students to word walls on real walls.  The digital flashcards are cyber walls.  These cyber walls can easily be created in Google Docs which is shared, thus becoming an interactive wall.  Anticipation guides are also fantastic to use with students as a pre-reading strategy.  This is also good to go back to after the reading assignment so that the student can reflect on what he/she wrote before the reading.  There are many sample Anticipation Guides but I find it easy to provide this to students in a form format on Google Forms.  This is quick for the student and for the teacher to compare what everyone wrote.  This can also be shared.  Double entry journals is another tool that I can use with my students. 
            Sometimes when I have students present, the audience tend to zone out.  Many times I have the students take notes and use the 3,2,1 strategy.  The students take from their notes the 3 essential facts from the presentation, 2 things that they found interesting for whatever reason and 1 question.  When using this strategy or the Think, pair, share strategy, I must give my students very clear directions.  I need the students to analyze their notes and prioritize them.  There must be rational to their selection of 3,2,1 or what they are sharing in Think, pair, share.  The students need to be very clear as to the difference of active listening and passive listening. 
            There are so many strategies that I use in the classroom that I have used.  Some I like more than others and some I have had to change a bit to meet my needs.  For example, the Socratic Circle is another strategy that I can refine some more.  All of these strategies help in the scaffolding required for metacognition.  These are an array of tools for teachers to use to help the students in their process of learning how to think. 

Therese Hersey
Reflection on Tools for Teaching in the Block, Plus a Plan for an Integrated Lesson
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” (qtd. in Sejnost). I have done a lot of thinking about this statement over the last several years. Students have been changing with the influx of technology, jobs, and in many cases living independently. These students seem to be less invested in their educations and therefore less connected in class. One of my goals has been to find ways to connect with students and get them to buy into their education.
In her book, Tools for Teaching in the Block, Roberta L. Sejonost says that students must be able to connect what they are learning to what they already know and be willing to put the effort into learning. (Sejonost) Too often I see my students enter my biology or my social studies class believing that nothing they have learned in other classes has anything to do with what they will learn in my class. This segmentation of learning is  making learning an overwhelming task for them. On the other hand, if students can connect learning across the disciplines and with what they already know, it becomes more meaningful and purposeful.
Sejonost goes on to say that students need to be challenged by authentic tasks that are challenging, different, and relevant to their lives. Today’s student is demanding that tasks have meaning and are useful. Gone are the days where the answer, “Because I said so..” is enough to satisfy the students. Once again, teachers need to lead students down the path to understanding material in new and different ways.
Feedback is another key point Sejonost proposes to supporting today’s students. The feedback must be immediate, supportive, and encourage the students to reflect on their progress.
If these are positive components to teaching today’s student, Sejonost also proposes some criticisms of teaching methods. Fragmented instruction where there is no in-depth teaching or learning is at the top of her list. This goes back to my point of students not making connections between the disciplines. I believe that integrating the disciplines is a way that we can help the students make real connections in their learning. This integration not only gets experts in different areas working together and pooling their knowledge, it also forces them to take a hard look at what, why, and how they are teaching. This should result in a stronger and better presentation for students in addition to making connections for them.
My teaching partner will be Kathryn Woodsum, a math teacher. She is going to collaborate with me on a social studies lesson. Over the course of the year, her students have been learning how to use their calculators and computers to solve math problems. My students will be studying a unit on Imperialism and Africa. Their culminating activity will be to produce a Keynote Presentation on an African country. I would like them to embed some graphs into the Keynote this year showing trends in population, the economy, etc.
Because my students do not use the correct graph for the correct problem (ie using a bar graph to show population growth) and do not know how to construct a graph on the computer, I feel that working with Mrs. Woodsum for a period would be wonderful for them. I will give my talk at the beginning of the period as to what charts and graphs can be used for in Social Studies Projects and then Mrs. Woodsum will take over explaining how to use and construct them on the computers. Her students should be able to help mine with the new vocabulary and computer setups.
At the beginning of the period, we will post the learning objectives for the day’s lesson. I will also post vocabulary words on the board that students should be looking for as we proceed. After the lesson on when to use each type of graph, Mrs. Woodsum will show students how to construct them on the computer. I will provide the figures that she will use for this part of the lesson. After this has been completed, I will give the students words on paper to construct a word wall which we will post in my room to help students as the construct their projects.
Work Cited
Sejnost, Roberta. Tools for Teaching in the Block. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2009.             Print.

John Logan
A Modest Beginning
            My first literacy-based integrated project is small:  Many of my Grammar students will be helping Honors Earth Science students proofread a large scientific paper they are creating.  Teacher Patti Millette was gracious enough to allow us to do this.  As each section of the paper is created, Earth Science students will email us what they’ve written; students in my Grammar course will have the opportunity to offer proofreading advice via email.  The benefit for my class is obviously the practical application of what they’re learning in class; the benefit for Earth Science students is that they will gain a better appreciation of how to proofread their own papers. 
            Where is the literacy aspect of this common project?  Patti’s class will be using exit tickets to determine what Earth Science students are learning about their own grammar errors and how to fix them.  My class will maintain a “grammar term wall” of errors we encounter in student papers.

Deborah Muise
Growing Comfortable with Integration
            I admit it.  I am one of those teachers who gets so insulated in her classroom that she can go for days without talking to a grownup in school.  So at the beginning of the year, when my principal said, “Integration must be one of your goals,” my stomach sank a bit.  Sure, the literature says it’s positive and teaches students to look at learning holistically.  Sure, it’s a sign of teachers in the refinement stage. “Relationships are an essential part of the process of reflection for the Refinement teachers.  Eager to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of their colleagues, they seek out opportunities to share ideas, discuss pedagogy, unearth thoughts, and debate philosophy” (Hall and Simeral 98).  This did not change the fact that it was uncomfortable.  Luckily, a very sweet Spanish teacher had emailed me over the summer her idea to collaborate using a common short story she had in Spanish by Charles Dickens.
            Fast forward to Literacy Class in March and one colleague’s idea to “team teach” or, as the professor insisted, “integrate.”  We had just finished discussing the book Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success.  We had all been secretly thrilled to discover that our professor had considered us all in the “Refinement” stage of teaching. These are expert teachers who “pursue opportunities to work and learn with colleagues. . . .focus on the art of teaching” and explore the “nuances of teaching” (98).  The team teaching idea was a perfect opportunity to apply the literacy strategies we’d been learning as well as become more “refined,” and finally, fulfill the mandate given by our principal.
            The integrative plan for me is to collaborate with a Spanish teacher.  Her advanced Spanish class includes high level students who would be able to translate the very difficult vocabulary in Dickens’ “Nobody’s Story.”  The task is to team teach some background information on Benito Pérez Galdós, Charles Dickens, and the Victorian Age using the class expert strategy. Then we’ll go back to our regular single teacher class format.  We’ll assign Dickens in English for me, in Spanish for her.  We’ll use various literacy strategies such as gist and text highlighting for better comprehension.  The next task is for students to rewrite the story into script form and make a short film in both English and Spanish to be shared in each class, back to team teaching.
            My hope from what I’ve gleaned from EDU 591 and the readings is that integration is a step for students to understand the broader perspectives of their education.  This could help them be able to make connections and see relationships among disciplines, providing more meaningful, stimulating, global experiences.  It could help them open their minds to learning, expanding their views by making connections among subjects areas, ideas, time frames.  Instead of just addressing one facet of a student, collaboration seems to approach multiple learning styles.  I hope we can add to the dynamics of the classroom not just by utilizing a number of different literacy strategies, but also by infusing a new perspective and personality into the mix which might be useful for classes that have become stagnant.  After all, our professor did quote Robert Slavin, saying that 85 % of teachers need to be “together” for success.

Work Cited
Hall, Pete and Alisa Simeral. Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success. Alexandria:  
            Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2008.

Next Steps
Implementing both “Integration Day” and the lessons that lead up to it has yet to be done, but we are well on our way.  Currently, Mt. Blue High School and Foster Regional Technology Center are encouraging subject integration to prepare for a newly renovated collaboration-friendly facility.  They recently held a half-day of staff development in which faculty presented ongoing integration projects and were provided time to begin new ones.  As literacy mentors soon to finish EDU 591, we can help embed more literacy instruction in our facility with Integration Day, and to start providing more consistent and powerful instruction in comprehension for all our students.


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