Language Arts is a subject area that can easily incorporate topics from across other curricula. This lesson outlines several activities a Language Arts teacher can use to integrate other content areas.
Integrated Language Arts
English Language Arts (ELA) is one of those subjects that inherently involves a wide variety of skills and crosses all curricula. Students must be able to read, write, listen and speak in every single high school class or college course they will ever take. Those skills will also be essential for nearly all types of jobs and professions.This is why ELA is often labeled integrated, as it involves various elements that link or coordinate to other subject areas.
ELA teachers should use a variety of techniques and topics to integrate skills and content. This lesson outlines several ideas for activities on how to do so.
Brainstorming, which is the practice of encouraging students to come up with creative ideas either individually or in a group, is a valuable integrated skill.
During a brainstorming activity, students record numerous ideas relevant to one particular topic.For engaging brainstorming sessions, make it into a game. Students can be challenged to create the longest list of ideas in the class.
A perfect moment to use this technique is right before reading a selection on a challenging topic from a different content area.For instance, if your students are about to read an article on climate change, they can make a list or discuss in a group all the things they already know or want to learn, like ’caused by fossil fuels’ or ‘what can we do?’.
Graphic organizers, or visual representations of information, are ideal tools for brainstorming. Use brainstorming as an introductory means of integrating other content areas and skills.
Students can use graphic organizers to sort out the information they have learned or want to learn.These include webs, flow charts, tables, diagrams, and more.Returning to the climate change example, a student could put ‘climate change’ in the middle, then ‘politics’, ‘environment’, ’causes’, and ‘actions’ in separate bubbles attached the main one. Then they could add other words in clouds around those bubbles.
The next two integrated activities both rely on prior knowledge, which is the information students already know about a topic, including what is learned in other classes.
The first is using an anticipation guide. Prior knowledge is activated when using an anticipation guide, which lists statements on a topic to which your students react before they read a selection.These statements should either be in agree/disagree, or true/false structure, and need to be designed to make a quick decision.For instance, an ELA class might study the Declaration of Independence as a piece of literature, but students will have prior knowledge based on learning about the American Revolution in history class. One of the statements of the anticipation guide could be:’True or False: The Declaration of Independence was written to convince the English citizens, not the colonists, to revolt against their King.
‘Students will activate their prior knowledge about the Revolutionary War to mark this as true or false. There should be around 7-10 statements total. Be sure to lead the class in a discussion about their responses before the reading. This makes the text more relatable and interesting to them as they will want to find out if their answers are reinforced.
Lastly, returning to the anticipation guide after the reading will reinforce the main concepts. Students can fill out the anticipation guide again, or mark whether the author agrees or not with the statements. Use anticipation guides to activate prior knowledge from other content areas.
The second activity, also relying on prior knowledge, is scaffolding, which involves changing the level of support for students. Each student has different needs; an advanced student will need less guidance than a struggling student.
The ultimate goal is to slowly remove the support of the teacher as the student learns the skill.We have all seen actual scaffolding on buildings or bridges. The scaffolding supports the structure and is removed when it is no longer needed.
Scaffolding in education follows the same idea. Once a student shows competence, the teacher support is removed and they continue on their own.
Scaffolding relies heavily on schemas, which are networks of information in a person’s mind.
We all have schemas for any type of situation or idea. For instance, the schema for going out to eat involves waiting for a table, speaking to a waiter or waitress, ordering food, eating, paying the bill, and then leaving. Schemas allow for scaffolding to occur as students will incorporate the new information into a previous schema, which makes it more meaningful.The key to successful scaffolding is to provide just the right amount of support. Students should be drawn out their comfort zone with teacher guidance, then have that support removed when they are ready. In this way, scaffolding is very useful for texts above the current level of learning.For example, a 6th grade class probably doesn’t know too much about the environmental aspects of climate change.
The teacher should provide scaffolding when introducing this topic. Once the main concepts are learned, remove the scaffolding and have them think critically about the topic on their own.
Language Arts is an integrated subject area incorporating a wide variety of skills that are necessary to all content areas. As the teacher, you must provide a variety of activities to incorporate cross curricula content in order to fully tap into all the integrated aspects of ELA.First, use brainstorming, either in groups or individually, to get students thinking creatively about topics from all content areas.
Next, make use of prior knowledge through anticipation guides and scaffolding. Anticipation guides ask students to agree or disagree with statements about the main ideas in the reading selection. Students use what they already know or believe about the topic to answer. Finally, scaffolding provides support and guidance while students process new information and incorporate it into previously established schemas.
In this way, you can provide just the right amount of support for students.