The Benefits of Cross-Curricular Work: reinforcing cultural material with skills practice

Greetings, Friends of Lockhart Learning!

It has been a long time since I last blogged. I have been traveling, researching and presenting in many places. But now I’m back and have many new, exciting ideas and projects that I am working on.

Lately, one of the things that I have been thinking about a lot is the degree to which testing has impacted lessons given in the classroom. With seemingly greater and greater emphasis being placed on math and literacy, many teachers are finding it harder and harder to carve out time for cultural lessons. Even some who find the time to give the lessons are expressing that it’s difficult to make space in the child’s schedule for captivating follow-up activities and for children’s independent pursuits. As we know, Montessori viewed cultural lessons as more than a system to deliver facts. She saw cultural lessons as a means to deeply connect children both to the world around them and the world within them. I believe we need cultural lessons more today than ever before. But how to make that possible?

Since there is little that any one of us can do to change the current educational environment for today, I have been thinking about ways to infuse cultural content into children’s skills practice – to double-dip, if you will. Can we create activities that engage children in skills practice while reinforcing or providing some cultural content, possibly sparking a child’s interest? We all know that one manner in which children can practice reading and writing is through cultural activities. For emergent readers, reading three-part cards and creating booklets is a very early example of this. As children’s reading ability increases, research draws reading and writing into cultural areas. But what else? How else can we maximize children’s learning from singular activities, and infuse cultural into their days?

My latest project integrates grammar with cultural studies. I have just placed the first of these on the website. American Indian Naturalists is a collection of symbolizing activities applied to content about Native American culture, with the option to extend the material into mini-lessons on writing. See the website for details on how this might work in your classroom! Go to http://lockhart-learning.com/language-lessons/ and scroll down to Real-World Grammar (about halfway down the page).

I am offering a special Anti-Black-Friday discount for any purchases of American Indian Naturalists until the end of November 2015. Use the coupon code ANTIBF10 at the end of your checkout process to receive a ten percent discount on that or any other products you buy before the end of 11-30-2015.

Next up, I will be working on applying the same concept to The Scientific Method! Helping children understand the Scientific Method can be tricky. If children experience the method through a series of experiments alone, they often explore the scientific content of the experiment without internalizing the process. This happens partly because the science is more captivating than the method, and partly because each cycle of Question, Hypothesize, Experiment, Observe, and Conclude is self-contained and may be separated by days or weeks from the next repetition of the cycle. And yet, the process itself is important for children to understand, not only because it is often assessed in standardized tests, but also (and more importantly) because it is foundational to logic and inquiry. Using the steps of the process in conjunction with other activities like grammar and writing will cause them to work with the process steps multiple times in one sitting, increasing their understanding and retention of the concepts. I hope to have this project to the website in early Spring.

Also on the “back burner” is a project integrating cultural content and math skills practice through story problems. I started work on this a few years ago; the first few of those have been on the website for some time now, but they reflect only the earliest exposure to story problems. With my renewed interest in cross-curricular applications, I hope to get back to product development in that area very soon.

As you can tell, I am very excited about this approach for maximizing learning from activities that we provide to the children. If there are specific topics that you would like to see presented in a cross-curricular manner like this, please write to me at lockhartlearning@gmail.com. My to-do list currently includes Creation Stories, Air and Space, and Early Humans. What else do you study with your children that might lend itself to this kind of treatment?

I suppose that if I am going to make progress on these projects, I need to end this blog here! Wishing you all the best this fall-

Betsy

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