ACEI Standard 3.1 - Integrating and applying knowledge for instruction
I designed an interdisciplinary thematic curriculum unit for a kindergarten class. My Interdisciplinary Curriculum Project (See Appendix A) includes six engaging activities and one culminating activity that are aimed to promote civic participation and responsibility. The project provides important information about the context and demographics of the school and as well as an in depth explanation of the rationale for the theme of community. Additionally, this project outlines the learning goals for the unit and the curricular standards that are address. Recommended readings, guiding questions, and a planning web for the unit are also provided.
My interdisciplinary curriculum unit aligns well with the ACEI Standard “3.1 Integrating and applying knowledge for instruction” (ACEI, 2007). It reflects how well I know my students and how that knowledge guides my planning and instruction. Consistent with the constructivist approach, I “elicit[ed] students’ ideas and experiences in relation to key topics, then fashion[ed] learning situations that help students elaborate on or restructure current knowledge” (Windschitl, 2002, p. 137). I used my knowledge of what students already know to guide my planning. For each activity, I started my instruction by activating students’ prior knowledge. This is an effective instructional strategy because activating prior knowledge “facilitates learning by creating mental hooks that serve to anchor instructional concepts” (Campbell & Campbell, 2009, p. 7). Additionally, I used my awareness of the community in which my students live to help me appropriately define “community” and explain their roles, responsibilities, and expectations within the community. My knowledge of my students interests’ also helped me plan instruction and materials.
The constructivist perspective “emphasizes[s] making students aware of their own role in constructing knowledge” (Woolfolk, 2016, p. 378). The unit opens with a class discussion investigating the theme of community and a KWL chart. The class discussion encourages students to participate in and take responsibility for their own learning. The KWL chart helped me to use Jerome Bruner’s theory of scaffolding as an instructional strategy. The data I collected from the KWL chart helped me to plan exactly how to bring students from their current understanding to meeting the curricular goals for the unit. Also, I used the “What I Learned” section of the chart to assess students’ learning and plan for future instruction.
I designed this thematic unit to be interdisciplinary because I agree with the National Council for Teaching of English (NCTE, 1995) that, “educational experiences are more authentic and of greater value to students when the curricula reflects real life, which is multi-faceted rather than being compartmentalized into neat subject-matter packages” (as cited in Rohrbacher, 2013, p. 53). Therefore, I intentionally created a unit that links together the subject areas of English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Mathematics. Also, I set curricular goals that align with the New York State curriculum goals for social studies in kindergarten, the philosophy of the school, and the needs of the students in the class. The culminating activity is an “Identity Celebration,” which enables students to celebrate and share their learning with their community outside of the classroom.
In the future, I will be more mindful of how I support my students in making cross-curricular connections. According to Shanahan (1997), interdisciplinary “instruction works best when it makes children conscious of the connections being made” (p. 18). I will do this by modeling my thinking as I am making the connections aloud. Also, I will assess students’ understanding of the connections through oral questioning, observing, and conferencing.
Interdisciplinary Curriculum Unit Plan and Rubric