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Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources

4 Awesome Interdisciplinary Ideas for Collaborative Teaching

By Ashley Previte

All together now! Don’t let the classroom walls or the length of hallway separate you from your colleagues. Share the love of teaching across curriculums with collaborative teaching!

Collaborative, interdisciplinary activities deliver research-based benefits including:

  • Critical thinking skills: By using approaches from different disciplines, students improve their critical thinking. Through careful analysis, processing, and making sense of information from varying perspectives, students can experience how different areas of study can work together to solve problems. 
  • Bias recognition: With interdisciplinary lessons, students challenge their pre-existing ideas by using information rooted in a range of perspectives. 
  • Preparation for future problems: Unlike school, life isn’t separated into subject-specific classes. Interdisciplinary lessons help students leverage information from multiple disciplines to solve problems and create new solutions. 

Encourage your students to make connections between their academic classes and show how subjects taught in school can really work together!

Pen Pals from History

Connect creative writing, character analysis, research, and history without the (yawn) long research paper!

Age Range: 3rd Grade and up

Drawing on research, history studies, and creative writing, students take on the persona of a historical figure and write letters about events they faced in the time period of their life. 

  • Have students choose a person from history. You may provide a list of options, but don’t feel the need to limit their choices to large historical figures. Great historical figures like Washington, Lincoln, or Rosa Parks are outstanding choices, but some great character research can occur with the “everyday man” as well. Think about a slave in Virginia during the Civil War. Or a blacksmith living in the 13 colonies. The sky’s the limit!
  • Each student will then draw on resources, such as their class textbooks and notes, library databases, videos, and other research materials. These beginning lessons allow the exploration of using varied sources and mini-lessons on choosing credible resources.
  • Once students have researched their person from history, it’s time to pull in the creativity of writing and character development. Have students write one to five letters in the voice of their researched individual. Include important events, emotions, and language appropriate to the historical context and information.
  • Revision and peer edit lessons should be implemented as appropriate for the grade level to encourage writing development. Final products can be shared between students in true pen pal fashion.

Vacation Itinerary

Connect second-language classes with other core and extracurricular subjects by designing the perfect vacation. 

Age Range: 5th Grade and up

Using technology, students plan a week-long travel itinerary to an ideal destination. The overall product could include:

  • Travel guide of interpreted common questions and phrases for non-native speakers 
  • Landmarks and other historically significant sites with brief descriptions
  • Popular food, dishes, and dining options
  • Cultural events that may take place in the area or country
  • Budget planning and cost analysis breakdown, including factors of travel like hotel costs, transportation, food, and incidentals 
  • Travel schedules, considering distance and time for travel 
  • Income saving timeline to prepare for the expense of the trip 
  • Artistic renderings or collages 
  • Weather patterns and conditions of the area or country
  • Geological features of the area

This interdisciplinary activity affords multiple core and extracurricular subjects the opportunity to share in the adventure of learning to travel the world. With the right planning, each teacher can implement a lesson in creating a successful vacation itinerary. 

Harry Potter Science

While reading books from the Harry Potter Series, students can connect the spell-making magic of the story with real scientific experimentation. 

With Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, students can explore the magic of invisibility! 

Age Range: 4th – 7th Grade

Using the experiment showcased on Youtube by Science Minute, students explore how water reflects light, just as Harry’s invisibility cloak described as, “like water woven into material” reflects light to hide him during many of his adventures. 

Using a science journal to record their observations, have students explore the reality of invisibility through light reflection. 

  • Have the students document the first phase of the experiment by drawing and writing observations as you place a penny under a clear cup. 
  • Fill the cup with water and make the penny disappear!
  • The penny isn’t really invisible, of course. Allow students to observe the angles in which the penny disappears and reappears while taking notes on their observations. 
  • Because of the refraction of light, the water in the cup makes the penny appear in a different location. Continue to explore the science of light refraction through discussion and further experimentation. 

With any of the Harry Potter books, students can practice early math and language skills through categorization and observation. 

Age Range: K – 4th Grade

When students arrive at Hogwarts, they are assigned to one of four houses by the magical Sorting Hat: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff. Creating a card-sorting activity, younger students can pull various cards from their own sorting hat. Card-sorting can deliver learning skills such as categorizing, pattern recognition, and observation. 

Used as partner activities or early-finish enrichment, students are introduced to scientific concepts while embracing the wonder and magic of Harry Potter. 

CSI Mystery

Create a crime scene and turn your students into investigators with this interdisciplinary mystery. 

Age Range: 5th Grade and up

Create a crime scene as simple or complex as appropriate for your students. For younger students, you can create a robbery; for older students, the crime could be murder. 

Use a classroom, multiple classrooms, or a common area like the gymnasium or hallway. Include small objects like hair or spilled drinks. Have furniture overturned or scattered through the room. Create footprints with powder. And you can even include Halloween-style fake blood and a masking tape body outline. 

First, launch the lesson:

  • Separate your students into groups with roles for each member:
    • Team leader: organizes materials and keeps the group on task.
    • Photographer: documents the scene with imagery and photos. 
    • Mapper: maps out the room and the clues with exact measurements and drawings. 
    • Evidence collector: collects information and records all clues (items should be described and listed, as they most likely won’t be able to be collected without taking from the other groups’ experiences.)
  • Prepare your students with the supplies they will need to solve the crime. These items may include a notebook for clues, pictures of various clues, and evidence sheets. 
  • Don’t tell your students what to look for, but impart upon them that EVERYTHING could be a clue. 
  • Now, stand aside. Give your students the freedom to explore and investigate with only the most needed guidance from you as you circulate the crime scene. 

Once the students have collected their data, it’s time to implement the interdisciplinary work! Students must now take the data and work to find a reasonable resolution to the Who Done It? question

  • Students should write up an official report on the items found at the crime scene and create a working hypothesis. Google Classroom is one option that easily lets students collaborate on a single document at one time, sharing in the duties of the assignment.
  • Students can use their math skills to determine information from their measurements. Using the distance between the footprints, they can estimate the height of the suspect. The measurement of the footprint itself can give them the shoe size or calculate the distance of the third line of a triangle.
  • Weather, erosion, and blood composition can all be evaluated for its effects on evidence. Footprints and patterns can be studied and observed. Students can take each other’s fingerprints or those of their subjects to scrutinize and compare.
  • Students can create a presentation of their evidence with a clear explanation of their hypothesis and the inferencing that led them to their final answer.

Innumerable activities and directions can be created to expand this lesson. Don’t hold back on digging deeper and challenging your students to do the same. 

Pull it all together

When students experience how the subjects they study can intertwine, they are more willing to work in all content areas. In fact, your students just might find joy in a subject they normally dislike when they participate in interdisciplinary activities. 

Forget those walls and empty hallways. Bring your subjects together and show your students what it’s like to really work together!

Ashley is an award-winning copywriter and content expert with more than a decade of proven results for national and local clients. From brainstorming high-end conceptual content to styling sentences that engage and convert, she’s got a knack for shattering the status quo. When she’s not in full-on writing mode, she’s hanging out with her rascal of a puppy and discussing the plausibility of unicorns with her 8-year-old daughter.

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