Interdisciplinary Lesson Planning

Interdisciplinary teaching may sound like a elaborate concept, but it is really a great way to save time and combine resources.  The word interdisciplinary refers to the use of two or more subjects (disciplines).  So, basically, interdisciplinary teaching is about showing relationships between subject with one given topic.  Showing relationships between subjects helps children connect their "homework" to real life.  Kids get excited when they can connect a topic from one subject to the next.  It keeps them interested in learning more.  So, how does one get started planning something like this?  I often find that starting with a book helps.

One of my favorite interdisciplinary units focuses on the children's  historical fiction novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham:  1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.  In short, this is a story about an African American family that lives in Flint, Michigan in the year 1963.  They story takes them through the winter in Flint and then on to Birmingham, Alabama in the summer.  I use the book to come up with activities for many subjects.  Of course, reading is covered by reading the novel.  Language arts is covered through vocabulary words and discussion of slang. I bring social studies in with civil rights and history lessons about what it was like in Birmingham in 1963 and by mapping the family took to get to Birmingham.  Math is connected to real life by calculating the distance from Flint to Birmingham, comparing how much gas would have cost them in 1963 as compared to today, and figuring out how long it would take the Watsons to make their trip traveling at 1963's highways speeds.  Science can be covered by comparing the climate of Flint to the climate of Birmingham.  These are just a sampling of the many activities you can get from just one book.

It is so much fun to make interdisciplinary connections between core subjects and the arts. For example, teaching an interdisciplinary unit connecting chemistry with art may help to reach a student who doesn't have a lot of interest in science, but is a lover of art.  Creating connections between math and music will not only make math fun, but may foster a love for music in your logical-mathematical child.  In turn, it could open up an interest in math for your aspiring musician.


LessonPathways.com has an amazing variety of online resources that you, as a homeschooling parent, or as a teacher can use to create an interdisciplinary unit.  The site has a search function allows you to search using keywords or to search by subject area or age level.  You can then assign individual Pathways to your child to create you own interdisciplinary unit.

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