Complementary Curriculum

Much has been said about Team Teaching or Collaboration among teachers, but I think we may be overthinking how we can make this happen without really changing anything we do, but rather by taking advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of us.

We recently, had a PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting at my school about Reading and Social Studies, which I liked, but I left this meeting thinking it was a missed opportunity to discuss the “How” this happen, but we sure spent an exorbitant amount of time looking at the “Why” we should do it. We looked at Reading and Writing Data and linked them to standards … all the while I am thinking, “No Shiznit”. It should come as no surprise that incorporating Reading and Writing in a Social Studies class or really any class will help the kids read and write better.

The “How” …

The “How” does not start with analyzing data and reviewing standards and spending tons of time in meetings led by an Administrator. It starts by having a simple conversation with your Language Arts, Science, Math, or any teacher that teaches the same kids as you. Find out what they are teaching. Are they teaching something similar to you or is there something you can add to your lesson plan that helps them and vice versa. The Language Arts teacher could pull readings about what is being covered in other classes and the other classes can incorporate the reading and writing strategies being taught in Language Arts.

For example: our 8th grade students have been working on a poetry unit in Language Arts for the past few weeks. They have been reading and analyzing poetry and I knew this because I have been talking with my Language Arts partner. I decided to capitalize on her work by assigning the kids to write a poem about Westward Expansion. The beauty of this activity is I had to do zero work to prepare them to write a poem because the Language Arts teacher had already done that work. I just had to create an opportunity for them to use what they have learned. Often, what kids do not have the opportunity to do is actually use what they have learned.

I did play them some YouTube videos of Maya Angelou reading “Still I Rise” and Suli Breaks spoken word “Why I Hate School But Love Education” as a means of showing the kids there are different ways to express their thoughts through poetic form. I even played part of “Rap God” by Eminem.

Playing these videos were done while the kids were finding the subject matter of their poems. Westward Expansion was an era of “great success” for the United States as a country, but within that “success” is buried a dark and troubling story … the Trail of Tears, Slavery, and war. Then there is the beauty of discovering the West and all of its beautiful landscapes.

The kids spent about 1 1/2 class periods actually working on their poems, but I will be honest most of them worked on them at home even though it was not asked of them, but it was cool to know they wanted to work on them at home. We are in the midst of them presenting their poems and the early presentations are illustrating how successful this activity is.

Here is a link to the Soundcloud playlist for the early poems

Westward Expansion Poems

What we, as teachers, need to do is have more conversations about what we are teaching with our peers and complement each other’s curriculum. It is not hard to do and it does not have to be a mandate nor does it have to be a special project. What we need tp hear more often from our students is “Hey, we learned this in Mrs ___’s class” . What this does is create enhanced background knowledge that only helps the students be better learners.

Let me know what you think.