One of the reasons that I have started developing this program of pedagogy, is that I know good teaching doesn't happen in a vacuum. In order to help our students succeed we have to make their learning cross-curricular, so that they better understand the connections between the subjects. Authentic assessment is a huge part of this too, in that we have to allow students the chance to use what they learn in a meaningful way for them.
I have tried to do that this year. However, the cross-curricular aspect of good teaching is difficult in a rotary based middle school (which is the system I work in). Also, this past year has been my first real year of teaching and I have just been trying to survive. I can use cross-curricular activities in my English classroom, but with so little time I wouldn't do the tasks justice.
I wanted a way to link most, if not all, of the activities (assignments, homework, class work, tests) we do in a year. I linked some aspects of my lessons this year, but they were cursory at best. So I came up with the idea of a themed year. If I can create a narrative that drives the learning in the course and can be maintained for an entire year, I will be able to link the students learning almost seamlessly. Think of it as a roleplaying game where the students spend a few hours a week, every week, for 10 months growing and levelling a character that is participating in a quest.
The reason for the over-arching narrative is to help keep the kids engaged and invested in their education. It helps to link each topic of study (verb tense, sentence structure, making connections, novel studies, etc.) and it makes the tasks they complete more relevant to them. My plan is to create activities and assignments that are based in the world of the theme so that they students are always immersed. It is a tall order, but I hope that I can provide them with this type of program.
One of the ways I want to link the work they do is to frame everything in the narrative of the world. I have always enjoyed writing, and this will give me an opportunity to try my hand at writing short pieces of narrative that will flesh out the world for the students. For instance, students can read a page about the history of the city their character is in and respond to it. Or they can read about a long forgotten epic battle and we can make connections to mordern day equivalents. All grammar work can be based on the lore of the theme. I'll touch on this topic again in a future post, and I'll give more specific examples.
I'm excited to see how this develops. Once again, please feel free to leave comments.
Side note: Amanda and I have two weeks left in Kuwait until we fly back home for the summer to get married. Excitement is palpable.