Departmentalization and Integration: Deeper Learning for Elementary Students (Transcript)
Dawn: Being able to departmentalize really helps us integrate curriculum, and provide opportunities for students to apply and transfer so we could really see mastery.
Anne: Departmentalization is just the concept of this teacher teaches this topic, and this teacher teaches this topic. The power of that is that a teacher can really dig deep into that particular content. They could become an expert. The integration piece of it is the concept that we've paired Language Arts and Social Studies and we've paired Science and Math. Intentionally we connect and integrate those concepts together. It's kind of the marriage between departmentalization and integration.
Dawn: In fourth, fifth and sixth grade, we have two classrooms at each grade level. One teacher teaches Science and Math, and one teacher teaches Language Arts and Social Studies.
Lindsay: Last year, we moved the teachers between classrooms and we found that it was difficult to have all of your materials on a cart ready to go into the next classroom. The students get to see now a math-enriched classroom, a reading enriched classroom. And they're not overwhelmed with content from all different areas. And then just seeing a different face in the day can capture them in a different way.
Jon: I see all the sixth graders every day. Our block is two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes. And I focus on the Math and the science.
Laura: And I teach the Social Studies and Literacy. We've worked really hard on making sure we have shared expectations for the kids. Some days there's this defined reading time. Other days, it's more of a Social Studies concept and we're using our literacy skills to get to those understandings and ideas.
Laura: Social organization is how you run your society.
Lexie: In Social Studies, we've been playing a game based on the Mayan culture.
Laura: It's kind of like, "We're doing this great interactive thing, okay, now let's do some research." So they're doing some close reading and seeing what corroborates and what conflicts with what they already know. But the topic is the Maya.
Student: Folding paper books are part of the...
Laura: Sometimes the students say, "Did we even do reading today?
Dawn: It's one thing to see it in a guided reading group, students accomplishing a task or a skill, but to be able to make decisions in Social Studies about how they're using those skills is a whole other level of understanding.
Anne: It's really the power and the integration. It's how we can apply what we're learning in Math to what we're doing in Science, and how that helps us think like an engineer, you know, or think like a scientist.
Jon: We're just connecting what's going on in our parking lot, and it's going to hopefully make us think about gravity and how things flow.
Jon: What I always shoot for is an integrated piece where they're doing something science...
Jon: But imagine a laser...
Jon: But the backside is there's a whole lot of math in what you're doing.
Jon: So that bathroom pass is the same height off the floor as that Apollo insignia, is that correct?
Jon: And then all of a sudden, math isn't a bad word anymore.
Jon: The same principle is happening right here. So we get to go ahead and try it to see if it's right.
Jon: And let's go to Point A first.
Jon: Get a reading on that. Remember, we're using tenths.
Jon: Why in the heck are we measuring concrete that they poured this summer? Why is that important?
Lexie: What happened was it rained so much and there's a huge puddle all around here, because the drain was clogged, and the busses were having to drive straight through all the rainwater.
Laura: We are doing a drainage analysis. We're trying to see if they did it correctly.
Constantine: We've been using a GPS to find our longitude and latitude.
Laura: We started off by finding our spots. And using the transit to measure the height of each of those.
Laura: Stand nice and still.
Student: 7 point 37 point 4.
Constantine: Then we measured the distance from each of those to the drain, which was Point B.
Jon: Finding out if the slope in the drain is correct, involves quite a bit of math. A lot of computation, measurement. We wanted to do something that would tie into one of our three big spheres of Science. Hydrosphere is a perfect connection for measuring the slope of the parking lot, because it connects to watershed.
Lexie: If it's clogged, our water's not going to go through to where we want it to go, the watershed is not going to work.
Jon: Okay! Okay.
Jon: You couldn't ask for a better laboratory.
Jon: So think about rocks, minerals, weathering erosion, geosphere.
Jon: This is a way to get them into the Hydrosphere in a really practical meaningful way.
Lexie: It's a foot different.
Jon: It's a foot difference, so what's cool about from that point to this point, is water going to flow?
Jon: It'd definitely flow.
Jon: It gives me a concrete foundation to connect future learnings to.
Anne: Conceptual understanding is at the core of what we are doing. How do we look at units of study, and not just looking at isolated content areas.
Anne: What's happening in fifth grade?
Anne: I meet with every team every week. Grade level teams as well as vertical teams to see how what we're working on is having an impact on students.
Jon: Now all of a sudden, we're doing decimals. And then we had to figure out the difference between two measurements.
Laura: I wonder if you could tie that site analysis into the fourth grade site analysis and that grant we got, or we're getting.
Jon: Oh, that's perfect.
Jon: Rather than being an expert at seven different things, I can work really hard to become an expert at two subjects.
Jon: Copy that, good work!
Jon: It's a wonderful way for me to become the best teacher possible.
Dawn: The benefits with the students have been phenomenal. It's created more purposeful, more authentic setting for learning, and we've seen that every day.