Saturday, February 20, 2010

Interdisciplinary Units

Interdisciplinary units can serve the needs of middle school students by giving them independence and choice, meeting the needs of all learners, and creating a classroom setting that is engaging and informative. A reading and language arts unit was created and integrated across several disciplines including social science and fine arts. Lessons were designed to be multimodal presentations that understand the middle school student’s shorter attention span and heightened social needs. “We recognized various developmental, cultural, and linguistic differences among students in these classrooms; therefore we chose a variety of curriculum materials” (Zwart, & Falk-Ross, 2008, p. 4). The unit’s objective was to learn the history and significance of the Underground Railroad (Zwart, & Falk-Ross, 2008).

An interdisciplinary unit allows students to make connections across many curricular areas while using a variety of activities that meet all learners’ needs. Viewing maps and creating graphic organizers met visual learners needs. The needs of kinesthetic learners were met through creating quilts and painting rag-doll portraits. Watching videos, giving oral presentations, and listening to songs to discuss the lyrics met audio learners needs. In addition, the process of collaborating on interdisciplinary units benefits teachers just as it benefits the students. Zwart, & Falk-Ross, 2008 explain, “Creating new units, sharing planning time, and coordinating a unit to help meet the academic social and personal needs of their shared students and will ensure their success” and “the collaborative work that is necessary to create and implement the unit is a powerful process” (2008, p. 5).

Zwart, M., & Falk-Ross, F. (2008). Creating interdisciplinary units for middle schoolers. Illinois Reading Council Journal, 36(3), 3-7.


  1. I enjoyed your integration post. If your school is interested in more, I would really encourage you to take a look at the ITI Model - Integrated Thematic Instruction - by Susan Kovalik. I went through her training 10 yrs ago and it truly changed how I teach and plan curriculum. At one point (pre-NCLB) the entire state of Indiana implemented this model. It goes hand in hand with Gardner's Intelligences, Bloom's Taxonomy and Authentic Assessment.