Integrated Learning

The Power of Integrated Learning

I have been curious about what integrated learning might look like in a primary classroom and the impact it may have on student engagement and learning.

The Olympics seemed to be a perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Relinquishing control over the what and how of learning enabled the students to explore topics that interested them. Their own "wonderings" guided our daily activities. These included researching how Olympians train for various sports, the meaning of symbols such as the Olympic rings, and Sochi Olympic mascots.
We also agreed that tracking Olympics metals was very important. Using the Sochi iPad app, we translated raw data into pictographs and bar graphs. Towards the end of the Olympics during a classroom community circle, a student shared how they felt they had learned a lot but it was never boring and they liked doing the same 'kind of stuff' throughout the day. It wasn't just doing math, or reading, or writing ... there was a purpose behind the learning activities that was tangible for the students.  
I realized how 'tuned in' I needed to be with what and how students were learning to embrace the teachable moments. This included developing 'collective understanding' about what's important about describing and displaying data, finding important information (and putting it in our own words), and writing instructions clearly for an audience. The students often learned from and with each other - not something new, but it was definitely more purposeful and engaging. 
I came across a blog post from MindShift which helped solidify my understanding on the role of integrated learning in student engagement.
"Students like to know why they’re learning something and they want to access that information through a lens that interests them."
"The number one thing that students on the panel said makes them want to try hard and succeed is knowing that teachers care about them and are part of the learning journey with them. "

On the last day of the Olympics the student decided that we should create a graph of the top Olympic countries. We often used an online graphing program Create-a-Graph to display data. 
From here, the students had a fantastic wondering ... "Miss Weber- we wonder what it's like in all these countries? Why did these ones do so well?" YES! On we went to learn about the world (Grade 2 Canada and World Connections strand). Students selected countries and worked in groups to gather information. We used Google Drive to share our information.

Embedding the GoogleSlides link right into our D2L page made it easy to access.
Students used books from the library and online resources to discover the answers to questions of personal significance. 

With a slight break in our learning (March Break), we are now back at it and preparing to share our learning with another grade 2 class who is discovering what its like to live in tropical locations (stemming from their wonderings about travel destinations). 
For a summative piece, we plan to have students compare and contrast two regions of the world and describe how location/climate affects how people live.

I have learned a lot about myself as an educator - the need to be flexible, hands on, open-minded. I have also learned a great deal about the capabilities of young minds when they are engaged in learning that is integrated, authentic, and self-propelled.


 Another great read on integrated learning:
Capacity Building Series #14 - Integrated Learning

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