Looking for some interdisciplinary lesson planning examples? These ideas let you hit multiple subject areas with one learning sequence. Instead of segregating instruction, think of ways to integrate it every day.
Ms. Sneed Runs Short on Time
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, groaned. “I’m never going to hit all the standards this year! How can I squeeze more into my overcrowded day?”
“Sounds like you need some help with your long-term planning,” responded her mentor, Mrs. Brown. “I know that you analyzed classroom starting points. That should have shaved off a little of your necessary instruction.”
Ms. Sneed nodded. “I also deconstruct the standards and scaffold learning, like you taught me. Sometimes, that increases my load.”
“Are you using the textbook only as a resource?” Mrs. Brown asked.
Again, Ms. Sneed nodded. But she looked a little sheepish. “Maybe I’m still relying on it a bit too much. That will be my first step: only use the textbook when it truly supports the concept.”
After a few seconds lost in thought, Mrs. Brown said, “Let’s start off with some easy interdisciplinary lesson planning examples.”
Easy Interdisciplinary Lesson Planning with Reading Passages
The mentor opened her laptop and clicked around a bit. “First, you can add informational text to applied subjects, like science and social studies.”
She turned the screen of her laptop toward Ms. Sneed. “Here, for example, kids do a little light reading. Of course, that’s a play on words. Actually, they’re reading about light. This passage includes comprehension questions. However, you could ask kids which text structure was employed and review them. Additionally, you could slip in some writing skills.”
Ms. Sneed looked puzzled. “How would I do that?”
“Well, if you look at this text, you’ll find that many sentences begin with the word light. That’s not good form. So you could ask kids how they’d vary the sentence structures. Also, you could ask them what type of transition terms they might add.”
Slowly, Ms. Sneed nodded. “Now I get it. Just quick bursts of reinforcement.”
“Yes. Before you teach, just spend a few minutes thinking about ways to work in skills and standards. The more you do it, the easier – and more natural – it becomes.”
ELA Add-Ons with No Extra Materials
“Now let’s talk about interdisciplinary lesson planning examples with your textbooks,” Mrs. Brown added.
Again, Ms. Sneed looked puzzled. “Wha-?”
Her mentor walked over to a student’s desk and pulled out a social studies book. Without hesitation she opened it to somewhere in the middle of the book. “Oh look, here kids learn about the War of 1812.”
She set the book in front of Ms. Sneed. “Tell me what you see on these two pages.”
“Text and images.”
Mrs. Brown chuckled. “Be more specific, please.”
Blushing, Ms. Sneed dug in. “Well, at the top of the page is a title. Then there are headings and text. Furthermore, I see boldface vocabulary words. Images include a map and a painting.”
“Much better. Now, quickly, tell me what you could teach here. You know, skills you can integrate with very little time or effort.”
Smiling timidly, Ms. Sneed began. “Text structure again. Text features. Vocabulary skills, including how to use appositional phrases. Map skills. How illustrations support text…”
By the time she finished, both teachers were smiling broadly. “Wow!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “Who knew that you could do interdisciplinary lesson planning without any formal planning! I’m going to try these examples tomorrow.
Interdisciplinary Lesson Planning for Activities Involving Two Subjects
Now Mrs. Brown returned to her laptop. In no time, she found what she was looking for. “Take a look at this. As you can see, it’s an elapsed time activity. However, it’s hidden in a science lesson on day and night. While it would be easy to just list lengths of daylight and compare, this author decided to have kids calculate it themselves. That way, kids explore both science and math concepts.”
Slowly, Ms. Sneed nodded her head. “Interesting. It makes me think about the volcano activity we’re doing next week. Beforehand, I’ll teach latitude and longitude. Then kids will use the coordinates to map volcanoes of the 21st century – and discover the Ring of Fire. That’s interdisciplinary lesson planning too: math, science, and social studies. I guess I just wasn’t recognizing it as an interdisciplinary lesson planning example.”
Labs, STEM, and More Lesson Planning Examples
To Ms. Sneed’s surprise, her mentor whipped out her phone. “It’s here somewhere,” she muttered, as she swiped and swiped.
“Ah, here it is.” Mrs. Brown held up a photo. “At the beginning of each school year, my class conducts an apple experiment. Through it, they learn how to conduct a scientific investigation. Each day for a week, they observe and mass three apples – whole, peeled, and sliced. When they’re done, they create a triple bar graph. I love the way it teaches kids about science methods, measurement, and graphing. With careful lesson planning, labs are ever so powerful.”
Ms. Sneed’s eyes lit up. “Hey, I was just thinking. What about STEM? You know, science + technology + engineering + math. That’s another interdisciplinary lesson planning example.”
“Of course! By their very nature, STEM projects are interdisciplinary. Furthermore, STEAM adds the arts.”
Examples of Interdisciplinary Projects
Ms. Brown sat in thought for a moment. Then she began again. “When kids conduct research, you can integrate other subject areas. For example, when we study the Civil War, my kids research abolitionists. Therefore, they learn about history, read biographies, and practice a variety of writing skills.”
Now she returned to her laptop. Smiling broadly, she motioned for her mentee to look on. “In my humble opinion, this is the granddaddy of interdisciplinary lesson planning.”
“Oh, a wax museum project!” Ms. Sneed exclaimed. “I did this when I was in elementary school.”
“Fabulous. As I scroll through these pages, why don’t you point out different skills kids use?”
By now, Ms. Sneed was feeling more confident. She took a deep breath and launched into the examples:
- “First, kids read biographies. I guess that could go under reading informational text.
- “Second, they take notes and cite their sources, which use research skills.
- “Third, they create timelines. If they do it by hand, they have to use math in the form of measurement.
- “Fourth, they develop their monologues, which requires writing.
- “Then they practice and present, which uses public speaking skills.
“Actually,” Ms. Sneed continued, “I could use some of these pages to differentiate learning.”
Mrs. Brown clapped. “Bravo! You’re getting it. When we do this living history project in my class, kids must select famous people from our state. With that, I hit a fourth grade social studies standard too.”
Interdisciplinary Lesson Planning the Prepackaged Way
“Oh boy,” Ms. Sneed remarked, slumping back in her chair. “This is a lot.”
With a small smile, Mrs. Brown winked at her mentee. “Let me tell you a small secret. Sometimes, you can make your life easier by just purchasing a set of materials. For example, teacher-authors often sell sub plans around a specific topic.”
As she spoke, Mrs. Brown returned to her laptop. “Here, for example, is a set of frog activities. Online learning activities include informational text, math, listening, literature, language, and science. For the price of breakfast at a fast-food restaurant, I can buy a day of learning for my students. And I get a break!”
“What a great idea! That would be so much fun for my students.”
“In the fall, I generally schedule a day of learning around fall foliage,” Mrs. Brown continued. “Kids read informational articles, map the dates when leaves change color in the United States, and conduct a leaf chromatography experiment.
“For our Great Lakes unit, we read Paddle-to-the-Sea. As we read, kids also explore geology and hydrology of the region. Furthermore, I ask them to identify the lakes and surrounding states and provinces. We even do a short research project.”
The mentor sat back and sighed. “I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.”
“I sure do! Thank you for these great examples of interdisciplinary lesson plans,” Ms. Sneed said. “They’ll help me solve the problem of my overcrowded day. Not only that, our school days will be much more fun.”