Don’t waste time on cross curricular projects or wedging in other subjects into your lessons

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Several times in my career I’ve been told that subjects need to work together to make projects that are cross curricular; that include aspects from many subjects under one title, such as ‘water’. Teachers then spend valuable time squeezing in their curriculum content to match this topic.

Or teachers are told they must plan for numeracy and literacy in their lessons. On teaching forums teachers are spending valuable planning time looking for ‘ideas’ on how to wedge in some maths into their current scheme or find a poem that links to their topic.

I think this is all superficial nonsense and wastes teacher time. Instead, subject teachers should be spending time planning a deep and rich scheme of learning that ensures students get as much as a ‘full view’ of a topic as possible in order for them to fully understand the wider context of what they are learning.
My current year 8 scheme has been on Hinduism. We keep things simple but try to go into depth rather than covering every aspect of Hinduism. Throughout they have learnt about some of the key concepts of Hinduism that continue to be applied as we look at different aspects of belief and practice. For example, once they understand the concept of rebirth, samsara and its connection to Brahman they then could understand the importance of the burning ghats at Varanasi, the ashramas, why someone may become a Sadhu and how Gandhi lived his life.

At no point did I plan to cover any cross curricular content but as I reflect on the term’s learning I can see that my students have had a sound introduction to Hindu beliefs and practices, and a good scattering of general knowledge that supports its context. The amount will vary depending on the topic but that’s not a problem. Here are some of the things they’ve learnt that you might argue aren’t RE but without them their depth of understanding might be limited:

History/Politics/Law– partition of India & Pakistan, Caste system & impact on society in India, the Amritsar massacre, the British Raj, peaceful protest (Gandhi), laws that changed South Africa/India

Geography – the location of India, poverty in India, the social class divide, the size of the country, the Indus River & civilisation, the river Ganges, Varanasi, living conditions

Sociology – class systems, social equality, the education system, free health service here compared to India

Literacy – spellings, introduction of new vocabulary including their etymology e.g Barrister, monotheism, polytheism

Language – Sanskrit (break down of the meaning of Ahimsa), Ohm, derivation of Hindu from Indus, new subject vocabulary

Numeracy – understanding different currency and exchange rates, converting rupees to pounds, dates, links to mathematical language ‘tri’murti, monotheism, polytheism,

SMSC/PSHE – different lifestyles, class, poverty, racism, how we behave in our lives, responsibilities, relationships, the NHS, how we treat others…..


All of this will provide a good foundation when they go on to study Sikhism so they understand the context in which it developed and further into the year, Buddhism, where some of these concepts are similar  but different, giving a foundation to contrast.

But I didn’t spend hours deliberately planning this all to occur and I certainly didn’t spend more time teaching ‘other subjects’ in my lessons. These aren’t even specifically highlighted in our schemes. All of this was needed for students to develop their knowledge and understanding of Hinduism. I didn’t need to spend time with any other departments to do this. It’s all part of what students need to know. I’m not sure how you could have taught the topic without referencing these things.

Don’t get teachers planning cross curricular topics or wedging in ideas, get them planning their own subject in detail and it should come naturally.

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