As school districts across Illinois begin to implement the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), students at Joliet Township High School have been “living” them out through integrated curricular projects that allow students to make relevant connections from one classroom to the next.
Common Core Integration Makes History Come Alive
Common Core standards and an integrated curriculum recently made “history come alive” in Janice Sheehan and Luke Yaklich’s American Studies classes at Joliet West High School with an “Afternoon at the Wax Museum,” a culminating project that parents, staff and students were invited to attend.
The project began because Yaklich wanted students to understand the people they were studying in history. “I wanted students to know that historical figures were real people--individuals who made significant contributions to American society,” said Yaklich.
When Yaklich pitched the idea to Sheehan, the students’ English teacher, she asked, “When can I order my costume?” With both teachers on board, students worked in their history class to understand the historical aspects of their character through the use of technology and primary source artifacts. While in their English classes, students prepared their research papers, practiced their 2-3 minute speeches, and began planning their costumes.
The project consisted of students choosing an individual to “communicate the rich history of that person and the impact he/she had on our country.” The culminating project, “The Wax Museum” turned several classrooms into make-shift exhibit rooms where students, dressed in character, became “alive” with information for the visitors when they pressed the red “Push Here” button.
Teachers and administrators in District 204 have been working diligently over the past year to begin implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This past summer content groups of teachers worked together to revamp their curriculum. As they developed new, integrated curriculum for English, Social Studies and Health, they focused upon “Big Ideas” or specific skills that would be taught in multiple classes/subject areas.
They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky— Integration in English & World Affairs
Sheehan and Yaklich’s Wax Museum is just one example of an integrated curriculum driven by the Common Core. An integrated curriculum breaks down the barriers between subjects or classes because teachers plan lessons that incorporate projects and assignments that are completed in more than one subject area or class. The JTHS Academy structure allows teachers of all subject areas to deliver interdisciplinary lessons because teams of teachers share groups of students that have similar class schedules.
At Joliet Central High School, English teacher Emily Pertronio and World Affairs teacher Erica Senffner teamed up to deliver integrated lessons tied to the Common Core while students read the book, They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky . The district-wide integration of concepts found within the book allows students to analyze and apply what they learn in a comprehensive way. In World Affairs, students studied historical and cultural background information and analyzed articles that were used to write an essay in Petronio’s English class. “The students did a great job making connections between what was taught to them in both of these classes,” said Senffner.
Senffner also felt that the students were able to better comprehend what they read because they were able to understand the background information.
“What pleased me about this collaboration is that the students were able to make connections between English class and World Affairs on their own,” said Petronio. “I didn’t have to make the connections for them and it actually became a very natural part of the discussion.”
Enhanced Learning Environment
“Integrated curricular projects enhance the learning environment because students experience the relevance of their research and can make interdisciplinary connections from one subject area to another,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karla Guseman. “As District 204 continues to implement the CCSS, students are experiencing more rigorous instruction that teaches relationships among the skills and concepts being taught. In addition, there is an increased emphasis on non-fiction and writing, which prepares students for success beyond high school.”
For more information about the Common Core State Standards, please visit: http://www.jths.org/district204/curriculum_info/common_core.aspx.