Monday, January 26, 2015

Text to Text: Opportunities for rich, cross-disciplinary collaboration and learning

When we began this work, we had some idea of the rewards we would find in pairing great informational texts to with our favorite literary texts, and we hoped that our efforts would help language arts teachers and their students reap such the benefits more easily. However, as we continued creating units around such pairings and sharing our model for doing so, we found that these kinds of activities are perfect opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration that can enhance students’ engagement with and understanding of both literary texts and texts in content areas like science and history. (For this reason, informational texts provide ideal opportunities for preparing students for the CCSS-aligned assessments!)

Our second “Text to Text” feature, just published on the New York Times Learning Network, is an example of the rich, multi-faceted learning that can occur when a literary text, like Lord of the Flies, is put into dialogue with an article that opens up discussion of an important theme in the novel in a way that makes connections with students’ contemporary world and draws and/or builds upon their knowledge from another discipline. The New York Times article featured in this “Text to Text” lesson discusses a study of fruit flies that offers some possible clues about the source of aggression in human males. The lesson also offers extension activities on bullying and aggression among girls.

As we English teachers want to bring all kinds of texts into our classrooms, we can certainly use such a lesson based on the interplay between Lord of the Flies and the fruit fly article on our own, but it also offers us a great opportunity to collaborate with our students’ biology teachers and enhance student literacy in both disciplines. If you’re teaching Lord of the Flies soon, check out the lesson and then walk down the hall to see what your students’ science teachers will be up to in the coming weeks. The stars might be aligned for some fantastic cross-disciplinary collaboration!

If you’re not teaching Lord of the Flies, check out our “Text to Text” feature on A Raisin in the Sun or our volume of informational text units on To Kill a Mockingbird. Or take the plunge yourself, and start looking for great informational texts with our list of suggested resources. Share it with a content-area colleague and do this great work together!

If you are attending ASCD’s Annual Conference, we hope you will join us on Sunday, March 22, from 3-4:30pm, when we will be talking more about the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration! (We’ll also be doing so at ILA2015 in July!)

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