Creating Innovative Cross-Curricular Lessons in Primary School‍

When technology is integrated to support this cross-curricular enquiry, results can be astounding.
Aarti Malani

Innovative teaching and learning can be further augmented by planning and delivering lessons that are cross-curricular so that students can make connections with what they are learning across different specialist areas. When technology is integrated to support this cross-curricular enquiry, results can be astounding.

This particular unit of study was designed and delivered at a private enquiry-based school in Dubai for Year 2 students.

Context

‘Light and Sound Waves’  is a Year 2 Science unit aimed at helping students understand how these two media travel, how vibration and sound are connected, and how light helps us see. The main objective of this unit is to help students understand how light and sound can be used to communicate a message over a distance. Typically, students would build instruments using recycled materials that used either light or sound to communicate a message to a partner for a distance of about 1-2 metres.

As a 1:1 iPad school and an Apple Distinguished School, iPad played a key role in helping teachers deliver this cross-curricular enquiry-based unit. Each student had a Seesaw login which allowed them to keep a digital journal for each class. Teachers across subject areas could easily see and comment on student work through the app. Student reflections and learning throughout the enquiry were posted on their Seesaw journals so that parents could also be a part of their child’s learning journey and be informed of what students were learning at school.

When delivering this unit, Year 2 class teachers helped students learn about light through various hands-on exploration activities with Makey-Makey and LED bulbs. Students conducted investigations to better understand how shadows are created and changed as well as what happens when different objects are placed in the path of a beam of light. The Music teachers took ownership of teaching students the ‘sound’ portion of this Science unit. In Music class, students explored the connection between sound and vibration through hands-on engagement with various musical instruments. Students inquired into how different sounds are made when the speed of vibration changes as well as when different materials vibrate. The Music teachers also used GarageBand, Sketch-a-Song and Chrome Music Lab apps to help students understand how various sounds can evoke different emotions. They listened to a wide range of musical scores and discussed why people may have different reactions to the same piece of music. Meanwhile, during Literacy lessons, students dug deeper into the ‘Reader’s Theatre’ genre - they read different pieces and then worked in collaborative groups to write their own ‘Reader’s Theatre’ story with engaging characters and dialogue.

After writing their ‘Reader’s Theatre’ pieces, students worked in the same collaborative groups in Music to create original scores of music that highlighted various emotions in their story. Students also used what they learned about light and different materials to create a mood for their ‘Reader’s Theatre’ performance.

Assessment

The Year 2 staff transformed this unit completely by taking a cross-curricular approach and by using the expertise of the Digital Integrationists to enhance with technology. So It was decided that for their final assessment, students would work in collaborative groups to perform their own written ‘Reader’s Theatre’ story. They would use what they learned about light and sound in creative ways to enhance their performance and highlight different emotions evoked in their writing.This should also highlight the students understanding of light and sound waves across Science, Music, and Literacy.

Authentic audience

Students then performed their original written pieces in front of an authentic audience. Performances were also recorded on iPad so that they could be stored and shared with an even wider audience through Seesaw.

Summary

While iPad helped to support students’ learning and reflections, different apps were used in Music to explore sound and vibration in new and innovative ways. Furthermore, students could easily create musical scores in Garageband to add to their ‘Reader’s Theatre’ performances, making their assessment more authentic and engaging. By looking at a simple Science standard and digging deeper to explore how it can be taught across specialist subjects, combined with the innovative use of iPad, teachers at this primary school were able to transform their teaching and learning practices to allow for more creativity, engagement, and critical thinking.

What was the impact on learning for students?

By developing cross-curricular units of study, students were able to develop deep, meaningful connections across the curriculum. Not only did they understand how light and sound waves work, but they were also able to apply their learning to a real-world context. By integrating Literacy outcomes with those from Science and Music, the final assessment of an original Reader's Theater piece enhanced by light and sound allowed students to work in collaborative groups and create original pieces of work that could be shared with an authentic audience. Providing students with the opportunity to make connections across the curriculum allows them to think more critically about outcomes taught.

Apps used:

Camera (to take photos/videos of their experiments)
Seesaw
Sketch-a-Song
Voice Memo
Chrome Music Lab (which is a website that lets you listen to different music instruments)
GarageBand


Aarti Malani
Lead Trainer

Aarti has been working as an educator in international schools for over 10 years. She is a certified Apple Professional Learning Specialist and was recognized as an Apple Distinguished Educator (Class of 2019) for her work in using technology to transform teaching and learning practices. She is passionate about exploring ways technology can be used to enhance enquiry-based learning and can really inspire both teachers and students.

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