A note about teaching Integrated Thematic Instruction over a semester: In an inquiry-based, constructivist classroom, a thematic unit may last an entire semester or year because it contains the traditional units of discipline-specific instruction, not as discrete parts, but as a whole. The Patterns Variables and Functions inquiry was written for a constructivist classroom, designed to meet the needs of individual students rather than a series of one-way, teacher-directed lectures.

"Instructional units can be developed in two ways, as single-subject units or as interdisciplinary units. Single-subject units focus only on one academic subject, such as math, language arts, science, or history. interdisciplinary means that two or more subjects are addressed together in one unit. What we call social studies is actually an interdisciplinary subject in itself, consisting of history, geography, political science, and economics [the equivalent of four units in one]. Interdisciplinary instructional units should be developed only when the content of the subjects being integrated can be blended in ways that enrich both subjects but do not dilute the content or processes of any of the disciplines." in Models of Teaching, Dell'Olio, Donk.

Integrated Thematic Instruction incorporates Inquiry learning as a pedagogy. Inquiry learning differs from traditional direct teaching. Direct teaching is where the teacher lectures the class, whereas inquiry learning using formative assessment is where the teacher sets the students on a course of curiosity and provides one on one feedback as they progress through learning stations using individual, teacher-guided and group work.

In yesterday's traditional elementary school classrooms, a teacher would lecture on a lesson, provide some practice activities for the students, then test them; that was considered a unit. In today's inquiry based classroom, students are presented with big ideas that pique their curiosities, then employ learning stations to explore the subject matter at their own pace. A unit of instruction is measured very differently in this project-based classroom where students have an entire semester to connect their experiences to meaningful understandings of subject matter.

"Project-based learning (PBL) : is an approach for classroom activity that emphasizes learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary and student-centered. This approach is generally less structured than traditional, teacher-led classroom activities; in a project-based class, students often must organize their own work and manage their own time. Within the project based learning framework students collaborate, working together to make sense of what is going on."

"Unlike the school day, the world is not divided into discrete disciplines." with 'integrated' instruction...the approach is to blend the disciplines entirely into thematic or problem-based pursuits. Instead of studying subjects, students might consider. 'Is war ever justified?' from the perspectives of history, literature and science. With Integrated, Thematic Instruction (ITI), you take the world the way it presents itself. Students take a place, event, or time and examine its environment, demographics, culture and so on. See Curriculum Update, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, November 1992.

A word about Multiple Intelligences (MI): MI theory makes its greatest contribution to education by suggesting that teachers need to expand their repertoire of techniques, tools, and strategies beyond the typical linguistic and logical ones predominantly used in American classrooms. According to John Goodlad's pioneering 'A Study or Schooling' project, which involved researchers in observing over 1,000 classrooms nationwide, nearly 70 percent of classroom time was consumed by "teacher" talk --mainly teachers talking "at" students (giving instructions, lecturing). The next most widely observed activity was students doing written assignments, and according to Goodlad, 'much of this work was in the form of responding to directives in workbooks or worksheets.' In this context, the theory of multiple intelligences functions not only as a specific remedy to one-sidedness in teaching, but also a 'metamodel' for organizing and synthesizing all the educational innovations that have sought to break out of this narrowly confined approach to learning. In doing so, it provides a broad range of stimulating curricula to 'awaken' the slumbering brains that Goodlad fears populate our nation's schools. (From Armstrong, T., Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. ASCD 1994.)

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