The immense value of authentic single subject integration with units of inquiry happening within the classroom should never go unrecognized. Authentic integration of this nature is not possible if all teachers involved are not willing to put in the time to meet and discuss the necessities in making it happen. However, simply meeting and discussing are not the only considerations in forming the foundation for good integration. Many other factors need to be considered if authentic learning is to take place. In all the years that I have been teaching PE in the PYP, I have come across, all too often, integration that is not done in a genuine way. What I mean by this, is that as much as classroom teachers place value on integration, true and authentic integration must be a 2-way street in which both single subject and classroom teachers have an equal voice.
So, having said the above, what should strong integration look like? Firstly, the central idea being used in the unit of inquiry must the same central idea being used throughout whatever unit is being done simultaneously in PE or other single subjects. The central idea must be unwrapped and discussed making important and relevant key connections to what is happening in the PE unit. Does the central idea need to be introduced straight away? NO! In my current movement composition unit in grade three I introduced the central idea 3 weeks into the unit.
The second key consideration is, of course, collaboration. It is necessary to meet as a team of teachers several times throughout the unit to discuss progress and to share successes from both the single subject and the classroom perspectives. Added to this are those informal discussions the happen in passing one another in the hallways of the school. Despite being very informal in nature, these moments can often result in the sharing of some great ideas.
The third consideration is the '2-Way Street' approach to delivering the unit of inquiry. Everything that is being done in the single subjects is an actual part of the unit of inquiry in the classroom, meaning that classroom teachers need to use the learning engagements from PE or music to help initiate discussion and student reflection to push knowledge and understanding to new levels. As well, the single subject teachers need to be as up-to-date as possible with what is happening in the unit of inquiry in the classroom in order to be able to effectively deepen and authenticate the integration that is taking place. Once again, this can only be achieved by having ongoing collaboration throughout the unit.
Included in this '2-Way Street' approach to integration is the need to give students time during the unit of inquiry blocks back in the classroom to do written reflections or other forms of writing or illustrating that link to what they are doing in their single subjects. A 'we'll see if we can squeeze it in attitude' by the classroom teacher is not conducive to creating an environment in which authentic integration can thrive. Should the student want to use unit of inquiry time to make important links to the single subjects, they need to be given this time. If time is not provided, simply put, it is not integration.
I am so happy to say that I am a part of a great team of teachers at Nanjing International School. They are super supportive of the vision that I have for PE and make every effort to integrate on an equal voice basis. Not only do they appreciate and value authentic integration, but make a strong effort to use class time when necessary to make important links to the single subjects. Over the next few days, I will be fully documenting a very successful integration that is currently taking place in the 'How we express ourselves' unit of inquiry in grade 3. If you are interested in integration, stay tuned in and check for updates as some excellent learning is taking place.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.