195. The Integrated Day

I think the integrated day became popular in the early 1970’s. It was a “new” approach to organizing curriculum. I put quotes around “new” because newness is usually relative, and because I believe the integrated day is the way people first started learning. They got interested in something (at first probably due to their animal needs) and they pulled together whatever resources they needed to learn about it. If they wanted to know whether something was edible, they did what they needed to do to find out. They didn’t wait until it was time for science.
Since then, we’ve organized curriculum so that in most schools, there is a specific time to study science, math, reading, etc. The various organizing activities and policies grew out of needs educators felt. Many teachers find it easier to teach children to read, for example, if all the children in the room are learning about reading at the same time. Science experiments often take up space, and often require a kind of attention that’s difficult when other things are going on.
And so, when you walk into a typical classroom, it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on. It may be math time, reading time, writing time – you can be pretty sure that all the children in the room are supposed to be concentrating on the same category of learning.
That’s not what integrated day is. Though the phrase is not used to describe school programs as much as it was for a while, there are times in most classrooms when learning is integrated, and there are still some teachers and schools committed to an integrated approach. When you walk into such a school or classroom, or arrive at such a time, you may see some children creating a papier mache island. Other children are making musical instruments to play calypso music. Some are reading about Caribbean islands. Some are figuring out how long it would take to get to the Caribbean Sea by plane.
This approach doesn’t result in some children learning only music, others only math. A skillful teacher knows how to bring children and learning together using this approach. I’ve seen it happen. The integrated day, done well, is planned – planned in a way that is amazing to see.
I’ve sometimes tried to use this integrated approach, and I’ve sometimes succeeded. Most of the time, though, my classes all had math, reading, etc. at the same time. For me, that made it easier to keep track of who was learning what. But I admire teachers who are skilled at implementing the integrated approach.

Comments are closed.