Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

Interdisciplinary World

The classroom is no longer a secluded atmosphere. The advancement of technology and communication has made school much more open to the outside world. A science classroom is no longer closed off to current events and can incorporate worldwide breakthroughs and discoveries the moment they happen. The same goes for math, language arts, history, and any other core subject. In this day and age, every classroom should be incorporating interdisciplinary activities, which are those that relate to more than one branch of knowledge.

For the purposes of this lesson, we’ll focus on using interdisciplinary actions in a language arts classroom. Remember though, these concepts can be applied in any classroom and at any age level. Merely adjust the principles to match your students’ specific needs.

Background Activities

Imagine you are a language arts teacher about to begin a unit on a novel. One of the best ways to incorporate interdisciplinary ideas is to focus on the background of the author and the era in which the piece was written.

For example, if the unit was on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, you can do a whole week’s worth of learning about the culture of Shakespeare’s time. You can cross into science class by having students recreate new inventions of the era. Or touch on history with reports on the governments and current events affecting the world in the 1500s. You can even bring in speaking and presentation skills by having the students participate in reenactments of the events of Shakespeare’s life or of the world in that era.

In fact, you can even create a debate for students to research and participate in since there is some controversy as to whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote all the plays attributed to him, due to his limited schooling. Each student can be assigned to one side, find supporting research, and then have a formal debate against the other side.

Historical Activities

In addition to background on the author, there are other historical aspects for any piece of literature. For any reading you do in a language arts class, there is always some historical aspect you can incorporate into your lessons.

For instance, in Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities, the French Revolution plays a huge role in the story. Since this was a real event in history, you can create different activities where students are learning about this war. The activities can range from writing a research paper to building a model of the guillotine to creating artwork depicting the important events. Your students can even write and act out a play pretending to be all the rulers of different countries of Europe. If the current events are not apparent in the story, there are always important world events at the time the story takes place that you can always have students research.

Even stories written about the future can be used to learn about societal issues. For instance, George Orwell’s novel, 1984, occurs in a future world where all the countries have merged into three large societies. Have your students research countries that have merged in the past and answer questions about it, like how did the mergers happen, were they for the best, or what were the downsides. Your students could then create maps and political plans as to how to go about merging all the present-day countries.

Choosing Activities

Now that you know some examples of interdisciplinary activities, let’s discuss how you know if the activity is appropriate. What it comes down to is whether the activity supports your learning objective or standard. All interdisciplinary activities should aim to provide more in-depth learning of the objective.

For instance, if your lessons focus on the use of setting in literature, consider other activities that bring in interdisciplinary content that deal with setting. If your class will read literature concerning Native Americans, then interdisciplinary activities could cover science topics of living off the land, the historical aspect of the European influence, and the mathematical concepts of organizing food and shelter for many tribes of people. These topics still deal with setting and can give a more in-depth understanding of how setting plays a part in a story. On the other hand, activities focused on how Europeans built ships in that time or the politics of China are not relevant to learning setting within your topic. These types of activities should be avoided.

Lesson Summary

In review, all classrooms can use interdisciplinary activities in order to bring in real-world experiences and relevancy to your lessons and to student learning. An activity is interdisciplinary if it relates to more than one branch of knowledge. In a school setting, this means the lesson is not just a language arts lesson, but can relate to science, history, or even math.

A language arts classroom can use background on authors to bring in interdisciplinary activities. Every piece of writing has an author and a time period it was written in. Use these ideas to come up with creative lessons that cross disciplines. You can also use the historical aspects of a piece of literature to bring in interdisciplinary concepts.

To choose an appropriate interdisciplinary activity, consider your learning objective or standard. The extra activities must relate or strengthen whatever skill you are focusing on. Do not bring in other concepts that might distract from your learning objective.

Overall, every teacher should take every opportunity to incorporate other branches of knowledge into their lessons. The ultimate goal is to promote the most growth and learning in your students, and interdisciplinary activities go a long way to creating well-rounded learners.

Key Literature and Interdisciplinary Lessons


William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

  • Explore Shakespeare’s culture
  • Reenact scenes

Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities

  • Create activities during which students can learn about the French Revolution
  • Act out the play

George Orwell’s novel, 1984

  • Have students research countries that have previously merged and answer related questions
  • Assign a project that requires students to find ways to merge all of the present-day countries
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