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Cross-curricular tools help students master all subjects

2014 January 9
by HISD Communications

When Teacher Development Specialist Team Lead Monijit Katial went to Crespo Elementary School late last year, her mission was to help Alternative Certification Program intern James Lee in his work with fourth-grade students receiving Special Education services.

What she didn’t expect to find was a bulletin board filled with student work that already illustrated perfectly how effective cross-curricular instructional techniques—in this case, particular writing strategies in a math class—can be.

“I went to provide some extra support,” said Katial, “and when I arrived, I noticed his bulletin board, which is a great example of implementing learning from our professional learning Saturdays, highlighting student work, and pushing for creativity.”

“I wanted to show my students that writing is not just reserved for a STAAR test in April,” explained Lee. “Being successful in math means that you can communicate with other people, in writing, what goes on in your head.”

For his bulletin board assignment, Lee asked students to imagine a parent who had two children, 4/5 and 7/10, who were arguing about who was bigger, and draft a thank-you note from one of them addressed to a fraction strip model, which helped them determine who was bigger once and for all.

“7/10 kept saying that he was bigger because his numerator and denominator were larger than 4/5,” said Lee. “But reading their responses, I was able to gauge which students understood the key of making sure that fraction strip models are the same size…so we could see that 4/5 is actually bigger than 7/10.”

Lee credits another first-year teacher, Claire Fritz at Stevens Elementary, with the idea for using this writing strategy in his class. “I like having students write about math concepts,” he said, “because it reinforces the content, but also lets them explore math in a more creative way.”

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