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Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Real Life Scenario Thematic Model

Bridget Delaney
EDU 360

Traditionally, American classrooms have primarily focused on specific content within

each subject area. Although there must be separation or distinction between content areas to a

certain extent, more teachers are tying subject areas together by having students learn under an

“umbrella” of a certain theme. A theme focuses on a broad subject that is frequently referred to

and integrates the content taught across various subject areas (Cook & Martinello, 1994). For

example, a theme could be something as broad as “Weather” or “Farm Life”. These themes

would ideally be intertwined among all subject areas (Cook & Martinello, 1994). A student could

read works of literature based on farm life in his or her language arts class, while also creating a

categorical chart for different farm animals in his or her math class. Through this, students and

teachers revisit their main theme repeatedly among their various subject areas so as to reinforce

the concept of the theme and make connections between subject areas (Lonning, DeFranco, &

Weinland, 2010). One approach teachers use to integrate themes among their subject areas is an

interdisciplinary curriculum approach (Lonning et al., 2010).

An interdisciplinary curriculum approach uses a theme to draw connections among

subject areas and integrate content between subject areas (Lonning et al., 2010). It primarily

allows students to understand broader concepts through his or her various subject areas (Lonning

et al., 2010). In addition to understanding the broader concept, students will hopefully better

understand the distinguishing content taught in one subject area due to understanding the

distinguishing content taught in another subject area underlying the general theme. It is for this

reason a broad theme is important (Cook & Martinello, 1994). It is intended to be what brings

different subject areas together or what causes them to have common concepts that ultimately

lead to better understanding of content (Cook & Martinello, 1994). A teacher chooses a theme

based off of class interest and what is most relatable or beneficial to the class’s various needs

(Cook & Martinello, 1994).

Some teachers may be hesitant to the idea of interdisciplinary, integrated curriculums

(George & Alexander, 2003). One reason for this could be that some teachers have mainly

focused on one or two content areas, such as math or English, and do not feel confident or

comfortable using a curriculum that integrates a theme across all content areas, tying them

together (George & Alexander, 2003). However, this should not be as much of a concern when it

comes to the elementary grades. The main reason for this is because elementary teachers

typically teach all subject areas to their class. So using a form of an interdisciplinary curriculum

may actually be beneficial to them as it helps draw every content area they are teaching together.

Additionally, in an elementary school where students move from classroom to classroom and

have different teachers for different subjects, all teachers of a certain grade would ideally use the

same theme to ensure that students’ subject areas connect even between different teachers. This

also allows the teachers to share ideas or methods with one another more easily and become

more in sync with one another in their teaching.

A common interdisciplinary plan is known as Real Life Scenario Thematics (George &

Alexander, 2003). This not only uses a broad theme, commonly for a whole semester, but it

focuses on real life topics or situations (George & Alexander, 2003). In elementary school,

teachers can begin in simple ways using simple themes. Ultimately, school is intended to prepare

children for eventually being successful in the world as well as the workforce. This is why it is

important to incorporate real life topics or problems into all content areas (George & Alexander,

2003). It not only prepares students to be citizens of their country and the world, but when the

topic interests them and relates to something they know, it motivates them to solve problems and

be engaged in their schoolwork (George & Alexander, 2003).



Cook, G. E. & Martinello, M. L. (1994). Topics and themes in interdisciplinary curriculum.

Middle School Journal, 25​(3), 40-44.

George, P. S. & Alexander, W. M. (2003). ​The exemplary middle school​. Belmont, CA:


Lonning, R. A., DeFranco, T. C., & Weinland, T. P. (2010). ​Development of theme-based,

interdisciplinary, integrated curriculum: A theoretical model.​ School Science and

Mathematics, 98​(6), 312-319.


2nd Grade Fall Semester Theme: Ocean Life

Content Standards Evidence of Formative Summative

Area Understanding Assessment Assessment

Ohio State Students will read a Students will Students will

Language Standards. variety of books complete gather
Arts Language Arts. relating to the ocean journals of information
Speaking & and sea creatures. personal shared
Listening. They will learn experiences, throughout class
SL.2.1: about animals that exchange of discussions and
Participate in live in the oceans information work together
collaborative and how they differ through oral throughout the
conversations from each other. conversation, last weeks of the
with diverse Students will drawings and semester to create
partners about frequently discuss crafts related a large wall
grade 2 topics their personal to the ocean, length poster of
and text with experiences of etc. the ocean outside
peers and adults going to the ocean their classroom.
in small and or lake, seeing sea They would be
larger groups. creatures either at a required to
zoo, aquarium or in include certain
the wild, etc. animals or other
Students will pick a ocean life they
sea creature for the read about in any
semester to use and of their ocean
refer to throughout related literature
projects. books, providing
a picture of the
book cover next
to each addition.

Ohio State Over the semester, Student will Students will take
Mathematics Standards. students will complete word written math tests
Mathematics. participate in polls problem at certain points
Measurement to vote about their answers, in the semester
& Data. favorite sea graphs, that will include
2.MD.D.10: creatures, favorite conclusions problems that
Draw a picture ocean, etc., as well about data provide various
graph and a bar as collect collected ocean life data.
graph (with information about through polls The students will
single-unit ranging sea creature and graphs, have to use this
scale) to size and tendencies. etc. data to create a
represent a data They will use the graph of their
set with up to data from the polls choice to best
four categories. and research to represent it.
Solve simple create bar graphs to
put-together, represent the data.
take-apart, and They will also
compare complete word
problems using problems having to
information do with the ocean
presented in a throughout the
bar graph. semester.

Ohio State Students will learn Students will At the end of the
Science Standards. scientific participate in semester, the
Science. Life information about class class will go on a
Science. animals, such as discussion and field trip to an
LS.2.1.1: their dietary habits. debates, aquarium where
Living things They will also comparisons they will be
cause changes compare and of the in-class asked to write
on Earth. Living discuss the animals and down scientific
things function differences between their observations of
and interact with saltwater (ocean) tendencies, what type of
their physical creatures and written environment
environments. freshwater predictions, animals are put
Living things creatures. This and in, what they eat,
cause changes in comparison will observational etc. After the
the become hands-on notes recorded field trip, the
environments by putting a small on a weekly class will go over
where they live; freshwater tank and basis. the collected
the changes can a small saltwater observations. At
be very tank in the the end of the
noticeable or classroom, both semester, the
slightly students will be

noticeable, fast having 1-2 given a test that

or slow. creatures. includes
particularly on
the field trip.

Ohio State Students will Students will Students will

Social Standards. explore where participate in each write an
Studies History/Social oceans are located class and peer argument for
Studies. on the globe as well discussions, whether they
Geography. as where certain sea drawings of believe the ocean
2.7: animals live based world maps needs to be made
Human activities on the ways oceans with correct cleaner and why.
alter the differ across the placement of They will also
physical globe. (For example oceans, lists include reasons
environment, how some animals and organizers and arguments
both positively live in the arctic that for ways sea
and negatively. regions, while some categorizes sea creatures can be
live in the warmer animals based treated better so
regions). on their less of them will
Additionally, they habitats and go extinct.
will discuss the tendencies,
ways in which class debates
humans affect ocean about differing
life, particularly ways humans
through can create a
consumption and safer
pollution. environment
for sea

2nd Grade Spring Semester Theme: Land Animal Habitats

Content Standards Evidence of Formative Summative

Area Understanding Assessment Assessment

Ohio State Students will read With the At the end of the
Language Standards. various books that information semester, students
Arts Language Arts. relate to different gained will be paired up
Speaking & land animal habitats, through their and pick a land
Listening. such as the literature habitat of their
SL.2.5: rainforest, the books, choice to create a
Create audio savanna, the arctic, students will physical box that
recordings of the forest, and write stories, includes their
stories or poems; wetlands. They will make audio chosen habitat’s
add drawings or learn not only how recordings, terrain,
other visual these habitats each create posters, surroundings, and
displays to differ from each draw pictures, animals. They
stories or other, but how they etc. to display will be provided
recounts of all differ from the their with various
experiences ocean as a habitat. knowledge. materials to make
when appropriate this project
to clarify ideas, unique and fun.
thoughts, and Additionally, each
feelings. student will pick
one book different
from that of their
partner, that was
read at some point
during the
semester and has
a setting of the
habitat they
chose. The books
will be displayed
on either side of
the box. Once
every box is
completed, the
students will
display their
boxes throughout
the classroom and
their parents will
come to an open
presentation to
view each box.

Ohio State Students will Students will Students will

Mathematics Standards. explore and complete math create a poster
Mathematics. compare the word that contains a
Measurement & differing statistics of problems, graph that uses
Data. land habitats such as evidence of colors and images
2.MD.D.10: animal population, graphs, of various animals
Draw a picture distance from the conclusion of to present data
graph and a bar ocean, the type of data presented collected about a
graph (with weather, etc. They through land habitat of
single-unit scale) will use this data to graphs. their choosing.
to represent a create not only bar Students will also
data set with up graphs, but other take tests
to four graphs such as pie throughout the
categories. Solve charts, picture semester that
simple graphs, tables, etc. contain
put-together, They will also information
take-apart, and complete a number learned, including
compare of word problems graphs.
problems using relating to various
information land habitats.
presented in a
bar graph.
Ohio State Students will learn Students will At the end of the
Science Standards. scientific participate in semester, each
Science. Life information about class student will create
Science. land animals and discussions, a trifold poster
LS.2.1.1: land animal habitats show evidence board that
Living things such as an animal’s of predictions, contains pictures
cause changes on dietary habits, make and important
Earth. Living tendencies, observations, information they
things function characteristics of conclusions, have gathered
and interact with habitats, etc. and journal over the semester
their physical Towards the end of entries, and of one land
environments. the semester, take short habitat of their
Living things students will go on a quizzes choice. They will
cause changes in field trip to the zoo throughout the display them in
the environments where they will take semester. the school where
where they live; observational notes the other
the changes can on different animals elementary
be very and the habitats in students will be
noticeable or which they are able to view them.
slightly placed at the zoo.
noticeable, fast They will then
or slow. compare the zoo

habitats to the real

version of the
habitats in the wild.

Ohio State Students will learn Students will At the end of the
Social Standards. where on the globe participate in semester, students
Studies History/Social each land habitat class and peer will collaborate to
Studies. generally is. They discussion, create a large map
Geography. 2.5: will learn how to small map of the world. On it
Maps and their find these habitats quizzes and they will include
symbols can be on maps as well as drawings, the major animal
interpreted to basic geographical categorical habitats including
answer questions map terminology lists and the ocean and
about location of and symbols and matching draw pictures or
places. what they can tell involving place stickers of
students about habitats and the types of
certain geographical animals. animals that live
areas and habitats. in each habitat.

Dear Parents/Guardians,

As we prepare for the new school year to begin, I wanted to inform you about some
exciting changes we’ve made to the 2nd grade curriculum! Over the years we have focused on
various themes in class, sometimes monthly or weekly. This year, however, we have decided to
create a single broad theme for the fall semester and one for the spring semester. We have done
this in hopes that we may not only better meet the individual needs and learning styles of each of
our students, but create more structure and consistency in class while making the classroom a fun
place to learn!

For the upcoming Fall Semester, the 2nd grade classes will be learning under the theme
of “Ocean Life”! I am very excited not only to teach about all there is to learn in this theme, but
also to see how our students will get creative as we focus on all things ocean related. However,
although there is a single theme for the semester, the students will still learn about a broad
number of concepts that will frequently revisit “Ocean Life”. For example, for Language Arts,
students will have access to read a variety of books relating to ocean life, while in Math they will
learn how to collect data and use bar graphs to represent data regarding ocean life statistics. In
Science, on the other hand, students will be able to take advantage of and make comparisons of
classroom pets, half being freshwater and the other half being saltwater. Then, towards the end of
the semester, they will be able to see sea creatures in “big tanks” on an aquarium field trip.
Finally, in Social Studies students will learn the importance of keeping the ocean and lakes clean
for the aquatic life. They will learn how humans affect ocean life and what we can do to help
keep aquatic animals safe.

In the Spring Semester, students will move from the theme of “Ocean Life” to the even
broader and more concentrated theme of “Land Animal Habitats”! Although “Ocean Life” is a
theme related to real life facts and concepts, “Land Animal Habitat” may be considered to be
related to real life concepts even more since we, as land dwelling humans, more frequently
encounter land animals. In fact, many of us have land animals living in our homes! For Language
Arts, students will work towards making a box that represents a land habitat of their choice. They
will present these boxes at the end of the semester and you will all be invited to join! For Math
students will again revisist data and graphing, however, this semester, they will focus more on
graphs beyond bar graphs, as well as categorizing and matching. For Science, students will again
have the opportunity to attend a field trip, however this time it will be to the zoo where many
different habitats can be visited and observed. Lastly, Social Studies will provide students with
mapping and geographical skills that will equip them to create a large world map containing
images and map symbols that display each animal habitat they have learned about this semester.

I hope you are all as excited as our 2nd graders and 2nd grade teachers are to begin this
school year! There is so much to learn and it is our hope that through these real-life and simply
fun themes, we may better grasp student attention so that we may share useful knowledge and
meet each and every student need that must be met for success! Additionally, we hope that
through realistic and relatable themes, this will be a year where all of our 2nd graders will truly
open up for class discussion and share their own personal opinions, which is so important for
class community and collaboration.

Thank you for you time and commitment! Let the learning gears start spinning! If you
have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me at (100)777-7777 or

Miss Delaney