The integration of language arts within the currculum : an honors thesis (HONRS 499)

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When I first decided on my senior thesis, I was sitting in the basement of Teachers College in a five-week summer course taught by Dr. Linda E. Martin. During these five weeks, I absorbed as much knowledge as possible in regards to teaching reading to students. We discussed a variety of strategies, reading theories, and activities to use in the classroom. But, I felt that the five weeks was not long enough to learn all that I could to prepare myself for the classroom. It was when Dr. martin introduced Patricia Cunningham and the four Blocks method that I realized I had found my thesis project.I began my research on this concept in March 2001 and prepared my proposal for my thesis. I like the Four Blocks method as a teaching approach to teaching reading and writing, but I felt there was something missing. After discussing ideas with Dr. Martin, I finalized my thesis proposal. I would complete a project on integrating the curriculum within the Four Blocks method. I decided that I would look at two subjects that are often skipped or briefly touched on in an elementary classroom: social studies and science. I wanted to create a unit that incorporated Cunningham’s model into the curriculum.After choosing a unit on American Presidents and Measurement, I began my research on the integration of curriculum and the Four Blocks method. After extensive research and a firm understanding of these concepts, I started designing the units I would teach during my student teaching semester (Spring 2002). The process of designing seemed too easy. The lesson plans seemed to flow, the writing ideas were superfluous, and the standards were easily identified in the lessons I designed. I knew this was too easy to be true.When it came time to gather resources for the Guided Reading block, I soon found that my trade books I anticipated to find in the school and public library as well as the bookstores, were not at my fingertips. In fact, they were almost nowhere to be found for second grade reading levels. The lack of resources made it very difficult to succeed. However, through manipulation of my lessons and careful reconstruction of the objectives, I managed to alter the Guided Reading block to be a very successful learning time for my students.The Four Blocks method created by Patricia Cunningham seems too logical. I ask myself, “Why hasn’t the education system been using this for years?” the answer, however, is just as simple. Teachers are unwilling to change. New ideas are preposterous to many of the veteran teachers. It takes too much time and energy to creating a classroom that uses Cunningham’s theories to teach children reading, writing, and even listening skills.While Cunningham’s theory and practice is a step in the right direction, it is simply not enough. Through careful planning, I developed units that integrated the four Blocks method into curriculum that is often missed because of time. Teachers state they do not have time to include social studies, science, and even current events. But, by developing units that discuss these disciplines, while teaching reading, writing, and listening skills, teachers are able to teach the curriculum that is necessary.Even though the Four Blocks method breaks reading and writing into four blocks, it does not mean that these four blocks should be isolated in the classroom. These are different concepts that are used to teach reading and writing. The best way I found to teach the Four Blocks method is to not only integrate the curriculum into the Four Blocks, but to integrate the four blocks within each other. Isolation of any teaching style tends to bore children and make the work monotonous. With careful planning and decision-making, teachers will be able to make the classroom a spontaneous, interesting classroom for students.By no means is Cunningham’s model the sole way to teach. Nor is the integration of curriculum into models such as the Four Blocks method. But I assure you that through clareful planning, time commitment, and a little creativity, teachers are able to build successful units that capture the interest of the students, while teaching the standards that are required by the state. Learning may occur through worksheets, book work, and basals, but how involved are the children? As educators, we have the right and responsibility not only to teach our students but to make them lifelong learners. Will worksheets and lectures make our students lifelong learners? Or will the integration of curriculum into the development and teaching of reading, writing, and listening skills intrigue our students to be dedicated to the fulfillment of learning? The decision is yours.