March 27, 2019 | #EarlyLang

Interdisciplinary Connections for Teachers
from March 27, 2019

On March 27, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed collaboration and its benefits for students and teachers. They also shared the kinds of units that work best, barriers to collaboration, and strategies to ensure all objectives are met when collaborating.

Q1: What types of units lend themselves the best to interdisciplinary collaboration?

As @srtacoulehan stated, “Anything!” the beauty of language instruction is that students can acquire the TL through whatever content is pedagogically sound and developmentally appropriate. it no longer has to be in isolation, learning grammar and language “rules.” Several participants also mentioned using art, especially for students who thrive on hands-on activities. Art can provide a tangible means of accessing content and culture. Several teachers mentioned art as a means to further connections to geometry, history, and science. Music is another way to connect students to language and culture, as are social studies and science.

Q2: What are the benefits of collaborating across disciplines?

Connections, connections, connections. When students can make connections between what they are learning, it makes it a more meaningful experience for them and strengthens their understanding of both subjects. It also provides an authentic learning experience. Life is not a series of single subjects, but a mix of things; school should reflect that. For those language teachers with limited time or who do not see their students daily, collaboration can be a means to extending learning beyond the language class. It can also give the language teacher new ideas and new perspectives on instruction. Finally, language is the basis of all learning. It is the tool used to connect and learn in every class.

Q3: What are the barriers to collaboration and what can we do to avoid them?

As with so many great ideas in education, the main barrier is time. Most participants mentioned the lack of time to plan with colleagues in addition to the lack of instructional time with their students. Even when planning time is built into the schedule, language teachers are often part of another team, so their time does not coincide. Reluctant colleagues pose another barrier. Some aren’t interested in collaborating, feel pressed for time, or don’t value language learning.

Q4: How can we find a common ground to collaborate with other language teachers?

Conferences, district workshops, and technology all provide networking opportunities. One participant advised asking admin to use their networking skills or to contact teachers in other districts to discover what they are doing. Twitter chats like this one, Twitter in general, and websites like Edmodo can also enhance collaboration. Finally, it’s okay to go slowly. Find one teacher or team and create one unit when starting collaborating. Utilize school/district software that can enhance collaboration. Keep building and expanding each year. When other teachers see the positive results, many will want to join.

Q5: How do your learners meet language objectives AND the other teacher’s learning objectives in a collaboration?

@SenoritaBasom, “Communicating with the teachers is essential to address what we want students to learn in both areas. We love finding areas that overlap, and it is neat to see students make connections in Spanish!”

@ammarcangelo, “We incorporated learning objectives across all disciplines by thoroughly planning ahead.”

@suarez712002 “Look at the grade level expectations and design a unit using backwards design, always starting with the end goal in mind, create a good essential question, summative and formative assessments and then activities for the learning experience.”
@srtacoulehan “Planning the end goals TOGETHER are helpful. Think of them like #SIOP model (content objectives and language objectives)”

@als5nep “Set common expectations and rubrics BEFORE you begin. Rely on patience, errors and teachable moments. Adapt each and every year and set goals for you and your partners.”

It’s reflaction (reflection + action) time! Knowing now what you do about collaborating with teachers of other disciplines, what would you like to do in the future?


Several participants mentioned that they would always look for ways to connect and collaborate, hoping to get other teachers interested. If time prevents face-to-face collaboration, find other ways to connect their content to language learning.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator,Sara-E. Cottrell (@SECottrell), and our co-moderator, Nathan Lutz (@nathanlutz), for helping to guide the conversation. Thanks also to M Cristina Rdz-Villa (@MaCristinaRV) for creating our question images and to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat.

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