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Cross-Curricular Learning in the ELA Classroom

It is important to keep learners engaged in their ELA subject material by creating cross-curricular lessons. Students are more likely to see a purpose for their learning if it can be used in other classes from 2 Peas and a Dog.
Cross-curricular learning is key to helping students develop their thinking skills. It is important to keep learners engaged in their ELA subject material by creating cross-curricular lessons. Students are more likely to see a purpose for their learning if it can be used in other classes. It is important that students in ELA classes understand the context of the texts they are studying.
Here is a curated recap of a fantastic #2ndaryELA Twitter chat about how teachers are integrating other subjects into their ELA lessons.
Q1: How do you integrate important historical events into ELA? Give us some cross-curricular learning lesson ideas.
  • Every April, we do a school-wide Holocaust Remembrance unit. ELA-read Holocaust books; social studies-key Holocaust events, etc.
  • We also have a Holocaust Remembrance ceremony-students read poems, watch a short Holocaust film, learn about victims 
  • I tried to find novels and short stories that take place in a different time period so we can discuss historical context
  • I tie in history with referential materials/novels, like Night (Holocaust), Bronx Masquerade (BHM/Harlem Ren), Shak/Eliz Era 
  • We just read “Thank You Ma’m” and in previous years have read “Flipped”
  • Incorporate non-fiction readings for HW connected to themes in class, i.e. reading Kindred in class, articles about slavery for HW 
  • We’re so lucky to teach a subject that allows us to incorporate historically relevant/important material at any time
  • As a teacher of American Lit., I tell students we’ll be looking at history through the lens of literature
  • I like to bring in fiction and nonfiction accounts of an event 
  • I use historical texts whenever I can, and especially in my current unit: “Choosing to Learn from History.”
  • I LOVE using picture books to introduce a historical topic! There’s always a YA novel to recommend if they enjoyed the pic book
  • We are just finishing up The Color Purple for Black History Month. We started the week before MLK – pretty heavy stuff! 
  • Questions that connect what students are studying in history to what we’re reading – ex, issues of justice/est. country/The Giver 
  • We are reading “Watsons Go to Birmingham” for Book Club this month!
  • My boys are drawn to info texts on war that lead to connections to our historical fiction texts. I buy every war book I can! 
  • Historical & current events need to be embedded within subject with & without dedicated dates/months.
  • I am trying to integrate more culturally diverse materials into our class overall. Picture books are excellent starting pts! 
Q2: What is your favourite text to teach during this month? Why? Share lesson ideas.
  • Picture Books: Henry’s Freedom Box, Chapter Bks: Mighty Miss Malone, a series of Graphic Biographies 
  • I love Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes. Students do a class poetry slam and research Harlem Ren. 
  • Usually allow students to choose Af. Am. poet to study, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, etc.
  • We look at a lot of different texts (primary and secondary sources) about the Civil Rights Movement
  • I love using Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Lots of ways to tie in history to that
  • We just started argumentative writing which provided the perfect opportunity to analyze MLK Jr’s “I Have A Dream” speech
  • Also, Langston Hughes “From Mother to Son” the Students always write their own version afterwards
  • Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July” to teach ethos, pathos, & logos. It’s beautiful & challenging
  • Smoky Night, The Other Side, Freedom Summer, Letter from Bham Jail, Brown Girl Dreaming, Deborah Wiles 60s series

Q3: What other (cross-curricular learning topics) history topics do you cover in your ELA classes? What are topics are the most engaging to your students?
  • Students love the 20s (Great Gatsby) and the Civil War (Killer Angels) b/c it seems so distant now. Also, Ancient Greece (Odyssey)
  • I really enjoy The Crucible – students can’t get enough of those crazy witch-hunting Puritans for some reason
  • Differs from year to year. Last year read Kindred so covered slavery. My students are Af Am but lack real understanding of history 
  • Life in the 1800s (Helen Keller), yellow fever (1793 Philadelphia), the Holocaust (this is always the most engaging to students)
  • I cover whatever history topic is relevant to the piece we are reading
  • I team teach with US History teacher – follow his timeline, so I cover most time periods, or use themes 
  • I also teach history (6-8) as part of that I love incorporating stories/lit from other cultures/civilizations
  • Honestly, it’s hard to cover it all in one tweet. ELA is so versatile…we teach a little bit of everything all the time! 
  • The Great Gatsby is such a hit each year! The history teacher joins in with lessons on the stock market 
  • Students love learning about the Holocaust, Greek mythology & ancient Egyptians
  • Tulsa Race Riots, Japanese Internment, Vietnam War (read Lotus Seed), Harlem Ren,
  • Students enjoy reading articles & stories about communities that helped shape CDN; internment camps, immigrant restrictions 
  • So far, we have looked at the Holocaust and the wars in Afghanistan. Now, editorials open up more social/historical avenues
  • I LOVE Fever 1793! I’m fascinated by this part of Philly history.
  • My students enjoy any topic that relates to justice vs. injustice 
Q4: What other subjects are you able to integrate into your ELA lessons for cross-curricular lessons? How? 
  • I integrate STEM/STEAM. Students research innovations, write info pieces on tech, draw & present multimedia work, read inventor bios.
  • Art and music are easily compared with poetry, math incorporated when reading graphs, statistics 
  • Science, math, social studies, art, music, foreign language…just have to be willing to think outside the box! 
  • ELA is the momma subject. All subjects can be integrated depending on the interest. We use NewsELA, TeenTribune & AR360
  • I try to incorporate art projects. The Lightning Thief-I cut pots out of cardboard, and students draw Greek-designs on them 
  • A few weeks ago I had students solving proportions based on information given in our text…they loved it! 
  • I like to be crafty if possible since so many students at my school don’t get an elective due to test scores 
  • We do a lot of science and geography. I can’t teach text structures or research without drawing heavily on those texts
  • I integrate Math, Science, History, Geography, we need to be able to provide background knowledge on everything read in class 
  • Students appreciate discussing local & global social justice issues; design an action plan 4 change by spreading awareness 
Q5: Share your best resource, lesson or idea that you use when cross-curricular teaching.
  • I curate all the great ideas I find online on Pinterest: 
  • Colleagues. I have a “partner in crime” and together we’ve created whole grade days of learning on specific topics. Each student created an artifact…for the Holocaust they created a museum that was open to the school to come visit
  • Love the Holocaust Victims Identity Cards & activities by @literarymaven students are so intrigued! 
  • Recently wrote about teaching the Holocaust connections with history, math, nutrition 
  • Contact local museums about topics you are covering and they might have artifacts to lend. We just did this. It was amazing
  • There is so much with historical events they’ve never heard of! Race riots, water crisis, specific events in our community
  • I teach Journalism too so I love pulling articles from The Wall Street Journal – I got them for free!
  • Students wrote a mystery story about a missing artifact at @ROMtoronto

Cross-Curricular Learning ELA Units

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