Bringing “Integration of Knowledge” Into Your Lessons

“Do you think Bigfoot exists?” This is a question that I recently posed to my 10th grade Special Education English class. It was soon clear that the majority of the students had no idea what I was talking about. We were studying a unit on myths and mythical creatures and had already talked about dragons and read a story about the Cyclops. I was looking for a way to incorporate some modern mysterious creatures into our discussion. Obviously, you can’t generate a discussion without any background knowledge. We needed to take a deep dive into the common core standard of Integration of Knowledge before my students will be able to answer the question. I did a similar plunge into Craft and Structure last year.

The common core standard in literacy for integration of knowledge requires students to “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats” and “delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.” (From: Common Core State Standards Initiative.)  Or, as Read Theory puts it: “To master this common core standard, students must learn to form accurate conclusions regarding what is almost certainly true given the information presented in the passage.” I needed to back up and find some strategies to get my students to this level of reasoning AND have enough information to come to a conclusion for a topic that may or may not be true. Here are some strategies to “integrate” more integration into your lessons.

Determine What The Students Know

readtheory worksheet

Bring out the KWL chart! This gives you an idea of what the students know, what they know that may not be accurate, and which students have little or no background knowledge. For older students or to take the KWL a step further, you may want to utilize an Inquiry Chart or I-Chart. An I-Chart allows students to develop questions and organize information gathered from multiple sources. Reading Rocket has 3 templates and instructions for how to use them. Another chart from Wisconsin DPI can be found here.  

Build Background Knowledge

A great place to start is with PBS Learning Media. This site has videos, interactives, lesson plans and more! Searching “Bigfoot,” I found 3 videos. One is about the blurred line between science and legend, and one is about tracking “Sasquatch.” (That’s a whole other lesson about the different names and areas where Bigfoot-like creatures exist.) Discovery Education is another great resource where I found Living Legends. Living legends is about “Animal species, some unknown for millions of years, have recently been discovered.” Both sites allow you to search by subject or topic and by grade level.

Expand Primary Sources

political map

Don’t just rely on the written word. Depending on the lesson’s objectives, the primary sources can be a wide variety of things: graphs,  maps (like maps of Bigfoot sightings!), illustrations, videos, and photographs to name a few. The Library of Congress has Primary Source sets, lesson plans, and presentations. 

Incorporate Visual Literacy Strategies

Visual literacy goes hand-in-hand with Integration of Knowledge Common Core objectives in the use of “diverse media and formats.” In a time when our students are bombarded with images on their phones, maybe it’s time to teach some visual literacy strategies. Here are 10 Visual Literacy Strategies from Todd Finley’s blog on Edutopia. This article reminds us how to model a Think Aloud and  has a spin on the 4 W’s that can be applied to a visual representation. 5 Card Flickr involves comparing 5 random photos. There are also links to various analysis worksheets for maps, cartoons, and posters.

Other Art Visual Resources 

The NCMA has educator resources. NCMA Learn has searchable lesson plans to incorporate art into classes. Colossal has new and contemporary artists. The Khan Academy AP Art History site offers art that is global and ranges in dates from prehistoric to contemporary. The art typically represents moments of great change in both history and art. Their resources include architecture from famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry and videos on current trends like “Behind the Banksy Stunt.”  

Use Graphic Organizers

Graphic Organizers

Which graphing organizer to use? The answer is, it depends. You can use them for reading, writing, analyzing, and brainstorming. Here is the “Ultimate List” from Creately. 19 organizers that are broken down by task. The list includes writing a persuasive paragraph, a math graphic organizer, and a hierarchy chart. There are templates of each but you must create a free account to save your work. You can make 3 documents for free; a paid membership is required for unlimited documents. Another way to make your own can be found in this YouTube how-to video: Graphing Organizers in Google Classroom. It also has links to 3 different sites with graphic organizer templates that can be uploaded into Google Drive. Here is the link to the one I like the best: Control Alt Achieve

Putting the Pieces Together

Never underestimate what you can find if you Google it. After I regrouped and came back to my 10th grade students, I was ready to tackle Bigfoot again. I had found out what they knew (not much) what they didn’t know (a lot) and their general lack of interest on the whole topic (sigh). I had work to do! I found this really good documentary on the Original Bigfoot Film. It is only 5 minutes long and is from Oregon Public Broadcasting, so it was both factual and accessible to the students. The footage and the plaster casts of the “big foot” reeled them in! 

I then read a news account from 2015 in Indiana of a first hand “sighting.” We read and discussed the article. I created background knowledge as we read: Bigfoot is said to weigh 600 pounds. How does that compare to a full grown silverback gorilla? (A gorilla weighs about 375 pounds.) How much does a 7 foot tall basketball player weigh? (About 325 pounds.)  Then we evaluated the account to decide if it was “real” after seeing the documentary. Now they had the background knowledge to have an opinion! We just had a discussion, but an I-chart would go well here. Most agreed that Bigfoot probably does not exist since no one has gotten a photo of it in the 50+ years since the film was made. But a few still wanted to keep the dream alive!

One more thing about Bigfoot…

I couldn’t resist a modern cultural reference to the original Bigfoot footage (no pun intended). It’s a 20 second clip from the movie Elf. It was great to see their faces when they made the connection!

Jana Hill, SPED English teacher (for ages 14-20)
Written by Jana Hill, SPED English teacher (for ages 14-20)

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