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Mixing it Up

"We rarely create something different until we experience something different."
 ~George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset 

We all know that repetition can lead to mastery. This is why, as teachers, we constantly ask our students to practice a skill we want them to master in our classes. There are many ways to do this; however, I personally believe that the time our students spend IN school allows numerous opportunities for consistency, repetition, and advancement of skills.

If you think about a high school student's typical school day, he or she visits 6-7 classes and spends about 45 minutes with each teacher.  Instruction, practice, and assessment consume the class period as teachers motivate their students to build and develop various skills. While at times it can be very difficult to get all of this done in 45 minutes, using time in class as opposed to asking the students to practice at home has numerous benefits. For one, it gives students a break to actually do something for themselves when they leave the building. Secondly, it gives teachers the chance to really hone in on skills and what each student needs in order to grow.

As with everything else, the biggest problem is always lack of time. We don't have enough time in one class period to teach our students all of the content AND give them time to practice, ask questions, and reflect. Teachers must great creative with their time and tailor their curriculum to make this a reality. However, if all departments teamed up, it could help alleviate the pressure on one teacher to produce mastery of a skill. It is no mystery that most content areas teach similar skills but with different focal points based on the content and curriculum demands. Why not work together, across content levels, to help students master the common skills that we ALL try to teach throughout the day? 

This question has motivated me to start helping make connections between departments at our school. As a whole, we do an awesome job staying aligned with our school's instructional expectations and terminology; however, as I visited different departments, I witnessed the teaching, practicing, and assessing of similar skills - just in a variety of ways depending on the teacher and subject-matter. I constantly thought to myself, "This would also work great for..." For example, I observed great speaking and listening activities in World Language and English classrooms that would work across both departments. The Science, Social Studies, and English departments all taught synthesis, analysis, high-level reading, and writing. Students' creative outlets were put to the test in the Business, Fine Arts,  and Social Studies departments. Business and Science classes offered similar instruction when it came to writing and editing.  Science, Business, Math, and World Language departments included clever lesson ideas for promoting collaboration. Health and Social Studies classes promoted awareness and conducted critical conversations with their students. Believe me, the list goes on and on. Some of these cross-curricular connections are typical, while others surprised me because one wouldn't think the class subjects included similar skill development.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we had more time to share what we are doing with our colleagues from different departments? Wouldn't it help to know what students are expected to do in other classes and how we can help prepare them not only for our class but for other classes they take throughout the day? Wouldn't it be refreshing to help a colleague enhance and transform a lesson or assessment based on something you are doing in your own classroom? Yes, yes, yes.

The bottom line is this...our students are in our presence for a majority of their day. Skills are taught throughout the building, and if we team up with other departments and "talk shop" about how we teach skills, I believe we could really capitalize on the time we have with our students and help fine-tune the skills we all know they need to gain success here and in the future. Collaboration across the building will not only help our students, but it will also challenge our thinking and motivate us to try something new. #whatsup

How can we continue to make consistent collaboration between departments a reality? Got an idea? Please share below! 


  1. The face to face conversations are always the best. I also believe that we need to empower teacher leaders from different content areas with the goal to lead the charge to connect departments.

  2. Great thoughts Melissa! I couldn't agree more!


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