On Feb. 10, not a single parking spot was available, and the cafeteria of Roy J. Wollam Elementary was filled with parents, grandparents and other family members anxiously waiting to see little Abe Lincolns, Neil Armstrongs, and Clara Bartons parade through the school! This exciting event, a second grade biography project and parade, was the result of a Santa Fe ISD district initiative to integrate social studies and English language arts and reading through fun and engaging projects.

Students developed their research skills as they learned about historical figures who interested them. In an effort to support Balanced Literacy instruction with cross-curricular lessons, Santa Fe ISD is striving to increase the rigor and relevance in the learning experiences of our students. On a weekly basis, teachers are integrating social studies concepts within the Balanced Literacy model to show students that all learning is connected, and ideas do not have to be taught in isolation.

Santa Fe’s secondary schools are also joining the effort to integrate social studies and English language arts. Santa Fe Junior High School social studies teachers are using the writing strategies taught in the English language arts classes to support students as they develop their writing skills. This was the third year that Santa Fe Junior High School and the first year that Santa Fe High School participated in the National History Day Contest.

Students chose topics related to this year’s theme — “Taking a Stand in History.” They had to research, cite, create an annotated bibliography and write a process paper explaining their project of choice. Students then presented their projects before panels of judges in the hopes of moving forward to the regional competition. This again stirred great excitement and community involvement through a partnership with Mae Bruce Library. Parents and family members supported their children in this endeavor.

Another engaging cross-curricular project that ignites enthusiasm is the Holocaust museum that the junior high school students create after reading and researching about this event in their eighth grade English and language arts classes. Students and families tour the museum to develop a better understanding of the historical impact of this period of genocide with a new vision of creating a bright future for themselves and others.

Santa Fe High School social studies teachers and English teachers worked collaboratively to integrate their curriculum for several courses. They have chosen summer reading selections that connect the learning in both pre-AP English and pre-AP social studies classes, providing more relevance for student learning. Juniors are experiencing a yearlong parallel curriculum with U.S. history and American literature by reading selections in English classes that are aligned with the time periods studied in U.S. history. For example, while students are studying the Roaring Twenties in U.S. history, they are reading “The Great Gatsby” in English III class. The results of this combined effort is evidenced by increased achievement in both courses.

Great commitment and effort by teachers at every grade level continues to affect higher levels of learning and more meaningful, engaging experiences for the students in Santa Fe ISD.

Patti Hanssard is the assistant superintendent for human resources and the public relations officer for SFISD.

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