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Cross Curricular Learning

What is cross-curricular learning and what are its benefits?

cross curricular bookshelf

What is cross curricular learning?

Cross curricular learning is a way of organising the curriculum so that subjects are taught in an integrated way rather than as discrete, stand-alone areas. For example, in History children might be taught about the Romans so a cross curricular approach might then plan for children to look at making mosaics in Art, study Italy in Geography, make Roman chariots in DT and write newspaper articles about the Roman invasion of Britain in English. In many primary schools, cross curricular learning is common place and there are significant benefits to both children and teachers for organising the curriculum in this way.

However, there are also some things to watch out for when planning in a cross curricular way and there are some drawbacks to it. Indeed, many primary schools are now moving away from this cross curricular approach to teaching and learning.

 

In this article we will examine the following:

- What are the benefits of cross curricular learning in primary schools?

- How can cross curricular learning be planned for effectively?

- What to watch out for when planning for cross curricular learning.

 

We will then look at how PlanBee, famous for its topics and huge bank of quality resources across the whole primary curriculum, can be used to support a cross curricular approach.

Click here to view PlanBee's topics by year group:

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Benefits of a cross curricular approach:

There are many benefits to planning for a cross curricular approach:

1. It offers tremendous motivational power for children. If children are excited about a particular topic or theme, then linking it to other subjects can help motivate them toward learning across the whole curriculum.

2. Research shows that we learn when we are able to make connections. That's what our brain does! It is constantly trying to make connections, and when we do so, we learn better. Therefore, by integrating subjects in a cross curricular way, we are mirroring this natural approach to learning and thus learning is deeper.

When we see how facts and ideas connect with one another across subjects, we construct meaning.

3. Application of learning from one subject to another is really useful. It can both deepen and extend learning and encourages children to want to learn more! Cross curricular learning helps to create this environent where students acquire a taste for life-long learning.

4. Gardner in his theory of multiple intelligences found that there were eight different intelligences including visual, musical and logical. By integrating subjects in a cross curricular approach we are able to teach learning through a variety of different learning styles, thus helping all children to learn.

5. Cross curricular learning teaches children how to learn. Rather than just learning lots of different unrelated facts from different subject areas, children are taught to think for themselves, making their own links and fostering curiosity.

6. It is more fun for teachers! When teachers are able to link subjects together through a central topic, it makes planning and teaching more enjoyable. Teachers can get excited about introducing children to a topic they also love and spend a whole term studying it in lots of depth. Teachers are encouraged to be creative with this approach rather than robots delivering facts!

7. It is also really helpful to parents for children to learn in a cross curricular way. If a parent knows that their child is learning about, for example, the rainforest then they can do lots of work about this with them at home. They might make a model of the rainforest with them for a homework project. They might seek out documentaries on Netflix about animals of the rainforest to help foster their child's curiosity. It makes it easier for parents to involve themselves with their child's education and this is always beneficial.

cross curricular topic overview sample

At PlanBee, we have a huge collection of cross curricular topics and topic bundles.

These are all aligned to the National Curriculum Objectives.

With each topic, a detailed overview is included (see left) followed by a more detailed overview of each subject with learning objectives, assessment questions and resources lists.

Each lesson then comes with its own lesson plan and all the resources required to teach the lesson!

This is cross curricular teaching made easy!

PlanBee bees, hives and hills

Cross curricular learning and planning

Cross curricular learning has lots of benefits to both children, parents and teachers. However, for it to be effective, it must be planned very well at each stage of the planning process:

1. Long term planning - This is where it all starts and is essential for ensuring that pupils recieve entitlement to the whole primary curriculum. By mapping out the broad areas, natural links between subjects can be seen. This is really important as tenuous links do not lead to deep learning or motivated learners.

2. Medium term planning - This is where the learning objectives for each separate subject are mapped out. These must be identified to ensure that, even though learning is integrated, all objectives are being covered and progression within each subject can be planned for. Learning in a cross curricular approach should be linked but not at the expense of each subject's objectives that the National Curriculum requires to be covered.

Cross curricular - what not to do!

The worst thing that can be done with a cross curricular approach is trying to make links between subjects which are not naturally there. If the link is not natural then don't make it! It would be better to link 3 or 4 subjects really well and have some stand alone rather than trying to integrate everything in a way that is tenuous.

Cross curricular - How PlanBee can help

 

PlanBee is well known for it's huge bank of quality resources, most of which cover the wider curriculum subjects. All schemes are planned and created by experienced teachers.

PlanBee's primary topics for KS1 and KS2 cover a range of exciting learning themes. They're completely ready to teach and include detailed lesson planning and resources for engaging cross-curricular learning.

In each of PlanBee's creative curriculum topics, you'll find up to 24 cross-curricular plans (with slides, worksheets, and a range of fun activities, too). They're designed to save teachers time and provide fantastic learning experiences for your class, too.

Whether you plan to teach in phases or to individual year groups, all of these primary school topics include a huge range of highly-differentiated learning activities, so you can be sure the learning is appropriate AND sufficiently challenging for all your pupils.

There are three main ways that PlanBee can help with a cross curricular approach:

 

1. Topic Bundles

PlanBee has worked hard to create topic bundles. Here, several seperate schemes which naturally link together, can be purchased as a bundle. All schemes are matched to the National Curriculum Objectives. Topic Bundles cover a topic in more detail, and last half a term or longer. They consist of 4 complete series of lessons all centered around the same theme.

 

2. Cross Curricular Topics

Alternatively, we have cross curricular topics which normally have around 18 lessons from a variety of curriculum subjects all linked to a central theme. All topics are matched to the National Curriculum objectives. Cross-curricular Topics are perfect if you are looking to teach a ‘mini’ topic over a series of afternoons. A Cross-curricular Topic consists of 5-7 lessons in a lead subject, plus several discrete lessons across a range of other subjects.

 

3. Individual Schemes

It might be that you already have a theme all planned out but are missing an element from say DT or Science. Teachers might find what they are looking for in our huge bank of schemes of work. Alternatively, you may want to pick and choose schemes to create your own cross curricular topic. All schemes are matched to the National Curriculum Objectives.

Cross curricular - The Author's Opinion!

I am an experienced primary school teacher and have been teaching now for 16 years across the whole primary age range. I have a keen interest in cross curricular teaching and believe it is how all primary school children should be taught.

For most of my teaching career, I loved teaching children through various topics. By linking subjects together, children enjoyed their learning and it definitely led to deeper learning as children were able to make links. I think that the key to a successful topic is hooking the children in on day 1. Perhaps it could be that, when starting a topic on Ancient Egypt, children have to crack a hieroglyphics code to locate a mystery package containing some clues about their new topic. Alternatively, it could be taking children on a trip to a local castle to initiate a topic about castles and life in medieval times. Ultimately, getting children to invest in the topic is time well spent.

I loved planning cross curricular topics. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I decided to get a job with PlanBee - it was always an aspect of the job I enjoyed. I enjoyed taking a theme and then putting my own spin on it so that I myself as a teacher had ownership over what I was teaching. I have even created the Geography element one of these topics I deasigned 'Save the Orangutan' as a scheme for PlanBee.

Toward the end of my teaching career, my school had changed its approach and was starting to teach subjects more discretely. Links between the subjects were not being made as they once were any my enjoyment of the job declined. I found it much harder to motivate children toward their learning when being asked to teach in this way and children found it difficult to swap from one discipline to another since there were no links in their theme.

I passionately believe that children at primary school should be taught through cross curricular topics and think, providing they are carefully planned without tenuous links, they can be hugely beneficial.

Matt Watson - PlanBee Content Creator

CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - Exploring Space


CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - Castles


CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - Dinosaurs


CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - The Rainforest


CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - Ancient Egyptians


CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - Titanic


CROSS CURRICULAR TOPIC - Mountains


PlanBee bees, hives and hills

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