I can’t say I was surprised to read in this Wall Street Journal article that American students are not meeting expectations in vocabulary.  The experts, as usual, say not enough time is being devoted to vocabulary.  This is the usual response when we hear about another educational area our students fall short in – saying we need to spend more time on it, increase the rigor.

For those that actually have to do the educating though, as a teacher or even an administrator, how can you always respond to this?  You only have your allotted time.  Sure, you can lengthen the school day and even the school year, but that’s easier said then done.  If your total time to teach isn’t growing, then adding time for more vocabulary means taking less time on something else.  What part of education are we doing so well in that everybody can agree that “yes, spend less time on ______ subject.”?

I believe the answer lies in better integration of subjects.  We divide up our school day by subject because of the need for teachers to specialize.  It makes logistical sense.  Project-based learning has been saying for years that in a project, students learn multiple skills simultaneously.  They research, do math, and do write-ups.  Project-based learning in general needs to be utilized more, but it’s really just an example of integration. 

Integration strikes me as the next big thing in education.  It provides simultaneous opportunities to increase time spent on individual educational areas, like vocabulary, without having to take time away from something else.  This is because certain types of assignments and lessons, like projects, can provide students ways to utilize multiple skills at once. 

At the same time, this gives students CONTEXT for what they are doing.  They don’t see math as just a homework assignment, they see it as part of this larger integrated project they are doing.  They start to see purpose.  They start to get inspired.

Mootup was built along the same lines, with the belief that a twist on the old format of the writing assignment can inspire better research, better reasoning, and provide context for the writing students are doing.

What do you think?  Do you agree, is integration an answer to these common reports about lagging test results?


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