An Integrated Studies Framework
The big picture to constructing understanding

"Integrated studies combines curriculum from two or more disciplines, allowing students to see how ideas are connected. Teaching in such a contextual manner promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and knowledge retention."

“Discover innovations and best practices for combining multiple academic subjects to prepare students for a world where all knowledge is integrated.”    (Edutopia, 2017)                

Constructivist Pedagogy
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” John Dewey

   Learning Content

   Learning Practices

Learning Content

1. National Frameworks
3. Integrated Studies and Crosscutting Concepts
  The combination of academic subjects and concepts integrated in learning activities within a
       unit of study.
Integrated Studies Foundations
Integrated Studies Examples
4. Authentic Assessment
    A focus on real world contextual performance of knowledge, tasks or skills identified prior to an
     actual learning activity and/or unit of study (backward design). A demonstration of understanding
     (rubric) versus a transmission of knowledge (test).

5. Integrated Studies Curriculum Mapping
    An ongoing Professional Learning Community (PLC) process, organization and presentation
      of the school's coordinated units of study.
Curriculum Mapping Foundations
Google Doc Curriculum Map Templates

Integrated Studies Curriculum Examples

Learning Practices

6. Constructivist Theory
      People actively construct knowledge, skills and values through experiences in their physical and
      social environments. We continually construct are own understanding as we encounter new
      experiences and reflect upon our previous knowledge, skills and values.
7. Inquiry-Based Learning + Project-Based Learning 

      The combination of these two learning models are "the dynamic duo" structures for
      integrated studies unit development.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning directly taps into our nature to be curious in the exploration of a big idea through questioning, problems or scenarios organized in a research process. 

Project-Based Learning 
Project-based learning is the process designed within a project that leads to making a product. 
8. Social and Emotional Learning

     Thriving Students in a well-being learning environment

As educators, before we can talk about “collaborative learning,” we first need to talk about “social and emotional learning” as the heart and soul to student communications and collaborations.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL,2017) define Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as, the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

As technology has become so ubiquitous in the twenty-first century, many people have come to lean on it to lead educational systems change. However, I'm more encouraged by the growing movement to focus on crafting "well-being" into learning environments as a social and emotional support for learning. Students today still need the human touch to guide their conversations and collaborations as they maturate in both physical and digital learning spaces.

This is why social and emotional learning must be a core strategy of any twenty-first century curriculum. With that said, I would like to expand upon the competencies within social and emotional learning presented by CASEL. I would like to bring forward the idea of social and emotional learning that promotes, “Thriving students” in “a well-being learning environment.”

Thriving Students are mindful and purposeful in their shared humanity of life as they grow and flourish as learners.
A Well-being Learning Environment 
supports students’ social and emotional needs as a place with engaging learning spaces where they feel happy, healthy and prosperous.     
Books - Engaging Learning Environments 
9. PIE - Integrated Studies Unit Development
      The Professional Learning Community (PLC) is the essential teacher/Principal structure to create
      and update integrated studies units within a school.

Google Docs Unit Planning PIE Templates 

Baking PIEs (Plan - Implement - Evaluate). 

Here, integrated studies units of study are created by using multiple learning cycles called, PIEs (Plan - Implement - Evaluate). 

In this model, the essential learning activity is the middle I for students:

  1. To Inquire by researching big ideas, questions and concepts; or;

  2. To Invent something of any kind- from writing a poem about plants, planting a garden or designing a farmers market. 

10. BLIS - Blended Learning Instructional Strategies
Here, the combined concepts of "blended learning" and "transliteracy" articulate 21st century instructional strategies across face-to-face learning environments using analog and digital media with respective tools, resources and networks.

         BLIS works as the bridge between media content and instructional practices within students'
         learning spaces and environments.

The Concept of Blended Learning

"Blended learning is an education program (formal or non-formal) that combines online digital media with traditional classroom methods. It requires the physical presence of both teacher and student, with some element of student control over time, place, path, or pace. While students still attend "brick-and-mortar" schools with a teacher present, face-to-face classroom practices are combined with computer-mediated activities regarding content and delivery" (Wikipedia, 2017).
The Concept of Transliteracy 

..."we are going to tear literacy away from its original association with the medium of written text and apply it as a term that can refer to any kind of medium. And then we’re going to go across and beyond literacy to transliteracy." (Thomas, 2007)

"Transliteracy is an ability to use diverse analogue and digital technologies, techniques, modes and protocols;
  • to search for and work with a variety of resources
  • to collaborate and participate in social networks
  • to communicate meanings and new knowledge by using different tones, genres, modalities and media.

Transliteracy consists of skills, knowledge, thinking and acting, which enable a fluid ‘movement across’ in a way that is defined by situational, social, cultural and technological contexts" (Sukovic, 2017).

"The essential idea here is that transliteracy is concerned with mapping meaning across different media and not with developing particular literacies about various media. It is not about learning text literacy and visual literacy and digital literacy in isolation from one another but about the interaction among all these literacies" (Ipri,2010).

BLIS - Blended Learning Instructional Strategies

As I said above, BLIS works as the bridge between "media content" and "instructional practices" within students' learning spaces and environments. Below, I'll organize and integrate media content "across" literacies with instructional practices with the goal of connecting the two as 21st century instructional strategies.

In the 20th century many forms of literacy (Garcia, 2013) emerged. By the early 1980's as the world began to go digital, this accelerated with various digital literacies to cover:
  1. media content; 
  2. the devices that held the content, and;
  3. the appropriate and responsible use, and the critical evaluation of both content and devices by people.
During this time, two central terms emerged- “digital literacy” pertaining to hardware/software, and “media literacy” (including information literacy) pertaining to the use, engagement and understanding of media in digital forms. As we moved into the mid-90's we started by "reading" the Internet, and into the 21st century by "reading and writing" with social media. Today, both digital and media literacies have become "blurred together" in the use of devices, applications, services and networks with the consumption and creation of digital content and the social and ethical practices that lie within. 

Now, with the inclusive concept of transliteracy, we need not get bogged down between traditional "text" literacy for reading and writing with media in digital forms. In transliteracy all means all, as both analog or digital media moves across materials, devices, applications, services and networks. 

As for instructional practices, it's a matter of using effective traditional and newer learning methods in the context of student's home, school and community environments. The aspiration here is to develop children into young transliterate people that reflects the world they live in. With that said, any category headings below are for simple identification and curation of content with a longer-range plan of blurring those lines over time in a trans-media society. 

I also want to say that I believe we are/I am still in the infancy of constructivist pedagogy. Part of my DNA is being an "organization nut." For me, I need to organize by "gathering, sorting and shifting" (The Research Cycle, Mackenzie, 2000) before I can synthesize this into effective resources for instructional strategies. This is where I'm at in my journey, but also echoes Meredith Farkas' blog (in 2010), "My own teaching has been influenced heavily by constructivist learning theory, but I’m not sure what transliterate library services or transliterate instruction looks like. And until someone can show me, I guess I’m going to be as cynical about that as I was about Library 2.0." When I read, "until someone can show me", that was truly inspiring. Meredith, I'm not all there yet myself but hope to "show" the beginnings of a better map for K-12 instruction compared to our didactic past.

*Note - This is a continual work in progress, hope to eventually have links for every strategy listed!

Nonlinguistic Representations (Marzano Research)

  • Model Building 
  • Drawing  
  • Kinesthetic  
    • Manipulatives 

Rotation Schedule w/ School Learning Spaces
  • Makerspace/Labs
  • Learning Commons/Library
  • VAPA Studios
  • Physical Education

Setting Objectives  (Marzano Research)

  • Personalizing Objectives - Agenda or personalized list of assignments student created 
  • Learning Contracts 

Reinforcing Effort & Providing Feedback 
(Marzano Research)

  • Providing Recognition 
  • Reinforcing Effort 

Activating Prior Knowledge

  • Making Personal Connections 
  • Seating Arrangement of Students 
  • Visual Supports- Charts, Graphs, Illustrations, Photos 
  • Warm-Up Activity 


  • Focus on Key Vocabulary Terms 
  • Read Aloud 
  • Shared Reading 
  • Guided Reading 
  • Critical Literacy 
  • Thinking and talking among text in a variety of media forms 
  • Independent reading 
  • Partnership reading 
  • Reader's Workshop - Literature Circles

Structured Inquiry Models 

  • Topic Hotlist 
  • WebQuest 


  • Framing a lesson theme as a question 
  • Explicit Cues 
  • Cloze Procedure 
  • Questioning 
  • Inferential Questions 
  • Analytic Questions  
Research Cycle
  • Determining the Topic 
  • Information Searching & Gathering 
  • Information Organizing 
  • Synthesizing 
    • Oral Report 
    • Written Report 
    • Research Report 
    • Multimedia Report 
    • Extended Essay 
  • Presentation 
    • Individual 
    • Group/Team 
  • Evaluation and  Self-Management  

Interactive Instruction 

  • Brainstorming 
  • Debate 
  • Role Playing 
  • Panels 
  • Structured Controversy 
  • Interviewing 
  • Games 
  • Simulation 
Homework and Practice (Marzano Research)
  • No Homework as a strategy for elementary students 
  • Extended Learning Opportunities 
Community-based Learning

  • Field Observation 
  • Field Trip 
  • Service Learning 
Digital Devices
Classroom Learning Management System (LMS)
Formative Assessment
Summative Assessment
Differentiated Instruction
Flipped Learning
Direct Instruction

  • Structured Overview 
  • Explaining 
  • Demonstrations 


  • Author's Chair
  • Blog
  • Collaborative Writing 
  • Descriptive
  • Expository 
  • Modeled writing 
  • Narrative
  • Persuasive  
  • Summarizing 
  • Use of Mentor Text
  • Writer's Workshop

Writing and Organization of Thought

Group Work

  • Collaboration (pdf) - Pearson and P21
  • Heterogeneous Groups 
  • Homogeneous Groups 
  •  Informal Groups 
    • Peer Partners 
    • Think, Pair, Share 
    • Turn to  neighbor 
  • Formal Groups 
  • Using Analog Tools
    (3D objects- not software or computer-based)
  • Building with 3D Objects
    (not software or computer-based)
  • The Engineering Design Process
  • Robotics

Identifying Similarities & Differences 
(Marzano Research)

  • Compare and Contrast 
  • ClassifyingCategorizing 
  • Creating Metaphors 
  • Creating Analogies 

Generating & Testing Hypotheses (Marzano Research)

  • Systems Analysis 
  • Case Studies 
  • Problem Solving 
  • Decision Making 
  • Historical Investigation 
  • Invention 
  • Experimental  Inquiry 
    • Observe a process or event 
    • Interpret data 
    • Explain what you have observed 
    • Generate a hypotheses 
    • Set up an experiment 
    • Explain the results of the experiment 
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