Strategies for Successful Grade Level Cross-Content Collaboration

Strategies, ideas, and suggestions to create an effective teacher collaboration, which will enrich student learning.

By Dawn Dodson

colleagues working together

We’ve all been there—a puzzling student circumstance, a lesson needing feedback, a multi-dimensional standard in need of help from other content areas. Where do we turn? If we’re lucky, we can go directly to colleagues for help. Working with colleagues inside and outside our content areas benefits both our instructional practices and our students. We know that our pupils deepen their learning through using concepts and skills in various content settings and approaches. That said, being able to effectively accomplish this task requires a few strategies—especially if time and availability aren't always accessible. 

Collaborate in Grade-Level Teams

The idea of middle school grade-level teaming has taken some hits over the years. Billed as an ineffective use of time that hasn’t necessarily seen success in raising student achievement, grade-level teams and their purposes are often questioned. However, creating an organized, structured time that meets the needs of both pupils and educators is possible and can be quite successful. Here are three basic ideas and suggestions for creating an effective grade-level team:

  • Establish GroupNorms: Deciding when and where your meetings will be held might be a no-brainer; however, making the commitment for all members to be present and prepared for each meeting is a critical decision that must be agreed on by everyone involved. Furthermore, establishing measurable goals for the school year provides a purpose for structuring meeting times as well as allows members of the team to focus on solving possible issues within the grade level, or improving upon current practices. 
  • Assign Roles: Another step in structuring your time includes assigning roles to each team member. Suggested roles may include team leader, secretary, time keeper, and communicator. Depending upon the needs of the team and the goals to be accomplished, team roles are variable. However, your team will be more successful if everyone has a role, and knows what that role requires. 
  • Create an Agenda: This sounds easy, but it is necessary for keeping everyone on track. Designate a time and/or place to submit items that need attention during team meetings. This may include student issues such as interventions, parent communication, or celebrations. Additionally, sharing class work and successful instructional practices, strategies, and resources can help each educator plan more effectively, improve teaching strategies, and solve a variety of tribulations.

Conspire with Team Curriculum Planning

A well-structured team may automatically share instructional practices and required curriculum for the grade level. If time is available, planning cross-curricular projects and assignments is a great way to create grade-level continuity and affords individual learners the opportunity to enhance and extend their learning. If that is not the case, or team time isn’t available, communicating curriculum plans with colleagues can help in developing cross-curricular projects and class work. A simple example of this may be following writing standards and using a common rubric when composing an essay for social studies. Suggestions for organizing cross-curricular instruction may include:

  • Sharing Common Practices: Create a time to share rubrics, class procedures, and resources that can be used in any setting, in any content area. When it comes time to incorporate another content area into a project or assignment, sharing rubrics will ensure that all learners are accustomed to procedures for grading and completing work.
  • Communicate Learning Goals and Student Progress: Discussing how pupils are performing in specific areas of content may allow for additional enrichment or intervention to take place in other classes. For example, if comparing and contrasting, or cause and effect writing needs some help, practice can take place in another class in smaller chunks. You never know, another teacher using another set of information and/or words may be just what someone needs in order for the concept to become clear.
  • Plan an End-of-Quarter Culminating Project: If grade levels are communicating learning goals and progress, planning an end-of-the-quarter project that requires pupils to demonstrate their learning in each content area not only helps display depth of learning, but also reminds them how concepts and skills work together in the real world. Various portions of the project can be worked on in each class, and rubrics for each content area can help focus learners on each aspect of the project.

Creative Cross-Curricular Project Ideas:

Investigating Light Bulbs

This project culminates scientific investigation with language arts skills. Pupils study energy conservation, compare and contrast, as well as draw conclusions in this multi-faceted lesson.

Translations and Reflections of Triangles

Transformation Dances: In a creative lesson, young scholars study geometry and dance. After learning about various angles, reflections, and translations, learning is demonstrated through dance. Not only does this lesson span content areas, but it also covers  learning styles.

Soar into Spring with Kites

While learning about kites and their origins, this lesson offers many different resources and activities that span the content areas. The resources provided are very well organized.