Making Connections: Understanding Conceptual Integration
Cognitive abilities and learning preferences are assorted among individuals. With human variations in learning, strengths and weaknesses, a child's environment should be enriched with opportunities to construct meaning through exchanges of knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978). Through conceptual interactions and social exchanges of knowledge, previously acquired concepts are strengthened and new learning results (Bruner, 1960). Academic integration through literature connections provides children with opportunities to explore concepts across various subject disciplines. Conceptual or academic integration, also known instructionally as interdisciplinary instruction, is a strategy that utilizes connections between concepts through curriculum or subject overlapping to develop understanding, and often incorporates discussion and activities that emphasize the blending of students and skills (Gardner, Wissick, Schweder, & Canter, 2003; Kass & Jones, 2009; Kovalik & Olsen, 1994; Tomlinson & McTighe, 2006). Conceptual integration seeks to reduce fragmentation in learning that often results in curriculums that focus on single subject disciplines in isolation.
The implementation of academically-integrated instruction plays a vital role in providing every child with an opportunity to maximize personal understanding of the world. Educators and parents must encourage and support childrens' participation in the learning process by providing authentic educational experiences that foster fundamental skill development. Literature connections are an excellent resource to introduce a concept that has a foundation in mathematics, science, or social studies. Story-telling introduces children to ideas, builds vocabulary, and establishes connections across the curriculum while supporting literacy development.
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