Main principles

Teaching and learning this way leads to trust, cooperation and better communication.

  • linking the subjects (to understand the context and apply learned knowledge and skills)
  • the teaching area is adapted to children
  • lessons do not begin or end with bell-ringing, they are run according to the interests or tiredness of the pupils at that time (why finish early an activity pupils enjoy?, why not let them relax when they need it?)
  • detailed written assessment

The model of Integrated Thematic Instruction was designed by Susan Kovalik. She describes this model in her book (ITI: The Model Integrated Thematic Instruction. Susan Kovalik & Associates, 1993). She draws not only upon her experience with talented chidren but also research into the development of brain functions. There are two elementary and several grammar schools using this model of teaching in the Czech Republic. Pupils work in groups of mixed ages – there are two or three pupils from each grade from preschoolers up to 5th grade. The teaching area reflects these needs. It is evident from the name (Integrated Thematic Instruction) that the curriculum is integrated into a thematic complex. There is one annual topic, which is divided into monthly topics and these into weekly thematic units. Each of these units includes the fundamental curriculum which must be accomplished by all pupils, and this curriculum is imposed on so-called application tasks, which allow pupils to use what they learn in real-world situations. New skills and knowledge are learned as the pupils need to use them so their purpose becomes immediately apparent. Pupils can also participate in the curriculum, they are encouraged to suggest monthly topics, think up tasks, help the younger ones etc. Teaching and learning run very naturally, the pupils can move around the class freely and have enough space for themselves.

A simplified example of this teaching style:

The Last on Earth – Endangered Species project

Speaking in a circle or brainstorming (ideas, associations and information the pupils already know about the topic, something the teacher can use as a foundation). The topic is the Red Book of endangered species, protected species, and environment.

Pupils are divided into groups according to continents, each group is assigned (or chooses) an endangered animal from their continent.

The pupils‘ task is to find out everything about the animal from books, internet and other sources (what the animal looks like, how its environment may have changed, why it changed, the needs of the animal, how it lives, if it is necessary to relocate the animal, how much this would cost, where to look for funding and support, pupils could find a specialist and invite him/her to school, the pupils able to speak a foreign language could contact a group of people or an organisation in the appropriate geographic region etc.)

Pupils make brochures and posters, prepare their presentations which they can use in class (e.g. discussing which of the chosen animals is in the biggest danger and deserves our help, whose chances are the best) or they can organise an exhibition for parents and the general public where they can sell their brochures, posters, or other merchandise and the profit could be used for a trip to the Zoo or to sponsor the chosen animal.

It is up to teachers whether they use the project as one of the teaching methods (e.g. as a closing project of a history topic on Middle Ages) or whether they use this topic as an all year topic with several smaller topics used to introduce new curriculum. The teachers must be able to organise the teaching during the whole year so it contains all the important knowledge and skills. In the Czech Republic there is already an organisation which deals with this topic – Společnost pro mozkově kompatibilní vzdělávání (Brain-Compatible Education Society) – which organises training courses for teachers and the general public. The schools currently using Integrated Thematic Instruction are in the Central Bohemia region.

Why a small school

Classes at these schools consist of a small number of pupils, the teacher can work with the pupils individually.

Teaching and learning this way leads to trust, cooperation and better communication.

Pupils can learn from the others.

Relationships between the teachers and pupils are closer and more open, teachers know all pupils very well.

Teachers are in closer contact with pupils´ parents, they usually know the background of the pupils.

We remember

10% of what we hear

15% of what we see

20% of what we see and hear simultaneously

40% of what we discuss

80% of what we experience or do

90% of what we try to teach others

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