Bridging the Gap: Integrating Curriculum in Upper Elementary and Middle Schools

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Bridging the Gap is a book about making connections that make learning meaningful for students and teachers. It details a unique collaboration between an elementary and a middle school teacher as they introduce broad themes in their classrooms. Together, they worked to bridge the gap between subjects in their students' learning and the gap that existed in their understanding of each other's teaching situations.

Cora Lee Five describes in detail how she immersed her fifth graders in colonial life and the Revolutionary War through the creation of a "Discoveries" theme. She relates how her students become partners in the planning process, develop their own theme within the theme, and follow their own inquiries. Reading, writing, art, simulations, and debates bring the colonial mind to life, allowing each student to "become" a colonist and make present-day connections.

Marie Dionisio describes how her middle school language arts classes explored point of view within a theme entitled "Trying on Someone Else's Skin." These classes become an adventure in self discovery, perception, and empathy as her students explore what it feels like to be someone different and ask serious questions about stereotype and prejudice. Examples of student journal entries and classroom discussions recount their experiences.

Throughout the book, Five and Dionisio support inquiry and validate risk taking for both students and teachers. They walk readers through their own processes of experimentation and discovery, providing:

  • suggestions for developing a theme and integrating the prescribed curriculum
  • recommendations for dealing with the typical strains and stresses of teaching
  • ways to support students in their own inquiries
  • rich classroom anecdotes
  • specific minilessons, book talks, and handouts
  • authentic methods of assessment
  • examples of student work
  • ways to promote collaboration among students and teachers.

Bridging the Gap's solid theoretical grounding and practical advice have much to offer pre- and inservice teachers, curriculum coordinators, and administrators.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[This] is one of the best professional books we found on integrating curriculum through thematic units.”–Language Arts
Two teachers (one in elementary school, the other in middle school) discuss their own processes of experimentation in the classroom, with ideas for projects and approaches as well as suggestions for developing a theme and integrating the prescribed curriculum. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780435088538
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 11/20/1995
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 266
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.36 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Marie Dionisio is a language arts teacher at Louis M. Klein Middle School in Harrison, New York. She has received two writing awards from English Journal and a Teacher of Excellence award from the New York State English Council. She teaches graduate courses at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, and serves on the NCTE Commission on Curriculum.

Cora Lee Five is a fifth-grade teacher at Edgewood School in Scarsdale, New York. She is the author of Special Voices (Heinemann, 1992), which describes her case studies of students with special needs in a regular classroom. In 1990, she received the Professional Best leadership award from Learning Magazine. She is a member of the NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee and serves on the Middle Childhood/English Language Arts Standards Committee for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

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Table of Contents

Making Connections


Trying on Someone Else's Skin

Making Learning and Teaching Whole

Appendixes: A. Professional Resources: Themes, Curriculum Integration, and Inquiry B. Resources for "Discoveries," compiled by Martha Rosen and Cora Lee Five C. Student Activities for "Discoveries" D. Example of Final "Discoveries" Reports E. The Computer Connection: Using Telecommunications to Support the Curriculum, by Gerald Crisci; Samples of E-Mail Between Schools F. Resources for "Trying on Someone Else's Skin" G. Student Book Talks for "Trying on Someone Else's Skin"

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