After attending two summer STEM seminars with fellow ELA, math, and science teachers, my outlook and inspiration for interdisciplinary ELA activities formed an upward trajectory (chart puns anyone? No? Ok moving on). There is just something truly magical that happens when cross-curricular crosses the synapses in our brains. If you could have seen my mind lighting up while this bookish ELA educator collaborated with unlikely math mentors, it would have looked like a light show at Dollywood! And for proof, studies show that interdisciplinary activities help students develop their cognitive abilities, solve complex problems, and achieve significant learning.
How to use literary charts as interdisciplinary ELA activities
If you too want to tap into this cross-curricular mind magic with some accessible yet analytical interdisciplinary ELA activities, then let me present to you English Language ChARTS, a whole new way to analyze ANY text!
ELA Pie Chart
I got the idea for literary pie charts from my old reading nemesis, SparkNotes. While this site does cramp my English teacher style, I have to admit their memes are entertaining and, in this case, useful.
In the picture above from their website, you can see that they display book themes in a comical way. To translate this into interdisciplinary ELA activities, have students make a pie chart that shows the percentage of each topic or theme found in a text. For example, Pride and Prejudice might have: reputation, class, love, et. The chart should reveal the theme that the author explores the most by being the largest portion of the pie. In Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, we believe that humor can be motivating factor in the classroom, so be sure to allow students to add one funny zinger to their pie chart like the examples show. 😊
For an informational text activity, have students create an Author’s Purpose Pie that reveals the nuances of purpose – to Persuade, Inform, and Entertain. Close analysis reveals that it’s rarely 100% on just one purpose. This strategy also lends well to test prep because students can visualize that, yes, multiple answers do work but there will be one answer that takes up more of the pie than others.
More ELA Pie Chart ideas interdisciplinary ELA activities:
- Character motivation pie – What percentage of universal motivators spur each character?
- Conflict pie – Which percentage of types of conflict move the plot?
- Setting pie – How much of the setting was in the dark? How much was bright and sunny vs dark and gloomy? What does this reveal about the book as a whole?
ELA BAR GRAPHS
Though I never called it interdisciplinary ELA activities, I’ve used ELA bar graphs for a long time. In fact, ELA bar graphs are one of my most popular strategies and inspired this entire literary chart pack! In the example above, students made rhetorical bar graphs from the speeches in Julius Caesar and it turned out to be such a hit for deep analysis that I used this literary bar graph strategy again and again! Here are some other things students have tracked over the years:
Students tracked Squealer’s propaganda techniques in Animal Farm.
As you can see, making whole class ELA bar graphs can be an engaging hands-on activity, or you can easily create them digitally as well. You can download my ELA bar graph templates here: Literary Charts: Engaging Interdisciplinary ELA Activities for ANY TEXT
More ELA Bar Graph Ideas for interdisciplinary ELA activities:
- Symbol tracking- How often does each symbol occur and what does this reveal?
- Repeated word tracking – Which words show up again and again and why are they important?
- Figurative language- How many times was each device used and what does it reveal about the complexity or style of the text?
ELA Line Charts
This interesting ELA chart idea comes directly from the STEM seminar I attended. A teacher demonstrated how he had students chart sentences to reveal a pattern. He used lines that reveal a heartbeat (which is super neat!), but I’ve found it’s just as fascinating to track any type of text to see what comes to life. For example, in the photo above, you can see a little wave in the diction of The Great Gatsby. How cool is that!?
More ELA Line Chart Ideas for interdisciplinary ELA activities :
- Mood tracking- What is the author’s mood vs your mood as the reader?
- Sentence variety – Does your writing have enough sentence variety? Map it out to see!
- Poetry tracking – What does iambic pentameter look like on a graph?
ELA Quadrant Graphs
There is some discrepancy about the name of this type of graph, but no matter what you call it, a quadrant graph makes an incredible dynamic thinking tool! This graph can be used for anything in which you want to make the sliding scale more complex. Think of things you have students rate from 0-10 then how you might add a layer of complexity by adding another scale to the mix. In the example above, I charted all of the psychological thrillers I read this year. As you can see, adding a second scale really adds an element of critical thinking. This type of chart can be used for anything! Case in point: here’s an example using fruit: 13 Graphs for Laughs (The first example, not the second which I find inappropriate)
A way to use this graph with nonfiction would be to have students chart the bias towards something. Here’s a fantastic media bias chart, but tracking bias doesn’t necessarily have to be political. For example, if you were reading articles about travel, some would be biased on the benefits of travel (think travel websites) while others would be biased on the perils of travel (think environmental websites). The possibilities are endless on this type of ELA chart, but here are more examples to get your wheels turning!
More ELA graph Ideas for interdisciplinary ELA activities :
- Leadership- Who is the best leader? (Captain example here but uses curse words)
- Persuasive prompt- Which ___ is the best ____? (Chart then write about best outcome)
- Book rating- Where does the book you just finished fit on the chart? (Whole-class free choice reading chart display)
I hope this post inspires you to try some interdisciplinary ELA activities! As for the technical side of things, you can of course simply have students draw their charts, or you can use simple chart tools in PPT or Google Slides. If you would like my premade charts and directions, you can download those here: Literary Charts: Engaging ELA Activities for ANY TEXT