Integrate It!

We know that adults learn when instructional content matches their needs or goals, interests, or experiences. I’ll even add their cultural learning preferences to that equation.

In the past, teaching academic skills out of context was what teachers did. That’s how they were taught. Teach adults to read by analyzing passages, finding main ideas, underlining prefixes and suffixes, and answering  questions about the content. Nothing wrong with that except that those skills were taught unrelated to life contexts. Now we know better. The process we have learned to implement is called contextualization by some or integration by others. For purposes of our discussion here, we’ll call the process “integration.”

In this discussion, members of three Communities of Practice will collaborate to in integrate academic and other skills into occupational training designed to prepare CNAs to succeed in workplace training: Reading and Writing, Science, and Professional Development CoPs.

When we integrate students and their interests or goals, needs, or experiences into instruction, we target the content itself on behalf of students.Then we have them practice academic skills that are embedded or natural to that content. Occupationally speaking, that might mean teaching future CNA’s, for example, to take someone’s blood pressure and then helping them practice only the reading, writing, and math skills that are naturally relevant to that context. The latter is what you are invited to do in this discussion.

Please visit the basic-training content posted for future CNAs to help them learn about blood pressure at.....

Then return here. You are invited and encouraged to post additional activities to that training that will help students reinforce academic and other skills in context. You may also want to add activities that appeal to learning-disabled students or those with lower academic levels, or that differentiate instruction through technology, or that add other relevant skills to the occupational plan. Let’s start working and learning more together!  When this project is completed, we’ll propose to post it with attribution to all individual contributors as OER at

To participate, simply add a comment or reply to others, posting an activity or commenting what they have contributed.

Leecy Wise, Moderator, Reading and Writing CoP
Kathy Tracey, Moderator, Science and Professional Development CoPs



Thanks for getting this started! I am excited to be a part of these groups and working together to build a comprehensive and contextualized model for integrating workplace skills in the adult education classroom. I'd like to get the contibutions going with adding this lesson on hand washing. Proper hand washing is one of the first skills a student entering the health care field will learn. But moving beyond this skill, let's think about what you can do in the science classroom: 

Germs Lesson: Discover how germs are spread: (Okay, apologies first - this activity includes glitter :-) 

Materials needed: Glotter, Paper Towels, Hand Lotion and small trash can to catch the glitter. If you are opposed to glitter, you could use flour. 

1. Ensure no students have allergies to a specific hand lotion. Then, have students place lotion on their hands. Sprinkle a small amount of glitter on their hands. Next, have students attepmt to wash off the glitter. Then, have students track the glitter and identify everything they touch and transfer glitter (pens, cell phone, door handles, desks, knobs on the sink, excetera.) 

2. Discuss all the places where students have come into contact with glitter or left glitter behind. Notice where the 'germs' land. How did they get all the glitter off their hands. 

This lesson can be reinforced by Bill Nye's lesson on germs. 

Finally, for students that may be at a higher educational level, have them explore Mayo Clinics page on infectious diseases.  

This is a simple lesson with activities based on a skill covered in every health classroom. What do you think? How can you add to this lesson or what other lessons woudl you include? 

Kathy Tracey

Leecy, Kathy and others,

I am interested in experimenting with Google Forms to develop a contextiualized reading lesson, using adaptive assessment questions. If someone is interested in working with me to develop this as a CNA healthcare-contextualized reading lesson and wants to suggest the reading content and  comprehension questions, I will develop the lesson plan, and we can then share it with the Reading and Writing and perhaps Science/Health Literacy CoPs. Leecty, is their a format for the lesson plans?



David J. Rosen

Perfect, David! That way, we can keep track of what everyone is contributing. I really hope that others will contribute not only reading segments but other integrated skills, including technology. Rather than a format for a plan, what do you think of taking a training segment, like the ones posted, and then link learners to related reading or writing activities that will reinforce their academic skills as they gain occupational skills. What do you think of the following segments as examples. Each would be linked to the occupational training segment.

Occupational Training Segment (i.e. Taking Blood Pressure) -> Related Reading Activities | Related Writing Activities | Related Math Activities | Related XXXX Activities

All of the segments above would be linked to each other to allow students and instructors to bounce around as needed.

What do people think? Leecy

Hi, Kathy. Thanks. Your additional suggestions for science instruction are great. From those instructions, folks could add all sorts of academic reinforcement skills. That's the idea. teach students a useful skills and the correlate academic practice related to those instructions. It would be good for members here to identify what instructional plan they want to target. David has some good suggestions. What to others here think? Let's talk! Leecy

I'll jump in here with some examples of what I might do to reinforce reading and writing skills for the Blood Pressure occupation segment.

1. Reading. (1) These instructions have a lot of new terms. How can you start creating your own dictionary of terms and practicing them in fun ways? Go to and follow the instructions below to create and practice the flashcards that you create. (2) Several words in your instructions have common endings (ion, al, olic). List several other words that you know that have those endings. Reflect on what you think they mean. Check with your instructor or other resources. Were you right?
2. Writing: (1) This passage has many definitions. How do you write good definitions in English? [Develop a series of instructions with activities where students practice writing definitions.] (2) Without referring to the training content, write you own instructions to teach someone how to measure blood pressure. Check your instructions against the training instructions. Did you miss any steps? Revise your instructions to include all steps. (3) Think of something you do well. Write instructions for someone else to practice the skill you selected.

Let's have more ideas! Leecy


I've been AWOL from this discussion for a couple of days. Two young mothers that are in our lives are dealing with devastating news. One mom just learned that her 6 month old daughter - who appeared in perfect health - has a significant heart disease and will require a heart transplant. The other friend is 22 weeks pregnant and just learned her baby has Potter's Disease (the baby did not develop kidneys in utero.) While these situations are tragic, the overwhelming experiences of these families as they learn how to communicate with teams of doctors, specialists, and manage a complicated processes and language made me rethink the direction I was going to go with my next suggestion with a lesson.

Based on my week's experience, I want to include a lesson on communication. I can't think of a more appropriate addition - professionals in the health field need to learn how to communicate with parents, parents need to learn how to communicate with doctors, and WIOA requires our leadership and educational opportunities for soft skills. So, here's what I would like to add this week: 

Lesson: Developing communication skills with medical professionals. 

After participating in this lesson, students will learn how to effectively communicate with medical professionals. 

  1. Have students journal their experiences with doctors and other medical professionals. Invite students to share their experiences in a large group. (Caution - some information may be sensitive, so make sure you allow students to participate but not necessarily share their information with a large group.)
  2. Use the Parent Companion website to practice questions / answers. Have students practice asking questions for clarification so they can understand what is being shared. (As an extension, you could invite a guest speaker from your local health department if possible.)
  3. Build vocabulary skills with the Kids Dictionary. Use graphic organizes such as a four square.

I also invite you to review this document on health literacy in adult education and hopefully you can use it as a springboard to add more lesson ideas. I'd love to have some math experts add math suggestions. 



Hi, Everyone. Since  this forum encourages collaborative lesson planning, we might want to consider together what that means. The following short review discusses three ideas on how to collaborate. 

Sharing is Caring: Three Ways to Maximize Collaborative Lesson Planning (Inside Higher Ed)

When you finish reading it, please comment on your reaction. How can we promote collaborative planning in our communities of practice? Your ideas, are vital to our growth!

If you have a lesson plan that you would like us to help you integrate, drop into this discussion and we'll dive into it with you.

Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP


Leecy and others,

I have been leading several collaborative writing groups where the product was a published advocacy paper, not a lesson plan. These were not necessarily groups of people who had known or worked together before the group began, and few in the groups had done collaborative writing of this or any kind. All were volunteers. This experience may have some similarities with collaborative lesson planning, so here are some suggestions, a "first draft" of How to do Collaborative Lesson Planning:

  • Develop the Lesson plan using a Google Doc where all the versions, edits, and comments are automatically archived.  Granted, for some, there will be a learning curve, but it is not steep, and because Google Docs is free, versatile, and not likely to disappear soon, I think it's a good investment of time for most educators to learn this useful tool.

    • Ask each person in the writing group to choose a color of text (green, blue, brown, and purple, for example, are easy to read and to distinguish colors; some colors are not) and write their name in that color at the top of the document, and use that color when they add something new to the document.  This way, as the lesson plan is being developed, everyone knows who wrote or added what. At some point, after the lesson plan seems mostly done and discussion about it has ended, and before a final edit, the group leader -- or someone -- should remove all the colors so it is easier to read for editing and proof reading.
    • Agree on a lesson plan format, something simple like: 1) Topic area(s) and Context; 2) standards and/or learning objectives/competencies/intended outcomes; Materials and Preparation; Activities; and Assessment of Learning. Note, categories can always be refined or added as the lesson is developed.
    • Discuss if it is important to know -- and to introduce in the first section -- where this lesson plan (might) fit into a larger curriculum.
    • Discuss if the integration of technology is important in this lesson plan (e.g. use of search engines for learners' research on the topic, the use of slides or other presentation software, for learners to present what they have learned; a scheduling app for the teacher, and/or students, to keep track of what group(s) will be/are doing what activities when;
  • Consider/discuss having one or two real-time meetings, for example using Skype, Zoom, or free conference call software, where people can meet and talk with each other and work through the expectations of the lesson plan design project in real time
  • Consider/discuss where the details of the ongoing project can be discussed: on the Google Doc, in a public or private LINCS micro group, in the LINCS Reading and Writing group, in a Google Group, or other free online work group that has a threaded discussion feature?
  • Discuss how the lesson plan will be published and disseminated: on LINCS, in OER Commons, someplace else?
  • Evaluate how the lesson plan project went, and decide whether or not to continue it, and to develop other lessons, and how the process could be improved.

In the spirit of collaborative lesson planning, I welcome questions additions, and disagreements about this draft. Perhaps others here have also had experience with collaborative writing -- and collaborative lesson planning -- projects. I would be interested to hear your thoughts about this "how to" draft. Perhaps together -- collaboratively -- we can make some improvements or come up with something better. I eagerly await your thoughts

David J. Rosen


David and all, I like the points you bring up specifically around setting conventions like the color of text each person uses. This is very important when more than two people are involved because it can get very difficult to figure out who made what additions. 

Another factor to consider is that the group needs to establish early on how edits or changes to other people's work are to be handled. It can be very frustrating to log in and see almost everything you have contributed changed or even removed because someone "improved" upon your suggestion without any discussion. I have found comments to be very effective way to eliminate any frustration in the editing process. Simple fixes like spelling or grammar can be fixed by anyone, but if you want to suggest a change or another option, you may wish to do it as a comment. The comment threads in Google Docs become a mini forum of sorts all centered around one piece of text you highlight. As the discussions get resolved, the comments are easily discarded. 

Another suggestion on the publishing and dissemination of the finished product. Google docs has a sharing option that makes the entire document into a public web entity if you wish. The document gets it's own web address which can be shared with others in any number of social media venues as well as email. Additionally, if the name of the document is specific enough, anyone can type in the name of the document in a search and the document will show up just like any webpage might. 

One other thought.... I have participated in many online collaborations with many variations. I have found the following elements of collaboration most effective and rewarding for all those involved. 

  • Traditional lesson plan formats do not seem flexible enough for the many parties from many states and programs. Instead, we have had much more success developing a sequence of product based activities that combine to form a learning thread or sequence.
  • Activities always had variation suggestions in the notes. These variations offered ways to differentiate the activity to either extend the activity or to further chunk the activity out more for learners that needed to progress in smaller chunks.
  • We may not have always had time for fully fleshed out evaluations, but we were all in agreement that it was important to determine what "meeting the standards" would look like for each of the skills the group identified as focus points in the activities. Establishing what meets the standards was more valuable than fully fleshed out rubrics because some of us would only have rubrics with 3 values (1, 2, 3 with 3 meeting standard) while other programs had rubrics with as many as 6 (with some calling 3 meeting standard and some 4) different evaluation values! Most were quite comfortable with knowing how we would identify success as the primary focus knowing that we all could then fill out the other values as needed in our situations. 
  • One of the powerful aspects of collaborations was that we all brought different ideas and options to the process. I have been frustrated in many face to face collaborations when all these wonderful ideas are forced into one choice with the learner having only one option. We developed wonderful linear paths, but those paths excluded so many other valuable options that could have been along that path. The best collaborations have been the ones in which all the different ideas can be developed and presented as part of that learning thread. This was easily done by using the term Option. At any phase in the learning path, to meet a goal we could easily include options in that step or stage. Learners quickly identify that when instructions start with Option 1.... Option 2 .... they are seeing a menu which they can choose as they wish. Often this encourages learners to offer great suggestions that can be then added to the options. Some of the most powerful options I have seen came from learners who were inspired to see that a group of teachers felt it was important to have options available at many phases of a learning pathway. 
  • Unlike traditional collaborations, digital collaborations like this create living documents. As suggested in the last bullet point, a new suggestion is easily added into the activity flow (lesson) and others can comment and suggest edits just like we all did in the original process. When done well, the learning pathway is always adapting to the successes and challenges everyone experiences to make a richer learning experience for a wider audience. This is quite a contrast to many other experiences in which a lesson is quickly judged as worth keeping or should be thrown out. 

Our lessons need to be flexible and digital collaboration can be very helpful in facilitating flexibility. This may require a shift in what we consider the end product to be. Simply producing a linear path that then has a few extenders may be a great first attempt at digital collaboration, but there are so many other benefits that can be achieved if the collaboration thinks of the creation of a learning pathway that may have multiple options at multiple points. One might think of a choose your own adventure book as a similar experience with the exception that every choice one makes, the key learning objectives are still engaged in and there are products that offer evidence of what mastery has resulted. We may all end up at the same place on the path, but our experiences to get there can be quite different. 

Just some thoughts that came to mind as I read David's great suggestions!


Hi all,

Interesting article. I love the idea of collaborating to write curriculum (and gave a talk on it at COABE). I'm interested in the possibilities of using online tools to connect teachers in adult education. For example, Google Drive is a great way to work together. We have been building a lesson set on evolution for more than a year. More than 10 teachers have worked on it and have given input. And we just started building an earth science lesson set

Twitter communities (see #mtbos) have done incredible work in sharing curriculum, reflection, and pedagogy. I think we can do something similar in adult education. 




I'd like to briefly summarize all that has been shared. The purpose of our discussion is twofold: 1. To model ideas about how we can come together and develop a comprehensive lesson plan that fits the needs of adult learners and contextualizes instruction to a career path. 2. To develop instruction that integrates academic and soft skills into the occupational training designed to prepare CNAs to succeed in the workplace. 

  • We started this example with instruction that can be used in the classroom for CNAs to help them learn about blood pressure.
  • Moving forward the next ideas were about teaching hand washing and germs. Combined, these ideas start to frame the skills students need to develop to be successful in a healthcare field.  hand washing and germs
  • With these ideas so far, we have resources and associated learning objectives. To move that into the adult education classroom, we can expand on them to include reading and writing. As one colleague said, "If someone is interested in working with me to develop this as a CNA healthcare-contextualized reading lesson and wants to suggest the reading content and  comprehension questions, I will develop the lesson plan, and we can then share it with the Reading and Writing and perhaps Science/Health Literacy CoPs. These questions would also included the integration of technology as they will be built using Google Forms. 
  • We then moved into vocabulary development for health care professionals. Students need to develop an understanding of the language around them, they need to communicate with supervisors, and they sometimes will be communicating with families. While the Parent Companion resourse isn't as natural of a fit as the examples above, it models how to practice commuication - a soft skill needed by everyone. Additionally, when building the vocabulary. this online medical dictionary is a wonderful starting point. (We can really start breaking down the idea of a prefix or a suffix.)
  • For more examples of what this can evolve into, check out Lesson on Evolution and Earth Science

I know many of our members have resources and ideas. We would love to build on them. Consider sharing your input and let's see how great our final project will be. 

Kathy Tracey


Kathy, thank you for summarizing our progress to date and suggesting next steps. I love the idea proposed by your colleague. I propose that he/she develop a lesson plan, to which everyone will add ideas or actual materials to promote academic skills to that plan. Let's do it.

1. Let's agree on a plan format. Does your colleague have one in mind? If not, I am delighted to share a simple way/template to incorporate the lesson itself with the contextualized reading and writing (or other) activities to the package. Oh, and please introduce your colleague to whom we are very grateful! :))))

2. David, you suggested posting the lesson template on Google Forms (Google Docs?) as a collaborative platform. Are you still willing to do that?

3. Shall we add the Integrating Technology group to this equation? I'll do that right away! Makes great sense to me!

Reactions? Suggestions? Leecy Wise

We thought you might be interested in reviewing what is meant by "integrated," also called "contextualized" instruction in terms of the activities you are invited to contribute here. The  resources below provide a good description of what we mean. There are many, many other resources online since this is a very popular topic, as it should be.

I describe integration as the process of addressing academic and other skills within the context of occupational training. Why? Because that's how we learn best as adults. In fact, I have invented a new (as far as I know) term to describe non-integrated instruction, the kind traditionally served to adults in our program. I call it "stripped instruction." I suspect you can imagine why.

Two Resources

  1. "Integrated education and training (IET) policies address the challenge of helping individuals who have basic skill gaps to qualify for middle-skill jobs. These policies encourage the adoption of program models that allow people to develop or refresh basic skills such as math, reading, or spoken English while simultaneously training for a in-demand occupation or industry." (LINCS Resource Collection, Integrated Education and Training Policy: 50-STATE SCAN, published by the National Skills Coalition, 12/2017), and
  2. "Curriculum integration takes a variety of forms, but in general, it is an attempt to connect academic and career and technical instruction in ways that will prepare students for further education or training, employment and careers... "As discussed in this paper, curriculum integration not only joins academic and CTE content, it also incorporates academic, CTE and work-readiness standards and employs project- or problem-based learning focused on 'real-world' issues relevant to students’ lives and interests." (Integrating Curriculum: Lessons for Adult Education from Career and Technical Education, by Kathleen Chernus and Donna Fowler, September 2010) Also in our LINCS Collection:

If you have other resources to share, you are invited to do so. The more the better. Leecy

You are invited to participate in COABE's free Webinar: Integrated Education & Training: A Service Model for Adult Education Across the Spectrum," Aug 25, 2017 2:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada). "Integrated Education & Training (IET) is a promising practice based in adult learning theory. Through IET programs, adults seek goal-oriented, relevant, practical knowledge." Read more about it HERE.

Register HERE.

After attending, please return to this forum and let's continue to collaborate in developing an integrated activity (not a complete lesson plan unless you wish). The activity will focus on occupational training, which also integrates reading and writing tasks in the process, which relate to the occupational segment.

The Occupational Segment: Imagine that your students are interested acquiring home-building skills. They are learning how to build stairs for a deck, following the instructions at . This site provides very simple and well-illustrated building steps, which include a video. 

Your invitational challenge: Browse through the short instructions for the activity above. Next, return to this forum and comment on one reading or writing activity that you might add to the experience so that students will enhance their academic skills (in addition to math) in the process of building a stairs to a deck. (BTW, commercial truck drivers also have to use similar measure for dealing with road gradients.) 

Example of integrating a Reading or Writing activity : After building the stairs as a model, if not in a real situation, students will write out instructions without referencing the lesson steps. OR Students will make a list of new terms that they encountered and develop flashcards on

Your Turn: How would you integrate the activity? Drop in with your examples!

If you don't relate to the health activity suggested earlier or to the building activity suggested here, add your example of an occupational segment that we can integrate with reading and writing activities.

Let's Integrate! Thanks. Leecy

Leecy Wise, Moderator
Reading and Writing CoP