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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Dr Heba Sadek - Teach students, not subjects: the benefits of cross-curricular teaching and learning

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I'm going to talk about teaching as

students rather than subjects and I'd

like to tell you who am I because how my

teaching evolved is related to how it

all began

I'm a physician a doctor a gynecologist

I've practiced medicine for 12 years and

then I moved into education and I became

addicted to it and how it started was as

soon as I moved into education I was so

excited about enriching my students with

all that information I had and I wanted

to bring my medical background into

teaching biology I was so eager to teach

them and I just wanted to make the

lesson so special because of all I had

to say and add and the insight I wanted

to give them I wanted to enrich their

experience so I was eager to cover the

material and go beyond and as any

teacher starts you need to cover the

curriculum do it the best way possible

and then I was eager to take it a step

further take them into the medical field

and give them background and then my

teaching changed over time as you get to

teach year after year things progress

and you realize it's not about the

syllabus it's about the student and it's

not just giving them a curriculum it's

about a whole worldly experience where

that we're all talking on the same page

but it seems we're just talking about

different paragraphs on the same page

so when I started teaching I realized

that I was making a huge mistake by

assuming assuming that the students knew

things from other classes I assumed that

they knew English I assumed that they'd

taken chemistry and they understood what

they've taken in the chemistry class I

was assuming they understood terms that

were common between different Sciences

and that's the huge mistake when you

assume things about the students you're

starting off on the wrong foot I don't

know how many of you have experienced

that in a classroom you're just eager to

move ahead with

checking where the students are coming

from what are they bringing into the

class from their other subjects so you

encounter all those interesting comments

from the students and the most

interesting one on the spelling count

and that was what spelling always counts

and when you tell them that the amazing

response would but this is a biology


why would spelling count and like you'd

wonder how can spelling not count and

like if you know your spelling why are

you going to mess it up in a biology

class why would you mess it up in a

chemistry class of course it counts and

then the next point is am I going to

lose marks for the wrong spelling and

like my god all the wrong spelling I get

now I don't have a feel and I see a word

I don't know if it's right or wrong

anymore is the T before the H or the age

before that I don't know in the past I

could actually look at the word and say

doesn't spell it's not spelled correctly

but the number of wrong spelling I think

I see more wrong spelling than correct

spelling so I try to introduce them to

the concept that a letter makes a

difference and the spelling changes the

word so can you guess what was I

teaching when I got all those different

variants in biology where where were we

when we got those piqué and piqué and

piqué and piqué ER we're talking about

birds believe it or not and this is what

you get yes the number of times I got

birds have beakers I was very jealous of

the chemistry teachers obviously they're

having a strong impact on my students

but I had all different forms and trying

to get them to understand that a letter

makes a difference and when you change a

letter you can change a word it's huge

I'm not trying to intrude on the English

language but I mean like come on a

letter makes a difference and you get

that I always tell them cat hat

mad fat bat that you change words from

adjectives nouns verbs just by changing

one letter

so they have to be aware that a letter

makes a huge difference not only in the

English language but also makes a

difference for us and biology and so

when I started to teach biology in depth

and catering to the needs of my students

I've tried to bring in why language

counts why spelling counts and English

isn't just about the English teachers


so I bring that when I'm talking about

DNA and I try to introduce them to the

fact that letters make a difference when

you change one letter in the DNA this is

a completely different gene a completely

different condition we get diseases just

because one letter has been changed in

our DNA that's huge

spelling counts because obviously

students are used to just spelling words

with just the common letters so I put an

M and an i and the T and it's gonna work

out so sometimes when they're stuck and

they don't know which is which they try

to make a cocktail a mixture of all the

letters and just you find your way

around if it's mitosis or meiosis the M

is there you'll find your way around you

know all those posts would I tell you if

you can read the first letter and the

last letter you know you'll work out the

what's in between and this is how my

students actually spell most of the time

so trying to get them to understand that

mitosis is not meiosis and the examiner

is going to treat both the same and

you're not just giving me letters and

I'm going to unravel them on my own it's

not gonna work that way

so yes ureter urethra urea urine if any

of you are familiar with the biology

course a letter makes a difference so

just having a U and an R isn't going to

cut it out for the glycogen glucagon and

glycerol just having G and L and why

it's not going to cut it out and the

number of students who just can't be

bothered to learn the spelling can see

the importance in the significance of a

letter it is huge and I've been teaching

for 16 years and every year I get that

question does spelling count will I be

penalized for the spelling and I tell

them they will be they will be penalized

so I do my best to penalize them as much

as I can trying to get things in order

but the problem is it's not about

the English language is it it's not just

who's responsible for that so you try to

bring in some background it's not just

the English teacher who's going to teach

them the English in the sciences the

English in the math so I've learned over

the years to try and widen their scope

and go back to the first level and

believe it or not I never thought I

would be doing that but I go back and

see where the words or originally came

from the Greek origins the Latin origins

and I try to explain what those are and

what they mean in the origin of language

and then from there when the students

understand that life becomes a lot

easier for example when we talk about

mono die and try once you explain to

them that mono means one and die too and

try and boil poly then when we talk

about biological molecules would we move

into advanced levels they can find their

way they can find their bearings by

moving from large molecules to smaller

molecules just by working out where it

all started and it is fascinating

because in the beginning I just used to

teach them this is called monosaccharide

one this is disaccharide two blah blah

blah but when I got to introduce them

that mono di tri poly and then when I

start teaching they can figure it out on

their own so I tell them okay so what if

we stick to Manos together and go

becomes die what if we stick plenty

together and they can figure it out so

it was fascinating because at the

beginning when I started teaching I was

so eager to cover the material I just

gave it to them but when I started to

develop a better technique of teaching

them where it all came from they can

figure it out on their own and

definitely we go further and stays with

them it really stays with them they

figure it out on their own so for

example photo when we talked about

photosynthesis they have a problem with

the spelling it's so long that you don't

know what it's about but when you

introduce to them what photo means light

and they tell you a photograph and they

realize that a photograph is a

reflection of the light a graphing of

the light then things start becoming


then they bring into the class oh you

mean photo no wonderful to sell in

physics no wonderful to electric energy

and it all comes in so I'm not just

teaching them the biology I'm teaching

them the origins of the words and

they're taking that into their other

Sciences so it's not a matter of the

English for the English teacher and the

math for the math teacher it's not the

way it should be working for the

students you see a lot of that in

different subjects especially with math

we always assume that tedious students

know how to calculate things and when

they don't you just wonder what the math

teachers are doing you don't know how to

do graphs what's wrong with you you

don't know how to do calculate

percentages duh and then it struck me it

was amazing because you'd have those

students who are studying a level

scoring aids and stars and they're a

level and they come to a biology class

where they can't figure out how to do a

scale for a graph or they can't

calculate percentage increase or

decrease and like that was shocking and

I thought what's wrong with my students

it's just my students I always end up

with those students and then I've talked

to other teachers know it's not just my

students or must be the students in our

country and then thanks to the Cambridge

panel we started talking together across

the countries across the borders and we

suddenly became aware that it's not a

national problem it's an international

problem that students put subjects into

compartments so they think the math is

for the math class where they get their

minds all worked up their calculators

out and then in a biology class once

they get 10 times 2/3 and they I need to

get my calculator I can do this on my

own and that's shocking but true

they put subjects into compartments and

that's a problem for us when you're

teaching a science when you're teaching

math when you're teaching geography but

at the end of the day it's a problem for

the student because he's not learning

for himself he's not getting an

education he's putting math and the math

compartment he'll get to that when he's

in a math class he'll take biology in

the biology compartment put it in that

locker and

the year is over let's close the key and

throw it away that's not an education

he's just passing an exam passing on to

the next level and because of the way

we're teaching it and the way he's

receiving it is that each subject is an

isolation from the others so you get

math and geography everything in its own

place in its own compartment biology

teachers aren't supposed to talk about

rivers h2o something to do with

chemistry no we talk about everything we

bring biology into everything we're

talking from biology we move on to

geography we move into chemistry we move

on to English and we talk about spelling

we have to overcome this problem we have

to make the student think it's not

thinking out of the box is just

connecting all those compartments

together where they can just stick in

the compartment for physics and get out

kinetic energy and use it for biology

stick in chemical reactions and get it

into biology from biology use diffusion

and use that in chemistry we have to try

and get the students to stop putting

subjects into compartments so the math

skills the units I don't know if any of

you have worked with students who are

trying to convert from one unit to the

other at an older age that you do have

problems and sometimes the scary thing

they'll tell you okay so I'm changing

from millimeters to micrometers is that

when I multiply by a thousand or divide

by a thousand and that's because they're

just trying to memorize they're not

thinking am i moving from the bigger

unit to the smaller unit they're not

thinking they're just trying to memorize

so they know it's multiplied by a

thousand or divided but he can't figure

out which way because he's not thinking

about it he's just trying to recall

that's the problem

percentages this is this is a talent and

the skill that we use in all the

different sciences not just math and yet

they do have a problem once they leave

the math class they have a problem with


graphs huge huge issue working out the

scales I couldn't understand why

students are having problems working out

scales in a graph when they're an

a-level maths

and every year I tell my students I

don't understand why are you having

problems with scales until one of my

students was was very kind enough to

answer and she said because in math they

give us the scales already made we never

had to work out the scales and math and

I was one huge eye-opener I thought that

they learned how to do scales they

didn't because in the math classes they

were giving graphs with the scale and

just they just had to plot their points

so I started working with the math

teachers and discussing this with them

and we tried to work our way where we

integrate the subjects together so I

tell her when you're working up

percentages I will give you things from

my biology class where you can work on

percentages so it's not just math

problems they're doing they're doing the

math but the problem itself is set as a

biology problem as set as a chemistry

problem you're working percentages but

they can relate it to their other

subjects we started talking about graphs

and I said okay so well let's get to

combine the skills together don't give

them the scale and let them develop the

scale this way we're both achieving

better end and once we started doing

this the graphing improved in all the

three Sciences because the students were

putting math in a compartment physics

chemistry biology each in its own so

once we started to integrate those

subjects together the skills we started

working on the students skills rather

than the subject itself

we all did benefit and of course above

all the student did because he developed

the skills for doing so algebra you

always hear the students saying why are

we learning X and why I never go to the

grocery store and tell them how many X's

are how many Y's is this why are you

giving us a gyprock so in biology we

have something in genetics called 2 n +

1 n when we want to refer to the number

of chromosomes in a cell so I tell them

ok you always ask about algebra x and y

here we go we're using one n into

can someone tell me why we're using one

n into n and then they start saying oh

because here you have one set of

chromosomes and another set you have two

and I go great so what's the point of

using N and they sit and think about it

and then tell me of course because any N

is going to vary from one species to the

next and this way they never forget it

for me in biology and now algebra makes

a bit more sense for them in their math

class so trying to integrate the

different subjects has just helped us

move ahead in all directions

another example is using same term

different subjects so for example

diffusion they meet diffusion in

chemistry they meet diffusion and

biology and they meet it in physics and

yet the sciences are not tweaking their

definitions to come together so they

actually memorize a definition in one

subject and memorize another for another

subject once you introduce them through

actually what's happening understanding

what's is happening in this process

things have changed because now they

apply the same term the same definition

across the border to the same term and

they understand why this is diffusion

this is diffusion and in physics as well

it is diffusion because now they

understand what they're talking about

rather than sitting there and memorizing

three different terms three different

definitions for one term the same with

kinetic energy they find this in physics

they come in the biology class we talk

about kinetic energy chemistry they talk

about kinetic energy so we started

collaborating the science department the

different teachers when we're talking

about these subjects at the very

beginning getting these tools out of the

way and then in each subject when it

comes up we're referring to each other

so in physics they're talking about

kinetic energy in biology in chemistry

they're talking about kinetic energy in

physics and the student is becoming all

rounded it's not just kinetic energy in

separate subjects but its kinetic energy

as it is per se catalysts they find

catalysts in chemistry we find can we

have biological catalysts and biology so

again same term in different subjects

we also have same concepts but different

terms for example in chemistry they call

it chemical reaction in biology we call

the chemical reactions occurring in the

cells metabolism in BA in chemistry they

say synthesis when they're building

bigger molecules in biology we call it

anabolic reactions catabolic reactions

the opposite of synthesis so once you

start talking about those concepts in

the different classes once they

understand what's actually happening our

molecule is building up or dividing down

and becoming familiar with the different

terms used for the same process

the student becomes more of an intellect

he understands the concepts and he can

apply them from one class to the other

rather than having each constant

isolated and he can't correlate and he

just adds to more confusion and he

reverts to memorizing rather than

understanding the subject so thanks to

the panel the cambridge panel teachers

started talking across the border and we

started realizing that it's not an

isolated problem and i suppose this is

why just any opportunity one gets to mix

mingle with teachers it's amazing

because the insight all the teachers

share it's amazing how the students are

the same all over the world and it's

amazing how all the teachers as Peter

was saying we all care we all care each

in his own way but when we collaborate

we can just make a bigger and a bigger

bigger impact on the students and help

them even more so thanks to the

Cambridge panel we started talking about

the problems with math and they actually

came up with an amazing solution now

they have those amazing books about math

in sciences a book for math and biology

math and chemistry and math and physics

and it's amazing and astounding how huge

an issue it was for each one of us in

their own compartment so we were each

subject in their own compartment

suffering from a certain problem but

when we started talking about it we

realized it was an international problem

and Cambridge started doing something

about it and they really did help us

with those amazing books where they're

talking about the math

and each science and this way we can

actually collaborate not only each on

his own but altogether I had once a

student who was struggling with physics

class but he was an artist and then I

was just wondering what can I do with

him and then one day I told him ok I

want you to draw every lesson we take I

want you to do a poster for us that

reflects our lesson and amazing results

we had posters in the classroom for

every chapter he understood his physics

he aced his physics exam until now we're

in contact and I won't tell you how long

ago that was but amazing amazing he just

moved he moved 180 degrees from someone

who hated the subject doesn't understand

it doesn't care and all of a sudden he

just understands all the topics and he's

keen to sit in class and listen so that

he can actually express that in art form

to move ahead we all need to change if

we're not gonna change no we're not

gonna improve but we keep on getting the

same results and even worse the way I've

evolved in my teaching was because I see

my students and their needs so I didn't

read it in books as much to start with

but the point is you see the needs of

your students and you you change a way

to actually accommodate their needs so

if a teacher isn't changing he has a

serious problem and this is why

sometimes older teachers set in their


tend to be hostile to younger ones

thinking they're coming out with all

those fancy ideas but that's not the

case because now you have students with

a very short attention span being on all

those apps and all that screen time so

you have to change yourself or else

they're going to be left out as a

teacher it is time-consuming and the

only way to do this is to collaborate

together and I was wondering if we're

actually creating this

compartmentalization in our the way

we're teaching because even class

teachers who teach all the subjects they

have a set table where they say now I'm

teaching math get out your math books

and the teacher puts on the math hat and

then put that away and now we're

teaching social studies so I wonder if

we we are actually creating that


in the early stages it's our fault that

we do that maybe if we work on the

younger ages integrating the different

subjects together maybe that will bring

the students to be all rounded and

trying in any subject they take to bring

in the different concepts from the

different subjects maybe that's the case

maybe we are contributing to that but

definitely it is an issue and it's

time-consuming but it needs teachers to

come on board once they see the results

because it's very funny you meet those

teachers and the staff room on the

hallways and we're all making jokes or

we're tired and depressed can you

believe that they can't make a scale oh

my god they couldn't change centimeters

into kilometers and we're just talking

about it frustrated and yet we're not

doing anything but once you go out and

reach to someone how can we do something

about it together then it becomes a

different story and it becomes less

frustrating because it's not just you

you're not just having that problem on

your own and we are creating an answer

to everyone we're solving the issue for

everyone across the border I mean

students back home they have this taboo

about physics they're not very fond of

physics and they all think we're not

going to understand physics so there was

this year where I was teaching chemistry

and physics and the book was mixed so we

were working on those chapters and

they're having fun and luck and then I

go okay so next term we're starting


what was that physics oh my god like you

should have told us why well physics is

hard was it so they again they have

these set ideas and theories and they go

into a class and sometimes I tell them

physics is just a subject with a bad

reputation because they come in with

that notion that is going to be

difficult and it turns out difficult but

when they take it not knowing what it is

it works out so yeah you're absolutely

right yeah so in order to do that though

we need to plan together we need to find

a way to reach out to each other and

this Peter said earlier we have a


teachers are overworked they don't have

the time there are those that are

resistant to change and when you bring

out these notions and these ideas they

just think either that you're

daydreaming or someone was sitting at a

desk daydreaming of

things just to give us more work or they

just refuse to think or attempt it

because they think it's not gonna work

it's not gonna work out you want more

time out of me

but when you actually reach out to

individuals see how you can help them

integrate their whatever they need into

your subject and once they start seeing

it working you can actually create a

cycle it gets off like a snowball but

you have to start at some point so you

need your teachers to come on board you

need to convince them to try it out

maybe just by like we were talking right

now bringing art so talk to the art

teacher and see what they can do PE

teacher bring in your the music teacher

sometimes Wow you should see how kids

rap about elements and they make songs

and they just love it and they remember

everything because they made it into a

song so just bringing in different

subjects yes yes it and it gets it

exciting for them rather than just

sitting there with a hard copy and going

yes yes I know my settlements ABC so

trying to make it more fun for them

actually by integrating and bringing in

the different subjects it makes it fun


so English in all the subjects and again

we need to work together

it says together it will make our life

easier because if we work across the

border at the end the student will

actually become better off so we should

actually work on the why and how why

things are what they are and how they

are working where they came from and

once you work on those basics with your

students you'll be astounded that they

can actually project forward take that

and they work out the what and when when

I started teaching I used to target the

what and when so what's going to happen

if we have a blocked vessel what's going

to happen when the person has a heart

attack and they would just sit there

blah or they try to figure it out and it

wouldn't work but once I started

explaining to them things from the

scratch how the vessels are working how

they're arranged what is actually

happening along the time and then they

come up with the problem so what's going

to happen when a vessel comes blocked

and they ask the question and they come

forward with the answer

and this is what really is education

this is what education is all about to

figure things out so we want to teach

them to figure their way around to think

for themselves and we're just there to

facilitate just give them the tools to

work their way around so we're just

giving them the tools and they will do

the rest and they do an amazing job with

the modern technology they go out and

they research they come up with

questions then they go out and research

those questions and the results are

astounding you'll be surprised just give

it a try so we all agree language is a

challenge in itself definitely and it's

not just the English teachers problem

it's everybody's problem language is a

barrier and if we were going to improve

ahead move ahead with our students they

need to overcome that barrier and it's

not the responsibility of the English

teacher alone it's everybody's

responsibility we also have cultural

barriers that come with the barrier in

the language so sometimes students have

a problem figuring out what is meant by

the English they're reading because the

words they understand each word

separately but the concept itself is

strange to them so again part of

teaching the language is the culture

that comes with it the background the

phrases compartmentalization is a

problem it is there it is a fact and in

order to move ahead then we need to try

and find a way to overcome that and the

only way we're going to do that is by

collaborating together so it is a

problem know what the problem is and

move ahead and the Pete was saying that

in the earlier keynote presentation we

need to address know what the problem is

so we can address it and move ahead as

long as we ignore it and we don't admit

that it's there we're not going to move

ahead so working together across the

curricula is the only way ahead if we're

going to make a change in the long run

we are teaching for life we are trying

to relate everything we're taking

everything we're teaching them to their


and we wanted them to be a better person

we are teaching the student and not the

subject if we start with administrators

being on board they bring in the heads

of departments and then the heads of

departments working together they can

collaborate they can see where we can

have a certain topic crossing between

chemistry and physics or math and

biology or math and physics and they can

start setting okay this year let's work

on this point the graphing with the math

and the chemistry and physics if we just

work on one topic a year or per term we

are going to move ahead because

automatically once they start working

together in the different departments

it's going to feed up it's like a fire

spreading out



The Description of Dr Heba Sadek - Teach students, not subjects: the benefits of cross-curricular teaching and learning