Primary education: listening and observing
Primary education: listening and observing

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1.2 Cross-curricular case study

Cross-curricular teaching means children are not learning subjects in isolation. When children see meaningful connections between subjects, they become skilled in applying their learning to different problems and situations, and they have a more holistic experience of learning.

Activity 2 Playful learning

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Read the account by Deborah Whitehouse, a primary school teaching assistant, about a cross-curricular project in her school. As you read, try to identify the subjects children are learning.

We had a ‘forensic morning’ in our school, a brilliant cross-curricular morning devised by one of our youngest and more creative teachers. The local community police sent three of their officers along for the morning and 90 children (the whole school) had to solve a crime. We roped in a willing parent to don balaclava and swag bag, who proceeded to ‘nick’ a laptop and make a getaway through the playground, dropping clues as she did. The children then spilt into groups and dusted for fingerprints and took casts of footprints and proceeded to eliminate suspects using clever detecting. They produced wanted posters, collected evidence in evidence bags, putting on protective gear in true CSI fashion.

They made their own police notebooks and kept detailed timings and records of evidence found. One child who struggles with handwriting was overheard to say ‘we have to be neat, we can’t use the evidence in court if it isn’t neat writing’. At this moment, I saw this child make the link between what he was learning in school and the ‘real’ world. He saw the point of it all. That’s what a creative curriculum does, makes learning meaningful.

In the make-believe ‘forensic’ activities, children are learning a number of things: some are related to academic subjects, and others are about skills and dispositions (you read about dispositions for learning in Session 3).

Jot down your ideas about the subjects children are learning, and then check your ideas.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


  • Police notebooks: literacy and language development
  • Wanted posters: art and design
  • Recording timings: mathematics
  • Dusting for fingerprints and making casts: science and technology
  • Finding clues: evaluating information
  • Sharing ideas: collaborative working
  • Eliminating suspects: inference and deduction

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371