Here is an often overlooked fact: the tighter the biblical integration, the more effective it is. So what is “tight” integration? A tightly integrated course, unit, or lesson is one where course objectives (not just content) and integration objective overlap significantly. In the abstract, that may sound confusing, so let me illustrate using some Spanish 3 content. [Note: I am not a Spanish or grammar expert, so please forgive any silly mistakes in Spanish or grammar. But I think that these concepts will be of help to those of you who are the experts.]
While working to integrate some Spanish unit plans with a friend (who has helped me greatly with this post), we came across a unit plan that included an objective on expressions with conditional and future tenses. The aim is that students would understand the conditional and future tenses. In order to succeed in this unit academically, students must grasp that some ideas, situations, or promises are conditional. Then, they must comprehend what separates the conditional tense from other tenses. Finally, they need to be able to identify the conditional tense and when to use it. Amazingly, tight integration can help with these. Check it out:
Are some statements conditional? Yes. Anything that relates to what a person would do, would like to do, or could do. Examples: 1) I would like to study more, but I don’t have time. Me gustaría estudiar más, pero no tengo tiempo. 2) I would visit, but I don’t have the money to come. Yo visitaría, pero me falta el dinero para ir. 3) If you wouldn’t lie, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting caught. Si no mintieras, no tendrías que preocuparte por las consecuencias.
What separates the conditional from other tenses? These relate to a certain condition that often could change or has changed. Concerning the conditional phrases above, #1’s condition relates to studying (lack of time is affecting study), #2’s relates to a condition of finances (I am in a situation where I don’t have enough money to travel), #3’s is about honesty and worry (those who are in a state of honesty can also be in a state of confidence). Obviously, a Spanish teacher would likely present these ideas and examples in Spanish.
When should I use the conditional tense? Whenever one wonders (“Would she?” or “Could that happen?”), uses conjecture (“They must have known.”), or speaks to a probability/possibility (I would go with you if…”). Elijah used this type of speech while making fun of Baal’s prophets in 1 Kings 18:27, “At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’” Balaam also says to his donkey, “If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now,” (Num 22:29).
You might be thinking, “Kelly, I come here for help in integration. If I knew you you would keep blabbing on about grammar, I would have avoided this article.” (Note: that is a use of the conditional tense.) So how does this help us see tight biblical integration?
First, we can use the Bible’s rich conditional content to help students understand core ideas. When thinking about conditional phrases, we see that there is a world of difference between saying, “I would help you,” and “I will help you.” The first is conditional and the second is future. In John 14:3, it is good that Jesus said “I will come back and take you to be with me.” That future statement is much stronger than a conditional version might have been. However, we also see God using a conditional phrase to long for people to be wise and listen. Look at Deuteronomy 32:29, “If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!”
Second, we can understand important theological truths through the vehicle of academics. Conditional phrases can show us following Christ is serious business. Peter wrote, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them,” (2 Pet 2:20-21). Did you catch it? “It would have been better…”
Maybe most importantly, tight integration supports academic and worldview learning at the same time. When students think of conditional terms, the biblical worldview can support their understanding of grammar. And their Spanish grammar will help them understand biblical truth. As they learn the grammar that supports correct use of Spanish, they are becoming more and more equipped to understand God and God’s Word. The better they know their Spanish, the better they know what God teaches. The integration objective is fully overlapped with the academic objective. That is tight integration. In this scenario, the better the academics the better the biblical integration because the two have become one.
Now, you might be tempted to say, “Well, if all my lessons were about the conditional tense, this would be easy.” (Note the conditional tense of that sentence.) But I contend that tight integration is more available across a myriad of units. To illustrate, in another Spanish 3 unit, the students learn about the difference between saber and conocer. One word relates to knowing about something (Example: “I know a lot about Michael Jordan. He won six NBA titles.” (Yo sé mucho de Michael Jordan. Ha ganado seis premios del NBA.) and the other relates to knowing something (Example: “I know Michael Jordan well. He is coming to Thanksgiving at my house.” (Yo conozco bien a Michael Jordan. Vendrá a mi casa para celebrar el Día de la Acción de Gracias. ) Couldn’t this be taught in a tightly integrated way to show the difference between knowing about Jesus and really knowing Him? Couldn’t students grasp this important academic concept, have it illustrated by the Bible, and be challenged in their faith at the same time? Yes, yes, and yes.
I will give you one more example. A later unit in Spanish 3 focuses on circumlocution. This is the skill of talking circles around an idea or concept: speaking about something without naming that thing directly. Think of the game Catchphrase in which one tries to get his team to guess a word without saying the word itself. For example, if my word was skunk, I might say, “An animal with black fur and white stripes that may emit a bad smell.” Circumlocution is a valuable teaching methodology because it helps students build a more complete idea of a subject.
The tightly integrating teacher can illustrate and explain the concept of circumlocution with some biblical examples. One simple idea is to have them circumlocute the concept of sin (or other important term).As they think about what the concept really means, their understanding will grow. They might talk about falling short, missing the mark, dishonoring God, divine treason, failure to follow, lack of faith, etc. Therefore, the task of circumlocution in Spanish 3 might provide them with knowledge and and understand that challenges their theology and worldview.
Let me close with two key thoughts:
1) In your biblical integration, you should aim for tightness over creativity every time. Being creative is great, but creativity should be a servant of mission… it is not the mission on its own. The more your integration objectives overlap with your academic objectives the better.
2) Tight integration will help you as a teacher and your student outcomes. This kind of biblical integration, where there is little distinction between biblical objectives and course objectives, will make your class stronger academically and biblically. There should be no tug-of-war between the two areas. When you are tightly integrating, academics supports worldview and worldview supports academics.