If you've been on the early childhood education scene for any amount of time, then you've probably heard the word theme quite a bit. Using them to teach early learners is wonderful, but suppose you've never quite understood what thematic teaching is, let alone how to do it. Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of this teaching style and how it can change the way you see learning altogether.
What is thematic teaching?
Also known as thematic instruction, this method of teaching involves choosing a specific topic to teach one (or more) concept(s). The theme chosen is then demonstrated using a variety of information and resources. Thematic teaching is based on the idea that kids learn best through holistic, real-life experiences. That is what makes this form of teaching (and learning) most unique! Instead of focusing on rote learning and memorization, kids are able to make better connections with concepts explored because of daily life examples and experiences.
How to Teach with a Thematic Approach
Now that you're familiar with thematic teaching, let's look at ways to begin using this method in your daycare, classroom, or homeschool setting. There are four basic steps to consider.
Step 1: Decide on a theme.
There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing a theme:
Step 2: Choose curriculum and resources.
Once you have picked out your theme, it's time to locate curriculum, resources, and materials you'll use to teach it. Thanks to the technological advancements and information-age we live in, you'll be able to find an over-abundance of curriculum and resources. If you know you'll be using a theme year-after-year consider activities that can be reused year after year, such as learning centers, and games.
Here are Pre-K Printable Fun, you'll find over 250 resources all just a search and click away. With busy-body kids in mind, a good rule of thumb is to gather resources that will cater to their curiosity, natural exploration, and kinesthetic (hands-on) tendencies.
Step 3: Create lesson plans.
This is where it can get fun, and intimidating at the same time. Some teachers struggle with making sense of resources and formulating day-to-day lesson plans. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Decide how long you want the thematic unit to last. Most teachers find that a week to two weeks is a good starting point. Some themes can be stretched over the course of an entire month. The choice is yours, but also pay attention to your student's cues. If they are really enjoying a particular theme, consider keeping it going. Create a theme calendar as pacing guide for your year.
Consider subjects and developmental domains. In other words, map out your lessons plans according to important subjects and milestones, such as: literacy, math, gross/fine motor skills, dramatic play, creative expression, STEM, and so on. Use a lesson planning template similar to these, to take notes.
Include a variety of educational activities. With your subject areas in mind, you can begin plugging in educational and developmental activities. This can be theme-related books for story time (and the literacy area), games, puzzles, art activities, field trips, and the like. The idea is to give your students plenty of opportunity to engage, explore, and learn.
Step 4: Stay prepared by being organized.
The key to easily implementing your lesson plans is to be organized. Take some time to order, download, print, and/or assemble the things you'll need for your chosen theme. Another good idea is to decorate your classroom or learning space to coincide with the theme. Remember to change out any books, dramatic play items, independent learning supplies, etc.
To keep your lesson plans, curriculum, and resources organized, consider using some of the following storage solutions:
There are many benefits to using thematic teaching in your daycare, classroom, and homeschool. Not only do they make teaching and learning more cohesive, but it helps kids understand concepts in ways that closely resemble how life is experienced beyond the classroom. Use the steps mentioned above to begin easily implementing this method in your classroom!
Already using a thematic teaching approach? What's your favorite theme? Let me know in the comments below!
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