“How will I find enough time to teach so many core content subjects and functional skills, too?” “What can I do to make lessons more exciting for the students and myself?” Teachers, if you are asking any of these questions, I have a two-word answer: thematic instruction.
“How will I find enough time to teach so many core content subjects and functional skills, too?” “What can I do to make lessons more exciting for the students and myself?” “Are there any ways to make collaboration with other teachers and related service providers easier?” Teachers, if you are asking any of these questions, I have a two-word answer: thematic instruction.
Organizing your instruction thematically can benefit all of your students. Children become more engaged, familiar, and situated in the learning process when they learn via themed units (Reutzel, 1997). According to Vardell (1995), learning is more sensible and identifiable for students through thematic units when these units are based on familiar topics. Planning your lessons around familiar topics can ensure interest and enthusiasm in instruction (Kovalik, 1994).
1. If you are interested in teaching thematically, the selection of your theme is very important. The theme will need to support instruction in the areas of math, reading, writing, science, social studies, and functional skills. A large theme is more powerful than a smaller one. For example, you will be able to include a greater diversity of lessons if your theme is The Food Chain as opposed to a theme about carnivores. (A Thematic Curriculum Unit based on the food chain will be available from T-TAC ODU in early 2011.) A list of potential themes and activities for your use can be found at TheTeacher’s Guide site.
2. Encourage related service providers and other teachers to participate in your theme. This will help students generalize the information to other environments and foster some excellent collaboration be- tween professionals. Themes that involve motion or physical activity can be supported by the physical education teacher, occupational therapist, and physical therapist. Music and art teachers can create activities that relate to your theme. Encourage reading specialists and speech & language pathologists to structure their lessons around the chosen theme.
3. A powerful theme will spark interest in the subject matter. Select a theme based on a favorite book, activity, or a current season/holiday. Be sure to consider the age, gender, and interests of your students.
Using a search engine to locate “thematic unit” resources will yield numerous results. The A to Z Teacher Site boasts a list of over a hundred potential themes. Each theme includes multiple links to teacher-made activities, lesson plans, and materials.
T-TAC ODU has several thematic curriculum units available for your use. Each of these units, or TACtics, in- cludes lesson and activity ideas to help you address specific Aligned Standards of Learning. Visit the TACtic section of our webpage to order one or more of these units.
Kovalik, S. (1994). Integrated thematic instruction: The model. Kent, WA: Susan Kovalik & Associates.
Reutzel, D. R. (1997). Integrating literacy learning for young children. In C. H. Hart, D. C. Burts, & R. Charlesworth (Eds.), Integrated curriculum and developmentally appropriate practice (pp. 225–254). Albany: State University of New York Press.
Vardell, S. M. (1995). Thematic units: Integrating the curriculum. In M. R. Sorensen & B. H. Lehman, (Eds.), Teaching with children’s books: Paths to literature-based instruction (pp. 129–136). Urbana, IL: The National Council of Teachers of English.