The Reasons Thematic Units in Teaching Are Successful
I love this time of year. Once we reach October, it is such fun for several months. Let’s talk about the reasons thematic units in teaching are successfull, shall we?
You know, I’m such a kid at heart. I still get all excited about the season!
When I was a child, I could hardly contain myself and it was really tough to concentrate in class. We didn’t do a lot of learning using themes, but I wish we had.
Let me tell you, our teachers have it figured out–thematic units work.
As a child, I don’t remember learning through a theme. Of course, that was back when we had desks with a top which raised and used a pencil sharpening which was screwed to the blackboard at the front of the classroom.
Yup, it was pretty much like this.
What is a thematic unit in teaching?
“Thematic unit is the organization of a curriculum around a central theme. In other words, it’s a series of lessons that integrate subjects across the curriculum, such as math, reading, social studies, science, language arts, etc. that all tie into the main theme of the unit. Each activity should have a main focus toward the thematic idea.”
As most people know, a teacher needs various teaching methods to reach the students. Thematic teaching is sly. It encourages learning using a back door approach.
Sort of like saying, “Oh, neat! Let’s celebrate Halloween through costume design today.” Here is a lesson to use.
Generally, students are very intrigued.
The Reasons Thematic Units in Teaching Are Successful
When I was looking for some information which support this approach, I found a lengthy blog post about the subject. Here are some highlights from it at Forensicoutreach.com:
Thinking outside the box: encouraging understanding beyond the syllabus
Consider this: was there ever a time an issue (perhaps in the arena of current affairs) was raised by a friend or a colleague, to which you hadn’t very much to contribute due to insufficient interest, and therefore knowledge, in that particular area? Once you’d done your homework, so to speak, it probably provoked several questions in your mind that weren’t previously there — simply because you hadn’t had enough material to really examine it.
The involvement of a relevant subject (or theme for our purposes) — drawn into the classroom to help drive a particular unit objective home — has been shown to consistently elicit intriguing questions from enquiring young minds for very much the same reasons. Simply put, entrenching the curriculum firmly within a wider, topical context allows students to look at the same matter in a radically new and different light.
It’s this new lens that allows students to probe the subject with relative ease, and makes thematic teaching (in some cases) more effective than a simple reading assignment.
Making it work: including resources not commonly utilized
We’ve found that classrooms have (perhaps in days of yore) invested in several teaching aids that are seldom used. It’s a frequent finding as we step into the shoes of a teacher for a day at the over one-hundred different institutions we’ve visited: a skeleton in the corner; and unused chemistry slime set; or even crime scene tape, found underneath the cupboard in the room’s front standing area. Thematic teaching allows you to make use of these valuable resources in ways that aren’t limiting or formulaic. Build your unit theme with what is already available to you.
Thematic Units are Wonderful
In another blog post from edtechlens.com, more points are made:
1. It’s more fun to teach and learn using a theme. (Boy, that’s the truth!)
Chris believes fun is a key ingredient in learning. “If children are happy, they are confident, and so are teachers. This magic combination makes teaching and learning so much more effective. Children become inspired and wider-thinking. Teachers may still be exhausted, but now it’s an exhaustion that makes them feel fulfilled and valued,” she says.
2. It harnesses curiosity to motivate learning. (Probably the most important asset!)
“To me it’s the most natural way to learn,” says Chris. “A child or adult finds something that intrigues them, maybe a foreign stamp or a stone. They want to know more and so they start on a journey of collecting ideas and information. With the stamp, the child finds out about its source, the geography of its people, the music of their homeland, the art work within it. They investigate its richness, draw its setting, sing its songs, write letters to find out more, investigate in books and on the internet. The learning is never sluggish, but is vibrant and exciting.”
3. Educators transition to being facilitators of learning. (Yes, they do.)
“The teacher is no longer a provider of facts copied from the board and learned for homework,” Chris says. “Instead, because the boundaries of exploration are far wider than the teacher can predict, he or she becomes a learning manager.” A learning manager guides children while keeping open the opportunity for self-guided discovery.
4. It teaches children how to learn. (Such a necessary part of learning–becoming an independent learner.)
With theme-based learning, children are thinking for themselves, following the thread of a topic to explore and discover more. Chris says, “It gives them a taste of moving from one related area to another related area and one builds on another. It’s a way of learning throughout life.”
Thematic Learning in Drama Class.
We use thematic learning in a drama class, too. In fact, I would imagine every drama teacher uses a theme without even thinking about it.
Here is one for tableau using a holiday theme:
Here is another on the Broadway musical, A Christmas Story
Because I know they work, I created several thematic units which are available through my store, Dramamommaspeaks at Teacherpayteachers.com.
Here is one for Halloween:
or a smaller one--Bundle: Halloween Drama Lessons, Designing and Fun
If you’d like a free guide And lesson plan from me, click here LESSON PLAN
or a Winter themed one–Bundle: Drama Lessons and Plays Winter Theme
If you ask me, bundles are the way to go. You always get a discount of some kind and many times I give another free lesson just as a thank you for purchasing.
I have many more, so do check them out at Dramamommaspeaks
Each lesson includes:
- a letter to teacher
- warm up
- teacher’s script
- materials list
- source list
- video clip list, hot linked for you
So, if you are thinking about using drama in your classroom check me out.
What thematic units are you using at present? How are they working for you?
I’m always interested in hearing what a teacher is doing or needs help. These thirty-eight years of teaching should benefit someone other than myself, you know? Ask away.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org