Preschool teachers can use thematic units to engage children in the learning process by offering a variety of lessons and activities surrounding a common theme that is integrated into all content areas. From art and music to math and pre-reading skills, thematic teaching provides a vessel for all the core subjects to be taught in an engaging and effective way.
Explore Preschool Theme Types
The possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing a preschool theme. Dinosaurs, winter, and farm themes are always popular, but you might be surprised at how much your preschoolers will love bridges, color theory, or deserts.
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What is Thematic Teaching?
A theme is a topic that is explored in the preschool classroom in multiple ways. Teaching by theme keeps a child’s learning focused on a broad touching on specific knowledge within the umbrella topic. Most preschool teachers agree that thematic units provide one of the best avenues for integrating content areas. This is important because integrating content among subject areas helps children make sense of otherwise segmented bits of knowledge. It helps them make connections to transfer knowledge, they learn and apply it in meaningful ways.
Benefits of Thematic Teaching
Cross-curricular connections are only one of many benefits of thematic teaching. Other advantages to teaching themed units include:
- making connections and drawing connections from the real world
- builds on prior knowledge
- keeps students engaged by making learning fun
- allows for teachers to create authentic learning experiences
- students have can have a choice in what they learn
- students can better see” the big picture” which is especially helpful for second language learners
- new vocabulary is used more frequently and in more natural settings
- allows children to demonstrate understanding in multiple ways
Drawbacks of Thematic Teaching
As with any method of teaching, there may be a few drawbacks. These might include:
- students may lose interest if theme lasts too long
- students may miss connections if absent
- some themes may be less accessible to children based on culture
How to Plan a Thematic Unit
When planning thematic units, teachers integrate literacy, science, social studies, math, music, and art all around the thematic topic. The children’s culture and environment should be taken into consideration since in the preschool years sharing experiences and participating in shared experiences is an important part of learning. Ideas may arise from the children’s natural curiosity about a subject, such as dinosaurs or the weather, or themes can be created around topics of discussion that naturally arise in the classroom, such as pets, families or the five senses.
The most successful thematic units are those where the children can be involved in the planning stages and voice their questions. This gives them a sense of ownership and a motivation to learn. When inviting your preschoolers to help plan the next preschool theme, come prepared with a few popular ones to choose from based on what your students like. Once your students have helped you narrow the focus of learning, you can move forward with integrating the content areas.
An Example of a Thematic Unit
This is a basic outline of what a thematic unit about plants might include:
- reading books about plants
- learning about the letter “p”
- discussions about caring for the earth and environment
- caring for plants by planting and tending a flower or garden
- observing and measuring a seed’s growth
- counting and sorting seeds
- comparing different types of plants on a nature walk
- singing songs about plants
- using flowers or twigs to paint, rather than traditional paint brushes
- exploring parts of a plant with a magnifying glass and science journal
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