Here’s an example: Suppose your weekly theme is rainbows. The books you read will naturally be about rainbows. But go further into the theme: Arrange your math manipulatives in rainbow order. Investigate the science and math of a prism. Add rainbow stars to your rewards chart. Hang student-created rainbows from the ceiling. And naturally, you would wear a rainbow of clothing throughout the week and ask your students to do the same.
Here are the advantages to you and your students for using a themed unit:
- It helps your students learn to develop connections. If your curriculum is somewhat disconnected and about many different topics throughout the week, your students won’t see the continuity. However, when you use a themed program each week, which may be a sub-unit of a larger theme, you help their brains to make connections during class time and beyond the regular instruction day.
- Do you feel that your creativity has become stifled by standards and requirements? Then the use of a themed unit may free you from this feeling. Whenever you force the connection between two unrelated topics, the right brain takes over and controls your thoughts. For example, if you introduce a theme on geology during your curriculum, you’ll begin to see the many different ways you can incorporate rocks and gems into your math, reading, and social studies lessons.
- When you have a theme upon which you can base a test, essay, or journal entry, you can easily adapt interesting assessment strategies. Going back to the geology theme, you might recommend that your children use colored chalk (a mineral) rather than crayons to color a picture. Nobody ever said that you must use only crayons or pencils!
- Thematic units allow children to independently develop their own learning approaches. When you present a themed topic on Monday, by Friday you’ll find that your students will be asking for more and more ways to develop that theme using the established curriculum.
- Thematic units can be time-savers because you can teach several topics at one time. That includes adding character education to every aspect of your curriculum. When you integrate character education into math, science, and literature, you show your children that integrity can infiltrate every aspect of their lives.
Weekly thematic units can be interesting and fun to develop. Create your list of topics with your students and then pick one each week or month as your curriculum focus. Watch as their interest spirals throughout the week, the month, and the year!