Thinking Thematically

When I was in college, the big push was towards thematic teaching.  No longer were we to teach in isolated chunks of information, but we were to pull it all together under one big umbrella theme.  Because I learned that way, my brain is now wired to teach that way.   So when I approach a big unit of study, I not only am thinking about how my social studies (for example) will be taught, but I am trying to bring in literature, make a math connection, work out science experiments....all under the big umbrella of the unit.

As most of you know, I am in the midst of my most favorite unit, the American Revolution.  When I set about planning this, I broke out my trusty old organizer.  I use this when I am entering into any sort of planning.  It helps me to see what it is that I want to accomplish and how I am going to do that.  It also helps me to visualize how things are going to go, how I will keep it all tied together....everything. I left it at school though...so I can't show it to you. 

teaching in room 6      mrs. moormanBUT...if you could see it, you would see that I don't go into great detail about exactly what I will do.  I just write basic notes and the standards I am covering.  I use this as my rough draft if you will.  Then, I get into more detail in my plan book.  However, just starting with this little organizer makes a world of difference for me.  Here it is for you.

Now, trust me when I say that it isn't always easy doing this.  With all of the mandates, I sometimes have to stretch to make my connections.  I honestly usually start with my language arts unit (since that is what is most "policed" for us) and work from there.  I am lucky that my math book is more of a tool instead of a strictly enforced program.  That gives me some leeway.

So I am going to leave you with some pictures of the past (pictures of pictures...so sorry about the quality).  You can see in each of these rooms that the theme dominates all that we do.  I honestly believe that if you make connections they kids learn better and more effectively.  So that is what I try to do.


thematic teaching     teachinginroom6.blogspot.com  5th grade blog
This was when we studied the Oceans.  There is poetry, geography, compare and contrast, art, book reviews, science experiments, and much more (but that is what you can see in this picture)  And, yes, that is butcher paper painted to look like the ocean...we really went all out :)

This was a Civil War themed room.  There was a lot of research, fact and opinion, biography, art, geography, and much more that isn't visible in the picture. 
We had a Sports theme here (well Cooperation and Competition)  The students wrote about goals, did creative writing, poetry, baseball math and much more...again, you can't see it all in the picture.
This is my favorite room!  We actually turned the whole thing into a California Mission!  There was a lot of research, a science experiment in our "garden", art, poetry, biographies, creative writing, geography, book making....and SO much more!

13 comments

  1. One of my life teaching goals is to move to more thematic teaching!

    Marvelous Multiagers!

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    1. I think because that was my whole undergrad push, it is engrained in my head! When my things aren't somewhat tied together, it makes me bonkers!

      ~Stephanie

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  2. LOOOOOOOOOOOVE themes!! Can't teach without them.
    Blessings,

    Jessica Stanford
    Mrs. Stanford's Class Blog
    My TpT Store

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    1. Does make things more smooth, doesn't it?

      ~Stephanie

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  3. This is something I need to do more...I find it can be challenging with our 5th grade curriculum especially. I really want to spend the summer going over my lessons and units for both 4th and 5th, so I will keep this in mind when I do. Thanks Steph, you are the best!

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    1. I always try looking at what I have to teach and see how it can be connected. There really are ways to do it, but it just takes some digging in and really looking at the content. Good luck with your dig!

      ~Steph

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  4. I LOVE themes!!! I actually just posted a few days ago about how i am so lucky that my admin doesn't make us teach from the textbooks - we follpw pacing guides and standards...I'd go crazy in a world where the text books are required!!

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    1. Our standards and pacing guides are our guidelines too. Though our Lang Arts book is pretty mandatory, as well as science, the math is more of a tool, as is social studies. That is great you are also able to be so flexile Jen!

      ~Stephanie

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  5. I love theme teaching. I taught this way when I first started teaching so many, many years ago. Then, I got away from it...it's slowly creeping back into my life and I love it! Thanks for sharing your ideas and planning page!

    Elizabeth
    Fun in Room 4B

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  6. I LOVE integrating the theme whenever I can! But I feel I haven't done enough of it this year. Thank-you for reminding me how fun it can be - and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the classroom pics!!!

    Jen
    Runde's Room

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  7. I think this looks awesome. How do you choose themes? Are they mostly SS based? How long does it usually take you to cover a theme? Any good websites you recommend?

    April @ ideabackpack.blogspot.com

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  9. I do believe this post was written for me *wink* I was JUST writing you a much delayed follow up email when I saw this blog. I did hit the send button but am wondering if I needed to :) Thanks for sharing your thematic organization.

    Do you start the year with a "classroom theme" or does your Social studies and science content dictate your theme throughout the year?

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