Kindergarten teachers use thematic units to engage children in the learning process with a variety of lessons and projects in subjects from art and music to science and math. A common theme keeps student learning while touching on specific knowledge and skills throughout. Funderstanding, an online resource for teachers and parents to stay current on education topics, notes that thematic instruction can be a powerful tool for designing and integrating curriculum but requires substantial resources.
Theme units allow kindergartners to delve into one particular subject in all curricular areas. Under a woodland animal theme, for example, the topic of hibernation could include a science lesson about which animals hibernate and where, a song about hibernation, an art project of a bear in a cave and a math activity where the children add and subtract bears. When the same theme occurs across the curriculum, the children are able to revisit the same ideas and apply them in different ways, resulting in a richer understanding of the subject.
According to The Kennedy Center, integrated theme units allow teachers to be creative and encourage adaptation. Engaging themes that relate to kindergartners' lives also help them get excited about learning. Common themes include seasons and holidays, animals, nutrition and community. A kindergartner who loves animals but doesn't necessarily love math might get excited about adding and subtracting when it's tied to an animal theme, for example.
Builds on Prior Knowledge
Kindergarten themes often play off of what children already know, such as holidays and seasons. Having prior knowledge gives young children confidence and opens their minds to learn new information. When the same concepts keep popping up, children can continue to build on prior knowledge with each new lesson. As the students' understanding becomes deeper, the teacher can keep layering on new information to broaden the students' knowledge base. Themes help relate students' learning to real-life concepts, such as the calendar, days of the week, dressing for the weather or taking care of your body with good nutrition.
Demonstrates Understanding in Multiple Ways
Children learn in different ways. Some kindergartners enjoy performing hands-on experiments, while others prefer to complete worksheets or listen to the teacher read a book. Some kids like to sing, dance or role-play, and others like to create art projects using a variety of materials. When the teacher provides learning activities on the same theme in a variety of subjects, every child is given the chance to demonstrate his understanding of the topic in multiple ways.
Dana Tuffelmire has been writing for DMS for three years. She taught elementary school for seven years and earned a master’s of education degree with a specialization in literacy. She is currently a stay-at-home mom to two sons. Her dream is to one day write a children's book.