Using Thematic Teaching In The Classroom

Using thematic teaching in the classroom is a great way to keep your kids engaged. Use these tips to get your thematic themed units started.

If you’ve been around here a while, you might have noticed that I love thematic teaching. I’m a firm believer in using fun, engaging themes in the classroom across a variety of lessons. Have you ever wondered why though? You’re in luck! Today we’re talking all things thematic teaching!

What Is Thematic Teaching

Alright first off, what exactly is thematic teaching? Thematic teaching simply refers to teaching a variety of subjects while using one central theme throughout all the lessons. To use thematic teaching, you would select a theme and then plan all of your activities to fall in line with it. Some great examples of common themes to use in the classroom for cross-curricular learning include:

  • seasons
  • holidays
  • science-based topics (plants, bugs, weather, animals)
  • social-emotional based themes (“All About Me” or “My Family”)

When choosing a theme, you’ll want to make sure you choose one that can be used across many subjects.

Ideally, once you decide on a theme, you’ll find a way to make all of the activities and lessons you plan for students reflect that theme in some way.

This could look like swapping out the books in your class library, adding themed materials to your writing center, planning some thematic math and literacy centers, as well as choosing crafts and science experiments that go along with your theme.

Benefits of Thematic Teaching

So, why should we consider using thematic teaching? First off, it’s so much fun for students! When students are having fun they are more engaged. And. . . we all know that engaged students are learning students.

Thematic teaching is also a great way to dig deeper into concepts that often don’t get as much time on our daily schedule. By combining topics, like plants, snow, or Abraham Lincoln, with skills, like CVC words, writing, and sorting, you can make some fun and engaging lessons.

Here are a few other benefits of thematic teaching:

Thematic Teaching Fall Lessons
  • offers a connection to the real-world
  • presents opportunities for emergent learning
  • helps children develop a love of learning
  • reaches children with diverse learning styles
  • makes lesson planning simple and cohesive

Using thematic teaching makes it fun and easy to plan a whole week or month full of lessons around one central theme. I love that once I decide on a theme, I know exactly what type of activities I’ll be looking for. Using a theme streamlines my lesson-planning process and makes everything feel cohesive as each lesson unfolds. It also saves so much planning time.

Choosing Themes For Your Classroom

When it comes to choosing a theme, the key is to land on something that will be appealing to your students and relevant to the time of year. For example, during the winter months, I love using themes like snowmen, penguins, or polar bears. These are fun themes for kiddos with plenty of great material to tie into our lessons. In the spring, I love focusing on a theme like bees. Using bees as your primary theme opens the door to studying the life cycles of bees and learning new vocabulary words for bee body parts.

Thematic Teaching Winter Lessons

Choosing a theme that applies to the time of year will make it more appealing to students since they can find a connection to their own life.

Choosing a theme that is time-relevant will also allow for emergent learning experiences. These opportunities might look like the chance to build a real snowman in the winter or observe bees when playing outside on a spring day.

When choosing a theme, you’ll also want to keep in mind that it needs to be broad enough to find a variety of activities that will work well with your theme. The best themes are ones that you can use across all areas of your curriculum including writing, math, reading, science, art, sensory and more!

Making Thematic Lesson Plans

Once you’ve settled on a theme, it’s time to start planning those activities! When making thematic lesson plans for your classroom, it’s fun to consider all the ways you can use that primary theme to teach many different skills. Here are a few things I like to include when putting together a new thematic teaching plan:

  • Picture Books – this one is a must! Before we start any new theme, I like to swing by the library and find some new books to read as an introduction to the unit.
  • Vocabulary Cards – these will help your little learners grasp new words that are relevant to your theme.
  • Writing Activities & Prompts – these are great to use alongside those new vocabulary cards as a way to showcase what students have learned in their own words.
  • Math & Literacy Centers – adding some new, themed centers to your rotation is a great way to keep your theme top of mind while helping kiddos practice essential math and language skills.
  • No-Prep Pages – using themed print-and-go pages like Color By Code is a great way to tie your thematic teaching together.
  • Crafts – kids love crafts and they are a great way to promote some creative expression when working with thematic teaching units.
  • Science, Sensory, Fine Motor & Cooking Activities – when it comes to thematic teaching, adding some special projects to the mix will make all the difference when it comes to keeping engagement high! I always try to make room for a few of these in our lessons as well.

Thematic Teaching All Year Long

So now that you’ve got an idea of what this looks like, you might be wondering how exactly to put it into effect. My favorite way to use thematic teaching is by sitting down and mapping out themes for the whole year. I like to spend about a month on each theme so that we can devote a fair bit of time to it. The length of time you choose may vary, depending on the age of your students and the amount of material you’d like to cover. However, I wouldn’t go with less than a week. That gives you time to make sure you can cover your theme.

Switching the theme out every month or so will allow for high student engagement all year long, no matter what skill you’re focusing on. Some of my favorite themes to use throughout the year include:

Each of our study units helps students focus on learning new things within our theme with mini-readers and informational reading passages. Then we move on to writing and vocabulary activities to reflect on what they’ve learned. During center time, we use math and literacy centers that keep in line with our theme as well as no-prep practice pages to make sure we get some skills practice in.

Finally, I love to sprinkle some crafts, cooking activities, sensory tubs, and science experiments to add some extra fun. Not to mention, it’s extra fun to pick out a brand new stack of library books with kiddos each time we start a new theme to build excitement and overall love for learning.

Get Started With Thematic Teaching

Thematic Teaching Apple Lessons

Teaching this way has become a staple in my life. Whether in the traditional classroom or homeschooling, thematic teaching can make a big impact. My students love it so much and it offers such a great way to learn about a variety of new things!

I hope I’ve inspired you to give thematic teaching a try in your classroom. This method is such a fun way to mix things up. And, you can still make sure to help your students get the continued practice they need for success!

Try Thematic Teaching for Free

Try out thematic teaching in your classroom for FREE with this Community Helper thematic teaching sample pack. Just click the image to sign-up to receive your free thematic teaching resources for community helpers.

Free community helper thematic teaching activities.

If you’d like to take a closer look at how we use themed units be sure to check out the following blog posts:

You can also find all of the themed units in my TpT Shop if you need some done for you thematic units.

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Using thematic teaching in your classroom doesn't have to be complicated or take a ton of prep work. Use these tips to help you kick off thematic teaching in your classroom this year. Whether you are looking for seasonal, holiday, or just for fun themes, you are sure to find exactly what you need to keep your students excited about learning. #homeschoolstyle #thematicunits