A thematic approach integrates content areas around a central concept. This allows students to more readily make connections as they learn and gives them immediate and meaningful opportunities to naturally apply what they have learned. It allows for authentic assessment of understanding.Cross curricular thematic instruction creates a flow of exploration and discuss on topic which can increase student interest and engagement in a way that is hard to achieve using segmented learning periods. If a student doesn’t enjoy a particular content area, a theme can help gain attention and encourage participation as the learning is focused on the theme rather than the subject. It can be especially effective with English Second Language learners because it promotes repeated vocabulary and gives more chances for practice.
In the example of apples, a thematic lesson plan might span over days or weeks and include:
Language ArtsOne of the easiest places to begin with thematic teaching is language arts. Gather both fiction and non-fiction picture books about apples for students to read or for read alouds. You can even introduce folk tales through Johnny Appleseed! The topic of apples also easily lends itself to several writing opportunities, such as comparing apples. You could also incorporate apples into your literacy centers with themed pieces, like these apple-shaped alphabet puzzles.
Click on the collage below to download a printable list of apple books.
|Click on the image above for a printable book list!|
ScienceThere are several science topics you can explore with apples such as the life cycle of an apple, the seasonal changes of an apple tree, or the parts of an apple. You could also conduct simple experiments using your senses in apple exploration or testing to see if apples sink or float. A student (and teacher) favorite is making applesauce - your classroom will have a sweet aroma all day and your students will get a tasty treat before they go home!
MathNearly any theme can be adapted to fit your academic skills for math - it's all about thinking outside the box! If you are working on counting, you could read Ten Apples Up On Top or practice putting play dough "apples" in baskets. Or let's say you're working on addition... you can put these apple addition task cards in your math centers and use apple shaped erasers if your students need a manipulative to help them find the sums.
Social StudiesIntegrating social studies in your apple unit may be a little more difficult depending on your location and grade level. You could discover where different types of apples are grown and get bonus points if your community grows apples! The story of Johnny Appleseed is probably the most common social studies connection. Aside from learning about someone in history, you could also focus on John Chapman's character traits, which is also a social studies skill.
MusicSinging songs about apples may or may not help your students learn anything about apples, but it will definitely get them excited about your topic of study!
ArtArt is fun and beneficial for students, but when you need to provide a purpose to make your admin happy, sometimes arts get left behind. By combining your theme with art you make your admin happy and get the benefits of art. For apples, this may mean painting the seasons of apple trees, making prints with apples, or combining writing and art to make apple craftivities.
If you haven’t tried thematic teaching, an apple unit is a great place to start! Resource Ranch offers a wonderful pack of literacy, math, and science apple activities for 1st or 2nd grade. Creation Castle has a thematic apple unit focused mainly on language arts and science that is appropriate for kindergarten or 1st grade.