Why are themes important in a preschool classroom?

Discussion in 'Early Childhood Education Archives' started by Amanda, Feb 16, 2003.

  1. Amanda

    Amanda Administrator Staff Member

    Feb 28, 2001
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    Hi all, I am referring this email to you because I know you all give great answers. She will be checking this site for responses. :) Thanks, Amanda


    My name is Melissa and I am trying to find information about, why themes are important in a preschool classroom. I'm trying to find this information in your website, but I can't seem to find anything. Is there information in your website that I am looking over, or is there any other sites that can help me on this?? If you could give me any information, that would be great!! Thank you!

  3. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

    Jul 19, 2002
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    Well, I would say themes make the kids use their imagination more. It makes things more exciting. You can tie in all sorts of tasks into themes.

    I don't have anything scientific to prove it.

  4. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Sep 30, 2001
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    In preschool you're especially trying to make learning meaningful(actually at all grade levels!) but at this age it's so important to start with the familiar (family, home, community) and then work out 'into the world' - themes are one way to connect a child's life experiences to learning. Themes allow you to integrate the curriculum- reading, art, math activities, songs, finger plays can all be linked to your theme- there are many websites that can help with that. I do agree that some themes can be 'out there' in terms of children's undestanding- My cousin in Florida wrote a holiday letter marveling over how much her two year old is learning about in preschool including Australia! (Like I'm thinking learning about her neighborhood would be so much more meaningful and beneficial!)
  5. AngelaS

    AngelaS Cohort

    Jul 22, 2002
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    I becoming less of fan of themes the longer I teach. I think that most of the time, they are not done 'correctly'- that is, the goal of making learning meaningful for the child is not accomplished because the focus gets shifted to cutesy stuff. For example, if the theme is bears, children should be learning skills they would be hitting on even without the theme, such as one to one correspondence, only since there is the bear theme, they can use bear manipulatives. They should still be exploring directionality in print, so they can do this when they read books about bears. The problem is that many teachers have kids sing a bear song, draw on bear shaped paper, and eat Teddy Grahams for snack... all well and good, but what exactly was the educational purpose? The focus becomes to teach little kids about bears, and that's not why themes are there. Themes are supposed to tie learning together and make it more palatable for kids, not to become the focus of learning. Half of the time, the kids don't get the theme, anyway- if you don't believe this, ask them what has been their theme for the past month (or what have they been learning about) and listen to what they say. I've tried this, and trust me, they'll say "Corduroy!" or "Numbers!" before they can tell you the unifying theme. And if the theme is more abstract than bears, such as Dreams or Night and Day or Australia- you better believe they don't have a clue. Little ones will latch onto specific concepts and acitivities within the theme, so that's all that I would bother reinforcing. Even now that I teach 3rd grade I find that the kids still can't articulate the theme- they tell me a specific book title or activity. :confused:
  6. clarnet73

    clarnet73 Moderator

    Apr 4, 2002
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    Something I was told often in my Ed. classes is that we link all new learning to stuff we already know... themes help, because then the students have something to base the new knowledge on. Kids don't think in terms or "this is math. this is science. this is English" like adults do, they think in broader terms... by integrating and linking things, each child can get something different out of it. :)
  7. charli

    charli Guest

    All of the replies above are true and very interesting. I did my master's project on themes. What Angela said is very true and I would like to offer a bit of advice. Many times, such as the teddy bear themes, the teacher is looking for something cute and something she likes to do. Like Angela said...what do they learn from that? I love themes, but you do have to pick a broader theme, one that addresses objectives that you need to be teaching. An example of this is take the teddy bear theme and turn that into "Forest Friends." This is a theme where you could still do some of your bear ideas but take it a step further into hibernation, food, homes, ect. of forest animals. This is something I have done in first grade. One of our gr 1 objectives this month is to recognize and understand important people in our history. So we have our monthly theme "Holiday Heros." We are doing research and finding out what we can about Lincoln, Washington, MLKing, and George Washington Carver. Many of the books, poems, and activities we are doing will help us understand this objective.

    Themes are important for children to experience and tie new concepts to prior knowledge,,,so don't forget them all together,,,just make sure the themes you choose are important and broad enough to teach objectives, not just time fillers.

    Feel free to email me if you would like more info on coming up with themes that you could teach at your level. Good Luck!
  8. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Thank you everyone for helping me find an answer to why themes are important... I really appreicate it!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!!

  9. Guest

    Guest Guest

    opps appreciate... hehe sorry...

    I really do appreciate everything!!
  10. CorbyND

    CorbyND Rookie

    Sep 2, 2002
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    I use thematic unit planning in my pre k classroom and find it to be very beneficial in maintaining student interest and participation. While Angela makes a valid point in that sometimes themes involve cutesy things teachers want to do rather than what the children are interested in I take a different approach. I like to involve my children in the planning process and do so by holding community circles where we discuss what themes we are going to explore. I ask children for their thoughts and suggestions and use this information when I write objectives I need to teach. For example when one class discussed ideas for a dinosaur unit they wanted to make a dinosaur cave, taking this into consideration I wrote the following objective " Students will be able to practice measuring skills by using rulers as they measure materials to construct a dinosaur cave." Another way to make thematic unit planning both inviting to children while at the same time teaching specific objectives is to put a twist on center choices. For example instead of just setting out the box of dinosaurs for children to play with, pair them with unifix cubes and ask children to measure the dinosaurs by determining "how many unifix cubes tall" each dinosaur is. Here, you are providing a meaningful experience by connecting the dinosaur theme with an opportunity for students to explore the concept of measuring by using unifix cubes instead of a ruler.

    I think the key to sucessful thematic planning is to have objectives or specific goals you want children to achieve through the course of the unit. Having clearly set objectives helps maintain focus and unit structure ultimatly providing experiential learning opportunities for children.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2003
  11. Seich30

    Seich30 Comrade

    Feb 20, 2002
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    The biggest reason that I like themes, it that it exposes children to language (animals, transportation, insects, etc..) that they may not learn in everyday classroom lessons. We talk about those topics, but not as a whole, where the students can begin to relate objects to categories. I don't teach in themes all year. I focus mostly of kindergarten readiness skills and cover about 3 two-three week theme units in a single year.
  12. Unregistered

    Unregistered Guest

    Hi Melissa! Themes are important in all grade level classrooms because they set a framework of thinking in a child's mind where they can "file away" what they have learned. This is based on how we think. I can not name the person whose idea this is, but it is based on research. One remembers things that they can "attach" to some other learned information that can be connected to what you are tyring to teach. More simply put, it creates a "file" to put new info inside with other like pieces of "info". Granted, a kdg student's file cabinet is not as large as an adult, but YOU are building one up every time you use themes in your classroom.

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