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What Are the Benefits of Using the Thematic Approach With Kindergarten Students?

by Dana Tuffelmire, studioD

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 focused on a broad concept while touching on specific knowledge and skills throughout. PBS Teachers cites that thematic units provide one of the best vehicles for integrating content areas in a way that makes sense to children and helps them make connections to transfer knowledge they learn and apply it in a meaningful way.

It's Cross-Curricular

Theme units allow kindergarteners to delve into one particular subject in all curricular areas. Under a woodland animal theme, 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.

It's Motivational

According to PBS Teachers, integrated theme units are motivational for both teachers and students. Engaging themes that relate to kindergarteners' lives help them get excited about learning. Common themes include seasons and holidays, animals, nutrition and community. A kindergartener 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.

It 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 them up 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.

It Allows Students to Demonstrate Understanding in Multiple Ways

Children learn in different ways. Some kindergarteners 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.

About the Author

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.

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