Almost any preschool program or childcare uses it. Thousands of ECE websites revolve around it. Why is theme based learning so popular? Can you use this at home with your children too?
Theme based learning works on the same principle as immersion learning. If you want to learn Spanish better, you immerse yourself in Spanish to easier facilitate the absorption and understanding of the language. For children, this works the same way with almost any topic or idea. Themes can be incorporated to cover all areas of learning and can be instrumental in helping children learn concepts. They are able to experience all aspects of a concept over an extended period of time (1-4 weeks for most themes) and become as knowledgable as possible.
Using the idea of a farm for a theme, we can more closely examine how create one. First thing to do is brain storm things related to farms. This can be songs, objects, characters, creatures, phrases and products. Then, start filling those things into a lesson plan or into simple categories to work with. Be sure to include activities that are guided and independent to attract all types of learners. Here are some examples:
Art– Fruit and vegetable prints
Math– Cow-nting Cows
Science– Animal Mom and Baby matching, or How does corn grow experiments.
Construction– Build a farm with blocks and toys (tractors, cows, sheep)
Dramatic Play– Big Red Barn; hoe and rake toys; overalls, boots and straw hats
Literacy– Punk Farm, The Little Red Hen, Mrs. Wishy-Washy’s Farm
Music– Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Sensory Play– Grains (oats, corn, wheat) or seeds
Meals and Food– Where did it come from game
Once you have gotten your ideas sorted out, you basically have your entire theme planned. That’s another reason theming is so popular- it’s easy to come up with entire plans from just one idea. If you happen to get stuck for an activity for a learning area, there are several websites like Everything Preschooland A to Z Teacher Stuff that have tons of ideas categorized into themes and subject areas.
The only thing left for a classroom teacher to do before you begin to teach your theme to the children is to install your theme. Put out theme related materials out in the environment for the kids to have full access to. Try to make sure that theme items are near items that the children are already familiar with their location. To encourage the use of your theme materials, some of the regular curriculum materials can be replaced or updated with the new things. Once your theme is completed, all the materials can be packed into a theme box and reused with another group at a later date.
For parents wanting to try theming at home, follow this guide in a similar fashion. Take the kids to the library to get the books that fit your theme, watch a movie or a play that fits in. Help your child find a website that has activities supporting your theme. Put together costumes to act out roles with your child. Most importantly- read, sing, talk and have silly fun with your child about your theme- that’s what will make it most memorable!