Thematic Units

According to Funderstanding:

Thematic instruction is the organization of a curriculum around macro "themes." Thematic instruction integrates basic disciplines like reading, math, and science with the exploration of a broad subject, such as communities, rain forests, river basins, the use of energy, and so on.

Ten Key Reasons to Use Thematic Units

  1. Encourages the effective use of technology and, in particular, computers.
  2. Makes the curriculum compact.
  3. Demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of learning.
  4. Encourages student interest in learning and increases time engaged.
  5. Expands your assessment strategies (as a teacher).
  6. Makes use of collaborative and cooperative learning.
  7. Makes the learner focus on the mastery of objectives.
  8. Integrates computer skills (for example, word processing) into creative activities.
  9. Models for students the resources used in research.
  10. Moderates the safe access of the internet for students.

The following Thematic Unit Model is based on those found in Chapter 13, "Literature and the Curriculum: A Thematic Approach," of Legacies: Using Children's Literature in the Classroom by Liz Rothlein and Anita Meyer Meinbach. HarperCollins College Publishers, 1996.

Component Parts of this Thematic Unit

  1. Theme. Select an appropriate theme reflecting text topics (curriculum), student interests, experiences, issues, or problems.
  2. Grade Level Appropriateness
  3. Focus. Develop a one-sentence focus statement that summarizes the direction and intent of the unit.
  4. Objectives. Identify three or four specific objectives you wish students to master by the completion of the unit. These can be tied to state and county objectives and competencies.
  5. Materials and Resources. It is advantageous to determine all the necessary materials and resources after the unit has been written. The way, you avoid limiting yourself to a few familiar items.
    • Printed Resources. newspapers, pamphlets, notices, travel guides, junk mail, journals, diaries, letters, maps, advertisements, brochures, flyers, encyclopedias, dictionaries, magazines, booklets, professional journals.
    • Computer and CD-ROM Resources. Educational software, reference works, educational games and simulations related to curriculum, and CD-ROM adaptations of literature.
    • Internet Resources.
    • Audio/Visual Resources. videos, films, filmstrips, movies, slide programs, or overhead transparencies. Records, audio tapes, books and tapes, and CD's.
    • Community Resources.
      • guest speakers
      • field trips
    • Instructional Television Resources
      • ETV
      • Cable
    • Literature Resources
      • Fiction
      • Non Fiction
      • Poetry
  6. General Activities. Develop activities you wish to use throughout the unit. For the most part, these activities will be broad-based, covering the range of curricular areas and reflecting elements of a literature-based program.
  7. Discussion Questions. Include a variety of open-ended questions that help students think about the topic in varied and divergent ways.
  8. Literature Selections. See Materials and Resources above. Select books related to the topic of each thematic unit. For literature selection you may wish to develop a pre-reading activity, a variety of cross-curricular learning activities, and open-ended discussion questions. Select books from a variety of genres.
  9. Culminating Activity. The culminating activity is a project or activity that engages students in meaningful summarization of their discoveries and leads to new ideas, understandings, and connections.
  10. Evaluation. Devise appropriate means of evaluating student progress throughout the unit. Avoid relying on formal pencil and paper tests; select criteria to measure growth. Use conferences, logs, and student journal writing as well.
  11. Related Works of Literature. Select books that relate to the theme and make these available for independent reading and reading aloud.

Thematic Units Sites

Thematic Unit lesson Plan Sites