Through this post, I will be discussing the concept of teaching preschoolers through Thematic Units. How we can teach through Thematic Units, the different activities that can be done while teaching a thematic unit, and how different subjects can be integrated into the curriculum. I will also be discussing one thematic unit in detail. So let’s get started with this unique methodology of teaching.
Why We Use Thematic Units
A thematic unit is an effective way to keep children interested in the content being taught. It helps children understand the topic better and keeps them interested as the topic is taught in different ways through all subjects. It also saves the teacher’s time as all subjects are incorporated to teach one particular theme.
Planning A Good Thematic Unit
While choosing a thematic unit the teacher should keep in mind the interests of the children and the age of the children. The thematic unit has to be chosen depending upon the level of understanding of the children. It should be engaging and interesting for the children. The teacher should decide the objectives for choosing the thematic unit. Depending on the thematic unit chosen the material that will be needed to teach the theme should be decided. All the activities and the questions that will help the children understand the theme better should be planned well in advance.
The Thematic Unit
When the teacher decides to do a thematic unit in her class the first thing she needs to do is to decide on an interesting theme. She then needs to gather all the resource material or literature relevant to the theme. She needs to plan her activities per subject for the theme. For example, let us consider a thematic unit on “The Cow”.
The classroom should have pictures of different types of cows (zebu cow, Holstein cow, jersey cow) and things related to the cow, for example, milk and milk products, grass, cowshed, etc.
The teacher first needs to gather all the facts and information about the cow that she can share with the children in the class. The teachers must gather interesting facts regarding the topic to keep the children engaged and wanting to learn and know more. For example, the teacher can tell the children about what chewing the cud means and about the cow having 4 stomachs. This information will fascinate the children. The teacher can also tell the children how every part of the cow’s body is used including the bones. All this information can be printed on a sheet of paper distributed amongst the children to take home for the parents’ reference.
All subjects being taught in class need to have the same theme that is “The Cow”. All the activities and worksheets have to be planned accordingly.
To teach phonics/letters for a theme, the teacher has to base it depending on the age of the children in the class and their skill level. For example, if the letters are being introduced to the children, the teacher can create a worksheet with a line drawing of a cow with the letter ‘C’ written.
If the aim is to recap the letter ‘C’ the teacher can make a worksheet with a line drawing of a cow and have phonics on the paper, for example, A, B, and C written 3-4 times each. The instructions should be to circle only the letter ‘C’.
If the teacher is doing a phonics/letter lesson in her classroom to revise the letters she can have a tray with the following item in it:
- Cube of Cheese
- Toy Cow
- Picture of a cow’s udder
The teacher places the phonic/letter cards in front of the tray and asks the children to pick the correct letter corresponding to the things in the tray. For example, U for an udder, etc.
Also Read: Introducing Alphabets to Preschoolers
While doing a lesson on numbers in class, the teacher can prepare a worksheet based on the skill level of the class and ask the children to complete the worksheet.
A fun hands-on counting activity for children can also be done in class. The teacher can have 10 small cutouts of cows. She can put a ribbon across the classroom. A number card is given to each child. Depending on the number the child has got she/he has to peg that many cows on the ribbon. This activity is good for teaching number values to the children.
Also Read: Teaching Numbers to Preschoolers
Art and Craft
Art and craft play a vital role in the early learning stages of the children. It enhances their imagination and creativity. Art and craft are a medium through which children can express themselves freely.
Teaching children to make a cow from a paper plate or a paper bag cow puppet is a great activity that keeps the children interested in the topic.
Giving a line drawing of a cow and asking children to color the picture in the appropriate color is a great way to teach children the color of a cow. Colouring is good for their tripod grip and helps them to write in later stages. Children can be asked to complete the picture by drawing the scene around the cow. This enhances their imagination.
Also Read: Art and Craft Ideas for Preschoolers
Cooking is something children love doing. Making something for themselves gives them great pleasure. Moreover, when children are making things on their own they learn better as they use all 5 senses in the process. Children also learn the names of the ingredients that are used in the cooking process thus it enhances their vocabulary and they learn about vegetables, fruits and different kinds of foods and flavors.
While doing the thematic unit of “Cow” the teacher can let the children make cheese sandwiches in the classroom. All the ingredients that go into the making of the cheese sandwich are milk products, milk, bread, cheese, and butter. The teacher should give each child a paper plate with 2 slices of milk bread, a dollop of butter, and a slice of cheese. She should instruct the children to apply the butter on the bread with a butter knife that has been provided, on both the slices. Then place a slice of cheese on the buttered side of one slice of bread and cover it with the other slice of bread. The children have a yummy sandwich ready to eat.
This activity teaches the children to follow instructions and is good for their small motor skills too.
Also Read: Cooking Activities for Preschoolers
Milking The Cow
This is an interesting activity for children. The teacher should explain to the children that the process of removing milk from the cow is called milking. Milk is removed from the udder. For this activity, the teacher should take white surgical gloves and poke tiny holes with a needle at the fingertips of the glove. The glove should be filled with water mixed with white paint to make it look like milk. This represents the udder of the cow. Keep a container below so that the water spills into it. The teacher asks the children to take turns and try squeezing the finger of the glove. The water squirts out from the holes poked in them just as it happens when the cow is milked on the farm. The teacher can show a youtube video to the children on milking the cow.
A field trip is a great experience for the children. It exposes them to the outside world and gives them a whole new experience. It makes them aware of their surroundings. A trip to the dairy plant will teach the children about the different stages the milk has to undergo before it is finally packaged. Children learn how the milk is collected, processed, pasteurized, and packaged to be distributed.
A trip to the cowshed would be an enriching experience for the children. They will be able to see the cow from a closer distance and learn about its habitat and its sounds and features better. However, it may not always be possible to take children for a field trip. In those cases, it is best to make arrangements to have a cow brought to the courtyard of the school, where the children can gather and watch the cow being fed or milked. Seeing a live cow is always better than seeing one on a screen or in books.
Nursery rhymes are an integral part of a preschool curriculum. Children learn a lot through nursery rhymes. For this thematic unit any rhyme that mentions the cow can be recited. For example, Old Man Donald, Hey Diddle Diddle, etc. Or the teacher can create her own nursery rhyme and teach the children.
Physical activity is important for the cognitive and physical growth of the children. It plays a vital role in the preschool curriculum. Physical activity is one way for children to vent out their pent up aggression.
For this thematic unit, the teacher divides the class into 3 groups. She hands over paper badges to each group. One group gets the badge with Zebu cow printed on it. The second group gets the Holstein cow and the last group gets the Jersey cow. The children pin badges on their clothes. The teacher instructs them that they are having a relay race. The 3 groups are Zebu, Holstein, and Jersey. The children enjoy the race and it encourages team spirit as its a relay and each member has to perform well for the team to win.
Children enjoy listening to stories. It enhances their imagination and also increases their critical thinking ability. The internet has a plethora of stories available for the teacher to select depending on the age and level of understanding of the children in the class.
Puzzles and mazes are very good activities to enhance the concentration skills of the children. The school can procure puzzles that relate to the themes that have been set for the curriculum.
Mazes are a fun way to make children exercise their large motor skills and to think and comprehend ideas. The teacher can paint simple mazes on the classroom floor. The teacher can place grass at one end of the maze and make the children wear a face mask of a cow. The aim is for the children to reach the grass.
Using the thematic unit to teach children is a great way to teach the theme extensively. It inculcates all subjects focusing on a single theme so the children are able to concentrate better and learn faster. Children get in-depth knowledge on the topic and they are taught about topics using real-life experiences. Using the whole language approach or thematic approach where all subjects are focused on teaching one theme results in a better understanding of the subject matter.