The Advantages of the Thematic Approach
The thematic teaching approach organizes a semester’s teaching goals around a specific theme. This includes using an election process that occurs during the semester as a framework to teach lessons about government or focusing a semester’s reading assignments on popular topics or themes that are familiar to students, to help them better connect to the material.
1 Connects to Students
By selecting a theme that your students are familiar with, you can teach the material while drawing connections between the information that you are teaching and the student’s previous understanding of that information. For instance, using a pop-culture-based reading list allows you to focus on the specific analytical elements—such as theme, stages of a story and plot—from a point of view where your students are already very familiar with the story. The advantage is the added focus on those analytical elements, resulting from your student’s heightened familiarity with the work.
Student interest changes from year to year, and the thematic approach requires you to change with it. These changes establish a fresh feeling in the classroom, especially for teachers, who can enjoy the opportunity to teach new material in new ways from year to year. As an example, if you decide to connect your social studies class to a theme of current events and read about a natural disaster, you may decide to change your teaching plans, move up a section on social responsibility, and connect it to a real-world view of a natural disaster, from occurrence to cleanup.
3 Community of Learners
Students play a role in establishing and continuing the theme, giving them a role in the educational community that you're creating in your classroom. Let the students play a role in determining how their class will approach the theme. This reduces the stress on teachers, who no longer have to shoulder all the burden for putting together lesson plans, and lets students feel like they are creating their own learning environment. For instance, in your English class, you decide to use a monster theme for a semester and prepare a list of books with "Dracula," "Frankenstein" and a few gothic short stories. You can let your students decide which books they want to learn about, giving them a real place in the decision.
4 Educational Opportunities
Thematic approaches in real-world activities benefit from real demonstrations of the lessons, giving students an opportunity to see the subject they are learning demonstrated in the world. As an example, during a fall semester when a presidential election is occurring, you decide to use the election as a theme for your government class and connect each of your lessons to the election process. Your students benefit from having a real-world example of each lesson, from the process of the election to an identification with candidates.