Click play below to hear how to effectively use thematic planning:
As elementary teachers, it’s customary to teach all of the core subject areas. But have you ever thought about teaching them in a way that connects them all together? This style of teaching is called thematic planning or cross-curricular instruction. For most, teaching in this particular style is uncommon, but it provides impactful meaning for your students. To help you get started, I’m sharing what thematic planning is and my 5 simple step process to teaching with thematic units.
To start off, thematic planning is when you intentionally develop learning experiences that can span across many different subjects, which develops a deeper understanding of specific ideas that make meaningful connections. No matter your style of teaching, creating connections and building on knowledge is a goal, but using thematic planning goes deeper than just that.
Throughout the episode, I share the countless benefits, along with my 5 steps to effectively implement thematic planning into your classroom. With the explanation of each step, a real life example is presented and talked through that helps break down the implementation.
Although we’re halfway through the school year, now is the perfect time to start using thematic planning, for your students already have a solid foundation of skills. So now, it’s about making meaningful connections to a central idea using all subject areas. This can easily be done through my 5 step process and personal challenge to you!
In this episode on thematic planning, I share:
- My own experience using thematic planning
- A 5 step planning process
- Why establishing a connection to other subject areas is key
- List of multiple benefits in regards to how your students learn and is connected to the real world
- A reminder that not everything you teach is going to be connected to your thematic unit, which is okay
- My personal challenge to you for implementing thematic units
- Sentence Writing Routine Free Sample
- Nonfiction Science Reading Passages
- Check out the Stellar Teacher Reading Membership
- If you’re enjoying this podcast, please leave a review on Apple Podcasts!
Related episodes and blog posts:
- Episode 115, Kicking off 2023 with a ‘More and Less List’ for Literacy Teachers
- Episode 107, 5 Ideas for Using High Impact Writing Activities in Any Content Area
Connect with me:
More About Stellar Teacher Podcast:
Welcome to the Stellar Teacher Podcast! We believe teaching literacy is a skill. It takes a lot of time, practice, and effort to be good at it. This podcast will show you how to level up your literacy instruction and make a massive impact with your students, all while having a little fun!
Your host, Sara Marye, is a literacy specialist passionate about helping elementary teachers around the world pass on their love of reading to their students. She has over a decade of experience working as a classroom teacher and school administrator. Sara has made it her mission to create high quality no-fluff resources and lesson ideas that are both meaningful and engaging for young readers.
Each week, Sara and her guests will share their knowledge, tips, and tricks so that you can feel confident in your ability to transform your students into life-long readers.
Hey, there and happy Monday. Welcome back to another episode of the podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Marye. And as always, I am so excited that you are joining me today. Whether you are listening to podcasts on your way to work, or if you are out walking your dog at the end of a long day, or you’re in the middle of your planning period, whenever you listen to this podcast, just know that I am so excited that I get to be a part of your teacher journey.
Now, if you listened to episode number 115, which was my very first episode of 2023, then you remember that I mentioned that thematic planning is one of the things that you want to do more of in 2023. And if you’ve not already listened to that episode, go back and give it a listen, I share five things you want to do more of as a literacy teacher and five things you want to do less of during this next year.
Well, since thematic planning or really cross curricular instruction is what it is, is something that isn’t necessarily all that common. I really wanted to dedicate an entire episode to explain what it is, and also give you a really simple five step process that you can follow that will help you get started with thematic planning in your classroom.
But before we jump into today’s content, let me just give a little stellar teacher shout out. Hannah H. recently left a review on our sentence writing routine on Teachers Pay Teachers and she said, “I love using this for a sentence building routine. Even though we are mostly working on paragraphs and essays in fifth grade, my students needed reminders about sentence types and structure. We have used it for five weeks and the daily practice is starting to pay off; fewer fragments in their writing and better ideas for rearranging sentences.”
Hannah, kudos to you for giving your students practice with something that they need. Even if it isn’t the main focus of your curriculum right now. I know how hard it is to say okay, in fifth grade, my students should be able to write paragraphs and essays but they need help with sentences and to be able to build that into your day can kind of be a challenge. But I also know that having improved sentence writing skills is really going to help your students become even stronger paragraph and essay writers.
So way to implement and stick with a routine long enough to see some stellar results. If you want to check out the free sample of this routine, simply go to stellar teacher.com/sentences, or just search for sentence writing routine in my TPT store.
Okay, let’s jump in and talk all about thematic planning. So here’s a little bit of backstory and my experience with thematic planning. So the last school that I taught at and worked at was an IB school, which stands for an International Baccalaureate school. And all IB schools use thematic planning and really encourage inquiry based learning. And to be honest, when I first started learning how to plan this way, using thematic planning, it was a really big shift for me. And it was really hard.
At previous schools I worked at, I would plan my reading lessons. And I would close my reading book. And then I would open up my writing curriculum, and I would play in my writing lessons. And I would close my writing book and I would open up my math curriculum, and I would plan my math lessons and science lessons and social studies lessons. And I would really never have to consider how these subjects connected to each other, or what my students were learning in these subjects how they connected to each other.
But when I started working at an IB school and had to switch to thematic planning, we didn’t really think about the subjects in the same way. We were all self contained teachers and we really didn’t necessarily have blocks for reading, writing, math, science, social studies, everything was sort of integrated together. And instead of planning individual, like I said, reading, writing, math, science, social studies, what we were given was a list of central ideas that we were expected to connect all of our standards to.
And each year every grade had six specific central ideas we had to teach and these were specific, obviously to like our IB program, but an example of a central idea that we had to teach would be something like human migration can be a response to challenges and opportunities. Celebrations can express beliefs and values of diverse communities, or populations can be impacted by Earth’s natural changes.
And so we had to take the central ideas, and we had to work backwards. And we had to figure out how all of our state standards could connect to these six central ideas throughout the year. So there’s a lot of backward planning. And it was really less about, okay, here’s your list of standards, teach them like a checklist and make sure you’ve taught all of them by the end of the year.
And it was really more about here are big ideas and concepts that we think kids need to understand and focus on teaching your standards in a way that allows kids to develop their understanding of these concepts, and build their background knowledge around these big ideas. And like I said, that was really hard. That was a much more intentional way of planning and also really different, you know, thematic planning was not easy.
But it also created a ton of amazing learning experiences. And it created this cohesive thread that made teaching so much more meaningful for my students. And honestly, it made it so much more meaningful for me. I know, so rather than just trying to get through our list of lessons for the day, every day, we are engaging in learning experiences that are helping us understand some really big ideas that are important to the world.
Now, obviously, this school that I worked at was a school that prioritized thematic planning, and we had a framework that was given to us by you know, the International Baccalaureate Organization, you know, where we sort of had some support and structure for thematic planning. And so, you know, it’s something that the teachers were familiar with, and it was something that the students were familiar with. So this is the way that teaching and learning happened at our school.
And your school might not have the same focus, but even if your school is not an IB school, even if you are departmentalized, and the only thing you are teaching is reading and writing, you know, it is still something that is really beneficial for your students. And honestly, it is something that you can easily incorporate into your lesson plans this year.
So hopefully hearing a little bit about my experience has kind of given you a better idea of what thematic planning is, but I do want to give you a clear definition of what thematic planning is, and then I’m going to walk you through a five step process that you can take. That’s a really simple way of getting started with thematic planning in your own classroom.
So first of all, thematic planning or cross curricular instruction is when you intentionally develop learning experiences that can span across many different subjects. And the big focus is really on developing a deeper understanding of a specific topic or idea. Thematic planning is when we teach our students in a way that allows students to make meaningful connections to what they’re learning across multiple subjects.
So we’re not teaching things in isolation, we’re really being intentional and encouraging our students to be able to connect what they’re doing in reading and writing and science and social studies and even math.
And when you teach using thematic planning, you’re going to be less focused on your students mastering the standards, just for the sake of knowing the standards or being able to pass the state test at the end of the year, which let’s be honest, sometimes that does feel like our focus. And instead, you are more focused on helping your students master the standards, so that they can apply the skills that they are learning to extend and build upon their own understanding of how the world works.
So we’re teaching them reading and writing not so they can just identify the main idea, not so they can write a complete sentence, not so they can break apart words into syllables, but we’re teaching them all of those skills so that they can read a text and be able to internalize it and understand it and connect it to something else that they know. So it gives a much bigger purpose and context for everything that you were teaching to your students.
So with thematic planning, you still have to explicitly teach certain concepts and objectives. But you’re also going to intentionally create connections and learning experiences between subjects. So hopefully that makes sense. And when I go through the five step process, I kind of explained that a little bit more in depth.
Now, there are tons of benefits to thematic planning, of course, I’m going to try to convince you to implement it in your classroom. So one of the big benefits of thematic planning is that it makes learning more purposeful and meaningful. You know, so rather than just focusing on learning, reading and writing objectives, students are learning literacy skills that they can apply to be able to answer a bigger question and study a bigger topic.
And you know, my students, most of the time, our thematic units were about six weeks long, there was usually a big sort of like summative project at the end of it, and it required students to either you know, create some sort of project or artifact, there was always a writing element to it, where students had to write, you know, whether it was a reflection of what they learned or a summary or an essay, you know, so we’re still engaged in literacy topics.
My students are still learning how to summarize and identify the main idea and understanding author’s purpose but it’s not just for You know, reading class or so we can, you know, complete this one lesson. It’s because we have this big project that we’re working on, we’re trying to understand some, you know, big important topic in the world. And all of the reading and the writing that we do is supporting our learning. So it gives a much stronger purpose to what you are teaching.
But maybe even more important than that it helps students develop strong content knowledge. And, you know, I think whether we like to admit it or not, we honestly don’t give enough time and attention to science and social studies in our classroom. And that is no fault of the teachers.
The educational system that has been created is structured in such a way that it puts so much pressure on state testing, that districts and schools and teachers don’t really feel like they have, you know, enough time in the day to dedicate to these ancillary subjects, because we’re so worried about our students passing the test, you know, unless you happen to be a fifth grade teacher, and your kids are tested on science, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time teaching and science during the year.
You know, but the reality of it is, is because our school system prioritizes testing, that’s where we put so much of our focus. But these topics are important science and social studies deserve just as much attention in our classrooms. So when you intentionally plan for and incorporate thematic planning in your classroom, you can focus on reading and writing. And at the same time, build content knowledge and science and social studies, they all work together. And it is just it’s beautiful.
Students also get an opportunity to develop skills needed for real world reading and writing. And I’m not trying to say that what you do in your classroom is not real world reading and writing, you know, obviously, anytime students read and write, that’s a real world experience. But again, it’s for this bigger purpose, you know, oftentimes it’s like, okay, great.
I mean, I remember when I was a fourth grade teacher, at the end of the year, they had the writing test. And so they had to write a narrative and they had to write an expository. And so much of our focus on writing this year was okay, we got to practice a narrative because you’re gonna be tested on it, you have to practice an expository, because you’re tested on it. And while that was real writing, the purpose behind it is not very exciting.
You know, but if students are learning about a topic or concept or learning about, you know, migration, and the reason why people’s migrate, and we have a question, were researching, and they know that they’re gonna have this big project at the end that they have to present, having them write for that is going to be so much more purposeful than just, hey, we’re doing another narrative, because you’re gonna be tested on it. So I think when I when I talk about real world reading and writing, it’s for something beyond the test.
Okay, so maybe you’re thinking all of this sounds great. How do I get started with it? So here’s the thing that I think is important to keep in mind. And I have said this before, but there is more than one way to be a great teacher. And there is more than one way to do thematic planning in your classroom. So if you have never done thematic planning, if you’ve never really been intentional about connecting your lessons across curricular subjects, I have really five steps that you can take.
And let me also just remind you that especially if you’re just getting started with this, not every single thing you teach has to be connected to your thematic unit. You know, not everything is always going to fit perfectly together. You can’t always find a topic or a subject where you can connect reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
But I think in general, if you can try to squeeze in the majority of your reading and writing objectives into your thematic unit, you are going to be able to get a lot of the benefits that I just mentioned. And like I said, if you’ve never taught this way before, then really the second semester is a great time to experiment with a unit like this because most of the time second semester is when we start our spiral review. It’s when we start reviewing things we’ve already taught.
And because your students already have a strong foundation in reading and writing, you can start to reteach and spiral through your objectives, rather than teaching them in isolation, try connecting them through a thematic unit. So rather than reviewing main idea on its own, or rather than reviewing text structure on its own, put everything together through a thematic unit and do your spiral review with an overarching theme.
Okay, here are the five simple steps to planning and teaching a thematic unit. The first thing that you want to do is you want to be able to identify the key concept or idea that you want your students to understand. And then you’re going to develop a guiding question that’s really going to be the driver behind your unit.
And I think it’s a really good idea to look at your science and social studies objectives or standards that you’re supposed to teach and try to connect your thematic unit to that because that’s kind of how you’re gonna get the biggest bang for your buck.
So when you’re thinking of like a thematic unit that you want it to be broad enough to where you can find multiple articles and texts on that topic. But you don’t want it to be too specific to where students are going to be limited. So, for example, a topic that you could study for a thematic unit could be something like energy transfer within ecosystems. If you just study ecosystems that might be too broad. But if you just studied something like food webs that might be too narrow so you can kind of hone in your focus on energy transfers within an ecosystem.
And a question that might drive your thematic unit would be something like how is energy transferred within an ecosystem? And if you think about it, in order for your students to successfully answer that question, they’re going to have to have an understanding of the different types of ecosystems, they’re going to have to have an understanding of plants and animals that live within ecosystems, they need to understand producers and consumers, the difference between food webs and food chains, the flow of energy.
And they’re probably also going to have to learn how human impact can disrupt the energy flow within an ecosystem.
So really, your students are going to develop a really strong content knowledge in this area of science, all about energy transfer within ecosystems. But if you kind of think beyond the content, in order for your students to be able to communicate and answer this question, they’re also going to have to have strong writing and reading skills.
Which means they’re going to probably have to be able to successfully do things like identify the main idea and details, they’re going to have to summarize the text, they’re going to have to be able to figure out author’s purpose, they’re going to need to be able to identify and read and understand, you know, text structure and text features.
They’re gonna have to be able to synthesize what they read, they’re gonna have to be able to write in complete sentences, which brings in a whole extra slew of objectives, things like subject verb agreement fragments, types of sentences, capitalization and punctuation, they’re gonna have to know how to write in a paragraph. So they’re gonna have to able to do topic sentences and bodies and conclusions. And so if you think about just this one thematic unit gives you so many learning opportunities for you to hit on science objectives, reading objectives, and writing objectives.
So while the focus of your thematic unit is on science, your students are still going to be engaged in a variety of meaningful literacy activities at the same time. Okay, so that’s step number one.
Step number two is before you can start teaching it, you really have to find a variety of texts that connect to your topic. And I think one of the great things about thematic units is it allows us to use reading as the main source for like the driver of attaining content knowledge. And, you know, it’s I think it’s still great that you know, if you’re teaching science, that you’re still doing experiments, that your your students are doing hands on activities, that they’re creating diagrams, and you know, studying other things. But also, they can learn so much through the texts that they are reading.
And so you definitely want to make sure that you are spending time finding a variety of texts that connect back to your topic, and are going to help your students answer the guiding question. So before you begin searching for your text, obviously, you have to have your topic and that question, but it’s really important for you to kind of break down and think about the subtopics that your students could possibly learn about. So you remember, even though the focus is or the question that students are trying to answer is how does energy transfer within an ecosystem, I listed out all of those possible sub topics.
The things like different types of ecosystems, producers and consumers, food webs versus food chains, et cetera, et cetera. Creating that list of subtopics is really going to help you know what types of texts to look for. You can do a Google search for articles on producers and consumers, you can go to the library and ask your librarian, Hey, give me all of your books about food webs and food chains. You can look in your science text, and you can say, Okay, what sections of the science text connect to this topic? Let’s use those.
So you want to make sure that the text connects to the specific sub topics that you’re trying to focus on and will help your students answer the question. But it’s also and this is where it’s sort of like how much intention you want to put into it. But it also is helpful to consider, let me try to find texts that are written in a variety of text structures. Let me find texts that include a variety of texts features. And let me just overall include a variety of texts in my unit.
So you’re looking for picture books, you’re looking for reading passages, you’re looking for online articles, you’re looking at your science or social studies textbooks, you’re even looking for videos, or podcasts or any sort of media that is going to connect back to your topic. And the goal with finding a variety of texts is really twofold.
You know, first, you want to make sure that the texts are going to provide your students with knowledge and information that’s related to your topic. But because we’re not just focused on only teaching science, we’re also thinking about our reading standards as well, you also want to make sure that the texts you have have just a big enough variety, that you also can address your different reading standards and objectives.
Okay, once you have your texts, you’re basically ready to get started with your unit. But before you get started teaching, the third step is to build background knowledge before you start reading the texts. So you want to make sure that your students understand the goal of the unit and the topic. So you might want to start by simply sharing the topic and telling them the guiding question that you’re going to try to answer through a variety of learning experiences.
It could also be a good idea to ask them what they already know about this specific topic. You could do a KWL chart, you could do a concept map or web. You could even have them answer the question about the topics, so whatever your credit question is, they could try to answer that before and then answer that at edit at the end and see how their answers change. But basically, you want to basically warm up their brains and let them know what they’re going to be learning about and also sort of give it purpose or context.
So maybe this is something that’s connected to a science objective. Maybe this is a topic that your class is really interested in and that’s the driver behind this unit. Maybe this is a school wide focus, you know, maybe whatever your topic is, because it doesn’t have to be just science or social studies. So whatever the topic is, maybe it’s something that your school is really pushing. So definitely get some context for what it is for what you’re learning and why you’re learning it.
But you also want to spend some time identifying key vocabulary that students might need to know, in order to be successful reading the first few texts. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that students, as they’re reading a variety of texts about these different topics, they’re going to be adding to their background knowledge. So they’re going to be building their understanding. But you want to think about, okay, for the very first two or three texts, we’re going to be reading, what do my students need to understand?
And maybe they need to understand what ecosystems are, maybe they need to understand what organisms are. And maybe they need to understand what producers and consumers are whatever the vocabulary words are. But this is also a great opportunity. You’ve just identified some key vocabulary words, use this as an opportunity to look at word parts to study, you know, prefixes and suffixes pay attention to the roots, break these words down into syllables, use context clues.
Whatever it is, spend some time with those really awesome vocabulary activities that you know how to do in your typical reading class, and apply those to these content specific words that are important to your thematic unit.
You can even when you’re building background knowledge, you can even do things like show students pictures, images, videos that are connected to the topic and just discuss what your students know. And this doesn’t need to take a ton of time. But you definitely want to spend a little bit of time before you dig into your unit, helping your students just build upon any background knowledge that they have.
Then we get to step number four, and this is going to be the longest This is where you are going to read, explore and respond to the texts. And depending on the focus of your thematic unit, and depending on sort of like how important it is, it could be several days or weeks long, you know, a thematic unit could just be one week long. But it could also be up to six weeks long. And I think it all really depends on what you are trying to help your students understand and how many objectives you’re trying to cover. And you know, sort of like how big thematic planning is to your school.
Obviously, in my school, we’ve taught thematic units in six week chunks, and we had six of them. And so that’s basically all we were doing throughout the year. If you’ve never done a thematic unit before, maybe start with one that’s just a week. So keep in mind that since the goal is really to connect to reading, writing, and science, in this example, we’re learning specifically about energy transport and ecosystems.
This is not something extra that you have to find additional time to add in. But instead, these learning experiences that you are going to do are going to replace what typically happens during your reading and writing and science blocks.
So it’s not like you have to think where am I going to squeeze in thematic planning, you’re going to do it when you typically teach or reading and science and writing, you’re just going to sort of shift the learning activities that happen during it. So when you’re reading and exploring and responding to the texts, you want your primary focus to be on developing a key understanding of the text, and specifically the topic.
You know, so instead of just teaching a reading lesson that focuses on identifying the main idea, you might be reading an article where the main goal is for students to understand the difference between food webs and food chains. And that’s really the objectives. But you have to think in order for your students to achieve that objective, they have to identify text structure, they’re going to have to identify the main idea.
So you still might be able to do your little mini lesson on main idea, but we’re not going to stop after that reading mini lesson, we’re going to extend it to the specific texts that we’re reading. And we’re going to, you know, have students identify the main idea and summarize the text and use key vocabulary words to communicate their understanding, and all of the writing that goes with it so that way they can communicate the difference between food webs and food chains.
So we’re still teaching the reading objectives, but we’re applying it to a text that is connected to our bigger unit. I think other things that you want to do is just be aware of all the different comprehension skills and strategies that are needed in order for students to arrive at the understanding of the topic, and use this as opportunities to model to do think aloud to remind your students it’s like, okay, look at all of the things that we had to do as a reader in order to understand this text.
We had to activate our background knowledge, we had to ask questions, you know, summarizing main idea texts, feature texture, all of those nonfiction things, you can remind your students of that and you can do model, think aloud and you can do little mini lessons, but we want to take it back to this bigger purpose of understanding the topic or the key questions.
You also want to continuously be building on content knowledge every time you read. So if every day you’re reading a new article that’s connected to your topic, do something that’s going to allow your students to document their learning. Maybe they create an anchor chart every day, maybe they have a reflection journal, maybe they have a concept map or concept web that shows the different ideas that they’re learning each day and how they’re connected to each other. Maybe they have a glossary where they keep track of key words and definitions that they’re learning throughout this unit.
So just something that allows cause them to keep track of the new knowledge that they’re learning every time they read the text. And a couple sort of just like practical suggestions for how you could put this into place, you could use a text, you know, that’s about your topic for independent reading, you could have students work in groups, and they could do a jigsaw where each group is reading a specific article about this topic.
And maybe they have to read the article, they have to summarize key points, they have to identify key vocabulary, they have to create a visual, and then they can share it with the rest of the class, either whole group or through a gallery walk.
You know, you can use texts on this topic for your whole class to read aloud, you can use text on this topic for small group reading lessons, you know, for writing lessons, you know, whatever it is, and so I think it’s just a matter of thinking about, Okay, what do you typically do during reading? How can you replace that with a text that is connected to this bigger unit, and then identify some key reading and writing activities that are going to help your students develop understanding of this.
So a specific example could be, maybe you have a text that you’re going to have your students read independently. So they’re going to read independently, they’re going to complete a graphic organizer, maybe they have to identify the main idea and summarize the text, you’re going to come back as a whole group, you’re going to discuss the text, you’re going to have them add to their knowledge chart. And then if you want to give a little extra focus on writing, you’re going to go back and look at their summary of the text. And you’re going to go through the writing process.
So maybe you’re going to identify a sentence that they could revise or combine, maybe you’re going to figure out how they can substitute word choice to make their ideas, you know, more specific, maybe you’re going to identify if they’ve got like a fragment, or you’re going to review their topic sentence. So you can focus on writing by reviewing or revising the summaries that they have written, you know, you can talk about good paragraph structure, whatever it is.
So in this one lesson, students have focused on reading objectives, they focus on writing objectives, and they’ve built their knowledge on something related to a science topic that you’re teaching. So I think the thing that’s important is that there’s not necessarily like a magical right way to do a thematic unit. And I think it’s really important to remind ourselves that it requires us to be a little more open and flexible with the way that we teach.
You know, we need to be creative and how we look for opportunities to reinforce the objectives and standards. We don’t always need to have an anchor chart, when we’re teaching something new, we don’t always need to give our students a worksheet if they want to practice something. And we don’t always need a full lesson in order to teach something meaningful for our students.
But what we really need to do is be able to look for those little teachable moments that exist outside of the content areas that we typically teach, and think about how we can maximize those and help our students create connections across subject areas.
Okay, the fifth and final step to thematic planning and teaching is to at the very end, synthesize any new learning. You know, and I think, especially if you’re starting your thematic unit with that question, at the very end of your thematic unit, you want to make sure that your students are able to answer the question that was guiding your learning. So whether it was a week or six weeks, you want to wrap it up at the end, and give students an opportunity to share with you everything that they learned.
And this can be done in a variety of ways. You can have students write a longer essay that answers the question, you could have students create an artifact, something like an illustration, a diagram, a poster, you know, something that communicates a key understanding and answers the question and then you can have them present this, it could be a wax museum, it could be a gallery walk, you could invite other classes or parents in.
You know, depending on how big of a production you want it to be, but give them an opportunity then to share their new learning with another class, or with their students within their class.
You know, it can also be a concept map that shows everything they’ve learned in the unit and how it connects together. And if it’s a shorter thematic unit, it could even just be a summary of what students have read, or an exit ticket that answers the question. You know, I think the important thing is that you provide closure and circle back and answer the question that was guiding your thematic unit. And that’s it. Okay, simple enough, right?
Let’s recap the five steps. So the five things that you want to do if you are ready to get started with planning and teaching a thematic unit is first identify the topic that you want to focus on. And don’t forget to brainstorm the subtopics and come up with your guiding question. Then you’re going to find a variety of texts that are going to connect to your topic and subtopic.
Before you start your unit, you’re going to build background knowledge and help your students develop an understanding a basic understanding of what they’re going to be learning. You’re going to read, explore and respond to all of the texts. And that could take a week, it could take six weeks. And then finally you’re going to synthesize new learning at the end.
And here’s my challenge for you. Okay, so I plan to do one thematic unit sometime in the next month. It doesn’t need to be long. And it doesn’t even need to cover all of your standards, but try to identify a science or social studies topic that you could go really, really deep into and simultaneously connect it to your reading and writing objectives on that specific lesson.
And if you’re looking for support with this process, we are actually working on this brand new product line that is going to help teachers with thematic planning and cross curricular instruction. And this is really a set of some science based articles where each set includes six articles that are all connected to the same big science topic. And each article within the set is written in a different text structure. And it focused on the different sub topic. And we include a variety of reading response pages, reading activities, science activities, vocabulary activities.
So while it’s not necessarily a complete thematic unit, it definitely includes a ton of resources that would help you get started with it. So if you are looking for a starting point, definitely go check those out. We will link to those in the show notes. And I think also to just remind yourself that thematic units can be a great way to spiral review through your previously taught reading and writing objectives, but do so in a meaningful and purposeful way. So as you’re planning your next month’s instruction, just see if you can dedicate a week to test this out and to see how it goes.
Okay, I would love to hear the topic of your thematic unit that you plan on teaching and give you a little bit of encouragement and accountability. So do not hesitate to reach out to me on Instagram at @thestellarteachercompany. And of course, as always, I hope you have a stellar week and I look forward to seeing you back here next Monday.