Thematic teaching can be very time-consuming, messy, and active, but the rewards so far outstrip the demands IMO I don’t like to teach any other way. It’s just so much fun!
Because this teaching method gives you enough time to teach core subjects well, along with art, science, and social studies concepts, project based learning comes naturally. As teachers, we are all very proficient at teaching those who learn best by auditory channels, and we’re pretty good at meeting the needs of visual learners, too. Some of us even put the two together and are able to capture 60%-70% of the kids in our classes. But what about the 15% who learn best by manipulation and the other 15% who need all their senses stimulated? Together they make up a third of our audience! What are we doing for them?
During the years I worked as a resource and reading specialist I observed an ever-growing number of children who qualified for services as learning disabled, and yet once I started working with them, I discovered they were more “school disabled” than anything else. These guys needed to handle stuff in order to learn quickly. Sometimes their classroom teachers couldn’t understand why “They can do it with you and not with anyone else.” One of the reasons is there is just too much going on at breakneck speed in a typical elementary classroom, and too much of it involves lecturing. Integrating curricular areas allows you to slow down a bit and go a little deeper—attack the same thing from a variety of different directions. A lot of our kids need to do things, manipulate things, handle, taste, touch, smell things. Project centered instruction allows students to use their hands, bodies, brains, and all their senses, to help them understand and develop new skills. It gives the often left-out third of the class a chance to shine like the other two-thirds. Integrating themes with project based instruction is a learning natural, and it’s pretty engaging, too!
Originally posted on February 25, 2010 on another website.