Part I-Thematic Instruction

Research Based Strategies for the Classroom

Part #1 - Thematic Instruction

Students learn better from thematic, interdisciplinary instruction, themes are a way of understanding new concepts and provide mental organizing schemes.


Effective thematic instruction involves using a theme as "conceptual glue" for learners, strengthening bonds to knowledge. This approach relies on teachers who have a strong sense of curriculum as a learning process and can see ways to connect learning with key concepts. The goal is to choose themes that relate to students' lives to ensure interest and engagement in the content. Concepts that work best depend on students' age and developmental level. Also, topics typically found in single content areas offer rich links to other subjects, such as communication, immigration, rhythm, speed, matter, addition, metaphor, or waves. Framing a theme as a question ("What Makes the Difference?", "Why Are We Moving?", or "How Do We Know?") will keep students asking (and answering) questions that matter. Effective teachers employ strategies that engage learners not just in ways that are exciting or fun, but that make strong bonds between abstract ideas and understanding.

Thematic instruction has been shown to increase student achievement (Beane, 1997; Kovalik, 1994). Effective instruction presents new information by reaching out to existing knowledge rather than presenting skills and facts in isolation.

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