When you are interested in a specific topic do you find books or articles to read about it?
Do you look for shows or exhibits that feature it?
And as you try to learn more about it, do you enjoy that learning journey?
Basically you are pursuing thematic learning which is a great way to help children discover that learning can be fun.
You can learn geography with postcards!
Thematic learning means taking a topic the student is interested in and surrounding them with activities and fun based on that topic with a few academic ideas thrown in.
With thematic learning the academic concepts are hidden within the learning so the students don't even realize they are doing schoolwork.
When I was homeschooling my boys they had a great interest in pirates. I created a unit study for them that was all about pirates but also included some academic concepts. Here are some examples of the learning fun that was included.
Math: divide the booty (each crew member received a different percentage); weights and measures (comparing cannonballs)
Art: create wanted posters for specific pirates based on descriptive text; draw your own deserted island
Geography: draw your own deserted island (map making); locating the seven seas
English: reading comprehension about Blackbeard; matching the job description to the pirate that would take it
You can download this unit study from the Quite a Character Classroom.
Thematic learning isn't limited to what a child does at their desk. It can encompass tv shows or movies, storybooks, field trips or even a trip to the park (lots of simple machines seen there!)
It's about creating a learning environment that is fun and interesting for children so they enjoy the learning process and want to learn more.
Once, when teaching about egg-laying creatures I filled the puppet bin with only those puppets that represented creatures that laid eggs. Later, the children knew that an octopus lays eggs simply because they remember playing with that puppet.
Our thematic day camps were always quite popular as children came prepared to be spies or superheroes and left with knowledge they acquired from the fun and learning from the day. It is amazing how exciting a worksheet can be when it is in a folder marked Top Secret!
“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”
― Alfred Mercier
Family Game Night is another way to bring in some thematic learning. Check out my Family Game Night blog post to find out more!
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