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Thematic Instruction

Jamie Black
Today’s Lesson Objectives

Teachers will…

❖ Define thematic instruction

❖ Identify ways in which thematic instruction is beneficial for
❖ Examine strategies to help implement thematic instruction
What is thematic instruction?

❖ Teaching using a theme or big question

❖ Learning vocabulary in context
❖ Accessing many content areas through study centered
around the same topic or big ideas
❖ Instruction using big ideas students are already familiar
Why use thematic instruction?
According to Freeman and Freeman (2000)

❖ Themes deal with universal human topics

❖ All students can be involved
❖ Lessons and activities can be adjusted to different English
proficiency levels
❖ Teachers can connect curriculum to student’s lives and
make it more interesting
❖ Vocabulary is repeated naturally and in context
Pause and Reflect

How do you use thematic instruction in your classroom


If you do not use thematic instruction, what are some ways in

which you envision using thematic instruction in your
Choosing a theme

❖ Know your students and their cultural backgrounds!

❖ Keep student interests in mind
❖ Make sure to connect to your standards and learning goals
❖ Provide opportunities to use oral and written language in
all content areas (Li and Edwards, 2010)
❖ Click here and here to explore some thematic unit examples
Planning Thematic Instruction

Click here to read a tip sheet about planning thematic



❖ How does thematic instruction support dual language

❖ How can family members be involved?
Teaching vocabulary in thematic instruction

❖ Students are more likely to learn words when they are

directly taught (Li and Edwards, 2010)
❖ Students learn more when words are embedded in
meaningful contexts
❖ Vocabulary should be shown in pictures and words to be
hung up in the classroom
❖ Front-load academic language
Front load vocabulary

Click here to watch a teaching channel video on how to front

load vocabulary for English Language Learners.


❖ What strategies does the teacher use to teach vocabulary?

❖ How have you front loaded vocabulary in your classroom or
what are some ways you could?
Thematic instruction in action

Watch the following Teaching Channel video on thematic



❖ How does vocabulary play a role in thematic instruction?

❖ What activities do they use to teach about their theme?
Read alouds
❖ “Preschool ELLs acquired more vocabulary when the teacher explained the
words contained in a storybook read to them” (Li and Edwards, 2010, p.30)

Here are some strategies from Freeman and Freeman (2000) to apply during read
alouds for ELLs:

❖ Picture walks- allow students to preview the story and explain what they think
is happening
❖ Stop reading occasionally and have students make predictions
❖ Act out the story
❖ Language experience- ask students to retell the story and write down what
he/she says. Read back the student’s story together.
Thematic instruction mini lesson

❖ Work with your group to choose a theme and brainstorm a

lesson plan for that theme

Be prepared to answer the following questions:

❖ What theme did you choose and why?

❖ What will your learning goals be?
❖ What vocabulary will you focus on?
❖ How will you teach the vocabulary?