5 Reasons to try Theme-Based Learning

Source: https://www.edtechlens.com/blog/try-theme-based-learning


Theme-Based Learning

Chris Lawrence says the hardest thing about theme-based learning is “having the courage to give it a go.” She says it’s natural to worry, “‘Am I spending enough time on maths in this theme?’ and ‘What if the theme runs away from what I want to do or impose?’” But for teachers who are encouraged to see themselves as learning managers, the theme-based approach creates an environment where students acquire a taste for lifelong learning. As they become more involved in how and what they study, children also become more interested in learning.

“You move away from the idea of filling up vessels with facts,” Chris says. “For some teachers it’s hard to take that jump, but with supportive colleagues and a supportive system they soon learn to fly – and so do the students – and even if the structure is not supportive, you can try it out in small ways. You find the fun and the success – and then start flying the flag for thematic teaching and learning!”

Research into how the brain works and the psychology of learning shows that learning is a process of integration. When we see how facts and ideas connect with one another across subjects, we are constructing meaning. When we’re able to communicate that meaning, the learning is further reinforced. This is why theme-based learning is so effective.

Chris offers five reasons to “give it a go” and experiment with theme-based learning:

1. It’s more fun to teach and learn using a theme.
•Chris believes fun is a key ingredient in learning. “If children are happy, they are confident, and so are teachers. This magic combination makes teaching and learning so much more effective. Children become inspired and wider-thinking. Teachers may still be exhausted, but now it’s an exhaustion that makes them feel fulfilled and valued,” she says.

2. It harnesses curiosity to motivate learning.
•“To me it’s the most natural way to learn,” says Chris. “A child or adult finds something that intrigues them, maybe a foreign stamp or a stone. They want to know more and so they start on a journey of collecting ideas and information. With the stamp, the child finds out about its source, the geography of its people, the music of their homeland, the art work within it. They investigate its richness, draw its setting, sing its songs, write letters to find out more, investigate in books and on the internet. The learning is never sluggish, but is vibrant and exciting.”

3. Educators transition to being facilitators of learning.
•“The teacher is no longer a provider of facts copied from the board and learned for homework,” Chris says. “Instead, because the boundaries of exploration are far wider than the teacher can predict, he or she becomes a learning manager.” A learning manager guides children while keeping open the opportunity for self-guided discovery.

4. It teaches children how to learn.
•With theme-based learning, children are thinking for themselves, following the thread of a topic to explore and discover more. Chris says, “It gives them a taste of moving from one related area to another related area and one builds on another. It’s a way of learning throughout life.”

5. It draws in the child’s family.
•Parents more easily become partners in learning around a theme. “The family, with its own interests and views, can more easily become involved, thus broadening the spectrum of the whole experience,” Chris says. “When forced into the confines of a secondary school timetable, I still used a thematic approach in a once-a-week history lesson that grew from an old stone I found with the date 1694 on it. As a class, we invented an English family living at the time. On Parent-Teacher Night, I was told by one couple, ‘We love Tuesday teatime because we find out what has happened with the 1694 family, and when we are out and about we look for more information and connections.’”


The Challenge is to Change the way we teach!

Theme-based learning – or the practice of integrating curriculum areas around a topic – helps learning become more relevant for students. But it can also be challenging for educators. Some are accustomed to prescriptive lessons broken up over a heavily scheduled day, and relaxing that control can make them feel anxious.

Chris Lawrence, a learning consultant and literacy adviser, has taught students ranging in age from 3 to 22. She studied and worked in England but also spent five years working for the Ministry of Education in the Commonwealth of Dominica in the West Indies, where she guided teachers toward theme-based teaching and learning, and discovered its ready adaptability to poorly resourced schools. (Click here to read about “Bottle Village,” her inspiration for a theme that found its way into many Dominica classrooms).

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Development, Education, givingFebruary 05, 2019

Cedar Solar Namibia sponsors a local pre-primary

Cedar Solar Namibia, a company in the solar water industry, have reached out to help a local pre-primary in Otjomuise. They have donated 14 sets of workbooks for Grade R pre-primary learners as well as a teacher’s guide for their pre-primary teacher. These learners will now be able to complete a wide variety of activities (cut, paste, copy, draw, complete, colour, match, etc.) in the following areas:

•Language Development (Listening and Responding, Speaking and Communicating, Preparatory Reading, Incidental Reading, Preparatory Writing)
•Preparatory Mathematics (Number Concept, Problem-solving, Classification, Seriation / Ordering, Spatial Relations, Measurement)
•Environmental Studies (9 Themes integrated throughout with Weather, Health, Safety and Special Occasions)

The content is based on the Namibian curriculum. The 9 books are theme-based and include the following themes:

1. This is me
2. This is my body
3. This is my family
4. This is my house
5. This is my school
6. This is my community
7. I learn about animals
8. I learn about water
9. I learn about plants

Fourteen learners’ education have been enriched. THANK YOU CEDAR SOLAR NAMIBIA! You have not just given us the funds to provide these books to the school, but you have given them your time, the most thoughtful gift of all!


Any other companies or individuals who are interested in donating funds, our theme-based books or a school in need, please contact us at info@moyoeducation.com


Click on the link below to view their song:

clever kids


For your solar water pump or rooftop solar needs, please contact Cedar Solar Namibia at the contact details below:


+264 61 256700

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Presenting a theme

Via show-me-wow.com



Chris Lawrence explains how to present your theme : 

Presenting a theme

Setting up the environment of the classroom

Organise the classroom to set up a central display, perhaps a model or a large wall display, so there is space around your theme area for the children to sit close to it during talking and listening time. It is easier for them to imagine the events going on if they can see the setting, (and why should the teacher always have the best view?) Then the fun starts!

Setting up the model

This could be “Bottle Village”, or a space station, a shop, an underwater scene, a restaurant, a home corner.

Cover the wall or display area with anything you have available that can be used as a background.

Be imaginative and creative about how you build up the display using boxes, coloured paper, fabric.

Think 3 dimensionally. Displays are more exciting if they are not placed flat and squarely onto a wall. Think about this when displaying sheets of paper with written work on too.They don’t have to be set flat on the wall, but can be waved with a space under the “wave”.

Clearly, and using lettering appropriate to the child’s reading ability, label the main things on the display. Later, a child can collect up the labels and put them back in the correct place. With good quality labeling, the children can refer to the labels or go and collect and return them when they are writing and want to be sure of a spelling.

(Or provide each child with a thumb indexed word book, an exercise book in which they collect the words they want to use.This way they feel grown up, independent and need only ask once for each word.)

Once the display is ready

Invite the children to sit around the display and discuss it. Allow them to invite children from other classes to come in and see it.

Give ample time thinking and talking; both are important facets before the start of writing.

Talk about what they see in the display, what it is about, how it makes them feel, what they might add to it.

If it is a place, talk about the sounds, the smells, the way being there would make them feel.

Encourage adjectives and adverbs from younger children, similes and metaphors from older ones.

Please note….The children should feel familiar with the display and should not feel it’s a “Don’t touch” place.

Explaining the theme

The setting

Have the children around you and near to the model as you explain the theme. Get them to practice carefully moving from their seats to the theme area, so that a calm atmosphere is created and maintained. Once there, they need to be in the best possible position that will encourage them to give you their full attention and not be distracted.

An important point for creating this is that there needs to be lots of two way eye contact. If they can see you looking at them and giving them your attention, they are more inclined to look at you and give you theirs. (Also they need to have opportunities during their school day, to be in different parts of the classroom and moving to the display area is one opportunity to put this into practice. They need to see the room from different aspects.  Well, would you want to sit in the same place all day and everyday?)

Be brave and use different voices for the different characters who might speak. Put lots of expression in your voice and try to make sure the children are visualising as you go.

Point as you go, to the various things on the display.

Children like to look as well as to listen and the two activities aid the memory and concentration process.

When you are not reading the book, leave it in a place where the children can readily pick it up to read themselves. (They must promise not to tell the ending to others if they get that far in the story).

Never hide a book you are reading away in a drawer for another time. By doing that you are missing out on an ideal opportunity to encourage someone to read, and we never want to do that!

The best thing is to prop the book on a stand, (maybe made from an old wire coat hanger), and keep this on the actual display to temp anyone to have a read.

Make the whole thing fun.


Thinking about Writing

Visual memory promotes independent writing and good quality displays promote visual memory.

Once writing has started, allow children to leave their seats to go to the display for words.

They can copy the word they need, but they should, when ready, be encouraged to go and look,“write the word in their brain” and return to their work, remembering the word shape.They can always go back again and check.This is important. It encourages visual memory and improved spelling.

The children need vocabulary word lists (a word wall) to refer to when they are writing.A word wall will make the children more independent, less frustrated and more constant in the focus on the theme of their writing. A line of children lining up at the teacher’s desk for words is time wasting for both you and them and it is distracting for the others who are trying to work.

Leave some wall or shelf space nearby for labeled additional displays that enhance the theme and that then becomes a gallery for the children’s work to be displayed and celebrated.

Putting pencil to paper……


Remember, always pre-empt this with lots of looking, thinking, talking and discussing.

As E.M. Forster said,

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

1. For younger ones

Get them to draw a picture and write a sentence about it. The youngest ones will need you to write the words so that they can copy your writing. Offer a variety of ideas for the drawing, but do not impose your own. After all, how do you know what they are thinking of drawing?

Do not be the teacher who asked a child what she was drawing and the child said “God”

The teacher inappropriately said, “But no one knows what God looks like!”

The child answered ,”They will in a minute!”

Cloze cards This is usually a card with a picture on it related to a few sentences, each sentence having a word missing. (Making these is where your Picture Library comes in handy!)

At the bottom of the card, maybe in different colours, is a jumbled list of the missing words.

1.First stage cloze procedure cards, usually have the missing word at the end of each sentence, progressing to later cards with the missing words being in the middle of each sentence and finally to the more difficult cards being with the missing word at the beginning of the sentence.

Cloze work encourages children to take contextual clues, an essential reading skill for all readers.

Cloze also allows the children to work independently.

Make a sequence of cards getting the children to work through this sequence, so ending up with a complete story.

This could be a shortened version of the theme story, or it could be the Christmas story , in which case the teacher can illustrate this set of work cards by using a sequence of Nativity pictures from old Christmas cards.etc. The cards will last for years if each one is protected in a see-through plastic bag whilst the children are working from them.

If the children work on a sheet of exercise paper to do their writing and illustrating, a sheet for each work card, then, the completed pages can be stuck on a long sheet of paper that has been zig zag folded and the final result would be a Christmas Story zig-zag book that will stand up as a display. Children like to take this home for Christmas and the fact that they know this will be special and looked at by visitors, encourages them to make a particularly good job of their work

2. Question cards

For the next stage, progress to question cards, insisting that the answers are given as complete sentences.

Remind the children of the three main characteristics of a sentence:

A sentence always starts with a capital letter.
A sentence always ends with a full stop, (or question mark, or exclamation mark).
A sentence always makes sense.

(And teachers should make sure that all the sentences they write follow this rule.)


Indeed! Wow! Thank you Chris for inspiring teachers!

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