Benefits and Drawbacks of Thematic Teaching in Upper Elementary

With any teaching approach, there are benefits and drawbacks. If you’re considering a switch to thematic teaching, it is important to remember that there are some drawbacks in any situation and this is not unique to the thematic teaching approach. Therefore, it is important to look at all the benefits and see how your classroom will be positively impacted. In doing this, it will be evident how the thematic teaching approach is going to provide students with the best possible education.

Review of Thematic Teaching

When teaching thematic curriculum, keep in mind it is centered around one single theme or topic. Therefore, it is necessary to identify a variety of learning standards among many subject areas. For example, examine whether you want students using technology, different types of literature, or working together. Next, work on developing activities that bring student interests to mind. As a reminder, plan activities for the wide range of learners in the classroom. Since thematic teaching can take place over the course of several weeks or months, it is important to have activities that fit all students. 

Want to learn more about thematic teaching? Check out this post, “What Upper Elementary Teachers Need to Know About Thematic Teaching.”

Drawbacks of Thematic Teaching 

Educators should always be honest with each other. In doing that, it means acknowledging there are some drawbacks to thematic teaching.

  • First, it is important to consider that not all students may be interested in the theme. However, a single theme can last for several weeks to months. Therefore, it will be important to incorporate a variety of activities to gain the interest of even the most reluctant learners.
  • Second, there is not a premade program available for thematic teaching. Hence, it will be more time-consuming for the teacher, especially in the first year.
  • Third, if not well planned, certain standards and content areas can easily be omitted. However, really careful planning and mapping out of standards will help avoid this from happening.
  • Lastly, thematic teaching can feel a lot like storytelling and requires continuity from day to day. Since the unit surrounds one theme, it is like a long, detailed, complex book. Each day, the topic expands and continues versus starting quickly on a new unit. 

Benefits of Thematic Teaching 

After considering the drawbacks, it is time to see how amazing the benefits of thematic teaching are!

  • First, students become so curious about the theme that they develop so much motivation to learn. As the theme progresses, students dive deeper and deeper into the content. Hence, their curiosity grows and they get to learn more information as the theme progresses. Therefore, students are learning way more than surface level information.
  • Second, there is more student talk and less teacher talk. This is so important in classrooms today as students should be the ones learning the material. Ultimately, this means that students are taught how to learn rather than being a passive learner. Students are now exploring, interacting, and engaging with the content versus sitting back and listening.  In doing this, they are working with artifacts, historical documents, and any other resources that can be included. With thematic teaching, students are not limited in the resources they can explore.
  • Lastly, students have a greater sense of ownership with their learning. Instead of being told what to do and how to do it, they have a say in how they are showing their learning. Thankfully, these benefits often mean that students are eager to complete their assignments! While there are drawbacks, the benefits result in so much more student learning! 

Thematic teaching is a student-learning, teacher-friendly way of transforming the classroom! Students are going to be learning more information on a deeper level than ever before. Additionally, teachers are going to love how much learning is occurring and how focused students are. The benefits will greatly outway the drawbacks once starting on the thematic teaching journey! 

Want to learn more about the reasons why I think thematic teaching is the best way to teach? Check out my post on “Why Thematic Teaching is the Best Approach for Upper Elementary Classrooms.”

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