Managing Student Groups During Thematic Learning

One of the hardest parts of high-quality instruction can be managing student behavior. Whenever students have the opportunity to work together, they can get a little off task and loud. However, this aspect should not be a reason why students cannot work together anymore.

In thematic teaching, some of the deepest knowledge can be learned through student communication. Therefore, it is important to work on managing student groups during thematic learning. When just the right strategy is discovered, then engaging, interactive theme units can successfully occur. 

Review of Thematic Teaching Approach

When teaching a 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 to use 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. 

To learn more about the thematic teaching approach, check out this blog post on “Everything Upper Elementary Teachers Need to Know About Thematic Teaching.”

Management Strategies 

Every classroom is composed of different students. Thus, it will be important to try different strategies until the right one is found. It may not happen on the first or second try, but the efforts made will be well worth it. With thematic teaching, students will learn content deeper than they have before. Additionally, they will feel like valuable members of a calm, relaxing classroom with how organized thematic teaching makes the day. 

  1. Group Roles: Assign each group member a role. For example, assign a notetaker, speaker, and illustrator. The role can vary depending on the theme or activity. Before allowing students to work, it will be essential to review the responsibilities of each role in order for students to know what is expected of them. 
  1. Learning Logs: Each day, have students record one of two things that they did that day. By doing this, you are holding students accountable for explaining what they have learned or accomplished. Since they know they have to record their progress, there will be fewer distracted students. 
  1. Model Ideal Behavior: Each student learns in a different way. Thus, students may not understand what kind of behavior is expected of them just by being told. They need to see examples of wrong versus right. You can even have a couple of students help act out what not to do versus what is expected. 
  1. Let Students Help Establish Guidelines: Students love to feel valued and respected in the classroom. Hence, they will feel proud to help establish guidelines on their expectations. If students break these guidelines, the teacher can quickly provide a reminder that they set their own expectations. Many times, this will help students refocus and continue working on the theme. 

There is no right or wrong approach to try. Each classroom is different, so a different strategy may work for each room. Additionally, a different strategy may be needed each time a new group comes into the classroom. No matter what, know that it is okay to try different strategies in order to find the one that best supports high-quality learning. 

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