Why Thematic Teaching is the Best Teaching Approach for Upper Elementary Classrooms

Upper elementary students often crave independence while still needing support throughout the day. This puts upper elementary teachers in a challenging position. Teachers have to meet the needs of their students and teach the grade-level standards. Thematic teaching is the best teaching approach for upper elementary classrooms for this reason. By following the thematic teaching approach, students, challenged, and supported! 

What is Thematic Teaching?

Thematic teaching is an integrated, cross-curricular unit that is based on one central theme. By doing this, teachers cover a variety of skills. Since there is an ongoing exploration of a topic or subject, students are learning the content much deeper than before. Instead of rushing to move to the next subject, many subject areas are now connected in one lesson. Thematic teaching allows you to spend more time digging deeper into the content. Now, students are able to build and develop meaningful connections across subjects. Students see how content is embedded into multiple areas of life versus a single lesson or class. 

Benefits of Thematic Teaching Approach

When considering the switch to thematic teaching, it is important to explore the many benefits. First, students are more motivated to learn. They are curious about the activities, enjoy independence, and know their opinion matters. Second, there is more student talk and less teacher talk. Students are actively engaged in the lessons and not sitting back listening to a lecture. Third, a variety of sources can now be included. Students will be exposed to artifacts, historical documents, and a variety of books. Fourth, students will have a stronger sense of ownership of their learning. They will be proud to take charge of the different ways they get to show their knowledge. The amount of thematic teaching benefits shows how great it is for teachers and students! Therefore, it will be an incredible decision to make the switch in your classroom. 


The majority of teachers use a set daily schedule. There are specific times in the day for every subject, break, and special. Thematic teaching removes the stress of sticking to the set times. This is due to the fact that subjects are now integrated together. In order for this to occur, there are a couple of suggestions to keep in mind. First, you must set aside time for students to independently work on assignments of their choice. By doing this, students are exploring the theme in a variety of ways. You want to make sure that you keep a balance between independent time instruction. Thematic teaching greatly supports students working together and continuing to build relationships. Second, make sure to include all subject areas when lesson planning. 

A true thematic approach integrates everything in the weekly schedule together. Third, don’t forget valuable intervention time and activities for students who need it. There can be blocks within the day set aside to explore the theme within an intervention. Fourth, set aside a chunk of time each week that allows the teacher to extend learning. If this time is not needed, students can catch up on work. Due to so many unexpected things occurring in a school day, this time will be very valuable. Remember the average attention span for your students while planning. With these suggestions, you’ll be so thankful not to follow a rigid schedule anymore! 

There are so many thematic teaching benefits! Teachers will love how deep students can explore the content. There is no teaching and moving on even when students are confused. Instead, students are invested in their learning while holding themselves accountable for assignments. Students will love how much respect they feel from the teacher. Additionally, they will love being able to show their learning in different ways. Implementing the thematic teaching approach will be one of the best decisions you’ve made!