Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Teaching Kindergarten with Themes

One of the best things about Kindergarten is we use themes to teach.  When I first started teaching Kindergarten, we had a theme every week!  We had  a theme that we tried to fit in every book, paper, a letter, and art project into.  It was crazy!  We used to joke about having to finish up one theme while starting the next one (So, children, there were spiders on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims).

We hate to give anything up but I cannot teach one thing each week.  I have lots of books that do not fit into a theme.  Many of the art projects and math papers were not appropriate for the skill levels for that time of the year (but they fit the theme!!).

Flash forward a few years.  Themes are even easier now. There are so many cute units available to buy or find for free on the internet now!  It is overwhelming!  How do you decide what to focus on?  Do you need new stations every week or every other week?  Who is going to pay for all that ink and cardstock???!!?


So, we have tried to make our lives a little simpler.  I use Daily Five for my reading instruction.  The kids read books that are on their level, write on their own level, listen to fluent reading in great storybooks, read with a buddy, and learn their letters and words through Word Work centers that I try to keep simple enough for them to understand and do without adult help.  I no longer worry that they are working on theme related centers (although I stick them in occasionally!).

I use a similar system for math.  I set up sixteen centers based on the objectives we are working on that quarter.  We started Common Core last year. I completely differentiated my centers the fourth quarter to better meet the needs of that class.

I am trying to differentiate more this year.  Some of the centers are cute and based on favorite books (like Pete the Cat and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom! in the beginning of the year) but most are dice or spinners or other manipulatives and a recording sheet.  I am not sure that kids notice the cute clipart as much as we do!  I will write another post about math centers and differentiation but I also greatly admire Marsha from A Differentiated Kindergarten.   You should check out her math centers for the beginning of school.


What a long explanation of teaching with/without themes.

Now I do try to incorporate my science and social studies themes into my read alouds, shared writing, and art projects.  For example, our first social studies theme is Home and School.  We will spend some of our first nine weeks on this theme.

I am wondering if the Common Core Social Studies goals will be anything like these:

UNIT 1:  Home and School
Goal 1. Political Science - Students will understand the historical development and current 
status of the democratic principles and the development of skills and attitudes 
necessary to become responsible citizens.
Objectives – The student will be able to:
a. Identify reasons for classroom and school rules, such as maintaining order and 
keeping the community safe. 
b. Recognize rules help promote fairness, responsible behavior, and privacy. 
c. Describe the roles, rights, and responsibilities of family members.  
d. Describe the roles of members of the school, such as principal, crossing guard, bus 
drivers, and teachers. 
e. Identify and describe rights, and responsibilities in the classroom and family. 
Goal 2:  Peoples of the Nation and the World - Students will understand how people in 
Maryland, the United States, and around the world are alike and different.
Objectives – The student will be able to:
a. Give examples of qualities, such as customs, interests, skills, and experiences that 
make individuals and families in their immediate environment unique.
b. Demonstrate how groups of people interact.
c. Identify, discuss, and demonstrate appropriate social skills, such as listening to the 
speaker, taking turns, settling disagreements, and reaching compromise at home and 
in school. 
Goal 3:  Geography - Students will use geographic concepts and processes to understand 
location and its relationship to human activities.
Objectives – The student will be able to:
a. Identify situations where people make choices. 
b. Recognize workers as human resources. 
Goal 4: History - Students will use historical thinking skills to understand how individuals 
and events have changed society over time.
Objectives – The student will be able to:
a. Identify and describe events of the day in chronological order. 
b. Describe daily events in terms of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

It is a little overwhelming!  These are our objectives for one subject for one quarter (to be integrated into our language arts block).  If you look it over, you will see many ideas that we have traditionally covered in Kindergarten: school rules, families, working as a group, showing the day in sequence, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.   We learn about geography and history (Columbus, the Pilgrims) Some of the others are a difficult? (Um, we are supposed to tell them workers are human resources.  Oh!  Community helpers!  That makes sense, I guess.)

  We do the best we can.  (Most of my kids will never see a crossing guard.)  :)

We will be using these themes this year :

September Friendship, Rules, Apples (got to slip that in there!)
October Bats, Spiders, Pumpkins (and Columbus and oh!  Fire Safety!)
November Fall and The First Thanksgiving
December Gingerbread and Celebrations
January Winter, MLK, Peace
February Groundhog's Day, Valentine's Day, President's Day, Dental Health (I know!!  too much for such a short month.  But it isn't like we can move any of the days around!)
March St. Patrick's, Rainbows
April Frogs, Spring
May Bugs, Pond

I still feel like some months are crazy!  Especially October and February.  And we fit in our science and social studies into these themes the best we can.

So, is anyone still with me?  Do you do any of this?  Do you celebrate as you go through the year?


Tamara Williams said...

I do the same thing(or at least something like it). I teach with themes bc I think it just grounds the kids to what they are learning, and I remind myself that Kindergarten (now PreK) may be their first experience about all of these topics so its good to give them a frame of reference for future years. I love themes.

Nicki said...

We actually decided this year to pick one main theme for the month (for example: apples-september) and do it throughout. Then if there is something extra that we need to pull in--make it a fun Friday activity or add it within the small group station rotation. October--pumpkins, but our fun Fridays will be spiders, bats, etc. Then I'm still able to fit that in but without spending a whole week on it. Does this make sense? :)

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