Thematic Unit Definition and How to Create One

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A Thematic unit is the organization of a curriculum around a central theme. In other words, it's a series of lessons that integrate subjects across the curriculum, such as math, reading, social studies, science, language arts, etc. that all tie into the main theme of the unit. Each activity should have a main focus toward the thematic idea. A thematic unit is much broader than just choosing a topic. They cover a wide range such as Australia, mammals, or the solar system. Many teachers choose a different thematic unit for their classroom each week, while others plan their teaching themes for two to nine weeks.

Why Use Thematic Units

  • It increases students interest
  • Helps students understand connections
  • Expands assessment strategies
  • Keeps students engaged
  • compacts the curriculum
  • Saves teachers time because it incorporates all subjects
  • Draws on connections from the real world and life experiences

Key Components of a Thematic Unit

There are eight key components of a thematic unit lesson plan. Follow these guidelines when you are creating your classroom unit.

  1. Theme - Select the theme of the unit based on Common Core standards, student interests or student experience.
  2. Grade Level - Select the appropriate grade level.
  3. Objectives - Identify the specific objectives that you would like to master during the course of the unit.
  4. Materials - Determine the materials you will use throughout the unit.
  5. Activities - Develop the activities that you will use for your thematic unit. Make sure you cover activities across the curriculum.
  6. Discussion Questions - Create a variety of discussion questions to help students think about the theme of the unit.
  7. Literature Selections - Select a variety of books that correlate with the activities and the central theme of the unit.
  8. Assessment - Evaluate student progress throughout the unit. Measure student growth through rubrics or other means of assessment.

Tips for Creating Thematic Units

Here are three tips to help you create a thematic unit in your classroom.

  1. Find an engaging theme - Themes can be planned around books, benchmarks, skills students need to develop, or just from student interest. Find a theme that will motivate and captivate students interest. Units are typically longer than a week, so it's important to find a theme that will keep the students engaged.
  2. Create fun activities - The activities you choose are the heart of the unit. These activities need to cross the curriculum and keep students interest. Learning centers are a great way for students to get hands-on experience while learning important skills.
  3. Evaluate Students Learning - While finding a central theme, and creating engaging cross-curriculum activities are important, so is evaluating what the students have learned. Portfolio-based assessment is a great way to see students progress throughout a period of time. For example, a habitat portfolio can be created to document the progress the students made throughout the unit of habitats.
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Your Citation
Cox, Janelle. "Thematic Unit Definition and How to Create One." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Cox, Janelle. (2020, August 27). Thematic Unit Definition and How to Create One. Retrieved from Cox, Janelle. "Thematic Unit Definition and How to Create One." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 1, 2023).