In early years, it is important to instill a method of learning that will set up students for a lifetime of learning. It is especially important to create a love of learning in these formative times, which is why we use theme-based learning in kindergarten and nursery. Let’s take a look at what this means.
Theme-based learning allows students to learn a range of subjects under one single theme. When a student learns about something they can relate to the world around them, they start to pique their own curiosity and break the barriers of traditional academic subjects.
We can use the example of a class based around the theme of Travel. Students pretend to travel to Japan where many of the lessons incorporate history by learning simple things from Japanese history, such as the use of umbrellas, familiar tools or clothes from Japan that can be associated with children’s clothing, or food from Japan that is incorporated into the student’s snacks. These cultural aspects help students appreciate other cultures and widen their views of the world. Students also learn about Japanese culture when it is also integrated into their art and music subjects.
Maybe we could think about the theme of “Farm Animals”. One of the animals that are common in the farm are cows. Nursery students learn about the letter “C” for “cow”. Kindergarten 1 will learn different colors that a cow may have. And other kindergarten levels will learn other things about the cow, such as, what cows eat, how to milk a cow, and how does a cow help the farmer.
So now that we know what theme-based learning is, let’s dive into how this helps young learners.
Famous Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget said ‘children learn by doing’. A very apt quote and pertinent to theme-based learning. We can think about when a child learns to speak their first words or take their first steps, this is not achieved by instruction but by seeing and hearing their parents and attempting to imitate them. This innate way of learning never leaves us. We use it in kindergarten and nursery, all the way through school and even in adulthood.
In this way, theme-based learning is proven to be so effective in early childhood. Instead of a curriculum built around memorizing information, children are instead encouraged to be more practical, learning about the various aspects of any given theme. When a child is given an interesting theme and learns aspects of science, history, religion, etc. around said theme, they are no longer constrained to potentially tedious subject-centric classes.
We have learned a lot about what theme-based learning is and how it is so helpful for young learners. Now we can take a look at how it can be used in a practical sense, allowing kindergarten children to have fun and learn more efficiently.
One theme we could use in a classroom is sports. Let’s take a look at what a class about sport may look like and how it can incorporate other subjects into the learning.
- The children can talk about their favorite sports, this starts a social interaction between students. At a young age, social interaction is of such importance and will shape how they work as a team and interact with society in general.
- The children can partake in some sporting activities. Young children need exercise and muscle building to grow strong and healthy, this also furthers the social interactions and teamwork building that we talked about in the first point.
- Many sports use numbers in their rules and scoring, children can start to build a foundation of mathematics from learning this and keeping score of the games they are playing.
- A simple game such as throwing a ball can bring more math into the class. The children could measure the distance of their throws and even work out how much further one throw is to another. An example of this is one child throws 5 meters, another throws 7 meters, what is the difference?
- Children can learn about sports played in different countries. This kind of activity brings social studies and even geography into play. They could use maps in group activities to point out which sports are most popular in various countries.
- The use of maps could incorporate art into the learning by making their own presentations of sports around the world.
- Reading short stories about sports and then answering questions about them will improve reading and comprehension abilities.
- Writing their own short story or diary about playing sports will help their writing, grammar, and vocabulary skills.
So as you can see, there are a lot of ways to learn so many key topics on any given theme. The key of course is that children have fun while doing all of this and sometimes, they don’t even feel like they are learning. This is the key, learning while having fun is absolutely the most effective way to learn anything. This is true for children and adults too. As you are reading this now, you could probably think of a few hobbies and interests that you have. You have likely learned about this hobby in your spare time because you take pleasure in it, the learning does not feel like a chore at all. In fact, let’s say your hobby is gardening, you probably learned a lot about biology and chemistry to make sure your plants get the right nutrients and sunlight.
One last thing to mention but potentially one of the most important points is that theme-based learning allows children to explore and learn on their own, using a teacher as a facilitator. This sets up a lifelong habit of enjoying learning. It makes learning fun and not something that must be done just for grades. Simply put, when you love learning, you never stop learning.