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Thematic Units
Government, Space, Apples, Seasons, Space, Nutrition, Westward Expansion, Butterflies, Linear Equations, Shakespeare, etc. are all great topics to explore, but we invite you think BIGGER! What commonalities can you find among the big topics that you teach? Perhaps many of them relate to how things or people change. Maybe they are connected through exploration or many of them have systems to discover.

Integrated thematic units go beyond subject specific work and help students make connections among huge topics and many different disciplines. Some teachers choose to use one theme through the entire year and explore it deeply. Others use one per quarter because their subject matter fits nicely in four themes instead of 1. There is not a "right" way to implement a thematic unit. Instead, it depends on what you're trying to accomplish in your classroom.

A couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Developing units is an ongoing process.
2. There are not specific connections that you're required to make. For example, the study of space might tie into in any of the these units: systems, exploration, adaption, relationships, courage, change, etc.
3. The whole point of thematic units is to make connections. The more connections students make, the deeper their understanding becomes.
4. It isn't an easy task. You want to develop each individual subject area while simultaneously making connections among them. The goal isn't to teach government and to toss in a graph for integration. The goal is to move students along in all areas - social studies, math, science, literacy, the arts, an so on at the same time while making connections to the Big Idea.


This article describes a teacher's journey over a few years as she works to improve one of her integrated units. It is helps remind us that unit development is an ongoing process instead of a one-time event.

Possible Themes


Elementary Example - 4th Grade Connections to Change:

Secondary Example - 9th Grade Connections to Relationships
to be completed:

** Keep in mind, two areas might partner to develop an integrated unit or many departments can join in the efforts. You don't have to have everyone on board initially. The charts just show the possibilities.

Books, Sites, and Other Resources