Themes and Projects
A Thematic approach in early childhood education means that the curriculum will be centered around a particular topic, theme or idea. All the activities and lessons in the class will be centered around this theme. This approach allows teachers to integrate a central idea across all areas of the curriculum. This has been referred to as an integrated approach to curriculum by many researchers and educators.
A thematic curriculum is beneficial to both the teachers and children.
For the teachers it helps them to better focus in their planning, and
helps them to collect resources and materials for their prop boxes, which can be
used again. It also helps them to
coordinate their efforts with their cohorts so that they can share their
resources and materials. Also using
a theme based approach helps the teacher to plan ahead.
The thematic curriculum allows children to explore, learn, and
investigate ideas and the environment on their own.
It also helps them to tie together the knowledge gained, instead of
learning on a piece meal basis. One
could also decide on what themes to use based on the childrenís input and
ideas. The selection of themes also
depends on the preschoolís schedule, staffing, and the nature of the
clientele. The most important point
to bear in mind while choosing themes is that it needs to foster all areas of
childrenís growth and development.
A list of some of themes that one can choose from are listed below:
farm, domestic, and sea animals
Some of the prop boxes (materials that go together)
that one can create to go with the above themes are listed below:
loaves of bread and meat
Fabric or plastic flowers
Toys for pets
Combs and brushes
Pretend make up material
Pretend haircutting scissors
Hair styling books
Hair styling products
Plastic bucket and shovel
A project approach has been defined by Katz and Chard (1989) as an
in-depth study of a topic by either an individual child, group of children or a
whole class. Students and teachers
together will determine the topic that they will investigate, resources they
will use, and the manner in which their learning will be displayed.
Project approach is of immense benefit to the children because it
encourages them to actively seek knowledge.
This might entail them to interact with people in the community,
environment, seek out other resources. This
will encourage the childrenís ability to be independent, be motivated and
increase their self-esteem.
For teachers too the project approach has immense benefits in terms of
them pointing the children in the right direction to explore and freeing them to
more individualized instruction. The
project approach can also keep the teachers challenged because each group of
children will have different ideas and suggestions for the project.
Katz and Chard (1989) have identified three phases in the life of a
project. The first phase is the is
the initial phase during which the teacher assesses the knowledge level of the
children in that particular area, then the children and the teacher develop the
questions that they would like to investigate.
During the developmental phase the teacher guides the children to gain
direct experience in the topic that they are investigating.
During the concluding phase the teacher brings a closure to the project
and the children share the knowledge they have gained through several creative
The topics for projects are varied and wide, the most important criteria
being that it should stem from the childrenís and teacherís interest.
Katz and Chard (1989)
outlined the following guidelines in selecting a topic for project work:
should be relevant
plenty of opportunities to apply skills learned
the availability of resources
and childrenís interest
After selecting the topic one can brainstorm with the children and come up with a web of the possibilities of questions, prior knowledge, and knowledge to be gained. Then the teacher and the children need to create an environment that will facilitate their learning process and help them investigate the topic under study. It can sometimes be hard to sustain the childrenís interest over a period of time, hence the teacher needs to be continually modifying or altering the plans, environment etc to continuously interest the children. Some teachers also add additional projects to the ongoing projects to sustain interest. The most important part of a project work is wrapping it up and documenting the learning that has taken place. Some children create books, teachers display their work, or videotape the entire process. This documentation has to be demonstrated to all interested and use this as a platform to advocate for children.