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Advantages of Theme based teaching when teaching children

While teaching it is necessary that the National Curriculum Framework is followed and the skills and knowledge are developed throughout the year. However, there must still be structure to the lesson where the children are taught the relevant skills, which are stated within each Programme of Study. Previous Strategies required teachers to follow a strict plan where each lesson was to last one hour and be taught at a certain time on a certain day. These Strategies are not necessary for teachers to follow anymore; it is now possible for teachers for interlink lessons enabling them to teach pupils in a more imaginative and original way still developing the necessary skills. Some schools may choose to stick to the old curriculum where it was a “rigid hourly timetable.” However, some schools will choose to teach in a cross-curricular manner or using a series of whole days – in or out of school – to focus on a particular theme. When teaching through a theme it is still important that the skills from the National Curriculum Framework are followed and linked into the lessons. I believe there to be a number of advantages when teaching while teaching a theme based approach for developing learning in the non-core subjects and R.E at Key Stage Two. Through teaching in a theme based manner the application of knowledge, principles and values to more than one subject can be taught at the same time through a common topic, text, place or event. Working from one of these can help teachers consider the key concepts in each curriculum area and those which relate them to the chosen theme, establishing broad learning objectives. (http://www.lgfl.net/lgfl/leas/redbridge/web/PSRenewedFwk/documents/SubLdrHdbkDVD/Toolkit/020092006_3-17ImpCrsCurrLrng.pdf)

Theme based teaching can have many advantages when teaching children, some of the advantages may be:

It facilitates active teaching and learning.

Initiates transferable learning skills, for example team work.

It helps the children see the links between the subjects.

Through having a theme it is possible to establish a framework with goals which specify what pupils are expected to learn as the result of the experiences and lessons which are part of their theme. While choosing a theme it is important to consider the availability of resources as there is not any point planning an “amazing” lesson later to find out the necessary resources are unavailable. As we live in Wales it is necessary for the theme to link in Curriculum Cymreig - widening the children’s knowledge of Wales and the Welsh language. As well as this, it must also link in with the Education Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship framework (ESDGC). I believe the most important thing to consider when choosing a theme is, whether or not the children will be interested. This is backed by DfES 2003 stating “Children learn better when they are excited and engaged.” However, (Hoodles, 2008) disagrees with DfEs explaining “...it is the subject matter itself which is exciting and engaging and which is capable of enabling children to use the full of their creative and imaginative abilities.” As well as having an interesting subject it have been proven that establishing a purposeful and appropriate learning environment can “significantly affect the quality of learning that takes place” (Hughes 2010) showing that if the children are happy in their environment they are more likely to benefit.

As well as the benefits it can be seen that there also many disadvantages to the thematic approach. However, I believe that teaching in this way is the better. From previous experience teaching in the Foundation Phase, it could be see that themes were used in a successful way, and used by all creating the links in the subjects, enabling to integrate the different subjects through the theme, even though not all the subjects were able to be taught throughout the theme that did not stop them from being taught in a successful way and allow progression.

The curriculum for Wales has recognised that there is an importance for children to learn across the curriculum, this includes:

Personal and Social Education

Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship

Curriculum Cymreig

The main aim of PSE is to prepare children to be personally and socially successful by offering learning experiences where they are able develop and apply skills, discover personal attitudes and values, and obtain suitable knowledge and understanding, this includes developing their self-esteem, support their self respect and giving them life-long learning skills.

ESDCG involves learning about the links between society, economy and the environment and between our own lives and those of people throughout the world; about the needs and rights of both present and future generations; about the relationships between power, resources and human rights; and about the local and global implications of human activities and the actions that individuals can take in response to local and global issues.

According to the Developing Curriculum Cymreig (2003) “A Curriculum Cymreig helps pupils to understand and celebrate the distinctive quality of living and learning in Wales in the twenty-first century, to identify their own sense of ‘Welshness’ and to feel a heightened sense of belonging to their local community and country.”

Throughout my unit of work I have been able to link in two of the three areas. I have included PSE in my History lessons as the children will be able to compare the characteristics of daily educational life in the Victorian times with the characteristics of their own daily lives, although I do not feel the children will successfully progress in this area. If I were to carry out this unit of work again I would ensure the History lessons enable progression in PSE by expanding on the Victorian times instead of focusing on the daily educational characteristics of their life. I would have liked to include links to ESDGC in my unit of work but from the lessons I chose I felt it was not possible to do so. Again if I was to repeat this unit of work then I would make sure that I had at least one lesson to link in ESDGC. Curriculum Cymreig is an important aspect of a Welsh child’s education so they can value and respect the country they live in, as well as the reasons for certain traditions and cultures. In my unit of work I have been able to link in Curriculum Cymreig with the visit the children will be going on to St. Fagan’s. Whilst in St. Fagan’s the children will be spending a day as a Victorian child in the “Maestir School.” Another way I will be including C.C throughout my unit of work is by using incidental Welsh where the children will be able to widen their Welsh vocabulary.

It is important that children are taught the non-core subjects as these subjects can give them life-long skills. An example of this would be map reading in geography or learning the effects things have on our bodies in P.E. The variety of different subjects widens children’s knowledge and skills. When teaching these subjects, it is best to have a theme as this makes the learning more relevant and meaningful to the children, rather that subject by subject. www.pbs.org states “These connections help children in the way they learn best - through meaningful experiences.” Skills learnt within one subject can then be transferred into another. However, not every subject can be linked with another and has to be taught on its own.

Within my unit of work I have decided to use the cross-curricular approach to best teach the chosen topic. The topic I have chosen is “The Victorians” the main reason to why I chose this topic is because it gives the children an insight into what life was like during the nineteenth century, and how children of their age would have lived. I believe this topic would interest the children as they get to compare the life and education of a Victorian child with themselves. To help me teach the children about the Victorians there are a number of different replica artefacts that are available, enabling the children to make their learning real. As well as this there are also places the children could visit, especially St Fagan’s (National History Museum) where they are able to spend a day as a Victorian child in the “Maestir School.” However, the main reason for me choosing the Victorians is due to the TV programme “Snowdonia 1890” in which two families stepped “back in time” and experienced the harsh realities of Victorian life in rural Wales. From watching this TV programme I learnt a lot about the way the people lived back then and I believe that the programme can be a base point for the children. I have chosen this programme as many of the key skills can also be expanded from this, for example P.S.E the children can have conversations and debates about how they think the children might feel in a Victorian school, and which do they think the children would prefer school today or school in 1890. www.bbc.co.uk/snowdonia1890 explains “there are also opportunities for pupils to practise other cross-curricular skills”

The three subjects I have chosen to best teach this topic are:

History

Design and Technology

Religious Education

Within each of the subjects the children will be looking at different aspects of life throughout the nineteenth century. When children investigate the past, it is important that they use a range of historical sources in order to be able to ask and answer questions. Both primary and secondary source are valuable in the classroom. “Both are important sources to use when investigating the, in order to help children build an understanding of the reasons why things happen and the results of those events” (www.bbc.co.uk/snowdonia1890)

Children have the opportunities to find out about people and important events and developments from recent and more distant times, making links across different periods of history. History is a very broad subject which embraces many other subjects as well as the key skills. It is an exciting subject that all children can interact with, Hoodles (2008) states that “life in the past is different and sometimes strange, but real all the same, which makes it just that little bit exciting.”

Children should be given the opportunities to develop their designing and making skills through a number of different activities. For example, cooking, textiles and woodwork. Through D&T children are able to apply their Scientific, Mathematical, ICT and Art skills through a number of different ways. Within the D&T lessons children will be following a recipe to make oat pancakes. The programme of study states that children “work to their specification/recipe to make products.” Through D&T lessons children are able to develop their skills in numerous different ways.

Children are encouraged to ask and answer questions through problem solving. A great way to encourage this is by using artefacts. They are used as part of worship to remind people about their beliefs. R.E is a great subject to help children to think more for themselves and to be more self-reliant. There are four key skills which should be incorporated into all R.E lessons they are, thinking, communication, ICT and number skills. Children should be given the opportunities to develop these through a number of different activities.

It is now essential for children to develop four key skills throughout their time in education, this is because the key skills:

“enable learners of any age to become successful, whether in school, the workplace, at home or elsewhere, and they need to be firmly embedded into the experience of learners across all their learning” (Skills Framework for 3-19 year olds in Wales, 2008)

Throughout history, children are able to develop their thinking skills through historical enquiry and reflection on key questions, ideas and interpretations. The children will be developing their thinking skills throughout this subject through conversations and discussions comparing and contrasting the difference between the schools in the nineteenth century and today. Thinking skills are very important whilst cooking, which the children will be doing within my unit of work, children need to be thinking what ingredients they will need and what order in which they need to use them. Another way in which the children will be using their thinking skills is when they are required to design and make their posters to represent “health and safety.” According to the PoS “they should be made aware of the impact on their health and safety of certain behaviour” through doing this the children will be using their thinking, communication and ICT skills. It is stated within the National Curriculum that “Learners ask fundamental questions which are raised by human experience, the world and aspects of religion.” Children are able to do this by having the experience of different religions as well as their own enabling them to think and ask questions. Ways in which children are able to have such experiences may come from visits to religious building, stories or being shown a wide range of artefacts. Within my unit of work the children are required to think of the differences between Churches and Chapels as a way of helping them discover the differences they will be looking at video clips and examining artefact from Chapels/Churches.

Children should be developing their communicating skills, through “oracy, reading and writing and wider communication skills through using aural and written sources.” The children will be developing their communication skills within the many different discussions and question and answer sessions. The children will also be required to discuss their opinions within small groups as well as full class discussions. There are many different forms of communication which may include; stories, drama, role play, presentations, displays, art, music, ICT and many other media. The children need to be able to research and learn information in logical ways and “then be able to reconstruct what they have learned to create an original piece of work” (Hughes 2010) Communication is vital throughout D&T to prevent injury whilst cooking or making. Children are able to learn a lot through asking questions and researching information. Within the PoS it is explained that children should “consider the safety, reliability and sustainability of their activities/products.” Children will be discussing what could happen if they do not use the cooking equipment probably, by doing this they will be bringing in the health and safety element, in which “pupils should be taught how to use tools/utensils and equipment safety” is stated within the range of the PoS. Children develop their communication skills through listening to other people’s ideas and expressing their own ideas. Children should be encouraged to communicate their ideas, feelings and opinions in a number of different ways. As well as communicating it is important that children listen carefully to other’s ideas before forming their own opinion. The PoS explains

“Learners ask questions, communicate ideas and express their own feelings and opinions using different forms as appropriate to the audience and purpose of the activity.”

As one of the lessons within my unit of work the children will be researching the differences between different religious buildings and communicating their results in different ways.

ICT is a key skill which can be interlinked with each of the other skills as the children are able to use ICT equipment to research and present their findings. Within my unit of work children have the opportunity to ICT to display their work and also to look at many different artefacts. WAG explains that children at KS2 “select, organise and communicate historical information in a variety of ways, including ICT” ICT is a great form of researching and displaying children’s work in a number of different ways. Children will be developing their ICT skills “to find information” by using the computers to research foods and recipes from Victorian times. Through using ICT children can become creative with their work as there is a wide range of programmes available to help them produce work of the highest standard. ICT is being used more and more in schools today than ever before the change in technology means that children need to have the ability to use a computer, camera and different digital equipment well to support their work. This is a great way to add another dimension to the children’s work, as well as helping them research different areas of the curriculum using the internet and CD-ROMs. The National Curriculum suggests that children use ICT “to present information in a variety of formats using word processing and graphics” Through the R.E aspect of my unit of work the children will be able to use the internet to carry out any relevant research as well as using a different programmes to present their findings.

Children will also being using their number skills when looking at the years different events took place. “They use number to measure” explains the PoS which is true to my unit of work, the children will be measuring out the necessary ingredients to make their own foods. Children maybe using measurements/equipment that they are unsure of as weight can change between grams, teaspoon/tablespoon etc causing confusion. However, through D&T and Mathematics children will develop the skill to use number in a wide variety of ways. Children are able to develop their number skills through R.E by using information; however the PoS states that “in Religious Education, there no explicit references to developing number.” Within my unit of work the children will be developing their number skills whilst comparing how many people attended Church/Chapel during the nineteenth century compared to today.

Overall it can be seen that developing links between subjects enables schools to offer a broad and rich curriculum. The Estyn report “The curriculum in successful Primary Schools” found that many of these schools made good use of links across subjects which:

“strengthened the relevance and coherence of the curriculum for pupils

ensured that pupils applied the knowledge and skills learned in one subject to others, thus reinforcing their learning and increasing their understanding and confidence

Made good use of longer blocks of time, enabling pupils to undertake sustained work on themes covering two or three subjects.”

To conclude it can be seen that including cross curricular links “provides pupils with the broad curriculum to which they were entitled.” This leads to the children growing in self-confidence which helps them to tackle more challenging work and develop a positive attitude towards school life and learning.

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