Module 4 – Instructional Techniques
Thematic instruction organizes activities or lessons around a general idea or theme meaningful to the learner. Thematic instruction integrates basic academic areas like reading, math, and science with the exploration of broad subjects such as communities, rain forests, space exploration, the use of energy, and so on.
“The integrated, thematic unit enables the incorporation of science skills, [into] language arts and mathematics. For example, a writing assignment, 'A Day Without Electricity,' can be included with a math activity to calculate 'energy bits' saved over a two week period.”
“An important element of making education work is making it interesting and relevant to our students. [Thematic Instruction] has helped us bring the real world into the classroom. In writing about the environment, their writing had meaning to them.”
Take a moment to consider the implications of thematic instruction for planning and delivering adult literacy instruction.
On your worksheet, record your initial thoughts about thematic instruction.
In thematic instruction, adult literacy instructors draw objectives, concepts, and skills from areas relating to student goals and then integrate them with a chosen theme. While other contextualized instruction tools, like work-based learning or problem-based learning, could be considered a type of thematic instruction, the focus here is on broader, more general themes of interest to the adult learner – like the environment or elections – which can encompass study of almost any needed skills. Planning for thematic instruction should involve the learner in selection of the topic, brainstorming and prioritizing issues for study, making connections to needed skills and knowledge, and then planning classroom activities, as well as assessment and evaluation of the thematic course of study.
Listed below is a real-life adult education scenario. While you are reading, consider the needs of the learners in the class. How has the instructor worked to meet those needs? Were learners involved in planning the theme and the learning activities? How can the instructor accommodate this new request?
Real-Life Scenario – Space Study:
Several of the younger men in Joyce’s class have become very interested in space exploration. They propose that the class explore the theme of Outer Space for the upcoming month. Most other learners in class feel this is a worthy topic – especially as it is a section on the GED science exam. The class generates a list of topics and issues to explore. Each learner picks a topic and proposes a project that will include a written essay with visuals – including at least one graph. Joyce provides Earth and Space science-related reading material, vocabulary lists, and Web resources. The class brainstorms math activities having to do with space, amazed at all the math involved in talking about outer space. They decide to focus on scientific notation and calculations using the speed of light. After a couple of weeks, two students ask Joyce if they have to participate in this project. They really aren’t interested in the topic and would prefer to study in more traditional formats.
On your worksheet, record your thoughts on the needs of the various learners in the class and how the instructor has attempted to meet those needs.
In reviewing these ideas, did you find any similar to your own? Did any of them strike you as particularly interesting? Did they provide any new insights for your instruction of adult literacy learners?
On your worksheet, make note of any tips, insights, or new ideas gained from the instructors’ suggestions.
- Thematic instruction seeks to put the teaching of literacy skills such as reading, mathematics, science, and writing in the context of a real-world subject specific enough to be practical and broad enough to allow creative exploration.
- Interdisciplinary basic skills instruction takes place as learners explore, make connections, and see patterns in real-world, relevant contexts.
- Literacy instructors should involve learners in the process for selecting themes, as well as in planning learning activities.
- Students can work independently or in teams, and may or may not create an end product as a part of the learning activities. Not every lesson must connect to the theme, and not every student must participate in the thematic activities.
- Instructors should plan to accommodate learners with different levels of enthusiasm and interest for the topic.
On your worksheet, record any final notes or thoughts, specific ideas you want to remember, plans for further study, etc.
Click "Next" below or a specific topic on the outline to the left to continue.
Dirkx, John & Prenger, Suzanne, A Guide for Planning and Implementing Instruction for Adults: A Theme-based Approach. (1997) San Francisco:Jossey-Bates