Curriculum integration is key.
There are so many benefits to teaching through themes. If you understand language and vocabulary to be one of the most fundamental componants of a child’s learning, you will then understand the benefits of teaching through themes and topics. By choosing an over all topic or theme you will provide children with constant reinforcement of topical vocabulary throughout the days/weeks or month and it is likely that the language will be absorbed by the children in fun and relevant lessons. A thematic approach also offers children the opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things.
Choosing a topic...
It is worth planning themes over the course of a year and then planning in advance how you might progress with those themes from junior to senior Infants. When choosing topics, you may want to consider your own local environment and the community in your catchment area. This will help make learning more relevant to your children. You will also have a better selection of local resources to support your teaching. When I choose a topic I try to pick something that is broad and can incorporate smaller sub topics. Also certain times of year lend themselves to certain topics... the obvious ones being the seasons. Autumn/Winter/Spring/Summer. Every year we end up having a conversation about when does one season start and another end. There is no right or wrong here, but when it comes to teaching I would suggest that you let our Irish climate influence when you teach a season. You want the children to be able to identify what they see in nature with what you are teaching them. I teach the seasons as follows:
(Click on the topics to see photo & videos of the topic in action in my class)
I always explain to the children that like everything in nature, seasons are a cycle and they don't just jump from one into the other over night, but rather over a month or so. i.e. In November I tell the children that autumn is changing into winter. We have a tree outside our window that we observe. We watch the leaves change colour and gradually fall off (it's normally into Dec by the time it is fully bare). Within the overall topic of a season I will run a sub topic. There is always room to change topics year to year as you discover what language and curriculum objectives you want to teach.
Other broad themes could include:
Myself and Family (This is a good one for September as children are more familiar with the topical vocabulary)
Choosing topic can be very flexible and you can integrate things as they suit you. There are endless ways that this can be done.
Here are some nice links to more information about topics and thematic teaching.
Early learning HQ