Holidays & Themes (Thematic Thursday)

This week is quickly drawing to a close and we're on the backside of our birthday SALE-A-BRATION.  It's been so much fun getting to celebrate my weeklong milestone with y'all! 

Today we're talking all about holidays and themes.  Do you celebrate holidays in your classroom?  Are you allowed to theme your resources and curriculum?  I often get asked how I fit it all in and I'm hoping this post gives you a glimpse of how I plan!

Now let's first take a look at my yearlong pacing calendar.  We'll look at October just for giggles.

As you can see in the far left column (under Sunday), I have my themes for the week listed.  This isn't the basis of my instruction, rather a way for me to thematically plan my stations (literacy & math), grab books from the library about that content, plan for poetry, and incorporate more vocabulary in my instruction.  Brain research has proven that when teaching is thematic, intentional, and hands-on, learning is enhanced and long-term memory is increased...and as a side note, I think we as teachers have more FUN teaching thematically.  Or am I the only one?!

Working from that yearlong calendar, I'll start thinking about my upcoming objectives and themes a few weeks in advance and then either create or gather the resources I need to prep for centers/stations.  I'll also check out or order books for our library and create vocabulary cards/resources for our focus wall.  When it's finally time to incorporate the theme, I layout my detailed plans (that look something like this)..

Again, I don't teach TO the theme.  It's not my objective.  Teaching thematically just gives me a fun way to teach the objectives.  It keeps my kids engaged and exciting.  Things are always changing...not necessarily the skills and concepts, but the themes.  And teaching thematically most definitely increases the vocabulary I incorporate and the kids learn.  

Of course, vocabulary can be incorporated in so many different ways, but I've found that it's easier to plan for intentional vocabulary instruction when I'm planning for thematic activities....between the books, content related words, just seems a bit easier for me to plan!  And when you don't have any formal vocabulary curriculum, every little thing helps :)

While we're on the subject of words, let's talk about planning for thematic literacy activities.  These activities usually represent themselves in the form of hands-on games in literacy tubs and whole group/small group games to reinforce concepts/skills related to the curriculum.  If we're learning about bats, for example, I'll create literacy based activities using bat clipart/cutouts.  I'll use spider webs to create rhyming games...etc.  The Dollar Tree will often have lots of seasonal/holiday related things that are perfect for incorporating into centers, too!

And, of course, I love thematic poetry!  We might focus on 1-2 poems per week related to a theme and those poems will include various concepts (spelling patterns, sight words, etc.) perfect for skill reinforcement and retention.  I love to use the poetry in our reading pocket chart as well.  I'll print out the words of the poem on sentence strips and then the kids practice assembling the poem in sequence, finding rhyming words, one-to-one correspondence, word families, sight words...the list goes on.  

One of the questions I'm asked quite often is, "when do you find the time for craftivities?"  Let me just say this.  I think it's sad we even have to ask that! #toomuchtesting #letthembelittle
I do prefer my kids' art to be unique and I don't always want for them to look the same, but I do love structured craftivities for the purpose of enhancing their listening skills and ability to follow's a struggle, isn't it?!
I never have my kids do a craftivity for the sake of just doing them.  They're always tied to another activity and the craftivity is the hands-on visual representing the concept/skill on which they are focusing.  I've found that the easiest way to incorporate craftivities is through extensions to writing.  My kids will often complete a writing activity and then follow-up with the craftivity.  Oftentimes these will be displayed in the classroom, but I also like to keep these for their end-of-year portfolios that go home with them on the last day of school.  Not only are the portfolios a great way to document growth and progress, but they make great keepsakes for parents, too!  

I theme my math tubs the same way I do for literacy.  I also love scoping out the Dollar Tree, Wal Mart, and the Target Dollar Spot for seasonal/holiday things I can use as manipulatives to put in their tubs...erasers, table scatter, etc.  I love giving my kids lots of hands-on experiences in all subject areas and math really lends itself to lots of hands-on opportunities.

Hopefully this gives you a little insight on how I plan for fun :)  Not just fun, but learning, too!!  

And for today's SALE-A-BRATION, in keeping with the theme (pun intended ;) all of my thematic resources are 20% OFF today only!  The activities mentioned/pictured above are all included in the sale as well as MANY others!  

Have a GREAT day!!!


  1. I love themes but I struggle to incorporate them consistently. I will definitely be trying to plan ahead by month like this. Thank you for sharing :)

  2. Even though I teach junior high kids, I still use themes with my 7th graders and they LOVE it! Our district just came out of a ten-year stint with a very stringent elementary reading program that left no time for free reading or art. Boo! By the time kids get to me, they tend to immensely dislike anything to do with Language Arts or books, so I've made it my mission to change that. I take all the fun elements from my elementary days, make them more teenager-ish, and try to dazzle the socks of those jaded kiddos! It works because they assure me that it is their favorite time of the day...bless their hearts.

    You have so many great ideas, Cara, and I always leave your blog feeling excited and re-energized. Thanks so much for the inspiration!


  3. Love this post! Planning is not my strong suit so it always helps to see how others plan. Plus your pictures are amazing!

  4. What a great description of how you keep it all going and I am so glad that you worry about your kids having FUN and being EXCITED about learning as much as knowing content when they walk away from a theme! I think sometimes we get so caught up in the crap that we forget the joy! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Where do you find all of your poems?