Thematic teaching or thematic instruction highlights of a theme through a thematic unit, or a course, or a series of courses within the social studies, or across disciplinary lines to make connections to other courses.

The theme should be recurrent through human history and present in modern life. It can be a topic, such as vacation or manners. Or themes can be overarching questions, or essential questions or compelling questions.

The thematic approach featured on this website aligns with:

Why teach with themes?

  • Students learn better when experiencing knowledge in a larger context. They begin to see relationships and connections across time and disciplines.
  • Learning about wider themes and concepts more closely resemble how we experience life outside of the school and classroom
  • Themes can be chosen that are student-centered and incorporate the needs, interests and perspectives of the students – differentiation!
  • Carefully selecting knowledge related to a theme can help teachers narrow down the overwhelming amount of information that is available in any discipline – so much history, so little time to teach it!

Interdisciplinary topics for thematic instruction

Daily life themes – food, family, housing, travel, manners – can be used across the curriculum to make academic subjects relevant.

Learn more about the history of daily life themes, thematic units, and how to use themes in the elementary, middle, secondary, or college classroom.


About the header image: Postcard of tobacco growers delivering their crop of cigar tobacco, Quincy, Florida.
Library of Congress.