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How does using thematic instruction in a second grade classroom contribute to students' learning?

4 June 1998


The purpose of this qualitative research study was to answer some questions (one central question and four sub-questions) regarding thematic instruction: 1) How does thematic instruction in a second grade classroom contribute to students' learning? 2) What aspects of thematic instruction seem to work best? 3) How do students react to thematic instruction and how, if at all, does it motivate them? 4) How does thematic instruction open the door for more students to become drawn-in and engaged with the lessons? 5) How are concepts learned in a thematic unit integrated into students' affective domain throughout the day? These questions arose out of my interest in the increasingly popular teaching method of thematic (or integrated) instruction. Existing research supports the merits of thematic instruction; this study was intended to see whether the findings of a case study in a primary level classroom coincided with previous research. This study occurred at a small-town K-5 elementary school located in the Pacific Northwest. The school's population consists of approximately 70% Caucasian and 30% Hispanic, which includes a substantial number of ESL students. The participants were second graders from one classroom. Data were collected through a triangulated methodology of classroom (and some playground) observations, student interviews and interviews with the classroom teacher. Pseudonyms have been used in all cases to protect all the participants' rights to privacy and anonymity. After gathering and organizing extensive field notes and interview responses, an analysis ensued as to what these findings illustrated. This study indicated that students' learning is boosted (in several facets) via various aspects of well-implemented thematic instruction.


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