Thematic teaching in the kindergarten: A description of changed and unchanged practices

Annemarie B Jay, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study was to examine the change process through the recent implementation of thematic teaching in the kindergartens in a school district, and to analyze the relationship between the newly implemented curriculum and the literacy growth of the children; practices in representative classrooms are described. The research is unlike other studies for two reasons. First, it is a qualitative description of extended teaching themes, that is, themes which are designed to cover an instructional period of at least a few weeks. Second, it investigates areas in which the change process affects and is affected by the implementation of a new curriculum framework. As a qualitative study it is a contribution to the theory of change process. An historical overview of the staff development that preceded and accompanied the development of the teacher-written thematic units and the roles of change agents are given. The main research questions addressed in this study focus on teachers' assumptions about teaching and learning, the implementation of thematic teaching, types and frequencies of literacy events, and the evaluation of students' progress. The assumptions which guided the research tended to support the stance that a standard framework of curriculum does not necessarily denote standard implementation of teaching practices. A participant-observer, ethnographic study of three of a school district's seven kindergartens was conducted to examine the various teaching practices that might exist within the thematic structure. Data related to curriculum implementation revealed the relevancy of fundamental aspects of the curriculum to promoting a literate environment kindergarten, and established a relationship between the curriculum framework and literacy learning. Both spontaneous and directed literacy events occurred during data collection. Teachers' assumptions were revealed in what teachers did as well as what they said. The data revealed that extended thematic teaching facilitated the learning processes of young children and promoted literacy. Change was found to be a recurring theme within the study. Positive changes were evidenced in teachers' assumptions and instructional practices. The pertinence and convergence of the roles of learners, teachers, and educational administrators in early literacy learning is discussed.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Curricula|Teaching|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Jay, Annemarie B, "Thematic teaching in the kindergarten: A description of changed and unchanged practices" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9112579.