French for Kids!

Monthly Themes

We use monthly themes as a means to enhance and integrate learning across all aspects of the curriculum. This way of working provides cohesion and depth to the learning experience. Strong planning and classroom organization underpin the success of the monthly themes. The classroom is always well stocked with a good selection of materials to support all curriculum areas. Each month, the classroom materials are refreshed to align with the topic of the monthly theme. Books, stories, fingerplays, and songs are also used to reflect the monthly themes. One or more theme based projects are woven into the core curriculum each month. A look at our theme for October, “Forest Life” illustrates how we implement monthly themes.

The “Forest Life” Theme

Each month the play corner is changed to reflect the monthly theme. For the “Forest Life” theme, it was transformed into a woodland scene using materials from nature and populated with forest animal figurines. The elements used in the scene serve to introduce new vocabulary and are used by the children in creative play. Over the course of the month, the students add to the woodland scene by bringing in objects that they find in the woods and by decorating the area with artwork they produce during the month. In this example, the woodland scene became adorned with spiky hedgehogs crafted from clay and rigatoni pasta and brilliant autumn leaves created from coffee filters and watercolors.

The major project for the “Forest Life” theme was “Becoming the Artist Arcimboldo.” The students were introduced to the work of Arcimboldo, a 16th century artist, and then created artwork using nature elements in the same spirit as did Arcimboldo. The project stimulated learning and skill development across several curriculum areas including language arts, science/nature, math, and art. The process involved:
  • In small groups of 4-5 students, the teacher showed the students photographs of Arcimboldo’s paintings, guiding them to closely observe details about his work and to respond to questions such as “What shapes are you seeing?" “What colors are you seeing?" “Which materials do you see?” “What do you feel when you look at the painting?” “Which ones do you like and why?” "What was the artist trying to show you?"
  • The teacher also read a rhyme about autumn written about Arcimbold. Children memorized the poem and recited it when working on their collages.
  • Teachers took the class on nature walks in the woods to collect natural materials such as acorns, pine cones, pine needles, ferns, leaves, twigs, and small stones. Students sorted the materials into like categories and counted the quantities in each category.
  • Each student painted a large cardboard box top as the background surface for his/her collage. At circle time, teachers demonstrated some ideas on how to use the collected nature materials to create collage designs. Each student then worked with a teacher to create his/her own collage using the materials they had collected on the nature walks.
  • The project culminated with an “art show” during circle time where the children had the option to talk about their work and to comment on their peers’ work.

The photos to the left show projects from the Forest Theme. The photo above shows books created by the older students, 4 and 5 years old. Each student created an illustrated book based on favorite animals and plants from a book about forest life which they studied with a teacher.