By Sandro J. Rebadio
In the implementation of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum of the Department of Education that lead to the advent of the Makabayan with GMRC, Musika, Sining at Edukasyong Pampalakas (MSEP), Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (EPP) and Heograpiya,Kasaysayan at Sibika (HeKaSi),Sibika at Kultura as its component in Elementary level, Thematic Teaching was then one of the suggested teaching approaches and strategies to come up an effective instruction in the implementation of the said curriculum.
Thematic Teaching is an approach designed to present materials in a connected, meaningful manner to facilitate thoughtful, engaging response to the materials presented. It creates a learning environment much more closely aligned to the manner in which children learn in real-world situation.
In the research conducted by Dursun Dilek,Assistant Professor of the History Education Programme at Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, thematic teaching was introduced traditionally as integrated teaching approach based on Bruner’s spiral curriculum concept, the task is practiced concurrently by selecting appropriate content from the subject based curriculum(Proctor,Entwistle,Judge and McKenzie-Murdoch,1995:61-69).Integration is generally used in a single class teacher system where usually the teacher teaches all curriculum subjects.Moreover,Dilek research introduces an approach whereby social studies or history courses can be planned for single subject thematic teaching. It is based in co-operative learning by using pupils’ interests and skills without depending on other areas of the curriculum or other subject teachers’ co-operation. It allows pupils to show their interests and use their skills.So,while the teacher fulfils educational requirements of the subject based curriculum, she/he also extends her/his teaching practice into interdisciplinary curriculum approach by providing an effective co-operative learning environment in which pupils nay use their skills which are developed in other areas of the curriculum.Dilek added that it is thought that pupils’ psychomotor, affective and cognitive skills can be improved through thematic teaching approach. According to this approach it is assumed that although students do not have all skills in relation to these domains, they can show interest and use some specific abilities to learn social studies.(Using a Thematic Teaching Approach Based on Pupil’s Skill and Interest in Social Studies Teaching ,p.1)
On the other hand, Thematic teaching is also suited to language teaching like Haas (2000) cited that foreign language instruction for children can enriched when teachers use thematic units that focus on content-area information, engage students in activities in which they must think critically and provide opportunities for students to use the target language in meaningful contexts and in a new and complex ways. The national standards for foreign language teaching and learning support this approach to language instruction. Themes for curriculum units can be derived from many sources. Planning thematic units allows the teacher to incorporate a variety of language concepts into topic area that is interesting and worthy of study and that gives students a reason to use the language says Mari Haas.With this, themes in lesson can be taken from any sources. A thematic theme organizes learning around ideas. It provides a broad framework for linking content and process from a variety of disciplines. Meanwhile, the theme provides coherence and it gives focus to the activities that accompany the unit.
Thematic teaching is very much suitable for social studies since; learners create their own knowledge in a search for meaning and understanding. Knowledge without understanding is limited to the context in which it is learned and is easily forgotten. Learners must actively construct meaning(Brooks,1990)In a research conducted by Patricia J. Stephens,Ms Ed., she pointed Pollack(2007) idea that states that in order for a mind to retain information, the mind after spending time steeped in facts about a topic organizes and reorganizes memory points to retrieve and use later in spontaneous, independent applications. In other words, when you read, hear, experience, or see information about a new topic, you will more likely be able to use that information independently after applying a technique to rehearse it, creating a nonlinguistic representation, or asking questions.
According to Atwater (1995) the integration of subject matter helps children perceive learning as a whole. This means that learning is no longer focused on working with separate ideas, issues, and skills. Instead, of trying to figure out how various ideas, issues, and skills are all connected.Restak (1988) also commented that meaning cannot be obtained or neatly extracted from a sentence. Meaning is always context dependent. Therefore, Curricula that are integrated with themes and threads can be easily connected to instruction and assessment that are integrated with multiple intelligences. When the model for integrating the curricula is combined with the model for multiple intelligences, the result is integrated learning as stated by Forgarty and Stoehr (1995).
It is thought that pupils’ psychomotor, affective and cognitive skills can be improved through thematic teaching approach. According to this approach it is assumed that although students do not have all skills in relation to these domains, they can show interest and use some specific abilities to learned social studies.
Applicability of multiple intelligence depends upon detail planning, rich teaching materials and teacher’s difficulties in grouping pupils and activities according to perceived different intelligence which are actually not suitable for most classroom setting.Forgarty (1991) states to further help the young mind discover “roots running underground whereby contrary and remote things cohere and flower out from one stem’ is the mission of both teachers and learners. Teachers can achieve this goal, along with the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, by integrating the curriculum. In Patricia J. Stephens, Ms Ed implementation of the integrated thematic curriculum; it revealed that majority of her students exhibited visual, auditory, and bodily/kinesthetic intelligences.
Results of Stephens’ research exposed that students standardized test scores were equivalent to those students who did not receive integrated thematic instruction. Students engaged in independent self directed learning. Stephens also recommended that the implementation of an integrated thematic curriculum be used in the classroom. It is also recommended that collaboration between teachers and media center specialists be encouraged. Moreover, the implementation of thematic teaching can encouraged students to build on the background knowledge they obtained.
Meanwhile in Dilek studies summarized suggestions that with this approach especially in History subjects, the pupils can learn about the historical people and through developing historical imagination, can work like “amateur social scientist” by using their research abilities, can take responsibilities in their groups to be able to learned co-operatively, can have fun while learning and can develop their speaking skills while discussing and interpreting.
Thematic teaching in Philippine context viewed as avenue for the attainment of the Makabayan curriculum were other learning areas were integrated.Buiding bridges across starts when the Makabayan teachers are able to identify a common theme using related learning competencies drawn from two or more learning components of Makabayan.A common theme becomes the springboard in the preparation of the thematic unit of instruction. According to Dr. Lydia N. Agno on her Mga Modelong Estratehiya sa Pagtuturo ng Makabayan (Para sa Paaralang Elementarya), integration of content of instruction starts where two or three learning components in Makabayan are considered in planning and integration takes place in thematic teaching by drawing content of instruction from two or three learning component of Makabayan.
On the other hand, HeKaSi is not necessarily the core of the thematic unit of instructions of Makabayan.It depends on the essence of the common theme identified by the team of Makabayan teachers for a grading period. The core could be any of the learning components of Makabayan that is anchored on the common theme.
It means that the contents of Sibika at Kultura and HeKaSi will be used as vehicle for the development of language skills in communication arts subjects like Filipino. Meanwhile; thematic teaching recognizes learning around ideas. It provides framework for linking content and process from a variety of disciplines. The theme provides coherence and focus on the accompanying activities. The theme enables learners to see the meaningful connections and interrelatedness across content or skill area.
With this approach, it is viewed that all learners can be able to connect ideas from one subject to other subjects. With the newest development in teaching methodology, application of multiple intelligences and values integration, social studies serves as the key subject in the promotion of patriotism, citizenship and conservation of cultures.
Absolutely, I agreed with this thematic teaching to be utilized in our class instruction because children can able to do multi tasking, and aware of the use of technology like computer, internet and mobile phone. They become now multimedia learners. With this, pupil can able to execute their skills in thematic teaching because the teacher or facilitator provides various activities with the use of themes. Aside from that, more subject areas can be taught with the use of integration.
Use of thematic teaching in Social Studies is really appropriate. In Dilek research, it found out that in the classes in the school where the action research was undertaken, the academic success percentage is higher than in the classes that it is not used. It also revealed that the curriculum of social studies generally contains target behaviors that are at the level of knowledge and conception. With this approach pupils can master the task that is above their capacities by being aware of their cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills. These results can be perceived as the students who reach the application and advanced levels can easily answer the questions at a level that requires less thinking skills by using their different skills. (Dilek, p.6)
Therefore, thematic teaching leads to a curricular organizational plan that provides a central focus and framework to enable students to tackle successfully complex issues in the classroom.Further, it allows students to construct their own understanding, to ask questions, to solve problems by generating and testing hypotheses, and to present and evaluate their own learning.HeKaSi and Sibika at Kultura textbooks in elementary schools provides varied activities for pupils to work on. It also features integration of MSEP as part of the content of the book like in HeKaSi IV, it revealed that in the end of the chapter, an MSEP text was presented like folk games, arts and folk dances discussed thoroughly. Consequently, Textbooks are also divided into units and chapters. Therefore, it is easy for teachers to facilitate and create thematic unit.Thus,this approach is very relevant to social studies since the present public schools social studies textbooks are now themed based like HeKaSi V with book title Marangal na Pilipino or HeKaSi VI on Yaman ng Pilipinas,
I believed that thematic teaching can be useful in this course, Instructional Planning and Procedures in Social Studies through making of integrative lesson plan in social studies using the thematic teaching approach.