I absolutely love teaching with themes. If you're not familiar with Kindergarten/1st grade standards, here's one word to describe them: repetitious! Good gravy! I start teaching place value or addition in the first quarter and come the 3rd or 4th quarter I'm STILL teaching it! Sure, it gets progressively more difficult/in depth, but addition is still addition whether it's 3+0 or 23+14. Although we may cover pictographs, circle graphs, line graphs and bar graphs, it's still graphing for weeks on end! Reading is much the same - cvc words turn to cvce words, digraphs replace blends, but it's all still reading. I think that without themes my days would tend to blur together and there would be very little excitement. I mean, how excited do we expect kids to get about moving from single digit to double digit addition? Click here to see the pacing calendar for my district - K-2nd is common Core, while 3rd and up is still Oklahoma P.A.S.S.
Also, since I teach in a low-income school, many of my students have very limited background knowledge. Teaching with themes allows me to expose them to things they might not ever have experienced before! I usually plan my themes with the seasons. Here are my themes, roughly in order, some I may do a week, some 2-3 weeks, it all depends on how my kiddos react.
Here's how I do it: if we're doing Apples this week and the pacing calendar says "Continue with objectives from Week 6 & 7. Add in 1.OA.8 Determine the unknown whole number in an addition or subtraction equation relating to three whole numbers.", then I simply make our word problems relate to apples (apple trees, picking apples, variety of apples etc), our graphs this week will follow CCSS but be related to apples - either tasting, size/measurement etc. In reading we will be examining the difference between fiction and non-fiction books, so I will be reading a variety of apple books aloud and then doing Venn Diagrams to compare/contrast etc. We are also doing "RF1.3a Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs (two letters that represent one sound)." so I will bring out my Apple Digraph sorting activity:"Does One Bad Apple Spoil the Bunch?" etc. Basically, I teach the standards, but i try to relate them to apples in some way. If I can't find an apple activity for a standard and I don't have time to make my own, I just teach the standard anyways. On average, about 80% of my day will incorporate the theme.
Now, when I switch over to Pumpkins next week, the kids will be all excited about the new theme and most won't notice that we're still doing cvc words and digraphs/blends, because now the activities have pumpkin graphics. It's like putting a fresh coat of paint on a wall - makes everything look new and exciting again!
Hope that helps Nicole! Remember to head over to Who's on First to see other ways to use themes in your classroom!