At Hillcrest we follow the Early Years Foundation Stage, which is the British Early Years curriculum, for the very important development stage up to the age of five. This prepares children for school and future learning in a happy, active, exciting, fun and secure environment, supporting your child’s development, care and learning needs. As children reach Year 1 at the top of Hillcrest Early Years (5 – 6 years) we prepare them for the transition to Prep within the Key Stage 1 framework which extends into Year 2.
HEY teachers use thematic units to engage children in the learning process with a variety of lessons and projects in subjects from art and music to science and math. A common theme keeps student learning focused on a broad concept while touching on specific knowledge and skills throughout. Thematic units provide one of the best vehicles for integrating content areas in a way that makes sense to children and helps them make connections to transfer knowledge they learn and apply it in a meaningful way.
Theme units allow us to delve into one particular subject in all curricular areas. Under a woodland animal theme, the topic of hibernation could include a science lesson about which animals hibernate and where, a song about hibernation, an art project of a bear in a cave and a math activity where the children add and subtract bears. When the same theme occurs across the curriculum, the children are able to revisit the same ideas and apply them in different ways, resulting in a richer understanding of the subject.
Integrated theme units are motivational for both teachers and students. Engaging themes that relate to our young children’s lives help them get excited about learning. An Early Years student who loves animals but doesn’t necessarily love math might get excited about adding and subtracting when it’s tied to an animal theme, for example.
It Builds on Prior Knowledge
Our HEY themes often play off of what children already know, such as animals and well known stories. Having prior knowledge gives young children confidence and opens them up to learn new information. When the same concepts keep popping up, children can continue to build on prior knowledge with each new lesson. As the students’ understanding becomes deeper, the teacher can keep layering on new information to broaden the students’ knowledge base. Themes help relate students’ learning to real-life concepts, such as the calendar, days of the week, dressing for the weather or taking care of your body with good nutrition.
It Allows Students to Demonstrate Understanding in Multiple Ways
Children learn in different ways. Some children enjoy performing hands-on experiments, while others prefer to complete worksheets or listen to the teacher read a book. Some kids like to sing, dance or role-play, and others like to create art projects using a variety of materials. When the teacher provides learning activities on the same theme in a variety of subjects, every child is given the chance to demonstrate his understanding of the topic in multiple ways.
You will be notified about the theme your child will be following at the beginning of each half term. The theme will generally last around six weeks with each week focusing on a specific area. At the end of the theme the parents are invited into school for our End-of-Theme Assemblies where the children put together a small production of their learning, developing their confidence speaking and performing in front of an audience.