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What Happens When a Classroom Theme Drives Instruction?



With a new school year right around the corner, all the talk about back-to-school themes makes me miss my mom.  My mom was a teacher for over 35 years, and when anyone talks about classroom themes, I think of her.  My mom was a master of themes.  When she taught oceans, she turned her classroom into an oceanic biome.  Jellyfish hung from the ceilings, the classroom walls became the layers of the ocean, and coral grew from the counter tops. 


Her second and third graders ate, breathed, and slept oceans…until the next unit of study.  And there were many… the Sonoran Desert, tropical rain forests, pioneers, famous Americans, and on and on.  What made her themes special was that they weren’t just decorative.  If it didn’t have academic meat to it, she didn’t do it.  Her kids adored it.


Maybe that’s where I get my theme-tastic approach to a school year.  I’ve taught an owl theme, reading Owls in the Shower and conservation articles about owls, dissected owl pellets, collected owl data, and on and on.  I’ve taught a myriad of themes. 


This year, my classroom theme is my favorite: LEADERSHIP.  That’s right. We will be focusing on the power and impact words have on the world by looking at the words and actions of athletes, humanitarians, advocates and activists. 


We will be talking about the qualities of successful and unsuccessful leaders, the responsibilities of leaders, and desired leadership skills throughout the entire school year. 

NOVEL STUDY
I’ll begin the year by reading Perloo the Bold by Avi. If you’ve not read this book, you need to!  This story is a Lord of the Rings meets The Poppy & Rye series.  Perloo is a Montmer (a rabbit-like race) who has leadership of his tribe thrust upon him when the tribe’s Granter, from her deathbed, appoints Perloo as the next Granter.




Perloo is an unwilling leader who must fight for freedom for his tribe as the deceased leader’s son takes over their tribal government.  This novel gives students the opportunity to examine the behaviors, motives, and words of different characters who act as leaders...some good, some bad.



 Nonfiction Connections

While our novel study is ongoing, we will also be reading real-life biographies using Infographic Biography Mats that I wrote for this theme.  I’m so excited about these because they can be used in reader’s, writer’s and math workshop.  We will be comparing these examples of leaders to the characters in Perloo the Bold



Another way we’re investigating leadership is to examine famous quotations from real-life humanitarians, activists, athletes, and suffragettes.  We’ll be discussing what their words reveal about their characters and beliefs about the world.  In Perloo the Bold, there is a sage character called Mogwat the Magpie.  Mogwat has given a wealth of wise sayings to the Montmer tribe.  Many of these sayings are similar to those from our real-life examples.  We’ll be comparing and contrasting these and sorting them by the life skills they exemplify. Check out one of Mogwat's sayings below!

To see the world with the eyes of others is to stand atop a new mountain.

So why this theme?  I think it’s important for students to know that they have the power to impact the world in a positive way.  It helps them realize that they have a purpose in this world, which can give them hope.  And, hope is a powerful resource and catalyst.  It makes their learning more meaningful and purposeful.  Words of Power will become the lens through which we will experience the entire school year! 
                                     Happy Back-to-School my friends, and before you leave me, be sure to scroll down for an unbelievable opportunity!
                                                                 

If you’re interested in my Words of Power products, check them out below! P.S. And yes, they're decorative, too!

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https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Back-to-School-Desk-Tags-LEADERSHIP-THEMED-2652828

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https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Homework-Club-Bulletin-Board-2698750

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Back-to-School-Postcards-Leadership-Themed-2652612



I  want to make you aware of a fabulous opportunity to win one of 3 $100 gift cards to TpT.  Check out this link to do so!  The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs: THREE $100 GIVEAWAYS of TpT Gift Certificates!

I'm teaming up with some fabulous educators this month.  Be sure to check out their remarkable blogs below, if you'd like some more back-to-school reading!




12 comments

  1. Wow! Great theme and great way to tie it into curriculum. Leadership is such an important skill kids will need for the rest of their life! Awesome job adding it into the classroom theme and curriculum!
    Jordan
    Team J's Second Grade Fun

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jordan! I love making my themes instructional.

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  2. We have a pedagogy model here in Australia known as the Quality Teaching Framework (QTF) and the third strand of QTF is called Significance. When learning is Significant, it has connectedness and is contextually based to themes outside of the classroom which heavily drives student engagement in their learning. Theme based units and concepts encapsulate Significance to make learning relevant and engaging, which is evidence-based practice!

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    Replies
    1. Yes...YES! SIGNIFICANCE! I need to read more about your QTF model, as it sounds intriguing and right up my alley. Is it similar to Robert Marzano's work? I'm curious.

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  3. I just love your themes and the way you use them. You truly make learning fun.

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  4. What a great post! I love the idea of making leadership a theme!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by to read, Mary!

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  5. I also love the idea of making Leadership a theme....I agree with the idea of living the part and learning through a theme...I always had a theme for my classroom and ties in many lessons...I LOVE to become the lesson so to speak...Great post!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kathy! It's now morphing into a "social justice/leadership" theme.

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  6. This is a fabulous read. I love this post!

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