Your Guide to Holding Virtually Failsafe Preschool Theme Days
written by: Sylvia Cochran
• edited by: Heather Marie Kosur
• updated: 8/2/2012
Preschool theme days offer an enhanced learning environment that focuses on one idea or concept. They serve to underscore learning processes that already took place and should open the door to new learning experiences. That being said, there are a number of problems that can crop up.
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Make It Fun
Having a Yellow Theme in your preschool sounds like a harmless activity. You could have all the students wear yellow clothes, preparation of yellow foods, and so forth.
Even if this sounds like a sufficiently harmless activity, how should the preschool teacher deal with the child whose parents do not have money to buy yellow clothes? Moreover, if one of the preschoolers was born on a Wednesday, is a member of a Thai Buddhist family, and the yellow theme day takes place on a Thursday, it presents a cultural affront since the combination of the color yellow and the day is considered unlucky. Finally, if a fathers’ theme day is on the calendar, how will it make the kids without dads in the homes---or those who do not even know their dads---feel?
True, these particular sets of circumstances may sound rather farfetched and may happen only in very rare circumstances. Nevertheless, with cultural and religious diversity training now being part and parcel of many school districts’ training programs, preschool teachers may feel like they are walking into a minefield of possibly offending students or parents.
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Pros and Cons
Preschool Theme Days Are Fun!
Creating a common theme for the classroom fosters creativity, friendly competition, and teamwork.
Field trips to a neighborhood market or library firm up real life applications of classroom learning.
Theme days that coincide with national holidays, celebrations, or issues such as elections provide civic instruction that might have otherwise been missed within the curriculum.
Preschool Theme Days Are More Trouble than They’re Worth!
Motivating parents to get involved can be a hard task especially when it requires working around language barriers, poverty, and general disinterest or apathy.
Class size and a lack of skilled assistants or parent volunteers make it hard to move a classroom out of doors.
Fear of being accused of introducing partisan politics or religious views into the curriculum can make it difficult for new preschool teachers to fully embrace national holidays and other occasions as springboards for themes.
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Guide to Preschool Theme Days
Beware of Prejudice!
Perhaps the easiest way for preschool teachers to avoid many fears and worries with respect to cultural sensitivities is to simply get to know the children and their parents. In some cases, the worry about offending a possibly poor family by asking for particular clothing colors or materials can be counteracted when getting to know them as genuinely creative and willing to meet challenges heads on.
Have a Backup Plan
Everyone is supposed to bring a pumpkin, but two children did not. Plan ahead and have some extra pumpkins on hand.
Communicate with Parents ahead of Time
About a month in advance, send home a parent letter that explains the upcoming theme day, what you plan on accomplishing with it, and how the parents can get involved. Invite comments and concerns to be shared with you. For example, if you plan on having a theme day that coincides with Grandparents’ Day but learn that one preschooler’s grandma suffers from Alzheimer’s, consider adding a segment in which you explain that in some situations family members need to help grandparents to remember things. Pick out age appropriate books ahead of time to help during this portion of the theme day.
Allow Plenty of Time for Preparation
Preschool theme days have a better chance of being a smashing success if you allow plenty of time for planning and thinking through all of the aspects of the events. Discuss your plans with another seasoned preschool teacher or the preschool director. Accept input and rework some segments of the activities if they appear to draw a lot of criticism.