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Thematic units are omnipresent in today's elementary classrooms. We theme in our units on bears. We theme in our units on monsters. We even theme when we present a unit of study featuring the children's novels of Beverly Cleary. Or do we? The practice of having children systematically studying a topic, a recurring literary phenomenon, or an author's collective works is worthwhile and laudable. It helps children organize their world by providing experiences that are connected by some central focus. However, I contend that educators are using the term thematic unit too broadly. A majority of thematic units developed and presented by teachers are really not thematic units at all. They are centrally focused, but on something other than a literary theme.

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