A Phenomenological Study Exploration of Pre-planned Thematic Units in Preschool and Kindergarten

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Preschool and kindergarten staff can leverage organized planning strategies to support the use of integrative thematic units. However, early-year teachers state dilemmas in selecting, preparing, and executing integrative thematic units. Challenges surface when the staff tries to follow children‘s interests and inquiries, deliver lessons, and compile materials to support lesson design. When preschool and kindergarten staff select thematic units beforehand, teachers may feel best equipped to plan, target student objectives, prepare lesson resources, and maintain lesson consistency within grade levels. Pre-selecting and pre-planning can also support diverse learners such as English Language Learners (ELLs), special needs students, or students with multiple intelligences or learning styles. Conversely, selecting thematic units more spontaneously based on the students‘ current interests could help excel a students‘ motivation to learn more effectively. This study analyzed 15 preschool and kindergarten teachers‘ thoughts and lived experiences using pre-planned or unplanned integrative thematic units within one specific, large international early childhood center in Germany. Having gathered and evaluated thoughts, opinions, livedexperiences, and planning methods from the 15 participants, the study results may prove transferable and beneficial to other contexts involving integrative thematic units in the early years.