Thematic Units and Assessment

I’ve been a member of the FLTEACH list-serv for about ten years, and I am seeing patterns in the types of posts.  The same questions get asked over and over, and usually get the same types of answers.  One thread that often comes up is how to assess units about certain themes, such as family, the house, and clothing.  The typical responses are making family trees, designing a dream home, and having a fashion show.  Are these assessments tried and true products of our profession, standing the test of time?  Or have they had their heyday and it’s time to move on?

If they are genuinely worthwhile assessments, perhaps they could use some repackaging.  Maybe make them one of several options for demonstrating mastery through choice boards or R.A.F.T. assessments.  The ACTFL Teacher of the Year 2009 Toni Theisen wrote a nice article several years ago about differentiated instruction, and in the article she describes how to differentiate the product (performance assessment).  You can find the article at

Or, as mentioned in my previous post about thematic units, maybe we don’t need themes in the traditional sense; maybe we just need a good story to tell.

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