When teaching intermediate and middle school, teachers most always have a manual and textbooks to follow. However, this is not always true when it comes to the primary grades. Until recently, kindergarten at my school did not have a reading series text. Therefore teachers had to create their own plans and lessons.
Most primary grades are based around units. A unit typically lasts for one week. A unit focuses all lessons around a central theme. The theme may be a place such as ocean or farm. It may also be an animal or a concept. Some common themes for primary grades include dinosaurs, plants, insects, etc. Teachers really enjoy planning unit around holidays and events. This can be great fun.
When planning a theme, the first task is to decide upon a book focus. For example, when carrying out a winter theme, the teacher may decide to focus on a book such as The Mitten. If talking about the ocean, the teacher may choose a book such Rainbow Fish.
After finding a book focus, many teachers then begin to plan reading and language arts activities centered on a skill and the book. Some teachers prefer to create a student book for the children to work in during the week of the unit.
Other subjects are also focused around the theme. The teacher may incorporate science and social studies in with the reading. This can easily be done with nonfiction books. Teachers can also use the theme when planning writing lessons. The students can write about what they learned from the unit.
When introducing math concepts, the teachers often find activities that can be related to the unit. Although the activity may not teach about the concept directly, the teachers usually try to add pictures of other themes to the work.