Thematic planning actually started before I knew anything about flipping. Our department always goes to the CCFLT conference each February, and since it was in Colorado Springs, Elyse and I had decided to share a room so we didn't have to drive back and forth. In hindsight, it might have been the best money I ever spent.
We went to a day of sessions, and then started talking about what we thought our kids really needed to learn. What did they need to accomplish at the end of level 1, 2, 3? Why were we pushing all of our kids so hard when a second language was not the end plan for the majority of the students? Why were we following a textbook that didn't teach things in an order that made sense and was full of meaningless vocabulary?
So, we sat down one night and decided what we thought each level needed to learn (keeping state standards in mind of course). Once we came up with a good list of grammar, we thought about what themes we would like to use. To do this, we thought about: 1)what the kids were always trying to say in class, 2)Themes that would encourage them to speak in the target language, 3) Themes that build well on one another to acheive our "learning goals: outlined above, 4) Things we wanted to do in class but didn't fit in with our current curriculum.
It took tons of work. We had many discussions and thought really hard about what would be the best way to help the students achieve success, and hopefully to decide to continue on with their language studies.
Here is what we came up with for levels III and IV:
Mini Review Unit - grammar, vocab, etc at back to school
Unit 1 - Challenges in Teen life
Unit 2 - Fairy Tales and Legends
Unit 3 - The future...life, school, voting *trying to focus on governement
Unit 4 20th Century - Spanish Civil War is a big focus here
Unit 5 - Detective and Crime Stories
Unit 6 - Technology
Mini Review Unit
Unit 1 - Communities and Culture
Unit 2 - Environment
Unit 3 - Current Events and Media
Unit 4 - Art
Unit 5 - Short Stories
Unit 6 - Games