Saturday, July 5, 2008

Unit Studies Part 1

Recently someone asked me how I plan and implement unit studies, so I'll do my best to answer those questions here. First, though, I have to make a disclaimer! :) We are just now beginning our third year of homeschooling, so I still consider myself a rookie at this. I was a public school special education teacher before we started our family, and I did use unit studies in my classroom, just wasn't the same. I was so much more limited by things like time, numbers, and testing that my experience with teaching and learning through unit studies barely scraped the tip of the iceberg. All that to say, I'm happy to share what and how we do things, but I'm still learning too! :)

O.K., so now that you know where I'm coming from, here we go.
Because I am a big fan of unit studies, and I sooo enjoy talking about them, planning them, using them, I'm going to break down this post into a couple of installments. Thanks for bearing with me! :)
For anyone out there who maybe is not quite sure what a unit study is, here's a quick definition for you. In a unit study you take one topic, or theme, and use it to provide learning opportunites across all of the academic subject areas.
For example, a unit study about the ocean might include the following:
Bible - Read about the creation of the ocean and marine life
Language Arts - Read good literature(fiction,non-fiction, even poetry)about oceans and ocean life with your children. Talk about what you've read - have them write about it (narration or creative writing).
Math - word problems about how far whales migrate; use shells as manipulatives for all sorts of math problems; measuring out the length of different kinds of fish and graphing your results
Geography - locating all of the oceans on the world map; learning about where in the world different types of marine life live
History - learning about man's attempts to explore the ocean and make a timeline of these
Science - What controls the tides?/Choose a marine animal and learn about its habitat, feeding and breeding habits, life cycle, etc./Why can fish breathe under the water but humans can't?
And of course, there are oodles of ocean-y and fish-y art projects to make and songs to sing and recipes to cook!

A unit can also be based on a particular children's book. These types of units are called literature-based. For example, a unit on Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss could include:
Language Arts - learning about rhyming words or writing a rhyming story of your own
Math - counting various objects in the illustrations; using (hard-boiled) eggs as manipulatives for addition, subtraction, etc.
History - learn about the life of Dr. Seuss: Locate his home on a map/Make a timeline of his life and works
Science - learn about eggs: Where do they come from/different kinds/label the parts/experiments with boiled eggs
And you absolutely must cook and eat some green eggs and ham! :)

Five in a Row is a wonderful curriculum that contains several volumes full of literature-based units. It is a mainstay around here. I'll talk more about this and other resources in another post. In the meantime, you can visit the Five in a Row website and message board and glean lots of information about literature-based unit studies.

I also add a reading, math, and handwriting curriculum to our unit-study adventures.
I hope that my long-winded definition has shed some light on what a unit study is. :)
Next post: Planning Our Year of Unit Studies
Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!


  1. You posted just for me!!! I feel so special. I am just kidding but I am eager to see what the next posting has because I looking forward to starting to prepare some things for the fall. No pressure!!!! I hope you find this funny because I am trying to be.
    Happy anniversary. Me and my hubby will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary in January.

  2. Looks like you're well on the way to planning some great studies! :o)

  3. Hey, you haven't updated you blog lately? Enjoying your summer?


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