By Dawn Spence


When I taught public school, the one thing that inspired me to teach was creating units. A fellow teacher and I created a space unit for our 40 fourth graders, and the learning and excitement that our students expressed made teaching come alive.

 

When I started teaching my twin girls preschool, I knew that units are what I wanted to do. I created units on the ocean, fall, winter, and the zoo. It was the most memorable year of teaching. I still enjoy doing units with my kids with lots of interactive learning and activities.

 

Creating a unit is not hard but it does take some planning. When you write your unit you can use it as your only curriculum.

 

 

Planning Your Unit
 
Topic
First, plan out what excites you and your learner. If the learning is engaging and holds the interest of your learner, the learning will come. I found “fall” to be a unit that can be adapted to older and younger students. “Fall” also works will all types of learners. 

 

Map Subjects
Next, map out what subjects that you want to be included in your unit. You can easily involve your core subjects, but you can usually include much more. When I created my “fall” unit, I was able to include math, science, history, language arts, reading, and art. You can make the lessons simple or complex. I would draw a map out and under each subject, I would list out what I wanted to cover. 

Math using pumpkins was hands-on and everyone was ready for school in the morning. If your state includes Good Citizenship you can add that as well. Do not forget to add in field trips to allow your unit to become real life for your learner. Make sure also figure out how long you want your unit to last.

 

Develop Lessons
Third, it is time to develop your lessons. This step can be fun and overwhelming at the same time. There are so many activities that you can add to your unit and many places to get ideas. I started with Teachers Pay Teachers, File Folder Heaven, and homeschooling blogs. I would gather ideas and sometimes the activities that I saw inspired me to create my own. I have created a sample graphic organizer to help with your planning. (Click here to download the below image as a free document.)



Determine Assessments
Last, decide how you want to grade or assess their learning. You can create a lapbook, and at the end of the unit your student could present what they learned with a hands-on project or report. For more ideas on how to grade or assess you can read Amy Vickery’s article: Making The Grade: Strategies for Grading your Homeschool Student .

 

Units can be a great way to have fun while learning and can engage your student. I also found that I was able to see what my child’s interests were and what made them excited to learn. Have you created a Unit Study that you would like to share? If you have, comment below or share it on our resource page.

 

 


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By Peggy Ployhar

Unit studies are a hands-on approach to learning.  Through multi-sensory activities and immersion learning, children relate to concepts, confront challenges, solve open-ended questions, and come face-to-face with the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

 

Our Family’s Decision to Use Unit Studies
When I made the choice to use unit studies for homeschooling, my decision was based solely on the fact my kids were willing to participate in the lessons, not because I loved doing teacher prep activities.  But, over our 14 years of using unit studies, I learned to embrace the intensive teacher prep side, because in the end, the prep made our lessons quicker and more effective. 

 

Teaching More in Less Time
The reasoning behind the effectiveness of unit studies is how they approach the process of delivering learning material to students.  The unit study approach allows parents to prepare specific educational encounters for their children based on how best their children will connect with the content.  These encounters contain a great amount of information, as well as practical knowledge, but moreover, they provide experiences which touch the hearts of children and help them synthesize difficult concepts into their own knowledge base.

 

In this video below, I explain how my children learned about communism through one of these planned encounters while we were doing a unit study on Russia.  This lesson is one we all still remember vividly, and which brings me to tears (I can’t tell you how many takes of this video I had to shoot before I captured one without bawling), because of how deeply the lesson impacted us all.

 

Knowledge vs Facts
Contrary to popular belief, real knowledge isn’t being able to memorize facts and regurgitate them on a test.  Instead, real learning of knowledge happens when a student is able to take the information presented to them and create ties with it to their heart and life. Facts are great to know, but if a child cannot synthesize those facts into useful tools for thinking and solving more complex issues in their everyday life, then they are of little use.  

 

Special Education Homeschooling Bonus
Kids who often struggle with how information is presented in traditional education models, usually thrive and learn concepts much quicker in this more interactive learning environment.  Part of the reason for this shift has to do with the fact that you, the parent, can choose specific learning activities/encounters you know your child will connect with.

 

In our homeschool I choose activities that focused on reenactments, building structures, making costumes, and taking field trips.  But, activities involving singing, dancing, and coloring were quickly crossed off the list of possible activities.  The beauty is you can pick and choose whatever you want from a unit study, and leave all the rest, which I give you permission to do if you happen to be one of those people who feels every activity must be done so your kids are getting the best education.

 

10 Unit Studies to Consider
If you are looking for some ways to incorporate unit studies into your homeschool, here are 10 free unit studies to get you started:

 

Little House on the Prairie “Farmer Boy” Study

Medieval Unit Studies – Castles, Knights, Church, Art & Music

Samuel Morse and Morse Code Unit Study

Owl Unit Study

Simple Machines Unit Study

South America Unit Study

The Boxcar Children Unit Study

Dinosaur Unit Study

Pizza Unit Study

 

Unit Studies in High School
And, for those of you who think unit studies are just for the elementary grades, you will want to check out this video on how unit studies can be used through high school.

 


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