Slice and dice of your unit study begins with being picky about sub-topics. One significant reason that could dampen a unit study is not selectively choosing sub-topics. Chiseling that main topic down into manageable planning sub-topics is the key to not covering “everything” and not being overwhelmed. Not only did I choose the topic of Oceans to do with you because it has a kazillion topics so I can illustrate a slice and dice method, but I also wanted to pull you in closer on the specific how tos of choosing a sub-topic.
Trim and Fit Unit Studies
From the beginning, it is important to brainstorm sub-topics that would fit naturally into your main theme. In other words never force a fit to make something fit into a subject for the sake of saying you covered something in that subject. It really makes for some awkward learning moments. I have done it and afterwards I felt like I was having an insane homeschooling day.
For example, I mentioned in Day 2. Tips For Choosing Unit Study Topics. 10 Days of Diving Into Unit Studies By Creating A Unit Study Together I chose Oceans not just because it will be part of our big move coming up, but because it is a science topic. I want our sub-topics to stay focused more on science. So if I was to try to tie in history by asking the boys how do they think the Oregon Trail pioneers felt when they arrived in Oregon and viewed the Pacific Ocean would feel awkward to me. On the other hand if I tied in the history of seafaring to our unit study, that would feel more natural.
Books and Guides Matter
Next, the very basic essential to planning an excellent unit study is having a hardworking spine which can be a study guide, teacher’s manual, textbook, pamphlet, living book or article on line. Start by looking over what you already have in your home library to choose as a guide. If you don’t have one, then make a visit to the library to find one or buy one if you think you will do this topic again and can use it with multiple children.
Though I love living books, I normally use them to include as our literature to read. Sometimes I choose a living book, but a lot of times I do not. Why? Because books that give me ideas for hands-on too from the very beginning sets me up for success by making the unit study easier. I want to work less in teacher prep so I chose books filled with facts AND that have hands-on ideas for projects. It really depends on what type of unit study also. For example, if we were doing one a famous person then a living book would be my number one go to book.
Also if you have younger children, then choosing a living book like the ones by Holling C. Holling like I have listed below are great story readers and make a useful teacher spine. It is easy too at times to find hands on ideas for younger learners, but not quite as easy for older students.
So as the teacher you decide what type of books keeps it easy for you and for the ages of the children you have. No need to dread hands-on because that is the life of a great unit study. Just be more picky about choosing the unit study guide. Instead of going with a living book for my Ocean Unit Study, then I am going with more of a fact book which already has ideas for hands-on projects.
I have mentioned these books before and now I gathered some of them up for you to see. Because hands on ideas are already included, they make WONDERFUL unit study starters.
Discover the Oceans is the one I will be using for this unit study from my favorite books above. This doesn’t mean I can’t add another spine. I had this one at home and it is a good jumping off point. Look below at the chapters inside the book.
I don’t have to fuss much because I already have a guide or direction to go with on this topic. Quickly glancing at the chapters I can tell which ones are the direction we need to go and which ones I may need to look over. The “maybe” chapters are ones I need to look at because I want to keep this a more science topic and I want to be sure they don’t pull us too far off that track.
Choose sub-topics that pique your children’s interests and then assign them to subjects. I will be doing this in the next post where I will have chosen all my sub-topics for the Ocean, but I have an example above from my FBI unit study to show you now. I have 3 sub-topics shown. Two that interested my boys which are J. Edgar Hoover and the effects of WWI and one I added, which is the U.S. Government. So I added something I felt like they needed to study about and grouped with the sub-topics that they naturally picked. On the right side I used a check to show which subject areas I felt those sub-topics met.
So up to this point, you need to
- Pick a guide or two;
- Look over the chapters;
- Determine which chapters will help you in your topic and which ones will not or would the book serve better as a reader or literature.
- Choose your sub-topics
Next post I will share my sub-topics on the Ocean Unit Study and then show you how to start pulling resources together.
Are you with me still?
Hugs and love ya,