Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thoughts on How to Build a Unit Study

Last week I was asked to share with the local homeschool group how to plan a Unit Study. Here are some of my notes:

Planning–giving the study structure
Prayer–is easy to forget. I didn’t even think to list it when doing my outline for this article, yet I began with prayer.

Consider the physical limitations…place, time of day, number of lessons, number of students, ages/abilities of students, teacher’s abilities. Will it be just your family, in the morning while the littles are around and your high schooler will help present because you are over-taxed?

Stop and consider each of these dynamics of your family. Is it easier to do the study on Fridays, getting the mess out only once a week, and do other work Monday through Thursday or would it work better to do the study after everyone has eaten lunch and the younger children are napping? Discern what will work best for your family.

VIP to set limits do not let it be open ended. There is so much information available on any given subject. Decide what is important for your family and limit your study to those topics.

Unit studies will grow and consume all your time and energy. Set your limits when you begin planning; how long will this study last and how much will you dedicate to it in resources? Realize before you begin, you will not cover all the information on any given subject. Instead plan which topics your students need to cover and will find the most interesting. These are the areas you should devote the most time to. If a student becomes enthralled with a subject, they will learn about it on their own time.

Sometimes a study will have a set deadline, sometimes you need to set the finish date and work backwards. Example: A family vacation to a Civil War battlefield, you would want to build the study around the vacation.

Part of structure is to know where you are going with each student. Each student should be expected to accomplish definitive learning tasks and demonstrate new knowledge gained. When you know before where you are going, you are much more likely to arrive there. Always expect students to preform skills already taught.

Plan specific assignments for each student’s needs and in keeping with their abilities. This doesn’t mean let the reluctant writer off from any writing assignments or the shy student avoid interviewing and interacting with others, but rather guide him through the steps to help him succeed. By using a variety of assignments your student will gradually build skills. Tailoring assignments to where your student is and what the student needs to learn is a key benefit of home education. Here is an example of a writing assignment that would walk a young student through what is expected.

Read a biography of a leader during the Civil War. Write a short biographical sketch including the following: birth date and place, who his parents were, what it was like for this person growing up, describe his education, tell why he was a leader during the Civil War and what he did, tell when, how and where he died. Let us know if you think this person was a Christian. Include why or why not you think so.

If your student followed the above assignment he would easily have 3-4 paragraphs and you know exactly what to evaluate for in content. You should also grade him on any grammar and language skills he has been taught.

Following steps will be in upcoming posts!

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