Maximize Learning Opportunities with Unit Studies

How many times has your child come home excited about something that she learned at school? Did it seem like the topic she liked was covered too quickly? Maybe it was a science demonstration, or a faraway culture, or the work of a classic poet. It seems like there are times that children’s interest in a topic could last for a whole semester. Unfortunately, most school schedules do not allow time for an extension due to a peak in interest.

Why not work with your child at home to further explore her interests over holiday breaks, weekends, after school, or during the summer? You can complete a unit study, or a series of lesson plans that explore a theme through multiple subjects. For example, a unit study about baseball might contain math problems about batting averages, team rankings, and physical measurements of a field. You could base a geography lesson on the locations of top performing teams. Students can practice writing skills by creating a biographies of their favorite players or the history of their favorite teams. The kids could role play TV interviews. And best of all, you can take them to a ball game together to see it in action. The possibilities are endless.

One benefit of unit studies is documentation. When the child makes a graphic representation of what she has learned, she can review it at a later date and be reminded of the fun she had as well as the information she learned. Depending on your child’s age and interests, she may want to document her unit study through a poster or a lapbook (e.g., a scrapbook in a file folder). Or, she may want to write and illustrate a story or submit an article for publication. You could create a family website or blog to share your learning experiences.

To develop your own unit study, you first have to decide who will participate. If you have several children, determine which children are interested in the topics you are considering. Once you have established an age range, you can decide what to teach. Which facts are most important may not be obvious at first so you will want to do some research. From your notes you can establish specific objectives. Now the fun begins. You can find books, magazines and websites about your topic that have quizzes, photographs, histories, biographies, and a seemingly endless supply of information. You can also use educational websites like edhelper (http://edhelper.com/) and enchantedlearning (http://www.enchantedlearning.com/) to find worksheets, reading comprehensions, outline maps, and craft projects.

Yes, this does require an investment of time but you will also learn a lot in the process of building the unit study, or you may be able to find one ready-made and the time you spend exploring your children’s interests with them will be a memorable educational and fun experience.