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What is the Unit Study teaching method?
Before we go any further, let's take a minute to talk about what a Unit Style teaching method is all about. In the unit study method you find find the following to be true:
➤You will study a central topic over many subjects
This means that rather than having curriculum for each subject, you will have a curriculum that works for ALL (or almost all) of your subjects. You will study your topic throughout your day.
➤You will have a vast number of resources to use
In a unit study style, you will be making use of fiction books, non-fiction books, encyclopedias, maps, internet, videos, and more as your primary sources, rather than sticking to just a text.
➤Your school day may not involve as much classroom time
With the unit study, you may be out and about exploring with field trips, or nature study. You also may not run a full day like you find in a more classical style. There will be a lot of work on research or projects, rather than class time.
➤Students usually will have projects or notebooks for work, instead of worksheets or tests
Two popular systems for showing work in the unit study method is lapbooking and notebooking. These are a type of continuous scrapbook that documents your studies. There will also be a lot of projects involved.
|Working on final project for study on Daniel Boone--drawing a muzzle loader and labeling all the parts|
Unlike the classical method, there isn't a "time limit" to your learning (X number of lessons to complete), and you are allowed to spend time on rabbit trails. It's not about quantity of what gets done, but the intense study on a topic--regardless of how long it might take! There is no magic "done" amount.
➤Easy to work in fine arts into your study
Unlike some methods, Unit Study is ideal for incoporating the fine arts like music and art into your study, without needing separate curriculum.
➤Easy to teach more than one grade at a time
Unlike the more grade leveled approach of Classical, Unit study method allows for multi-level learning, as one topic can be created to be grade appropriate, allowing for multiple students to be working on the same thing at the same time.
➤Much Teacher involvement and Lesson prep
Unlike many methods, unit studies requires someone willing to be actively involved in teaching and especially preparing for the units. There is a lot of gathering of materials and prep work involved, with much less independent work (especially in the elementary levels).
To put it more succinctly, the unit study method takes a specific area of interest and use it as a spark to develop an in-depth study that spans across all the major subject areas – Math, Language Arts (reading, writing, spelling, grammar), History, Science, Art, etc. The main idea behind this method is that we as human beings tend to learn more when we are actually interested and engaged about the topic--thus the goal is to completely immerse the student into a particular topic to allow them room to explore it however they desire!
What Does Unit Study Look like?
For this, I'm going to turn it over to a friend and fellow blogger who to me, really displays what Unit Study is all about! I asked her some questions about unit study method in her home--so I'm turning it now over to Michelle of Delightful Learning!
Me: Have you always done this style?
Michelle: We started our homeschooling adventure using a Charlotte Mason inspired literature based curriculum. I quickly fell in love with reading historical fiction books to learn about History, and the extensive reading of living books established a love of reading in our homeschool. We have used a variety of literature based curriculum, but our primary curriculum has been Sonlight.
Me: What made you change?
Michelle: Because I am a creative type who likes hands on projects, I was drawn to unit studies and fell in love with the Five in a Row curriculum because we got to read timeless books and do fun projects with them!
Me: How has using this style helped YOU as the teacher?
Michelle: Using this style has helped me as a teacher because I am a creative type, and if I am passionate about what I am teaching, my children will be more inspired to learn.
Me: Do all your kids use that style?
Michelle: For our together time, yes. But, each child has independent work with a different style.
My 12 year old has been using a Classical approach to history with Veritas Press Self-Paced History. He loves History and remembering facts, dates, and events comes naturally to him.
My 10 year old daughter needs a more gentle approach with the Charlotte Mason method. She uses Math Lessons for a Living Education and loves the short daily lessons, for example.
My 6 year old's learning style is kinesthetic, so hands on learning with Unit Studies is perfect for him. Unit Studies are a really great way to bring learning alive. I get excited thinking about the things we can DO when we read a book or study a topic in a way that I can't with any other style.
All my kids love the Charlotte Mason approach with living books, short lessons, narration, and time spent in nature, and this ties in nicely with unit studies, but we are not purists for obvious reasons - Charlotte Mason did not approve of unit studies!
Me: What does it "look like" in your classroom doing this style?
Michelle: We spend a lot of time reading a variety of books, discussing topics, and doing a few hands on projects. I try to stick to projects that have educational (or nutritive!) value but some things we do just for fun or to create a memory. We follow a unit study guide/manual, but I love to tweak and add my own creative flair to the study as I am inspired.
Me:What is your go-to curriculum (if any)?
Michelle: We are finishing up a year long unit study on the Little House on the Prairie books using the Prairie Primer by Cadron Creek. But, my go-to curriculum for unit studies has been Five in a Row. We will be using Beautiful Feet (Geography Through Literature) this coming year to study geography, and then Winter Promise (Children Around the World) along with Five in a Row to study cultural geography the next.
Me: Do you see yourself using it throughout the rest of homeschooling?
Michelle: I see myself using a unit study approach up through the end of Junior High.
We will probably go back to a literature based curriculum in high school. Hands on projects will become more sophisticated science and history projects that my students will work on independently and any rabbit trails will be ones they go down themselves. (Hopefully they will be inspired to do that after their experience with unit studies!)
What Resources are there for the Unit Study Method?
|Working on his Rain Forest lapbook|
|Used notebooking to record our fieldtrip|