Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unit Studies (General)

A Unit Study is an approach to learning in which the bulk of the school day revolves around studying one particular subject, and usually lasts between four and eight weeks.  This subject can be anything from the solar system to the human body, the rain forest to the desert, or an event that is happening right now.  This approach gives the teacher the option to study in-depth where there is a lot of interest, or just hit the high points when it is something that doesn't keep the children's interest or is very difficult to understand. As we are entering our second unit study, I have found several pros and cons for this approach.

  • Concepts are better understood by children when the information is repeated, or revisited, then built upon on a daily basis
  • Information is better understood and retained when it is discussed across the curriculum (Bible, math, history, science, etc.)
  • Finding books about a particular subject encourages children to think creatively (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)
  • The children know what to expect next, and look forward to what else they can learn about a subject
  • The teacher has the freedom to see what events are taking place in the world or what her students are interested in, and teach the things that they are interested in learning, while still reaching pre-set goals for the school year
  • The teacher can extend a study or follow a unforeseen path when there is a need or desire from the student
  • Varying ages can learn together, though the expectations are not the same
  • There is a lot of homework to prepare to teach a unit study, organization is key
  • It is still necessary to use textbooks in some subjects (spelling, grammar, etc.
  • Information must be found in many different places (internet, textbooks, library, etc.
  • It is difficult to plan in advance the many activities that a unit may require, so many options should be prepared
I have downloaded four of Amanda Bennett's unit studies, and have really enjoyed them. My children love making lap books, and they will have them to look back on in the future to refresh their memories of the things they learned. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they see their very own book! I've also gotten a lot of information ideas from KONOS, which is very detailed and filled with activities from across the curriculum.
So far, my children have enjoyed this approach and have really enjoyed learning so much about each subject. We've studied the five senses, and have begun studying the four seasons. Fall is upon us, and I have found that there is a vast amount of information to discover right under our noses! Although I planned this unit to take six weeks total, it appears that it will take eight. As long as there is interest and the desire to learn more, I am going to fill their minds with whatever we can find.

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