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The Teaching Home
E-Mail Newsletter #56
November 19, 2003 / Cindy
Short and Sue Welch, editors
Table of Contents
Unit Studies: Your Versatile Teaching Tool
6 Steps To Planning Your Own
Unit Study (Continued)
3. Gather Your Resources
4. Cover Your Subjects with Various Activities
Checklist To Use for Any Unit Study
5. Organize Your Plan and Conduct Your Unit Study
6. Finish Strong
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In our last issue we discussed the valuable
teaching tool -- unit studies -- and the first two steps for
planning your own unit study. You can see that issue at
In this issue we complete this series on unit
Especially valuable is the extensive list of activities that can
be used for any unit you plan.
We hope that you will enjoy planning and conducting
study with your family in the near future.
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Your Versatile Teaching Tool, Part 2
Before beginning step 3, you will need to
clarify what you
hope to accomplish during your study.
Goals and Objectives
__ Consult your scope and sequence or list of educational goals
for your children, and select topics from each subject area that
relate to your unifying theme and fulfill some of your listed
__ List your objectives for this unit study -- everything you
want your children to be able to do (experiences and skills) or
know (knowledge and concepts) by the end of the unit study.
Gather Your Resources
First research your possibilities, next decide
your needs and fit together best, and then gather your resources.
What To Look for
* Materials on several different levels of depth and/or
* Encyclopedia, dictionary, and other standard reference books.
* Unit study guides.
* Christian textbooks or worktexts, junior high or high school level.
* Resource books such as Eyewitness, Usborne, Dover, or Reader's
Digest's illustrated nonfiction books. http://www.usborne.com
* Reading and literature books. (See "Reading and Literature"
under "Step 4" below.)
* Audio tapes of recorded lectures, books, and music.
* Video tapes of classes, experiments, documentaries, or movies.
* Art books and supplies.
* Science books with projects and experiments.
* Activity or coloring books and educational games.
* Educational software.
* Information about field trips, local events, community
resources, and museums.
* Check for discounts, free days, or group rates for field trips.
* Shop thrift stores for games, activities, costume pieces, and
* Look for used books at thrift stores, used book stores, or online.
* Ask if the book store or educational supplies store gives a
teacher's discount for home teachers.
Where To Look
You might want to get a good Christian resource
foundation of your study and fill in with activities and related
resources from the following.
* Libraries: public, church, college, Bible school, or support group.
* Use interlibrary loan, catalog search, and library staff.
* The internet. Do a topical search using key words from your
topic for information, games, interactive sites, printable
worksheets or coloring pages, and virtual field trips.
* Retail or used book or learning stores, mail order, or online.
* Government agencies.
Your Home Library
* Build your home library with some of the materials listed above.
* It is very helpful to have access to an encyclopedia and
reference books at home in print, software, or online.
* Set aside a large box and/or shelves to assemble all the
resources for your current unit study.
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Cover Your Subjects with Various Activities
Use this activity checklist for any unit study,
those activities that are most appropriate for your topic, your
family, and your goals (spiritual, character, and educational).
The following list of learning activities
according to their primary subject areas. However, any given
activity could cover two or more different subjects (e.g.,
history and writing, literature and language, or science and
Include as many or as few subject areas as
you need or wish,
choosing areas of each subject that coordinate smoothly with your
main unit study topic.
Remember to check your scope and sequence
chart or list of
educational goals for important concepts related to your study.
Research and Study Skills
__ Teach your children how to research, evaluate, and gather
materials and information from a variety of
the planning stage of your unit study.
__ Teach your children to take notes for reports or review.
__ Have each student and teacher keep a notebook on your topic,
adding information, completed assignments,
resource lists, etc., as you go.
Bible / Christian World View
__ Use a Bible concordance, topical handbook, or online Bible
search to look up words and find passages
related to concepts
or character traits included in your study.
* Write out, discuss, and memorize selected
__ Evaluate whatever you study from a biblical view-point:
* Truth (consistent with God's Word)
* Morality (upholding Godly standards of behavior)
* Accuracy (correct factually)
* Realism (portraying life as it really is)
* Validity (arguing logically without fallacies)
* Value (important, helpful, relevant, edifying)
* Excellence (skillful, thoughtful, thorough)
* Beauty (the choice and arrangement of words,
ideas are attractive, touching,
moving, appealing to the senses,
emotions, and mind)
__ Include character training by pointing out good and bad
examples and how to follow or avoid them.
__ Show how a Christian should apply and use in a practical way
the knowledge and information you are studying.
__ When not using materials from Christian publishers be careful
to identify atheistic slants.
__ You can use a topical Bible study or a Scripture passage as
your main topic.
Reading and Literature
See newsletter #25 for more ideas and resources
Christian literature study guides) for doing literature-based
__ Assign topic-related reading for each child at his reading
* Historically correct fiction and good literature.
* Nonfiction (essays, biographies, histories,
__ Choose good books to read aloud together as a family.
__ Set aside a daily time to read aloud together, either taking
turns or listening to mom or dad read.
__ Discuss what you have read.
* Ask comprehension questions about facts,
* Teach related concepts and life values that
you want to
pass on to your children.
__ Use a Christian textbook or literature guide to define and
discuss the literary elements of your book
such as allusions,
characters, dialogue, imagery, plot, poetic
form, point of view,
setting, theme, and tone.
__ Choose at least one piece of good literature to go with your
__ Describe the main characters and your opinion of them.
* Show when and how a character's attitude
__ Describe the setting: time and place.
__ Write a short summary of the story.
__ Discuss the conflicts and solutions of the story.
__ Describe a beautiful, humorous, exciting, happy, or sad part.
__ Did the author write to share an experience, information, or
__ Research and give a brief biography of the author.
* List his other books.
__ Write a poem on your topic.
__ Add an original stanza to a poem you are studying.
__ Recite or read a poem with appropriate expression.
__ Set a poem to music.
Although grammar concepts and rules need to
systematically, you can use your unit study topic for practice of
__ Assign reading, comprehension, spelling, grammar, and
penmanship exercises, using passages from
books on your unit
study topic for copywork, dictation, identification
of parts of
speech, sentence diagramming, spelling, vocabulary,
__ Various kinds of book reports can be used to develop and
practice specific language arts skills.
__ Do a parent-supervised internet search on your topic and write
a report with links to e-mail to your friends.
__ Write a letter to a friend or relative about something you
have learned; stamp or decorate stationary
to match your theme.
__ Write a newspaper article about events you study.
__ Write questions and answers on your topic; try a riddle too.
__ Write a diary entry as a person you are studying about or who
lived in that time period.
__ Make a simple illustrated book for children or a longer one
for young adults telling about some facet
of your topic.
__ Write essays, poems, stories, reports, plays, book or movie
reviews, etc. related to your topic.
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Step 4. (Continued)
Cover Your Subjects with Various Activities
Speech and Drama
__ Give an oral report using flannel board figures, puppets,
pictures, charts, or other visual aids.
* Dress up as a character while giving your
__ Write and act out a pantomime, play, movie, or radio broadcast
on your topic.
* Create costumes and sets for your play.
__ Make a video of your report or dramatization of a scene.
__ Read aloud an exciting, interesting, or amusing passage from a
book about your topic.
* Tape record your reading, complete with
__ Watch a video, movie, or live play on your topic and critique
it as to historical accuracy, biblical truth,
and literary merit.
__ Give an illustrated travel lecture or design a travel brochure
on settings and points of interest in your
area of study.
Vocabulary and Spelling
__ Start with a short list of key words that define or outline
your topic, and add new or significant words
as you encounter
__ Verbally test your students by asking them to spell and define
the words and use them in a sentence.
__ Have children copy or write as you dictate passages from books
on your topic. Assign a couple of sentences
children; a couple of paragraphs for older
__ You can also use these passages for typing practice.
__ Use pencil, charcoal, colored pencils, pastels, paints, or
chalk to draw or paint a picture related to
__ Draw a humorous or political cartoon.
__ Draw, label, and decorate a map.
__ Make and illustrate a timeline of events.
__ Create original illustrations for a story.
__ Paint a portrait gallery of people studied.
__ Design a poster or a bookmark summarizing key concepts.
__ Make a mobile or construct a diorama.
__ Make soap, playdough, clay, or balsa-wood models or
__ Make a collage, mural, or seed mosaic.
__ Use chalk, dry erase, overheads, or a Powerpoint presentation
(computer graphics program) to make a report
or to teach
someone else what you have learned.
__ Make and dress a doll, or a paper doll, with costumes of a
character or period, or buy a paper doll set.
__ Display a collection of items relevant to your topic.
__ Make a scrapbook of your unit study activities, including
photos and descriptions.
__ Copy and decorate beautiful passages of literature or related
Scripture passages for framing.
History and Geography
__ Use a Christian history textbook or other resources on the
time period(s) and place(s), noting:
* Influential people and events.
* Political highlights.
__ Read historically correct fiction.
* Characters should also act and think as
people did then,
not as they do now.
__ Research the art, music, and literature of the period.
__ Study the religion and philosophies of the period and their
influence then and now.
__ Locate your topic in time and space on a timeline, globe,
and/or wall map.
* Use a master timeline on which to record
events as you
study them for an overall view of the flow
__ Study famous scientists, discoveries, and inventions of the
era you are studying.
__ Teach how things work in both technology and nature.
__ Do experiments, read about them, and/or watch them on video.
__ Be sure to include creation science, or use it for one of your
__ Make specimen collections of rocks, leaves, insects, etc.
__ Record observations of plant or animal life, etc.
* Add your own sketches.
__ Make a chart showing the branches of science with subdivisions
to give an overall view of scientific knowledge.
* Include studies from one or more branches
Arts and Philosophy
__ Teach art and music history and appreciation along with the
time period, geographic area, or other topic
you are studying.
__ Include biographies of famous composers and artists and
selected examples of their music and art.
__ Use Francis Schaeffer's "How Shall We Then Live" book or video
series for the relationship of each age's
philosophy to its art
__ Explore or make food of the period or place. (Be careful to
follow sound guidelines for food safety.)
__ Look for cultural cookbooks for children, cookbooks that go
with your storybook or that contains recipes
for the foods that
would have been eaten by its characters.
__ Research to find what clothing would have been worn by the
people you are studying and dress the way
they would have.
__ Play educational table games, online or software computer
games, or make your own games.
__ To use any game as an educational game: a child must first
answer a question related to your topic before
taking his turn.
__ Use vocabulary words in hangman games, word searches, and
crossword puzzles that you make yourself.
__ Your family can go alone or with others.
__ Field trip ideas can be found in the yellow pages of your
phone book and the events pages of your local
include museums, community events, historic
sites (e.g., dairy or factory), or natural
__ Short, informal trips can include:
* The foreign foods section at your grocery
* An antique shop (take grandma to tell you
* Normal errands to the post office or library.
* Spontaneous, informal field trips that appear
to you along
__ Family trips and vacations can provide extended educational
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Organize Your Plan and Conduct Your Unit Study
__ Make an outline of your topic, as detailed or generalized as
you desire, based on and including resources
and activities you
have chosen to include.
__ Divide your outline into weeks and days.
__ Make flexible guidelines for each day's lesson plans.
* Adjust as you go by reassigning, adding,
activities as needed or
__ Build interest in your upcoming unit by talking about it
enthusiastically, asking questions, assembling resources, etc.
__ A dramatic introduction (video, special activity, or trip) can
set the tone and stimulate interest in learning.
Group and Individual Study
A study group can include just your own family,
one or two
other families, or a group of home-school students.
__ Use both family and individual activities for variety and
__ Include a regular daily or weekly time for family members to
share, discuss, and review what everyone is
__ Add the "whys" to the basic "who, what, where, and when"
questions. These include causes and
effects, motivations, and
"What do you think would have happened if
. . ." questions.
__ Oral reports, speech, drama, science, or art projects can be
__ Have a group discussion or a quiz on your topic.
__ Play the Ungame (check thrift stores) and answer as a person
in your book or study.
__ Set up learning stations -- areas or boxes containing
materials needed for different activities
that your children can
take turns doing such as computer work, picture
books, art work,
Use All Learning Styles
Incorporate three important teaching/learning
__ Hands-on activities for kinesthetic learning.
__ Reading and observation activities for visual learning.
__ Listening and verbal activities for auditory learning.
__ Be flexible with your schedule. If you're really into a
project, don't cut it short just to keep on
__ Respond to questions and interests in related areas.
You might need to keep a record or a portfolio
studies to comply with your state's laws or an umbrella
organization as well as for your own benefit. Choose from the
__ Record the dates and students' names after you finish each
concept on your scope and sequence chart or
list of educational
__ Use your lesson plans, checking off and dating each objective
as it is done.
__ Keep track of hours spent by subject if you are required to do
so by your state law or wish to for your own
__ Copy your records for each child's file.
__ Keep a journal for each day of your unit study briefly listing
books read or activities done.
__ List all books read by the family or individual students
including the title, author, and publisher.
__ Place artwork and writing assignments in a notebook or file.
__ Take photos of art, craft, and science projects and activities
such as plays, costumes, and field trips.
__ At the end of the unit study, place your records in a labeled box.
If you assign grades for your children's work
__ Give an oral examination by asking your child to tell you what
he learned or by asking questions about main
points of the study.
__ Assign a grade based on the degree of mastery for each of your
__ Reward your children by giving extra credit for exceptional
work, good attitudes, or progress in character
End with a Bang
__ End your unit study with the presentation of reports or an
exhibit of projects that wraps up your study
and shows what
your children have learned.
__ Go on a field trip or outing.
__ Celebrate with a dinner or party that reflects your unit's theme.
__ Have a Book Report Party. Each child gives a 5-minute report
dressed and acting as a character in his book.
* Refreshments can include some suggested
by the books.
__ Set up a table to display projects.
__ Invite family or friends to any of the above.
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God Loves You.
Because we were separated from God by sin,
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"For by grace you have been saved through
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not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of
works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
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