Saturday, February 23, 2013

A WHALES Unit for Young Children

This is an old article I wrote about Unit Studies. I still believe the same - that I need to write our own units. Douglas is currently 9 and Charles 7.


I make up all of our units now. The main reason is that most units have information that is not at the level I currently need or is missing materials that we feel led to cover. I believe that the truly best unit for my grandsons is one that we put together ourselves.
Most units just evolve on their own--following the questions and interest of the child(ren) involved. Take our unit on whales as an example.
My daughter found a video on oceans at the library which the boys loved. Douglas (age 3 1/2) just kept talking about the whales. So I got out a book he had on whales at his level. We read it and he wanted more. How do I know? He was willing to re-read this book, pointing and talking about all the pictures. I asked him if he wanted to know more about whales and I got an entusiastic YES!
The only "planning and preparation" I did was to collect materials. I went through all the books that the boys had and pulled out several on whales and oceans. Then I went to my files and pulled out four folders I had on oceans. I went through the material and pulled out information/books/etc that I thought would be of interest to Douglas (and Charles, 22 months, IF he wanted to participate, which he has done for short spells and then he wanders off to do his own things).
Then all we did was to re-read the original whale book and as we did we talked about some of the information that I felt he could understand and retain. I wrote about 25 question/answer cards while we did this. These will be used to play a board game I plan to make. Then Douglas wanted to watch the whale movie again so he did that while taking his afternoon "rest" -- quiet time while Charles naps.
Next we read several more books, and some we just looked at pictures. Douglas noticed numbers on the Table of Contents page which led to a lesson on reading numbers 11-30. He had so much fun asking what was on a given page by seeing the number and having me tell him what he would find on that page. Then he would turn to the page and be so excited that what I had told him was really there. We had to do this for every page listed in the Table of Contents of this and one other book. The second book also had an Index and he wanted to know what that was, so I explained and showed him how things listed there were in the same order as the letters in his ABC song...teaching him the term alphabetical order. Does he really understand all these concepts? Maybe/maybe not, but at least they have been introduced and we will review them every chance we get.
In another book he found a fold-out map showing the continents and oceans and a variety of animals that live in each. He loved naming all the animals and learned the names of two new animals (weasel and lynx). While we were looking at the whales and dolphins pictured I told him there are four oceans, told him their names and showed him their locations. We repeated this information several times and as we drill it he will memorize them and we will then work on the names of the continents. He brought up how the map was like his globe which he loves. He was able to find the general location of Wisconsin which he can do by finding the Great Lakes.
A couple of the books we read Douglas was able to sound out many of the words. After I told him a couple of the words (whale, ocean) that were repeated on many of the pages he was able to read these as well. He also noticed page numbers in one of the books and we had to turn every page and state the page number to 36.
He colored a picture of some whales. He cut out some pictures from my files and pasted them on a sheet of blue construction paper. Then he had me spell "Whales" so he could write it on the top of the page.
While he was doing this art work, I cut out some pictures from an ABeka math book of whales in 4 different colors. I put them on little 1 1/2 inch squares. We used these to make some sequences (red, blue, green, red, blue ____ - What comes next?). We also did some story problems (Here are two blue whales and here comes one more blue whale. Now how many whales are there? --- did some subtraction ones also.) Then we talked about more and less. I would make two piles of whales and he would count them and tell me which pile had more.
At "rest" time he watched the Veggie Tale movie "Jonah and the Whale."
The only other "school" we did most of this time was to drill some phonics and read a few phonics readers. But our unit covered: Science, math, reading, geography, logical thinking skills, art, language arts, and vocabulary. Pretty good for just time of fun with Grandma.
And we will continue it as long as they stay excited about the topic. Then we will revisit this topic again as they get older and dig deeper into it.

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