Little School of Smith's

How to Plan a Unit Study in 5 Steps

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I LOVE unit studies! You have probably noticed that by now if you have been following here or on my Instagram. I love when all our subjects coincide with one another and work together. We learn so much with our unit studies!

A unit study is choosing a topic of interest and exploring that topic through a variety of subjects. You can choose one topic and focus on it using math, language arts, science, history, geography, crafts, and projects. It is also a lot easier to plan and put together unit studies when all things work around one subject.

With the freedom of homeschooling we are able to encourage our children’s interests and dreams through different resources. The best part of unit studies is they are usually interest based and child led. We are able to expand on their topics of interest and help foster a love of learning. Children retain SO much when they are interested and entriged with a subject.

I get a lot of questions on how I decide on topics, how I plan, and when I find the time to plan our unit studies. So today I’m sharing with you the basic steps I use in planning our unit studies. It is as easy as 5 steps!

  1. Choose a topic or theme.
  2. Search Pinterest for ideas.
  3. Gather books.
  4. Choose activities.
  5. Gather and prep supplies.

1. Choose a topic or theme:

If you don’t know what topic to choose take note of what your child is interested in. What are they curious about, enjoy doing, or are naturally drawn to? You can even ask them what they would like to learn about or give them a few choices to choose from. Choosing a topic they are interested in makes them excited to learn and they will retain so much more information.

Topics could be ANYTHING, such as a particular time period, historical figure, animal, weather phenomenon, ecosystem, etc. When my kids are in preschool I usually pick a particular theme to start with. Some that we have done before include the ocean, garden, community helpers, insects, space, farm, penguins, winter, transportation, weather, and the pond.

Once we have gone through these themes I take note of what they were most drawn to and might narrow it down to a particular topic. For example, if your child took a great interest in horses when learning about the farm you could do another unit study on just horses. Learn the parts of their body, what they eat, their life cycle, the different breeds, etc.

For my daughter’s first grade year we are doing the Who Was Unit studies for History and Zoology for science. So I use the particular animal or historical figure (her choice) we are learning about as my topic for our unit studies.

2. Search Pinterest:

Pinterest is my favorite go to for LOTS of great ideas and book suggestions for unit topics. Type your topic into the search bar and add “for kids” after it to find lots of great ideas. You can also narrow your search to look for books, experiments, printables, and crafts. Using horses as an example you could search: “kids books about horses,” “horse crafts for kids,” “horse printables for kids,” or “horse science experiments.” Doing these particular searches will give you tons of great ideas and resources for your unit study. I also search YouTube for relatable videos we can watch on each topic.

Found all of these free printables for our Statue of Liberty unit on Pinterest.

You can follow my Pinterest board with theme ideas HERE.

3. Gather books:

Next, search your local library and home library for books on your topic. To search at the library just add your topic to the search bar and narrow the search to children’s picture books, children’s fiction, children’s non-fiction, or early readers. If you have trouble finding books, try searching some titles of books you found on Pinterest. When we do our unit studies I try to get a variety of non-fiction, picture books, and early readers (for my daughter.) We love reading together and we learn so much from the many books we read.

I love displaying our books on each topic so the kids are more inclined to grab one and read/look through it often.

4. Choose activities:

This next step is my hardest part as I want to do ALL the things. However, I have learned from a few years of experience to KEEP IT SIMPLE! Trying to do too much will only overwhelm yourself and your children. I have also learned that when I try to plan too much, we don’t even get to half of it, which is a bummer. My advice is to pick and plan only one or two things. Activities include a craft, project, science experiment, or cooking/baking together. I usually try to do one craft and one experiment for each topic. That is enough for my kids and easy to prep for me. (I also usually try to choose a craft with supplies I know we already have on hand.)

Learning about bees: we made bees out of egg cartons and did a fun experiment about pollen transfer.

5. Gather and prep supplies:

Finally, gather all the supplies you need. Print, make copies, and prep any printables or resources you will use. For crafts and projects I gather everything we will use beforehand and put it in a bin so it is ready to go when we need it. When doing crafts for younger ones, I like to have everything cut out and ready to go so we can easily put it together and I don’t loose their attention.

These are the simple steps I take every time I plan a unit study. If you are able, also try to add a field trip to some units. It is so fun to go somewhere and experience first hand what you are learning about.

Planning unit studies doesn’t have to be stressful. You have the freedom to do as much or as little as you like. We typically spend 2 weeks on one topic. Since my children are younger they are usually over it and interested in something else by then.

I plan and prep one month at a time, usually at the end of each month to prepare for the next. Since we usually do 2 weeks per topic I only have to plan for 2 different topics each month. Once I have gone through the first 4 steps, which I usually do while my kids are watching a show or napping, I usually take one afternoon during the weekend to prep for our unit studies. If you have a limited amount of time, just do a little each day. One day I will print printables we need, the next day laminate and cut if I need to, the next day gather the craft supplies, etc. Doing a little each day during the week really quick still gets everything done and doesn’t overwhelm me.

At the end of the day, your children really don’t care about how elaborate you set things up or plan for them. Doing fun activities on a subject they are interested in will be exciting and rewarding enough. They don’t know what they didn’t get to do if you don’t get to it. Focus on what you want your kids to take from the unit study. What do you want them to learn?

Unit studies are a favorite for us and the basis for our homeschool. We will probably continue to do unit studies as long as we enjoy them! I hope this helps guide you into planning unit studies for your family! 😊

Check out these older posts of some unit studies for preschool we have done:

The Statue of Liberty Unit

Transportation Unit

Spring Unit

Garden Unit

Ocean Unit

Ladybug Unit

Butterfly Unit

4 Replies to “How to Plan a Unit Study in 5 Steps”

  1. Thank you for this insight on how to plan unit studies. I have always wanted to do them but I get caught up in the wanting to do ALL things, I end up doing nothing. But this was really helpful

    Like

    1. Your welcome! I know that feeling, I get really excited and overwhelm myself with ALL the things I want to do. Glad this can help you out 😊

      Like

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