December 30, 2012

Integrated Study, What? Why? How?

Integrated studies also known as thematic and unit studies submerges a student into one topic and gears learning around all the subjects (except math and phonics). Students create a booklet of what they've learned (just like a report with titles pages, illustrations, maps and bibliographies). Activities and projects figure into these studies which really help children to get involved and retain information.

Here is an Example Topic: Bugs

  • Language arts: reading books related to insects and writing book reports, writing a letter to a pesticide company, a creative writing (or comic) about the secret life of Manuel Moth, etc.;

  • Science: classification of insects, life cycles, good VS bad bugs;

  • Geography: where insects are found, the largest insect...;

  • History: ancient bugs, the scarab and its role in Egyptian history;

  • Art: illustrating bugs, diagramming bugs, etc.

  • Math: poll the neighborhood on their favorite bug and making a bar graph.

Most studies are typically 4-6 weeks but its fun to pop in with a 2-week study on such topics as Tadpoles and Frogs or "Magnets and Magnetism" or a 1 to 2 day study on apples. Also take a little break in-between major topics for both you and your children to revitalize yourselves.

When doing an integrated study you're basically teaching either a science, history or geography subject. There are also what I call specialized subjects that include: economics, statistics, foreign language, art appreciation, ethics, religion, philosophy and life skills (etiquette, gardening, cooking, woodworking).

Science subjects include matter, magnetism, electricity, weather, seasons, ecosystems, botany, the human body, heat and light, life cycles, astronomy, chemistry, and physics. There are a myriad of subjects.

History. There are a few ways you can approach history. It is popular to teach American History and World History as different subjects. I prefer World History due to its relation to time. My belief is that to fully grasp and understand what happens next you need to build on the past. I also believe it is more logical to process information in order. So I started right in the beginning with prehistory. Next is Stone Age, then Ancient Civilizations, and so on.

Geography. Jennifer Steward (of Steward Ship) suggests that once a week you take a break from your regular unit study and learn something else like geography. This can be done by studying world geography, one county per Friday. Areas you can study about a country include global location, music, art, food, clothing, daily life, religion, government, mythology, animals, architecture, inventions, just to name a few. Then move on to the States! You might also consider taking a Friday to learn about pumpkins or roses.

The most important thing you need to create your own lesson plan is one really good book. From that you can pick out age appropriate topics and follow the books outline to help create your plan. I recommend adding at least one or two additional resources to round out the information. From there you can head to the library or bookstore and find fun fictional books for your children to read.

When possible try to include:

  • timelines

  • graphs or charts

  • diagrams

  • poetry or creative writing

Getting started:

  • First, choose the topic you want to study.

  • Decide how in-depth you want to go.

  • Decide how much time you want to spend on the study.

  • Check your home supplies, then the library and the internet for ideas and resources.

  • Check out field trip possibilities, be creative.

  • Look up, plan and decided on your projects and activities that relate to your topic such as crafts, experiments, cooking, virtual games, writing.

  • Begin to assemble you lesson plan and time table.

  • Don't forget to keep a journal.

  • Start with enthusiasm and something creative, likewise end with something exciting like a field trip, book assembly (adding pictures...) or a even party.

Recommended Books & Things: