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Ummto4

How to design theme-based study (incl input/output) like 8filltheheart, corraleno, et

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I'm v. interested to learn how to design theme-based studies like the ones done by Karen (8filltheheart), Jackie (corraleno), Karen Anne, etc.

 

How do you start ?

 

Go to amazon to find books ? How do you know the book is appropriate ? Where do you get the idea on what aspect to study ?

Then how do you decide what the output will be ?

Do you tell your child to read the book and then you discuss with the child ?

Do you ask the child to write a report ? Or what ?

 

How to make sure that the input/output is age-appropriate.

 

My dd (3rd grade) wants to learn how number and letter (incl the writing) came about. And my son (4th grade) wants to learn how tv works.

 

Thanks a bunch.

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bump :D

 

Great question. I'm always impressed with what they do, but never know how to imitate it. I sometimes find some good books, but I'm pathetic at figuring out output that is reasonable, interesting and appropriate level.

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I don't have an answer for you, but I did see a post once by 8fillstheheart about how she did it. Unfortunately I have no idea what the post was under (it was a thread she posted on, not one she started, and an older one IIRC), but you might try searching if you don't get the response you're looking for. Or just PM her.

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I searched for it and I couldn't find it.

 

I'll do my best to answer but I am distracted, so I'm not sure how clear this will be. ;)

How do you start ? With the child. I want studies to serve multiple purposes. I want them to generate a desire in the child to really learn. I also want to use that interest to develop skills, whatever skills those may be. (everything from writing, researching, making connections, etc)

 

After I have a "theme," I start researching. For historical books, I own an old book titled "Let the Author's Speak" that I turn to first. But, that is just a first step. It certainly contains huge voids.

 

 

Go to amazon to find books ? How do you know the book is appropriate ?

Amazon is certainly one source. I often use Amazon in the reverse direction (find titles and then seek the reviews on Amazon. ;) ) A lot of the time I find titles from google searches or from other sources that spin off from other sources I have researched. Many times I spend a significant amt of time educating myself on the topic they want to study and from those materials I get ideas on where I might be able to find appropriate children's literature.

Where do you get the idea on what aspect to study ? This goes back to the child issue. It isn't necessarily the case that the child decides exactly what we study, but that I take what they want and integrate into what I want to achieve.

 

Then how do you decide what the output will be ?

Do you tell your child to read the book and then you discuss with the child ?

Do you ask the child to write a report ? Or what ?

 

How to make sure that the input/output is age-appropriate.

 

Let me start w/ the last question first. Age appropriate isn't what I normally focus on. It is the child's skill ability. I want them to function at their level. I don't want to allow them to stagnate, nor do I want them to be overwhelmed. For 1 4th grader that might mean doing copywork, oral reports, etc, while for another it might mean doing a small research booklet w/different pages dedicated to specific topics.

 

FWIW, w/most of these types of studies, I spend quite a bit of time reading out loud to them in addition to what they do on their own. I think I have learned as much from my 7th grader's Anne of Green Gables unit as she has. ;)

 

My dd (3rd grade) wants to learn how number and letter (incl the writing) came about. And my son (4th grade) wants to learn how tv works.

I don't know a lot about those topics, but I might read the 3rd grader books on the Rosetta Stone, the history of the Sumerians, Roman numerals vs Arabic numbers, etc. Depending on his level of ability, I might have him create a small book about the different types of early writing w/illustrations of samples, etc.

 

For the TV, I would probably incorporate the history of radio and radio waves, the science of vacuum/cathode tubes, difference between tube tvs vs. non-tube (fwiw, I have no idea what the answers to these questions would even be! ;) ) I think this would be a fascinating topic. :001_smile: I know that the Random House All About series has an old book on Radios and TV (ALL ABOUT RADIO AND TELEVISION by Jack Gould...a quick google pulled that one up. :D )

 

I have no idea if that helps at all.

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I have no idea if that helps at all.

 

It helps me.:)

 

I'm not the OP, but I really appreciated your post. Working on similar things here (different subjects, but trying to figure out how to help them flesh them out.)

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I agree with the posters above. I just search for information and the child and I decide on the output. Some of mine were allergic to arts and crafts, some LOVED it.

 

As far as the history of numbers, have you seen this site?

 

http://www.livingmath.net/LessonPlans/Cycle1Outline/tabid/287/language/en-US/Default.aspx

 

I often google the topic and unit study and find TONS often tons of sites and resources, more than I can use. I miss those days..

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Not the OP, but I find this very helpful ~ thanks! I was wondering...how long do you spend researching, gathering resources, etc before you feel ready to have the child start? Also, what is the typical amount of time that a child spends on a theme? I'm sure it will depend upon the theme itself and the child's interest, but do you feel it ranges from a week, two weeks, month? Thanks!

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My dd (3rd grade) wants to learn how number and letter (incl the writing) came about.

 

 

I am clueless on designing a study for you, but you might want to check out Number Stories From Long Ago, by David Eugene Smith--on google books for free. My two oldest enjoyed this last year. You can't beat the price.

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Not the OP, but I find this very helpful ~ thanks! I was wondering...how long do you spend researching, gathering resources, etc before you feel ready to have the child start? Also, what is the typical amount of time that a child spends on a theme? I'm sure it will depend upon the theme itself and the child's interest, but do you feel it ranges from a week, two weeks, month? Thanks!

 

Some themes I center the entire yr around. Next yr I am planning a world history/culture course centered around the influence of horses on history. My 10 yr old dd is horse crazy. I typically teach world cultures in 5th grade anyway.

 

I have already started researching ideas and books. As I research, it is becoming very clear that the influence of the horse has been profound, so it is going to be more a matter of searching for age appropriate books than researching for ways to tie it together.

 

Some themes are shorter. I am also finishing up touches on a Shakespeare study that we are starting within the next week or 2. (this is for my 7th and 10th grader to do together.) The depth of allusions to Shakespeare in Anne of Green Gables is what sparked my dd's love for Shakespeare. She and I have been doing plays since the beginning of the yr. But, this study is going to take a different approach. (too tired to type it all out.)

 

HTH

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Some themes I center the entire yr around. Next yr I am planning a world history/culture course centered around the influence of horses on history. My 10 yr old dd is horse crazy. I typically teach world cultures in 5th grade anyway.

 

I have already started researching ideas and books. As I research, it is becoming very clear that the influence of the horse has been profound, so it is going to be more a matter of searching for age appropriate books than researching for ways to tie it together.

 

 

A book that she might be interested in is Black Horses for the King (Anne McCaffrey) -- it's peripherally King Arthur, I loved it -- I was horse-crazy myself :D

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I don't have an answer for you, but I did see a post once by 8fillstheheart about how she did it. Unfortunately I have no idea what the post was under (it was a thread she posted on, not one she started, and an older one IIRC), but you might try searching if you don't get the response you're looking for. Or just PM her.

 

I think this is the one you were talking about. I subscribed for later reference. ;):tongue_smilie:

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Thank you for Karen (8filltheheart) and others who have chimed in and given me input.

 

Finding age-appropriate books is what stumps me. I'll give it a try though because my son especially seems to look forward to it. He's already told me that apart from tv, he also wants to know how other things work (computer, telephone, car, airplane, etc).

 

Btw, that horse study seems to be v. interesting.

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Finding age-appropriate books is what stumps me.

 

My method is to just go to my library's website, find many books on the topic of interest, reserve/check them out, and then weed through them at home. It doesn't take long. I just flip through them, figure out what would catch my child's interest, and ditch the ones with tiny print, lol. I read a paragraph here and there - if it catches my interest, then it probably is a well-written book. Anything not helpful goes back in the library bag to be returned on our next library day. It's not an exact science - you just have to start looking through books, and this is the easiest way I have found.

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The book The Word Spy will answer your daughters questions. :D

 

 

To create a themed study you need a spine.. it might be an idea or outline of what you want to learn. From there you can branch out and figure out how to fill in the finer details.

 

So let's stick with what you said your theme is: How words and numbers came about.

 

Your spine could be the WORD SPY book.

 

From there you can decide if you want to branch out into collecting hands on project, lapbook, notebook, pieces, etc.

 

Do you want other books to go with the idea, if so would they be about people learning to read and write? Secret codes? etc.

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To create a themed study you need a spine.. it might be an idea or outline of what you want to learn. From there you can branch out and figure out how to fill in the finer details.

 

.

 

 

A spine is a great way to learn how create your own plans b/c it provides a pre-fab framework for your general direction. When I first started creating my own plans, I had the "gap" fear and did rely on a spine to read from and then give them other books to read to go deeper than the spine. We would go down various trails, but would always steer back toward the spine.

 

However, you don't need a spine. I no longer take that approach. But, I also no longer believe that there is any such phenomenon as the "gap syndrome" :D when it pertains to the areas where I do develop our themes (mostly history and science.) I have found my kids most profound educational experiences occur when our path emerges as we progress.

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I’m a big proponent of interest-led learning, but I would caution against trying to overplan things — not every interest needs to be turned into a “unit study.†For example, if a child says he wants to learn about how TV works, you could spend a lot of time putting together a big unit study, covering the history/invention of radio & television, lots of books, plan to have him write a report, etc., only to find that he really just wanted to know how a TV works, kwim?

Since your son IS interested in a broader study, I'd get some general "how things work" books like The New Way Things Work, Can You Feel the Force, Transformed: How Everyday Things are Made, and the Cool Stuff series (Cool Stuff and How it Works; Cool Stuff 2.0; Cool Stuff Exploded). There is also a magazine called How It Works that puts out a big Annual issue for about $20. You could also check out Make magazine and website (lots of interesting articles, kits, project ideas, etc.). I'd also get lots of old/broken things he can take apart: TV, radio, DVD player, etc. Get a radio kit he can build, add relevant bios (Edison, Tesla, Marconi, etc.), and I strongly recommend Teaching Co’s Physics in Your Life, which explains exactly the sort of things your son is asking about. If you have cable, "How It's Made" is a great series; there's lots of stuff on Discovery Streaming, too. In terms of "output," I'd think outside the box a bit — building a radio, dismantling a DVD player and putting it back together, making/testing models of paper airplanes to see which fly the highest/farthest/etc., can count as "output" — it doesn't have to be worksheets and quizzes!

Overplanning a “unit study†can also end up preventing you from following the sort of rabbit trails that (IMHO) are the biggest advantage of an interest-led approach. For example, a couple of summers ago we caught a large mantis, which led to a summer-long study of insects, but none of it was preplanned. We researched mantis species online to identify the species and gender of ours, then found a male of the same species, watched them mate, and watched her lay eggs. We researched mantis egg cases (which led to an interesting rabbit trail about the properties of foam, because the cases are basically a foam that hardens on contact with air), we searched the property for other mantis egg cases, and found some that had tiny round holes in them. A bit more research revealed that those holes had been made by tiny parasitic wasps emerging after eating the mantis larvae! That led to research on parasitic insects, as well as searching for other insect egg cases (we found and hatched some katydid eggs). Watching the mantis eat grasshoppers, we noticed that she always discarded a certain part, which led to research on the anatomy of grasshoppers (online research plus a couple of books with insect anatomy shown in “layers,†as well as a 3D plastic anatomy model of a beetle). Having to catch grasshoppers every day to feed the mantis led to researching/identify all the local species.

At the same time we did a parallel/related study of ants, identifying and observing all the different species, looking at specimens under the microscope (we even watched an ant "milking" a mealybug under the microscope!), DS read some of E.O. Wilson's writings on ants, and he designed and carried out several experiments. We also did some experiments with antlions and pillbugs from the Creepy Crawlies and the Scientific Method book. For “output,†DS (11 at the time) did lots of drawings of insect anatomy, as well as drawing various ants, mantids, egg cases, etc., and wrote some observations in his nature journal/sketchbook. DD (then 7) drew ants and a mantis, and colored/labeled insect body parts in a science coloring book I had. She also wrote about her observations in letters to her grandparents, which serve the same function as a "report," plus DD loves to write letters and the grandparents love to get them. NONE of this was planned out, though; it all just followed naturally from what we found and observed and wanted to know more about.

With younger kids, I’m much more inclined to just “go with the flow†and address interests as they come up, rather than turning things into formal unit studies. But then I also don’t do output-for-the-sake-of-output. If writing or drawing something helps them process and retain what they’re learning, then they do it, but I don’t “assign†output in the sense of giving them quizzes or worksheets or things like that. To me, those things are designed for teachers with 30 kids who need to check that everyone has met a “standard,†or who need time-fillers, neither of which apply to me. If you want to tie in your language arts, though, it would be easy enough to add copywork of poems about insects, read storybooks about insects, etc. Sometimes I think that can be overkill, though, and can start to feel contrived (at least beyond 2nd or 3rd grade).

For older kids, where the “unit†is being counted for credit, I research the topic and pull together a set of resources that I think will cover the material adequately. For example, DS13 recently developed a keen interest in linguistics (which actually started as a rabbit trail from something else), and he wants to count it as a HS credit. Here is a list of resources I pulled together for this:
Teaching Co courses: Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language, and The Story of Human Language (I also have History of the English Language and some books & DVDs on the history of English, if DS decides to pursue that further)
Text: An Introduction to Language (I found this by searching the booklists of several colleges to see what they used for Linguistics 101; I will use this as a spine to make sure we cover the main topics, not necessarily as a textbook to be worked through)
Supplemental reading: The World’s Writing Systems; The Story of Writing; In the Land of Invented Languages; The Language Construction Kit (all found by searching Amazon; see below)
Possible online courses: Linguistics with OnlineG3, Computational Linguistics with Strategicum. (DS has already done a 4-week workshop on ancient alphabets with Lukeion).
Output: DS will invent his own alphabet and “conlang†(artificial language) and will participate in the Computational Linguistics Olympiad (which I learned about on the HS board). We also watch the TC lectures together and discuss them. I don’t schedule this, I let DS work on it when he wants; he’s starting it now and will probably finish sometime next year (9th).

As for where to find resources, I use Amazon a lot to find books and DVDs on particular topics. One way to pull together a lot of resources very quickly is to set up an Amazon Wishlist for that topic, search for books and/or DVDs, then click "Add to Wishist." When you add something to a wishlist, Amazon gives you a whole list of related items that other people bought; I just click “Add to Wishlist†for anything that looks remotely interesting (I don't click on the item at this point, I just add it to the wishlist for later). When I’ve exhausted the possibilities on the current page, I click on the most relevant-looking item from the suggestions, which takes me to that page, where I get another series of related suggestions, etc. Within about 10 minutes I can have 50 or more items in the wishlist. Then I go through the wishlist and click on individual items, read the reviews and age recommendations, use the Look Inside feature if there is one, etc., and decide if that’s a resource I want to keep or delete from the list. In the end I have a list of books/DVDs I can either order from Amazon, or take to the library, search Netflix, etc. I also look on youtube, Discovery Streaming, Teaching Company, and Open Courseware type sites for relevant lectures/videos. If you really want worksheets and things like that, there are "teacher resources" websites like Enchanted Learning where you can download stuff. Ellen McHenry's website has some really good downloadable games and projects (DD made the paper model of a piston engine, when she was interested in car engines). And of course, you can search this board for suggestions and resources!

 

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Some themes I center the entire yr around. Next yr I am planning a world history/culture course centered around the influence of horses on history. My 10 yr old dd is horse crazy. I typically teach world cultures in 5th grade anyway.

 

I have already started researching ideas and books. As I research, it is becoming very clear that the influence of the horse has been profound, so it is going to be more a matter of searching for age appropriate books than researching for ways to tie it together.

 

Some themes are shorter. I am also finishing up touches on a Shakespeare study that we are starting within the next week or 2. (this is for my 7th and 10th grader to do together.) The depth of allusions to Shakespeare in Anne of Green Gables is what sparked my dd's love for Shakespeare. She and I have been doing plays since the beginning of the yr. But, this study is going to take a different approach. (too tired to type it all out.)

 

HTH

 

 

I would love to see what you come up with to compare it to what we are studying this year as we go through the beautiful feet curric History of the horse.

 

The rest of this topic is great information. I do some of this but it is still mostly based on what I want them to learn about about and less about following them kwim.

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A spine is a great way to learn how create your own plans b/c it provides a pre-fab framework for your general direction. When I first started creating my own plans, I had the "gap" fear and did rely on a spine to read from and then give them other books to read to go deeper than the spine. We would go down various trails, but would always steer back toward the spine.

 

However, you don't need a spine. I no longer take that approach. But, I also no longer believe that there is any such phenomenon as the "gap syndrome" :D when it pertains to the areas where I do develop our themes (mostly history and science.) I have found my kids most profound educational experiences occur when our path emerges as we progress.

 

I'm a two-week old Newbie. What's a spine? :001_huh:

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To answer the pp, a spine is a central resource you might use to tie your study together. For example, the Story of the World or the Usborne Internet-Linked World History encyclopedia is a world history spine for many. They might check out books from the library based on SOTW's/ UILWH's table of contents to supplement their study of world history.

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A Record of the Learning Lifestyle is supposed to document what you ALREADY did, but I like it for planning.

 

There is a pdf sample you can print out, that explains these 11 specific training categories.

 

Spiritual Life: Bible Study, Worship, and Christian Fellowship

Learning to Work: Chores, Service, and Life Skills

Relating to Others: Character and Relationships

Learning About God's Creation: Science and Technology

Learning About People and Places: Geography, Government, and Foreign Language

Learning About the Events and People of the Past: History and Biography

Learning About the Thoughts of Others: Reading and Literature

Being Creative: Art, Crafts, Music, Drama, and Other Creative Activities

Learning to Communicate: Letter Writing, Grammar, Handwriting, Creative Writing, and Journaling

Caring for My Body: Exercise, Sports, and Health

Learning Math, Problem Solving, and Thinking Skills.

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