Thursday, May 23, 2013

How to Create a Unit Study around a Book. Snowflake Bentley, By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

There are so many different methodology for creating curriculum for your child.  Homeschooling allows you to cater to your child's interests and needs.  Here I give you just a few of many ways to create a unit study around a book of interest.

FIRST, choose a book or novel that interests your child.  Often it is easiest to create a unit study from a book that is historically based, about a real person, or has a science theme.

Let's take the book Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.

This is a nice little book that you can read in about 5-20 minutes. It is a nice story about a man named Wilson Bentley.  He was homeschooled for most of his schooling. It talks about his interests and what he did with his interests and how he made an impact on the science and weather communities.

NEXT, determine the subjects that you can pull from the book. This book has a science theme along with a history piece, and we are reading a biography.  This lends itself to having a science component, a history component, a literature/writing component, and because of the topic of photographing snowflakes, art.

List the subjects:
1. Science
2. History/Social Studies
3. Literature/Writing
4. Art
maybe even Math.

THIRD, depending on your child's age and abilities you will want to create the lessons.

Let's start with History/social studies.  Bentley was born in 1865.  This was right at the end of the Civil War.  You can discuss this.  You can find on a map where he was born.  You can create a timeline of his life, noting all the ages and events in his life. You can add to the time line other major events going on during his life time. (ie. wars, presidents, etc)

Science: This book lends itself well to so many different facets of science.  First, he studies weather.  You can study and record the weather for a two week period noting differences in temperature, humidity, or even as simple as recording sunny, rainy, and cloudy days. Next, he studies snowflakes. You can study how snow is formed, how snowflakes are formed and look at microscopic photos of snowflakes including the actual photos that Bentley took. (see notes and links below)  You can study how microscopes are used and what they do. You can look in a microscope at raindrops, snow if you have some, and other items.

Literature/writing: Because this is a biography, you can look up Wilson Bentley in the encyclopedia or online and gather more information about this man and his work.  You can also use this opportunity to define new words/vocabulary from the book and research using encyclopedias or online,  snow, snowflakes, microscopic cameras and the sort.  Have your child write a biography of him/herself or summarize Bentley's life and work.  You can have your child keep a journal during this unit study of the weather, what he/she is learning, and what they think about Bentley and his works.

Art: Create paper snowflakes. Draw snowflakes on black paper with white crayon, copy some of the photos by drawing them on black paper as Bentley did. Discuss how the snowflakes are 6 sided and all the same.

Math: Chart the weather on a graph, count the six sides of the snowflake, use snowflakes to practice math facts, multiply and divide according to numbers of spikes on the six spokes of the snowflake.  Just make it up as you go along. Predict rainy weather according to probability.  You can do anything with math.

Be open to new ideas that arise as you read the book.  Pay attention to your child and the interest level that he/she shows.  Make new activities using these interests.

Create lessons to cover across your children's ages.  You can beef up any of these plans for older children including having them act out his life, make a stop animation video of his life from Legos or other figures, or ask them to further research the science of snow and forecasting the snow and write a report.  Also, the story is written in poem form. You can do a ton with this topic for your older children, but remember, the older kids like to make paper snowflakes just as much as the younger ones. {wink wink}  Listen to your older kids' questions.  That will clue you into what they want to learn and can guide you to creating meaningful projects for them too.  I can't tell you how many times they ask me a question and I say, "I don't know but we can look that up.  Why don't you research that and bring us the answer?"

FINALLY, determine how you will put this all together.  Often times, we use lapbooks (folders) to keep and present the material we have learned.  It keeps it all organized and makes an easily transportable and easy to store package.

Resources for Snowflake Bentley online.

The Snowflake Bentley official website.

A beautiful YouTube video of Snowflake Bentley's snowflakes set to music.

A Quia Quiz on Snowflake Bentley.

A great website all about Snowflake Bentley and snow.

The beauty of the internet is that as parents/teachers we have the world at our fingertips.  We can search any topic and we have a multitude of great resources available to us.

Fun books to use for Unit Studies:

Magic Treehouse Books, by Mary Osborne Pope (K-4th grades)

Dear America series books (4-9th grades)

American Girl books (3-8th grades)

I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis (4-9th grades)

Don't be afraid to create your own unit study for your children. It is not hard and you don't have to spend a lot of time on it.  Sometimes just reading the book together and listening to the questions your child asks you will help to create activities surrounding the book.

There are many times I just choose a book and begin to read it with my kids and the unit study evolves while we read.

No comments:

Post a Comment