Preschool Unit Studies, Preschool Themes: What Do They Look Like?
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on March 2, 2010
OK, you’ve decided on your topics (themes) and are ready to get going! But what should a preschool unit study look like? What types of activities should be included in your unit–and how many of them do you need?
The first thing to remember is to keep it simple. There is no “rule” stating what a unit study “should” be or “should” contain. Reading picture books is the bulk of our preschool “unit studies”. But whenever we can, we add simple activities that go along with our theme. This isn’t an obsession; I don’t go crazy with it; we simply add activities when we think of them. Here are some elements you might think about when you are planning a preschool/Kindergarten unit study:
~Books, both fiction and non-fiction (if appropriate); this is your most important element! If this is all you have to offer your children, that’s OK!
~Music: Music related to the theme (for older kids, music written during the time period of the theme.) For the farm unit, we’d sing “Farmer in the Dell”, “Old MacDonald”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” etc.
~Finger plays/poetry/nursery rhymes: Poems, finger plays or action rhymes about the unit. For a farm unit, we’d do finger plays like “5 Little Ducks”; nursery rhymes like Little Boy Blue and Little Bo Peep, and poems such as the Giving Farm, by Vicki Witcher http://www.kinderkorner.com/farm.html .
~Art and crafts: I like to keep art as open-ended as possible. Use projects that have a set result (that “should” look a certain way) sparingly, and concentrate on open-ended art ideas instead (I included a list of more than 50 such projects in my book.) Examples of art for a farm unit: Draw or trace the shape of a cow, and then finger paint or paint on it; draw or trace the shape of a lamb, then cover with cotton balls; paint with milk paint, paint or write with feathers, etc.
~Projects/activities: This includes cooking experiences, science experiences/experiments/exploration, Montessori type activities (hands on, small muscle), large muscle activities, and so on. For a farm unit, we might: Look at and sort different types of seeds; put whipping cream into a jar and shake until it turns into butter; sprout beans in a clear glass or zippy bag, start a garden, and so on.
~Dramatic play: Use dress up clothes, props, and prop boxes to inspire your children to “pretend” about your unit. For example, for the farm unit, you might have overalls, boots, and a big hat to wear (traditional “farmer” clothes); a rake and other gardening tools to play with outside (supervise carefully), etc. You can find some great ideas HERE and HERE.
~Videos: Used sparingly, these can be a great supplement-especially when it comes to science (documentaries.) Warning: Watch out of evolutionary content.
~Field trips or virtual field trips: Icing on the cake! Not every unit will have field trips; they can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. For our farm unit, we watched several “virtual” tours of farms, visited a dairy farm, went to our grocery store where we talked about which produce grows where (Does it grow on a tree? Under the ground? On a bush?), and where products come from (Meat: Bacon = pig; beef = cow; milk products & how they are made, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, etc); for a wrap-up, we went to our county fair.)
Be careful not to go crazy with these! A few really good elements make a more enjoyable unit study than a bunch of meaningless ones. A rule of thumb for a two-week study (for preschool/Kindergarten) would be: 10-12 books; 1-2 songs to learn; 1-2 finger plays; 4-8 different art/crafts (not all have to be related to the unit–just offer them throughout the week); 4-8 hands on projects/activities; 1 creative/dramatic play activity, 1-2 field trips (if possible). Every element does not have to be present. The idea is to make your “study” meaningful and fun. Remember, the single most important thing you can do to help your preschooler learn is to read aloud to her. As long as you do that while providing a loving, consistent, creative home environment with lots of time for free play, you’ll do just fine.
Next post: Unit For A Day
Portions of this post are excerpts from the book, “Homepreschool and Beyond”; used with permission.
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.