Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5 Days of Literature Unit Studies ~ Library

You have chosen your piece of literature. And you have narrowed down the themes you want to cover.

Now is the fun part! You get to figure out what books and activities you will use in your unit study. This is my favorite part of planning a unit study. I could (and usually do) spend HOURS stalking my library and other blogs and websites for ideas.

Lets start with the library. That's where I always start.

For a unit study, each day we typically read a chapter or two of the featured piece of literature, read a picture book or two on the desired theme, and do an activity.

The first thing I do is go to my public library website and do a search of the literature's title. The reason I do this is because sometimes there are books that have activities that tie right into that piece of literature. That happened with The Secret Garden. There is a book called Inside the Secret Garden: a treasury of crafts, recipes and activities by Carolyn Strom Collins that had baking recipes, tea party ideas, period games, and gardening projects that went right along with the book! We baked, had tea parties, made a jump rope, made moss-covered pots, gardening stone labels, and a garden trellis from the ideas in the book.

Since it was also National Poetry Month in April, I did a keyword search for "garden poems". I got a great book of Emily Dickinson poems in a book called A Brighter Garden. We jumped rope while reading these poems, and Brynne copied one for copywork.

Then I do a keyword search for the themes I am planning to do. For The Secret Garden, it was "gardens", "plants", and "flowers". Here, I am specifically looking for easy picture books that Brynne can read. I choose non-fiction and fiction books. Typically I will read her a non-fiction book each day (there was a GREAT series by Kristin Sterling that went along with the plant theme we did) and she will additionally read a beautiful picture book based on our theme. (It is amazing to me how she will take what she has read in the non-fiction books and apply it to what she is reading in the fictional picture books. She will stop many times in a reading and refer back to other books she has read.) And then I check out TONS of books. Our library limit is 50, and many times I have that many and can't check out anymore.

Lastly, at the library I look for educational videos. If it's a science theme, I always look for The Magic School Bus or Bill Nye the Science Guy. Those are my kids' favorites. PBS videos for all kinds of social studies topics are good choices. And the Character Builder series is EXCELLENT for character themes.

For Charlotte's Web, of course I chose books by doing a keyword search for "farming", "pigs", and "spiders". I got more books than we can possibly read in the time allotted.

These steps can be used to build any unit, even one based on a movie instead of a piece of literature. We will be doing a short unit on Ice Age: Continental Divide that will be released in July. The movie will be our feature. Then I chose themes: "plate tectonics", "continental divide", "Pangaea". I did keyword searches at the library on these themes and picked up a couple of great books to use, and some videos.

Okay. So now I have chosen my piece of literature. I have chosen the themes we will cover. And I have collected all of the corresponding books we will read along with the main piece of literature.

Now it's time to plug in those supplemental daily activities. But what are they? Where can they be found?

Tomorrow, we'll cover that topic!

By leaving comments on the posts in this series, you can be registered to win my copy of The Secret Garden by Classic Starts (including the cd) and copies of all resources I used in our unit study on the book. You can earn up to five entries by commenting on each post in this series.

And be sure to go over to the Homeschool Crew anchor post. There are some really great series this week!


Here are the other posts in this series, in case you have missed them:
Day 1 ~ Choosing a Piece of Literature
Day 2 ~ Choosing the Themes to Study


  1. The library, and the library catalog, are awesome resources! I say this with a bit of prejudice since I work in a library ;) Great ideas, once again!

  2. Nicole, I am really enjoying this series of posts you are doing! I am looking forward to reading the rest : )

  3. Fabulous ideas! I am convinced that one can homeschool almost entirely for free using the library and the internet. I am jealous of your 50 limit - ours is only 20!!!

  4. You do realize that your husband can get a library card and that adds another 50 books to your limit?! Or each of your kids could have one also. If you get one in your hubby's name then simply have them hold the stack of books at the counter and he can swing by on his way home from work and pick them up without searching and digging. :-)Kori

    1. We actually have several library cards in our family. But for some reason I have my son's number memorized and set up for electronic notifications so I keep that account tracked online. I check everything out under his name. I have pulled out my own card when I had checked out too many videos (the limit is 5). But then I almost always lose track of when they are due and I end up paying fines. I always tell people, however, that I probably pay the salary of one library employee with just my fines. I gladly do it, though, with the EXTREME help our librarians are! We can do intra-library loan with the entire Tulsa Oklahoma library system. I just get online, order my books, and they are waiting for me on the shelf. I very rarely have to actually go through the library shelves looking for books. But when I do, I always find so many more that I want! I could live at the library!

  5. Wow, great ideas! We LOVE literature unit studies! So much rich learning to be found this way. I didn't know about the Carolyn Strom Collins book for The Secret Garden. She also wrote those type of books to go along with the Little House series! I'll have to see if our library has it next time we go.

    We'd love to win your giveaway, too! =0)

    1. And I didn't know she had those books for the Little House series! Thank you for that! We will be doing Little House in a few years, I would imagine. I just picked up the whole series at a consignment sale for $6.00.

    2. Amazon shows that she has books for Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, too!!!!

  6. Great topic! And great suggestions, as always.

  7. I wish we had nice public libraries here in our country too. but since we don't, we usually buy these classics at the store.


We all know that in this crazy world of homeschooling, we need all the (adult) support we can get. Please leave a comment if you so wish!