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How to Pull a Unit Study Together Quickly: Dogs

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By Beverly S. Krueger

Subjects covered: math, language arts (writing, reading, grammar), social studies (the role of dogs in our society), science (the kit), computer skills (internet research), art (crafts projects)

A friend (I'll call her Abby) wanted to take a trial run homeschooling her youngest daughter. Abby needed to quickly pull together a unit study that could focus on skills her daughter needed to shore up and act as a carrot for homeschooling at the same time. Her daughter likes dogs, so we put together a unit study on dogs.

First, Abby told me the two skill areas she really wanted to focus on with her daughter. They were working on addition and subtraction math facts and reading comprehension. She already had a math game that would give her daughter plenty of fact practice in a painless way.

Next, we planned a way for their dog study to allow for reading comprehension practice. I gave them a couple of good children's books about dogs, one of the Hank the Cow Dog books and Ribsy. There are plenty of others, but these were on my bookshelf. After her daughter reads each chapter of the book she chooses to read, she will discuss the chapter with her mother. This means Abby has to read the book, too.

For combination social studies and science, we came up with a list of possible dog topics to cover: Seeing Eye Dogs and Other Working Dogs, Dogs and the Role they Played After Sept. 11 and other disasters, Dog Sled Races like the Iditarod, Dogs in the Movies - Rin Tin Tin, Lassie. That's a short list. Abby's daughter could easily pick another topic. The plan was to choose something related to dogs and then spend time online researching that topic. The idea was that after she had learned more about her topic, Abby's daughter would write her own dog story using information she had learned through her research. So, if she chose to research seeing eye dogs, she would write a story about a seeing eye dog. This takes her beyond simply regurgitating what she has learned to synthesizing it. Abby's daughter will know before she starts her research that she will be writing a story about the topic. She can be writing ideas and facts down for the story as she learns about the topic.

To take things further, the story can then be edited using the Proofreading checklist found in the EHO Language Department. Abby can read the story and use the proofreading checklist to determine which rules need reinforcing.

You do this by starting with rule number one. If that rule is being followed, move on to rule 2. When you give it back to your student to proofread, give them a list of all the rules up to the one that they're having trouble keeping. They have to check the story for all the rules on their list. When they're done proofreading, go over it with them to see if they've caught all the mistakes. By working on one rule at a time you don't overwhelm. If you continue on this process of instruction through the entire proofreading list, you will develop good writing habits in your child. Once the story has been proofread, Abby's daughter can rewrite it, perhaps even illustrating it.

Additional activities for a dog unit study can include the Fun with Your Dog kit available from Scientific Explorer. Activities in the kit include a personality inventory, dog glasses to see colors as your dog sees them, and a dog whistle for testing your dogs ultra-sonic sound hearing. This kit sells for $19.99 and has all the necessary items to complete the activities and experiments except a dog. More activities including arts and crafts ideas can be found on the websites listed below.

This is a perfect summertime unit study because it doesn't involve a lot of "schoolish" activity and kids get to play with their dog. It took about one and half hours to come up with the ideas and resources for this quick unit study.

Dog Unit Study Resources
Website listings, books, games, kits and videos to use in pulling together a quick unit study on dogs

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