Thursday, May 27, 2010

More Inspiration for Lapbooks and Unit Studies

Welcome to the third and final post for now in this series on learning at home with lapbooks. I hope that by opening up our home education archives and sharing with you how we learn and assemble useful resources, that you have been inspired to think beyond the textbook, the exercise book or A4 folder! And maybe gained some ideas for topics to study or projects to try. Saminda I can't wait to see how your medieval banquet turns out! You will have so much fun!

I want to show you a few more of the topics we have covered using this method over the years. Science, history and geography subjects are particularly suited to the unit method of learning. Nature is all around us and children are always curious about their environment and the creatures that inhabit the places they live in or visit, be it insects in the garden or marine creatures in the rockpool at the beach. If you start out by studying the natural environment where you reside you will have at hand the resources you need and places to visit - begin in your own backyard, then maybe take a trip to the beach or zoo and then you can move onto studying more complex environments that you may not be able to visit in person such as the rainforest! This is what I refer to as a web of learning.... starting in the centre, then weaving in additional information, making connections between different subjects as you start to expand your knowledge of a particular subject.

We have always lived close to rivers and before we started this unit we went down to the river to observe it in action. The river we visited was an example of a braided river - these are only found in New Zealand, India, Tibet, Alaska and Argentina! The scenery surrounding braided rivers can be majestic. I asked the children to not only look out across the river to the mountains in the distance but to pick up stones and gravel, they enjoyed tossing the pebbles into the river but didn't realize they were learning about the characteristics of a braided river. They were having fun!

On our return I asked my daughter to write out a fact sheet about braided rivers. We used a book about the journey of a river to source the information. I also had brochures picked up from our local council which had lots of information on environmental issues for the rivers in our region. We also made a model of the journey of a river - this was the art and craft component as we made a mountain using paper mache. The river was a blue streamer that wound its way down to the valley and labels were written out for the model and attached in the appropriate places - a good way to encourage a reluctant writer! And learn river terminology and vocabulary for creative writing.

The learning connections start to take place. The children were well aware of the life that lived in the river we were studying - it was salmon country! We often had fresh salmon courtesy of their grandmother. We read from a book about the journey of a salmon and ate it for supper in the evening! Oh how I miss fresh NZ salmon!

If I was studying fish with the children today I would make a lapbook in the shape of a fish or make a fishing game with magnets to make an a fun activity to learn the names of different species or learn vocabulary associated with fish. I would visit the local harbour and fish markets. We would definitely cook with fish. Aha - I have just given myself an idea for a unit for this year! It links into another unit we did a couple of years ago called 'Girt by Sea'. I derived the name from Australia's National Anthem which has the line in it 'our home is girt by sea. ' Rather than making individual lapbooks we made a series of 4 covering the mighty ocean, coasts and habitats, the inter-tidal zone and marine life. I still have all the resources from this unit to refer to if we wish to pursue this topic.

You can make a lapbook about virtually any subject!

This is my daughter's 'Femininity folder'.

She made this folder when we discussed topics such as feminine and modest dress, hygiene, good manners, speech, homemaking and setting a beautiful table. We poured over magazines to find lovely images and outfits she might choose as she grows up to be a young lady. The folder is used to store the pictures. It is this daughter who declares that she prefers to wear dresses and aspires to dress in a feminine manner, so it was a beneficial exercise.

This particular lapbook has a component I often use in lapbooks - pockets or envelopes to hold snippets of information, in this case 'Lovely words to say' such as 'pardon me', 'sorry', 'please may I' and 'thank you' reinforcing what we have always taught our children to say whenever they are speaking! Your pocket may hold state capitals, mini flags, labels for a diagram, anything that is likely to drop out of the folder.

Another useful component I have used in lapbooks are velcro dots. They are perfect for labels that the child has to place in the correct place on a diagram. I also make good use of my 'P touch label' machine when putting together lapbooks and other teaching resources. I love my labeller, it has so many uses. There is not much that isn't labeled in my house!

Homemade board games are another learning resource we have used with great success over the years. Everyone helps to make the game on whatever subject you happen to be studying. We were doing a unit on 'Exploration' I entitled 'To the Ends of the Earth'. It is based on trivial pursuit and each player has to travel to the different continents and answer questions about famous explorers, the terrain and geography.

In order to win the game they need to earn a different treasure from each continent!

I make good use of coloured craft popsicle sticks - something that is always in my craft cupboard. They are fantastic for making markers and game pieces. I also use them to make markers for 'egg box timelines' - you insert them into an upturned egg box to make a timeline that can sit on a table or desktop. I am presently using the same idea to make a phonetic alphabet with the twins. Will take a photo when it is finished to show you in a future post on teaching phonics!

Other 'made at home' games we have made include the 'tiddlywinks' solar system - land your counters on planets and earn points - my son loved this game and soon learned the names of all the planets!

'Rove around Britain' was a geography game where you travel around a map of the British Isles answering questions as you go - we used toy 'British' cars, black cabs and red buses as markers. Perhaps you could make an Australian version and use toy Ford and Holden models!
I could devote a whole post to ideas for board games but this is just to set you off thinking of ideas that might inspire your children to learn their geography facts or dates of historical events.

Learning should be fun, never tedious, especially during the primary school years. I have found that by the age of 12, the children are ready to move on from lapbooks and craft orientated project books, though a daughter who loves to scrapbook could certainly use scrapping as a means of displaying her work in different subject areas. Beautifully illustrated notebooks and journals could be the next step on from lapbooks for an older or artistically inclined child. My daughter even made her high school maths books look more like a journal - she was always photocopying diagrams and appreciated the textbook with coloured illustrations we had purchased.

What I did find by using this approach extensively, was that special interests became apparent. You can read in one of my previous posts about how my daughter became passionate about Asia following a unit study on Japan and China - we made simple lapbooks. Go to my 'Learning at Home' category in the archives or use the search button for my blog. Today she is learning Mandarin and still borrowing books from the library to educate herself about China and other Asian cultures. She is about to read about the history of tea. The book she has looks fascinating - I want to read it too!

As an interest unfolds I allow each child to devote more time to its study. They keep on studying the foundational subjects to the extent that they need - calculus may be vital to one but not needed by another. A foreign language may be desired by one but does not interest the other in the least! In this way, I can cater for each of my older children to have a plan of study that is unique to them and prepare them for their journey into adulthood. One young person may have more practical assignments, the other is more focused on academics for the direction he is heading in. This is one of the delights of a home education - there is no 'one size fits all!'

Hope you have enjoyed these posts. Delving into lapbook learning is fun, it takes a little effort on your part but you may be surprised at how much your children learn. Oh and you will too, I have picked up so many facts over the years that I can still recall - my husband has threatened to enter me on 'Millionaire' one day... let's hope the big prize question is about braided rivers!

With Love and Joy,


simplelife said...

Thank you so much for taking the time to put this post together, for a newbie to hs this has to be some of the most helpful stuff I've read.
I've noticed that homeschoolers seem to be so accepting of all the different ways that they don't really share the finer details of how they actually do it.
This has given me so many ideas already that I want to get the girls out of bed and start something now.

cheers Kate

count it all joy said...

Hi Ann! I just love your blog. Sadly, I've had very little time to sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and read through all your wonderful posts. I'm going to treat myself over the weekend to catch up on all your news.....a little reward for myself. All the post titles I've seen on my sidebar have been so tantilising. Hope you and your beautiful family are thriving and not feeling the cold as much as we are in Sydney:) Meredy xo

Anonymous said...

Hello Ann, I've really enjoyed these posts on lapbooking. I have not yet read it all but am interested as I would like to get going and do some more folders. We have only done a couple so far. The one on femininity folder is a wonderful idea. I have one daughter (two boys)and I think something like this would be a great idea as she tends to lean towards "tomboyishness". Angela

Dove's Rest said...

Hi Ann, I have just discovered your blog and love it. I am inspired to lapbook. Thankyou for showing the detail. I will visit often. Blessings, Renelle

Renata said...

Thanks for showing us more examples - I love the fact that you used lap books for more than just "traditional" school work ( although those were great as well)
I've gotta run, but enjoyed catching up on your blog
Have a nice week

Elinor said...

Hello Ann,
I really enjoyed reading your series on lapbooks. We have been doing lapbooks now for nearly 4 years and the children just love making them. We have made a couple ourselves but usually i do the free ones on home school share. I love the games ideas you had and the one for your daughter on femininity. This is one I think I will look into soon for my almost 10 year old daughter. I like your idea for making a roman shield as a cover for your lapbook on Ancient Rome - enjoy your weekend.


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