How to Plan a Mini Study
One of the things I love about educating at home is that our days do not need to be broken up into individual subjects. In fact, if you ask my children what is their favourite subject they might look at you like a deer in headlights. They've likely heard me mention subject names from time to time but they're not common vernacular in our home. Instead, when we study something we do our best to study it from every angle. We immerse ourselves in the content and in that way we develop a deeper understanding and are able to make significant connections.
I've written before on One Thing or Deep Diving planning but today I want to simplify and strip it down even more for those who are finding themselves suddenly at home with their children and wanting to engage them in some schooling during this time.
While our deep dives typically take us a few months (Example Ancient Egypt Round Up), for this purpose we're going to focus on mini dives that will take you a couple of days to a week to work through. On top of promoting deeper understanding and engagement these mini studies are high interest and engaging. I recommend that you pay attention to your kids and the things they show an interest in. Rabbit trails are one of the best sources for inspiration. Remember "anything can teach anything" (Bogart).
Step 1: Books
Find a few books related to your topic. I recommend a mix of fiction and non fiction. Don't discount picture books in regards to educational value - so many of these are beautifully illustrated and contain engaging information even if they are fiction. As an aside - for longer studies I will ALWAYS find a novel related to our theme. Your kids will learn so much from narrative.
Right now is a challenging time in some ways to find books. In many circumstances ebooks, audiobooks and read aloud videos are going to be your best bet.
Compile your list of books and spread them through out your days.
Virtual Book Access
www.getepic.com - the netflix of children's books. Free 30 day trial.
www.hoopladigital.com - free with many public library cards.
www.vooks.com - animated children's story books
www.audible.ca - amazon's platform for audiobooks. Free credit with 30 day trial
https://stories.audible.com/start-listen - audible stories. Free platform for audio stories
Libby (app) - interface for overdrive which should be accessible with your public library card
Kindle Unlimited - $0.99 for 2 months. Ebooks.
www.youtube.com - search the name of the book you're looking for + "read aloud" and see if someone has uploaded a video of the book you're looking for.
https://www.ryanandcraig.com/ - picture books read by 2 comedians. They're hilarious.
Step 2: Videos
We live in such a great time for access to quality video. Take some time to look for videos related to your theme. YouTube has so many free options and I recommend creating a playlist just for that theme where you can save your videos to.
You can also look for longer documentaries on YouTube, Netflix, Disney +, Prime and Curiosity Stream.
Step 3: Art
It's great to mix in creating with all of your consuming (of books and videos). Head over to pinterest and search for a few crafts, drawing or painting projects that are related to your theme.
For example, in the Frozen 2 mini study I planned I gave the options for 2 different snowflake art projects.
Step 4: Writing
Writing is so diverse and there are a thousand different nuances you could work on and so many formats to explore. Try and choose a format or a prompt that will engage and stretch your child.
Here are a few to get you thinking:
- news article
- descriptive paragraph
- comic strip
- character diary entry
- writing from the perspective of an inanimate object
- written interview (can be role played as well)
- Fact File
- doodle notes
- diagram with labels
- listicle (list and article combined)
- personal narrative
- research paper
- how to
- travel guide
- mail order catalogue
- make your own mad lib
- song lyrics
Elements of writing:
- cliff hanger
- show don't tell (engage the 5 senses without using the name of the sense)
- dialogue (proper use of quotation marks)
- writing a hook
- 1st person vs 3rd person
- writing in verse
- rhyming couplets
* Remember that writing is a large part of speaking and performing as well. It's great for your kids to write and then perform a news cast or a monologue. Get creative!
Step 5: Look for Cross Curricular Connections
I typically focus on science, history, geography and social studies (sometimes health).
It's likely that your topic of interest already falls fairly heavily into one of these categories. Learning about snapping turtles is science. Learning about ancient Egypt is history/geography/social studies. You can make cross curricular connections though. When learning about ancient Egypt we studied the process of mummification and we tested various ways to preserve organic matter which is science.
When studying Ancient Rome we brought in science through studying the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the fate of Pompeii and how volcanoes are made and operate (which led us down the road of plate tectonics and how mountains are formed as well).
If you're studying an animal it's great to look at maps of countries or areas that the animal lives in. See if you can find out how local people feel about the animal. Is it a religious symbol? Is it a pest? Do humans interact with the animal? etc.
Step 6 : Bring it All Together
Now that you've compiled resources and activities you can put it together. I'm really not one to follow guidelines or rules but I know some people will ask for these so I'll just include it ;)
Sample Mini Study Make Up
1-2 Picture Books
1-3 Non fiction books
2-3 Art/Craft Projects
1 Writing Project (including 1 writing format and 1 writing element to teach)
2-3 Cross Curricular Connections
*Include your math - I find it hard to find thematic math at my kids ages lol. But if you can that's great!
How you incorporate these into your days is up to you. You may want to create an order and a schedule of when you'll work through it. You may want to ask your kids what interests them and what they'd like to start with. Totally up to you.
One tip is to manage your expectations. If you don't get through what you thought you would in a day don't despair. Just pick it up the next day. This isn't a race.
Also, practice the art of observing your kids. If they're really interested or engaged, don't rush them. If they start heading down a rabbit trail of curiosity, follow them!
Lastly I always recommend that parents do their own activities alongside your kids (yes even a writing project). It's wonderful modelling and it'll also stop you from micromanaging their work lol.
You can also access my One Thing Planning Guide on my website shop.