Friday, December 30, 2011

Winter unit study with Total Language Plus

Have you ever wondered how in the word to turn a Total Language Plus study guide into a unit study?  How about a multi-age unit study? 

A few years back we did just that with Julie of the Wolves and since it's nearing that snowing season again it's a a great time to think about a great unit study for winter!  I still remember my then second grader going around for weeks talking about mukluks and larders (two of the vocabulary words), she thought they were such cool words!

So here's the original entry from 2008, hope it gives you some great ideas!  Share and let me know!  Oh, and the Ititarod race starts March 3rd this year if you want to time that out.  We started our study before the race began to give time to pick mushers etc...  Start thinking about it now and it will give you time to get your Julie of the Wolves guide ordered and gather your other materials!


Ariel doing her mixed media northern lights

(originally posted 2008) If you haven't read the current copy of Old Schoolhouse you should!  I was reminded of the Iditarod race with the article in there and since we just finished Carry On Mr. Bowditch it was a good time for a little "break" in our regular schedule.

I decided to do the Total Language Plus Julie of the Wolves with it as a multi-age read aloud along with a little study on the Iditarod.  The study guide for Julie of the Wolves has a lot of comprehension and critical thinking questions even compared to some of the other Total Language Plus guides on other books.  Also, it's short, only 5 units so that makes it fit my purposes as well.   

Taylor drawing his terrain
If you've "heard" about Julie of the Wolves you may wonder at my choice for a multi-age read aloud.  Let me explain a little.  I first of all encourage you to read it for yourself and form your own opinion.  There are two topics in the book that some people find a bit "controversial".  First Julie, the main character, is technically "married" at age 13.  I am choosing to minimize this and skip critical thinking on this issue with my younger kids (8 + 10).  I could go into it with my older two but probably won't.  My response to this would simply be that she's in a different culture.  We actually read that part today and it really didn't create any conversation at all.

The second thing that many find controversial is a situation that happens with her "husband".  They are not in any sense of the word married as you would probably define it.  Actually, they seem to have very little interaction at all.   He is frustrated with some teasing and well, let me quote the book:

"They're laughing at me.  That's what's wrong.  They say, 'ha, ha. Dumb Daniel.  He's got a wife and he can't mate her. Ha'"
He pulled her to her feet and pressed his lips against her mouth.  She pulled away.
"We don't have to," she cried.
"They're laughing',"he repeated, and tore her dress from her shoulder.  She clutched it and pulled away.  Daniel grew angry.  He tripped her and followed her to the floor.  His lips curled back and his tongue touched her mouth.  Crushing her with his body, he twisted her down onto the floor.  He was frightened as she."

Lex with her project
He then leaves.  As adults we can read a lot more in and say there was more, but in the book that's it.  An 8 year old may comment that he was mean, period.  Personally, I'm reading it and not making a big deal.  In our society today I think it certainly is an issue to discuss, and probably earlier than we think. 

With that said the book is wonderful.  It's a great nature study book with lots of animals of the tundra to study and discuss.  My daughter has been wanting to study the tundra and it fits nicely with that topic.

For some reason over the last few years I've seen information on the Iditarod and been drawn to a study of it but it just hasn't panned out.  I think the race and all that goes along with that will be appealing to my boys.  With the combination of Julie and the race I think we'll have an interesting study for all four kids!

Most of the time we use the Total Language Plus guides in their entirety but we are going to pick and chose a little with this one to make it fit our needs.  We're using all the comprehension and thinking questions, some of the writing suggestions and some of the vocabulary but skipping the dictations and spelling entirely.  I love that the program is flexible so you can do what you want with it!

We're also using some elements from the following things.





I like my children to create their own lapbook elements and pages so with the template book and the basic notebook pages they can print off the ones they want to create.  The sled dog lapbook was one that had been free awhile back so I had it "sitting" on my computer just waiting to be used and the notebook pages I had also got free awhile back and use those regularly.  I did order the Draw Write Now specifically for this study (my kids drawings could use some help!)

So here's our plan:


Iditarod/Alaska/Julie of the Wolves unit study

Day 1
Read Julie of the Wolves aloud p. 1-36, discus comprehension and thinking questions from TLP guide.

Research Lemmings-http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/mammals/rodent/Lemmingprintout.shtml

boys (age 12 +14)-1 page paper

Draw Wolves- from Draw Write Now p. 42, research wolf behavior , http://www.ualberta.ca/~jzgurski/wcomm.html(behavior and audio of howls, growls etc…)

notebook page http://www.gardenandhearth.com/Homeschool-Worksheets/Science/Animal-Adventures/Animal-Adventures.htm  or http://www.gardenandhearth.com/Homeschool-Worksheets/Science/Animal-Adventures/Animal-Adventures2.htm

 Assign books for book reports-

Lexie (8)-Kiana’s Iditarod by Shelley Gill

Ariel(10)-Balto and the Great  Race by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

Taylor(12)-Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O’Dell

Logan(14)-Dogsong by Gary Paulsen

Do ½ hour of independent reading.

Day 2
Read Julie and discuss question in Total language plus guide for pages 37-70


make lapbook element, can use reindeer from Draw Write Now to draw you own
Make lapbook element or notebook page on Caribou

Print out and label Alaska map with places Julie lived or is at now.



Vocabulary words (take from TLP guide) on board, discuss and copy into notebook


boys-one Personally thinking question (TLP guide) from any of first two days questions

30 minutes of reading on independent books

Day 3
Read p 75-104 of Julie.  Discuss comprehension and thinking questions from TLP guide.

Draw and research seals. Make lapbook or notebook page.

Make a page (or lapbook element) about the state of Alaska http://www.dced.state.ak.us/oed/student_info/student.html

Research Eskimos- Yupik and Inuit.  Boys-write a one page paper.  Girls do lap booklet on each.

Finish reading independent books today and tomorrow finish and make report.

Day 4
Read page 109-138 from Julie of the Wolves, discuss comprehension and thinking questions from TLP guide.

Read about Iditarod history-serum run, look at state map you made yesterday print Iditarod map print Iditarod map

 Make oral and written book reports or here.
Day 5
Read 139-170 from Julie of the Wolves.  Discuss reading and comprehension questions.

Research sleds- Do lapbook elements, draw sleds


Make Aurora fact cards for lapbook or notebook page

Start researching dog-types of dogs used.  Make lapbook element or notebook page.

Day 6
Start read aloud Woodsong.

Chose mushers.
Research musher commands. Put on a Vocabulary flap for lapbook.

Make excel spreadsheet to follow chosen mushers. (Logan)

Day 7
Finish Woodsong

Start race journal.  Take on persona of musher or fictitious story of self running race and journal each day.  Do several days.  Day 1-At the start etc…

Research food and medical for dogs.

 Continue to follow race, chart the progress in excel and journal as interest warrants…..

The official Iditarod has lots of information on the history of the race, mushers, dogs etc...

So there's our plan.  I'm sure I'll be posting some of the results in the future, especially from Ariel.  She plans to use much of it for her Science display for our Science fair on "Tundra Science."

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