The First Day of a Unit Study

first day of a unit study

Start strong and finish strong is my motto! If you want to have a memorable time on the first day of a unit study and build your children’s excitement for the weeks ahead, this is the post for you!

In this post, I will be sharing some of the ways I build excitement for each unit study we do. With similar routines and rhythms to our units, the children know what to expect. This in itself helps to build up their anticipation, and helps our unit studies get off to a great start!

Talking About the Unit Study to Come

Whilst this is not a ‘formal’ way of making the first day of a unit study exciting, it is one way you can discover what the children would like to focus their learning on. A child who is interested is a child who will be easy to teach. So I always start out by asking the children what they’d like to learn. Generally speaking, the scientist will ask for science, inventions and technology. The artist will ask for art studies, fashions and jewellery. The writer will ask for literary works…and so on and so forth. This gives me a focus to my own research whilst pulling together the unit.

The First Day of Unit Study Special Breakfast

Breakfast is usually cereal, oatmeal or toast. Even now, with grown up children in the house, these are our go-tos. Anything different from these is a treat. Do it often enough it becomes an anticipated part of something. For example, we always do waffles on a Saturday, or a fry up on Gary’s birthday. These things have happened so often they are now engrained into our family culture. So it is with the first day of unit study breakfast.

cinnamon rolls for the first day of a unit study

We will usually have cinnamon rolls, a sweet treat we never have at any other time. The day starts leisurely, on the sofa, whilst munching on cinnamon rolls and drinking steaming mugs of coffee or tea. Best. Start. Ever.

The Unit Study Adventure Box

Our children greatly anticipate the unit study adventure box, a luggage case of goodies. The children know it’s coming. After all, they’ve watched me buy bits and pieces as well as collect them from around the house. Mysterious parcels have been arriving in the post and they know they are in for a wonderful themed surprise!

Adventure box for the first day of a unit study

I have written a post all about ideas to include in an adventure box. These ideas are applicable regardless of the historic period or culture you are studying. Obviously, you can pop anything you think will encourage or appeal to your own children. Our main stays are books galore, dressing up and craft supplies. If you have a child with a specific interest, it might be worth investing in this. For example, Thomas enjoyed all thing science so I bought a huge science kit which covered science through the ages. Thomas loved this, pulling it out every unit, and choosing an experiment linked to the period we were studying.

Junk Box

This is a great money saving idea. And it requires little out of you other than to clean the rubbish before placing it in the box. We have used card packaging for models and maps. As well as butcher’s trays for weaving and plaster cast for frescoes. The world is your oyster. Oh, and you’ll feel as if you are doing your part in the whole reuse, recycle, reduce movement.

Junk Box

The children may not be so excited about junk but believe me, they will be when they realise its potential!

Tools of the Trade

Otherwise known as stationary supplies. If you have an artist or a writer in your midst, these might very well send them into ecstasy and beyond! If you have a boy, possibly less so. Stationary never excited Thomas. As far as he was concerned stationary meant writing, which he hated. Nevertheless, I still gave all the children their folders (reused from the unit study before) and a fun selection of pens and pencils. The folders had brand new dividers, a new cover to decorate, a timetable and a list or one of two things, personal to each child, that needed some work over that unit study.

stationary supplies

Whilst all this was fun for the girls (less so for Thomas), it also served a practical purpose of ensuring that each child had the supplies they needed for the coming six weeks.

Individual Meetings

I have an individual meeting with each child in the afternoon. The other children explore the adventure box some more or they may watch a video linked to the era we were going to study.

Once I have one child on their own, I go over anything they need to focus on over the next six weeks of the unit study. For example, maybe reading or hand writing needs to be worked on, or perhaps a child needs to learn to be kinder or more thoughtful to their siblings… this private 1-2-1 time is the perfect opportunity to share these things in a loving and supportive environment.

I also go over the routine for the next six weeks, especially covering anything a child might struggle with. For example, I had one child who found reading for a whole hour really hard. This meeting would give us the opportunity to brainstorm other ideas which might help. In this case, offering some audio books options helped a great deal, as the child could be busy with their hands whilst still benefiting from the literature.

Lastly, I discuss possible projects each child might like to do. projects are the opportunity for the child to focus on an area which interests them. It is a time for them to work independently, planning their project, sourcing resources and lastly creating a presentation based around their chosen project. The parent can give suggestions and perhaps write down areas the child might need support or help.

Further Ideas

  • Consider giving the children a ‘new outfit’. We bought all our clothes from charity shops or were given them. Instead of simply giving your children the clothes as and when you buy them, store them away and bring out a new-to-them outfit at the start of each unit study
  • Take ‘the first day of unit study’ photos with their stationary and new clothes.
  • Putting together a themed quiet-time box for those children who are not yet reading independently. These don’t necessarily need to be educational themed toys. However, you could shop at home to fish out any toys you already own which may be loosely connected with the period you are studying.

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