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What is a Curriculum Unit?

By N. Phipps
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Many educators define curriculum as a set of courses or plan of study. This can be offered through a school or homeschooling setting. Defined as a long-term activity within instructional context, a curriculum unit generally takes the form of a unit study.

Unit studies typically revolve around a central theme. Lessons and activities are structured to fit this theme. Curriculum units are thought to benefit children through memory retention. Most children are able to retain more information from a unit study than from books or lessons alone.

Curriculum unit studies are commonly used in homeschooling. This type of curriculum offers many benefits to homeschooling families. Unit studies are an inexpensive alternative for parents choosing to create their own curriculum. They provide flexibility and can be designed to fit individual learning styles. This is important for children to be able to fully comprehend the learning concepts being presented.

A curriculum unit can be structured to suit each child’s developmental needs. This is especially useful when teaching multiple grade levels or children with special needs. Many parents also find it easier to teach children using curriculum units as opposed to more traditional methods. There are several ways to teach unit studies, making them adaptable to various teaching styles as well. In fact, a curriculum unit can be structured to allow both the students and teachers to study or focus on the most important topics and skills in greater depth.

This type of curriculum is usually designed to last anywhere from three to six months, depending on individual needs. In addition to gathering relevant materials such as books, lessons, and other resources, much of the learning is accomplished through hands-on activities. All resources and activities are structured to meet specific educational guidelines. They may also include a schedule or timeline to follow.

One of the greatest advantages of a curriculum unit, with regards to flexibility is the fact that in addition to teaching multiple grade levels, multiple subjects can be integrated as well. For example, the unit study might center around a garden theme. This curriculum unit could easily be designed to include many subjects, from history to science.

In addition to gaining hands-on learning through growing one’s own garden, a garden-themed curriculum unit might include multiple science projects and the study of plants. Graphing plant growth or calculating planting depths and germination can be a fun way to squeeze in some math. Keeping a journal is a great way to explore reading and writing concepts.

Unit studies can be purchased as an entire package or individually designed to meet the needs of families. To get the most from whichever curriculum unit chosen, it’s always a good idea to research all options. This will help determine the most efficient curriculum that will meet your educational needs, whether in a school or homeschooling setting.

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Discussion Comments
By latte31 — On Dec 09, 2010

BrickBack-There are a lot of free elementary lesson plans available online.

Starfall is a free program that teaches reading in a fun interactive way that will keep kids interested.

It also tests the child’s knowledge of the spelling of the words and has a sound component that reads the words to them mentioning each individual sound so the child can see the phonics connection. It is a great kindergarten curriculum for homeschool and can easily be included in any elementary teacher lesson plans.

By BrickBack — On Dec 08, 2010

Cafe41-I think that kindergarten curriculum for home school could include “Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading” by Jessie Wise and multiple sets of Bob Books which are sequential phonics readers.

Handwriting without Tears or a Zaner-Blouser program could be used to establish proper letter formation. If a child is learning the word family “at” they will write words like at, bat, cat, sat, rat, mat, and hat and have a spelling test with these words.

Then the reading story for the week could be the, “Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss stories are great for kids this age because their constant rhyming texts reinforces the phonics sounds and helps get kids reading faster.

As the child progresses he or she might go from reading book with a few words on each page to reading books with a few sentences on each page.

By cafe41 — On Dec 07, 2010

Oasis11-I agree. I love when they do that in my kid’s school because they learn so much better.

The same thing could be done with gifted curriculum units. Here you can have a topic like the Civil War that you are studying in social studies and then incorporate a slavery unit for reading comprehension.

The language arts component that includes expository writing can easily include deeper questions of the injustice of slavery and expose students to develop their feelings about it.

I know when my daughter studied slavery, she cried and she told me that she could not believe how cruel they were to the slaves.

Topics like this are difficult to discuss but often become the most memorable in a children’s education.

By oasis11 — On Dec 06, 2010

Elementary lesson plans are usually integrated into the unit of study.

A science lesson plan for an elementary school might also contain a relevant non-fiction story pertaining to the scientific topic discussed in the unit lesson plan.

For example, if the lesson plans for the third grade include the study of weather and meteorology, the reading story of the week might also pertain to weather related events.

Both the science and reading topics can explore natural disasters like hurricanes and tornados.

There may also be an elementary lesson plan involving a writing assignment. The writing assignment might also be to discuss the differences between a hurricane and a tornado.

This multilayered approach to the original scientific topic sharpens the student’s writing, reading, and scientific skills and will make the topic more memorable because it was used in various subjects.

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