On Writing Your Own Science Units

I love science and so do my kids. It's one of those things that happens naturally in our life- through the garden, the critters and just experiences in general. We supplement too- when we go to the library our first stop is always the non-fiction section where the boys and I pull off any books that strike our interest. We also do units on various topics throughout the official school year. Over the years we covered many topics, most of which came from units I wrote myself. I have yet to find a premade curriculum that is secular, well written and hands on that I can get on board with.

So, how do you write your own science unit? It's not too hard. It just takes a little time, a few trips to the library, a few google searches and some creativity.

Step 1: Pick Your Topic

Good books are the backbone to a great unit
     Every summer, when I am planning the next school year, I spend some time looking over various lists and websites to come up with topics for our next science units. You can go about this a few different ways. You can ask your kids. What do they want to learn about? You can look at your state's curriculum standards and pull main topics that are in line with what would be taught if your kids were in public school. You can look at What You 1st,2nd, 3rd...Grader Needs to Know type books. Once you have your list- or even just one topic- you are ready to move on.

Step 2: Plan Your Days

     Once you have your topic you need to plan out some specifics. How long are you going to spend on this topic? How many days a week are you going to devote to science? How many hands-on experiments or demonstrations do you want to include? Will there be book work too? Do you plan on doing any big projects? It is important to get these little details down first, as it will help you immensly when it comes time to actually write your lessons.
Add other subjects into the mix too
This year I have 12 total topics, each lasting between 2-6 weeks. Some of these topics are related, but I wanted to separate them on paper. I am planning one major project per month on a certain topic. An independent project that my boys will choose  and execute themselves. I am also planning one research paper this year- I have chosen which topic it will be on, but the kids will narrow it down from there. In the past I have planned hand-on activities and experiments everyday, and I have come to realize that it just isn't feasible. So in my master plan this year I have indicated 1 lab per week to take the stress off me coming up with so many activities. We will fill the other days with reading, notebooking and any other activities I happen to find.

Step 3: Go to the Library

Food projects are always a hit!
     Books, they are the next best thing to actually experiencing science. You can go with a list of books you want or you can do what I do and just basically clear the shelf of every thing on a certain topic. I currently have about 20 books on rocks and minerals sitting on my floor. You want story-like books, like the Jump into Science, series. You want encyclopedia type books like the DK Eyewitness Books. You want resource books like Janice VanCleave's Science for Every Kid series.  Don't forget to check your shelves at home too, or borrow from friends with resources.

Lapbooks are a good way to review and solidify your material
Step 4: Divide into Sub Topics

     Now you are ready to really start planning. I like to do this part using the books, but online can be helpful too if that is more your style. You need to come up with a list of subtopics to fill out your weeks. I am currently working on a Rocks and Minerals unit. Some of my subtopics include the rock types, properties of minerals, rocks in the real world, etc. Your encyclopedia type books are helpful since most of the time they are already divided up. I like to cross reference all my books and mark down page numbers for similar topics in different books. You need to think about your overall goal. What do you want your kids to take away from this? What would the most important questions be? Those are your subtopics. Some topics will be covered in a day, some more than one.

Step 5: Find the Activities

Doing is the best way to learn
     This is where the internet comes in handy. Grab your resource books and pull out all those fun experiments to help illustrate your subtopics. Go online- browse Pinterest for activities, search for your unit keywords, etc. Pin, bookmark, cut/paste any and all ideas you find. Find notebooking pages, lapbook templates or create your own, find inspiring journaling ideas. Look for interactive websites to help teach your subject. All of this might not make it into the final lesson plan, but you will be glad you saved the all just in case.

Don't forget a few fun art projects!
Step 6: Write the Lesson Plan

     There are many sites that offer free unit lesson plan printables or you can make your own with Word or simply jot it all down in a notebook, but you need to get it all down somewhere. Get a spread sheet going with labeled days and the topics and assignments to go over that day. Enter all information you think you will need.  Add pages to read aloud, pages to read silently, journal work, hands on activities or demonstrations. All of that information you gathered in step 5 needs to be organized and divided into the correct subtopics. It's up to you how in depth you go and how many activities you do.

And that's the basics. Now I am off to follow my own advice and finish writing my own units for the upcoming school year!

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  1. I didn't get a chance to home school my kids, but so wish I had! Especially if I knew there were blogs about how to do it out there! This is a great post! :)

  2. Wonderful tips, thanks for sharing!
    Amazing, isn't it? how one idea leads to another and another and another. How blessed your children are, to have a mother who cares so much to pull it all together!

  3. I need to create my own science units this year as I have spent the majority of my budget , thanks for sharing your tips. I've never had an issues coming up with History or Literature units but science is my weak subject to budget on .

  4. Great ideas, and you explained it wonderfully. Haven't been to your blog in a bit, I love all the new stuff you did!

  5. Great post. I have gone back and forth between using a curriculum and creating my own. You have great advice.

  6. I love creating my own science units, too... and while it does take more time than buying a "curriculum", I feel that there is more learning that occurs (on my part!!)

    Great post - thank you!

  7. Great tips! I always love planning for the new school year :) Fun!