Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nim's Island - how we did our first Unit Study in the middle of summer.

With four children between 10 and 3 y.o., homeschooling is beginning to be a challenge. I have 3 children reading at 3 different levels. I have a bookworm reading way over her grade level. A communicator at heart with a super memory that gets bored easily, my DD10 is constantly learning and needs to be challenged all the time. My only son is 7 y.o. Although he can read well, he is NOT the bookworm his sister is. He prefers lots of physical activities, computer games and interaction with people. DD5 is an independent learner. She is beginning to read and loves to cuddle and craft. So how does a mom teach 3 kids that are reading and one that thinks that can do everything everyone else is doing??

I decided to try a Unit Study to see how it goes. ( if you are wondering why the heck I am doing this in July. Well... we homeschool year round... we do mostly 2 hours of formal school a day, so we keep our learning on rolling rain or sun shining, holiday or work day! :) Anyway, back to the Unit Study. My plan is to read Nim's Island book, do lots of activities from vocabulary to science experiments; have the kids watch videos and do hands-on projects of cutting and paste to fixate the content and have them do independent research and learning on the web.

Hopefully it will go well... Here is how it actually went...

 July 01st 

We read Chapter 1 and worked on vocabulary according to Nim's Island Unit Study posted on Homeschool Share Website. As I read the chapter the kids colored Nim's Island Map that I printed out. I also using Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood's Lapbook and Unity Study files that she created for Nim's Island. If you are in doubt where to begin, I would download and begin with Brandy's lapbook. It's thorough and includes many activities for older and younger children.

DD10 did not enjoy looking up vocabulary in the dictionary. She does all her vocabulary learning intuitively and did not like this structured method. DS7 got tired of the cutting and paste quickly. DD5 got distracted many times. I am really working on her attention span and listening skills.

After we put our supplies up, we sat down and watched the following videos on the computer:  The Secret Life of Plankton video; Video Plankton Recorder (another video that shows how they record all the images/ videos of Plankton); Wild Kratts video on Up the Food Chain. The kids already knew a lot about Plankton so it was mostly review and lots of narration and presentation to Mom.

Because we had a playdate we had to stop here.

July 2nd 

Orally, we reviewed the characteristics of animals and how they are classified. This is new information to DD5 who is still learning how to distinguish between mammals, reptiles, birds, fishes and amphibians. We classified the animals introduced on Chapter 1. We then read Chapter 2.

As suggested on Nim's Island Unit Study, we talked about personification in literature and what it is.
 DD10 and DS7, on the computer, read and studied the different ocean zones and  Deep Sea Creatures on Sheppard Software Website . They read and learned more about Coral Reefs at Biomes of the World.

DD5 studied animal classification and played a few games on Sheppard Software Website. We all watched a video on Coral Reef. We also watched Reef Life of the Andaman. ( this movie is about the coral reef located on the Andaman Sea near Thailand and Myanmar). After 30 minutes, the girls were ready to go do some physical activity outside. DS7 kept on for another 15 minutes or so. It's long movie - it's over an hour and half long, but well worth the time. Would be a great movie to watch on a rainy afternoon.

Again we had to stop here because of another playdate, although the kids wanted me to keep reading. Maybe tomorrow, we will read chapter 3 and 4 before we do any other activity.

July 03rd 

We began doing an activity on Personification. Here is another set of worksheets for older children. And here is a great site to teach Figurative Language with worksheets, online quizzes, examples and more.

Grandpa and Grandma got to sit in for this reading and help the kids with their worksheets. After that I read chapters 3 and 4 to all. We answered questions and reviewed our knowledge on animals, volcanoes, rainforest and more. We talked about relationships over the internet and how unless you know someone personally you can't tell how the person really is.

We then moved to the computer and watched:
* How are Islands Formed? - such a cool collection of photos. This is a collection of photos of a couple yachting in the South Pacific and their witness to a new island being formed.

* How an earthquake caused a tsunami in Japan in 2011. Explanation of how earthquakes happen deep into the ocean floor. and then  Rare video on Japan Tsunami 2011 . My kids are very vocal... so they have to explain everything they are learning. The whole time we are watching a movie or listening to a speaker, they need to vocalize what their brains are absorbing or how they understood the information. It can be pretty hectic sometimes, when 2 or more are wanting to talk at the same time. I wonder what would happen in a classroom setting? We are working on taking turns, patiently waiting, listening more than talking and not interrupting. Did I tell you that parenting is hard?

Then it was time to go to the park.

July 08th 

After a long break due to the 4th of July holiday, we resumed again by recapping the previous chapters and reading chapters 5 and 6.

July 09th 

I had the children read and learn about different sea turtles and the marine iguana so we could compare and contrast them. A couple years ago I purchase from our library a second hand set of the Wildlife Explorer. Someone had collected and filed these cards into 6 huge binders. They are like an encyclopedia about animals, their habits and behaviors. There are beautiful pictures and lots of great facts. Something I would have never bought or collected, but for $10.00 I figured it would be a great resource for our homeschooling library. So out came 3 cards for 3 different sea turtles that live in waters were Nim's Island could potentially be. Also out came the card for the marine iguana. From what I read in the book and the fact card, this is the only iguana that fits Fred's profile.

We then used the Graphic Organizer website to print Compare and Contrast Worksheets, as well as a Venn Diagram. We used the Venn Diagram to compare the Green Turtle and the Leatherback Turtle. We never got to the compare and contrast worksheet. Hoping to use this one tomorrow to compare iguanas and turtles. This should be fun!

I read Chapters 7 and 8 and then we watched a video of baby turtles hatching and racing to sea. Begin at the 8min mark of the video. Here is another short video of just 3 minutes of more turtles going to sea. Another great video of a Leatherback Turtle going back to sea after laying eggs in South Africa caught by a family at the beach.

We talked about adrenaline and how it interferes with us feeling pain. I need to look up a video that explains more about adrenaline and how it affects our bodies.

July 10th 

We began by watching a video on Food Chain on BrainPop. I printed out some worksheets out of this lesson plan to teach The Food Chain at elementary level. I printed these for DD5 and DD3 since the subject is already old for DS7 and DD10. While the little ones worked on the worksheets, the 2 older ones watched a couple of videos on Adrenaline: Fight or Flight response. Another helpful video from Bozeman website explaining what happens internally in our body. They also watched how your brain suppresses pain. (this last one is very graphic. Please preview before showing to small children.)

I read Chapters 9, 10, 11 and 12.

July 11th 

We began by writing down the similarities and differences between Selkie (the seal) and Fred (the iguana). We used the contrast and compare sheet I had printed out to do that. We reviewed the differences between animals and all their uniqueness.

I read Chapters 13 and 14. Then we began working on matching the vocabulary and it's definitions and gluing them all and our drawings to a poster board. Instead of doing lapbooks I like to do ONE big poster board so I can hang it up in the kitchen and the kids can appreciate all their hard work as well as showcase it to whoever comes by to visit us.

July 12th 

We talked about similes and metaphors and found them in the book. I finished reading the last chapters and we watched the movie. We had already seen it a half dozen times before reading the book, but now it was different as we compared it to the book and discussed why sometimes a producer/ writer or movie maker chooses to adapt or change the story when turning a book into a movie.

We ate popcorn, ice cream and snuggled.

All in all, it was a great Unit Study. I think I will definetly try to incorporate a Unit Study like this once a month. It's a lot of work but it's fun for the kids. There is a lot of hands on projects and the poster board completed showcasing their work is always a plus.

Sorry I didn't take more pictures. We were so busy learning and enjoying ourselves that I forgot to take more photos.

Additional links that we did not have time to use:

Rainforest from Dynamic2Moms

Liberty Hill House Unit Study Posts -

The Educator Guide for Nim's Island

Dynamic 2 MOms Unit Study on the Rainforest -

I hope this post was useful and please comment if you have questions or enjoyed something in particular.

More coming this month:  A garden update and a mixed media journaling class that I am hosting at our Public Library. So stay tuned!



Mary Prather said...

I love the way this turned out --- I can imagine it's hard having so many different levels of learning in your family, but the unit study approach seems to work well for you!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Val Young said...


Anonymous said...

Amen to the difficulty of homeschooling children at different levels! I've been thinking lately that sometimes I feel run ragged :-)

Jessy said...

OK, so I didn't know there was a BOOK of Nim's Island. We have watched and LOVED the movie! Such a GREAT family show! I know you had a few glitches, but it seems to have gone over very well. It's SO hard to juggle different abilities and learning styles!

scarlett clay said...

Love it all!! Your such a good mama and teacher! Have a blessed weekend!

Karen said...

What a great 1st Unit Study. We used to love Unit Studies. And Nim's Island is PERFECT for this!! Love all your resources. Glad you found something helpful from Easy Peasy. Isn't she awesome to put all this online for free? :)

Lucinda @ said...

Wow what a lot you covered! I'm amazed by the breadth of content and skills. Great idea for working with a wide age span.