Four Simple Steps to Creating Your Own Literature-Based Unit Study

Using unit studies in your homeschool can be great for many reasons. Unit studies help provide opportunities for kids of all ages to work together. Unit studies are fun because they can follow the interests of the kids. And unit studies can include lots of learning methods – visual, auditory, hands-on – so they are great for all of your kids, no matter how they learn best.

Four Simple Steps to Creating Your Own Literature-Based Unit Study

Some of the most fun unit studies are those that you can create around a good book that you’re reading. Sure, you can buy an already made unit study to correspond to what you’re currently reading. But you can also easily create your own unit study with these simple steps. This post will walk you through the process and give some examples, using the book Charlotte’s Web, along the way.

Step 1- Choose a few themes from the book you’re reading.

Look at what the book is obviously about and look at secondary main ideas too. Think about the setting of the book. Where does the book take place? Is the book set in a particular historical time period? Think about the characters in the book. Is the book about a certain person? Is it about animals? Think about the main plot of the book. What are the characters in the story doing? What is the conflict that happens? All of these things can be themes that you pull out to study in more depth in a unit study.

Think about the book Charlotte’s Web, for example. The story is set on a farm. Two of the main characters in the story are a pig and a spider. The main plot involves Charlotte’s attempts to save Wilbur by promoting him through her web. If you were going to create a literature unit study with this book, you could draw out several of these themes, such as pigs, farm life, or spiders.

Step 2- Look for additional books that fit your chosen themes.

Although your literature unit study is going to be based primarily on the main book you’re reading, you will include other books as well. These additional books that you choose are going to be based on the main themes you’ve chosen to pull out of your primary source book. You can search several different places to find good books for your theme. The Google search “children’s books about…” will provide you with links to blog posts or articles with book lists. You can also search Amazon or your library’s website to find books listed. As you find books, create a list, noting where you can find the book when you want it later.

In our Charlotte’s Web example, if we’re using pigs as a theme, we can search for “children’s books about pigs”. We’ll likely find both fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes I like to use a fiction book as my primary book – the book we’re originally reading – and then search for specifically nonfiction books to learn more about the theme topics that I’ve chosen.

Step 3- Find learning activities that fit your chosen themes.

One of the most fun things about unit studies is finding fun, hands-on activities. This is the next step of planning a literature unit study. Take those themes that you pulled out from your source book and find activities. You can just do a google search for “activities for learning about pigs.” But one of my favorite sources for great activities is Pinterest. You can search Pinterest and find many, many activities that teachers and homeschool moms have done to fit a vast number of topics.

Look for a variety of activities that will cover different academic subject areas, like math. You can also find fun activities, like crafts or cooking ideas. As you find these activities, list them, making sure to list the website where you found them. You can also list any materials you’ll need to complete them. I also like to list the subject areas that the activity covers so that I can make sure I’m covering a variety. (Feel free to come up with activity ideas on your own too! The Internet is just a tool that you can use to help.)

For Charlotte’s Web, we might be using farm life as a theme. Searching on Pinterest, I would search for “kids’ farm-themed activities” or “kids’ activities to learn about farms.” I might come up with a STEM activity that has kids build a barn. We could do a craft and make stick puppets of the farm animals. We could do a notebooking activity where kids read about different farm animals and list where the animals live in the farm and what each animal eats.

Step 4- Create a flexible schedule for your unit study.

Even if you aren’t a “schedule person”, it’s a good thing to have a flexible schedule for your unit study. Although this schedule can change as you go along, a schedule will give you a guide for what books to read and what activities to complete each day. There will be some days that you need to take longer for some activities and some days that you may finish more than the scheduled activities. That’s okay. But your flexible schedule will give you a plan of where to start for each day.

For my Charlotte’s Web literature unit study I would set up my schedule with rows for each day and columns for each subject area This will allow me to see what subjects I’m going to cover each day with the activities that I choose. In my schedule, I’ll list out the books I’m planning to read and the activities I’m planning to do each day.

Knowing how to create your own literature unit study is great because you can now create a study with any book you’re reading with the kids. This allows you to follow the interests of yourself and your kids because when you find that book that’s just awesome, you can extend the learning with a unit study.


About the author

Leah Courtney is a former school teacher turned homeschool mom. She has homeschooled her four children since birth and is now the mother of two homeschool graduates. She blogs at As We Walk Along the Road, posting literature-based homeschooling resources and encouragement for other homeschooling mamas. She’s also the author of several ebooks and unit study resources for homeschoolers.

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