Elementary Lessons Plans 2017-2018 – in Evernote

Elementary Lessons is the name of our mini co-op that I teach twice weekly at my house with 2 of my kids, 2 of my friend’s kids, and 1 child of another friend. My younger-than-elementary (now only 1 of those!) kids go down the street to my friend Kirsti’s while hers walk over to mine. It’s an ideal set-up, and not entirely unintentional or accidental.

During our twice-weekly 2-hour lesson chunk, we do writing (with only the 9-11 crowd), history (modern), geography, science (various topics), Bible (Gospels), Art Study, and Shakespeare. Short lessons make it possible.

Here’s what we’re using this year, with a peek into my Evernote homeschool plans. I’ve copied these into my public Evernote Homeschool Plans notebook, so if you’d like a closer look, send an email or leave a comment and my assistant, Virginia Lee, will share them with you.

Beginning Writing (30 minutes)

In writing we’ll be learning the parts of speech, parts of a sentence, basic diagramming, and composition IEW-style. I taught IEW for a few years and now just do my own thing, but along the same principles – it’s a loose, laid-back version that emphasizes writing with a clear style rather than over-practicing every possible style. I’ve written more about how I teach writing in my homeschool here.

Materials I’m using:

Class procedure:

  • Tuesday: Grammar catechism, grammar practice, learn/practice concept, revise rewritten story (homework: bring a clean, correct copy of the retelling on Thursday)
  • Thursday: Grammar catechism, grammar practice, listen to fable, outline (homework: write a retelling from the outline)

History (20 minutes)

Modern history is so hard to find source material for! Of course there’s an abundance of colonial and revolutionary war materials, but once you get to the nineteenth century, the well-written narrative histories for children are scarce. In my ideal world, we’d start with Plymouth/Jamestown and end with September 11, focusing primarily on the US but bringing in enough world history that World War I & II make sense.

Oh, yes, and that in about 24-26 weeks.

So, my ideal is not to be had. It’s time to make due with the resources at my disposal, remembering that this year the age-balance in my class is weighted toward 2nd grade.

Materials I’m using:

Plus, I’m filling in some slots with history picture books – the best place to get well-written narrative history for young elementary students.

Part of what you see here in this photo is my version of basic “scaffolding” – giving kids a visual prompt and discussion starting point for the day’s reading. They copy the names on the board into their spiral notebook, then they can color while they listen, then we cheater-narrate. No one gives an entire rendition of the reading, but rather we go around the table and each of the six students tells a favorite part. Then I might ask each one to tell me one thing about one of the names, or I might roll the dice to choose one random child to tell me as much as he can about one of the names on the board. No one may opt out or not have a favorite part.

Related:

Class procedure:

  1. Presidents/Timeline Song
  2. Last time’s names/dates/events – 3 quick review statements
  3. This time’s names/dates/events on board, find & mark location on maps
  4. Reading (and coloring)
  5. Dice-roll narrating
  6. What do you think?

Geography (5-10 minutes)

To complement our modern history studies, I wanted to do a bit of US geography. Because our class is mostly younger students, I knew many of them were not yet familiar with the “lay of the land” in the country, and I thought it’d be worth 5-10 minutes each class to help them get familiar with the states and major landmarks of their own country.

It’s pretty simple. I printed a bunch of outline maps of the US with the regions marked in bolder outlines. They cut out the map, glue it into their notebook (that automatically makes it a fun activity, right?), color the regions different colors, and then class by class, we label the states in one region, then go through and draw in major mountain ranges, rivers, and other significant spots. They don’t have to write out all the state names – they’re labeling inside each state with the postal abbreviation, but during the labeling process, I make sure the states’ names are said multiple times, so it’s part of a conversation, not just a mindless fill-in-the-blank waste of time.

Over the course of the year, we’ll probably be able to do 3-4 maps each.

Science (15 minutes)

Instead of choosing a single topic or a single spine for our science this year, I went with a mash up of topics. I’m a little tired of reading aloud Apologia, having done it two years in a row now, and I wanted to take advantage of some great children’s science books that aren’t necessarily “whole school year” sorts of books.

So we’ll learn about trees and identifying them (including nature journaling, of course) over three terms, about astronomy in one term, and rocks in another.

Materials I’m using:

Class procedure:

  • Tuesday:
  1. Vocab on board
  2. Reading
  3. Dice-roll narrating
  • Thursday:
  1. Song
  2. Who can tell me what we read about last time? Put words on the board
  3. Drawing with labeling

Bible (15 minute)

I love using Van Dyken’s Covenantal Catechism for Bible. We don’t memorize the Q&A given in the book, but the Bible lessons presented in the curriculum are absolutely superb. They are meaty and weighty, but not above kids’ heads; they don’t condescend and they aren’t trivial, feel-good, or vacuous. They keep a central theme and show how it’s developed across Scripture, pointing to the significance of God’s work from the beginning of Creation until now. It’s a one-piece story, but this program does not present spin-off tales (like Leah being the main point of Jacob’s story, urgh) or sloppy interpretation. This is “The Bible Is about Jesus” reformed, covenantal teaching at its basic, straightforward level, finely done.

This year we’re doing the fourth book on the Gospels. The organizing theme of the lessons is to show how Christ is our perfect prophet, priest, and king as we read through the parallel Gospels. So, as we do the lessons, we’ll also be reviewing the section from the Catechism for Young Children that encapsulate the theme.

Materials I’m using:

Art Study (10 minutes)

Our art study could be better for sure. I know there are all sorts of Right Things I’m not doing.

But, you know what? It’s being done – twice a week.

Know what else? The kids love it and raise a general outcry if I try to skip it.

So it’s a win.

I am doing what I can wrap my mind around doing and pulling off, and then pulling that off.

Feel free to do the same with whatever you’re skipping out of fear or inexperience. A baby step is still a step forward and better than nothing.

Materials I’m using:

  • Art videos from Khan Academy on the pieces we’re studying
  • Printed art selections (3 prints from 4 artists)

I just chose 4 artists, then researched and picked their top 3 pieces, then downloaded versions from wikipedia, turned them into pdfs and had a few copies printed at a print shop (because we don’t have a color printer). Simple. Last year I used Simply Charlotte Mason’s packages, and those also were helpful and great!

Shakespeare (15 minutes)

Of course, what would group lessons be without Shakespeare?

I’ll be using my own 5-Step Shakespeare for Kids plans, even starting off by reusing the Taming of the Shrew plans – the very first group Shakespeare we did 4 years ago.

This year we’ll read Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. Plus, there’s room in the schedule to prepare for a Spring Shakespeare production. Often a local high school will have a Shakespeare performance in the spring, but we won’t know when or where or what play until at least January or February, so this year I’m budgeting in enough margin to do at least a little with whatever play might be actually performed live, locally, when the school year is nearly over.

Once I find the movie I’ll be showing for Macbeth & Romeo and Juliet, I’ll be posting those lesson plans with the others, too.

Materials I’m using:

Download Shakespeare lesson plans and memory sheets:

Short lessons make it possible

So, twice a week in around 2 hours (1.5 for the younger students), we cover writing, history, science, geography, Bible, art, and Shakespeare. Partly, we can do this because the pre-K interruptors are at my friend's house and not around needing help while we read, discuss, and draw. Partly, we can do this because we use our time on the "most-bang-for-our-buck" activities, not the "fun" stuff. Partly, we can do this because we - my cohort and I - know our goals and have arranged things to meet our common ends. Sometimes in the planning stage I get off course, thinking about the Best or Right way things should be done - or, more likely - the way other people are doing it that is better than what I have done. So I bring it up to Kirsti, mother of the other half of the class, who is able to say, in effect, "Hey, our kids like poetry and art and Shakespeare. We just need to keep giving it to them." Right. If it's working for us, if it's working for you, it doesn't have to look like the way anyone else is doing it or the way anyone else says it should be done. We can glean ideas from one another, we can spark each other's imaginations for what's possible, but at the end of the day, it's what actually happens in our school days that matters more than what "should" happen according to some nebulous ideal.
P.S. Leave a comment or send an email through the contact form if you'd like access to the shared Evernote notebook with the history, science, Bible, etc. plans. Virginia Lee, who is helping me with customer support, will add you to the notebook so you can copy the note into your own account and have a jumping off place for your own plans.

20 Responses

  1. Simpson
    | Reply

    I would love access to your Evernote! I am learning a lot!
    Thank you!

  2. Sandy
    | Reply

    Lovely! That is so helpful. I am busy with my school plans for next year (we have a Jan start) and have been reading around at what others have planned and it can be totally overwhelming. Good to remember to plan what you will actually do:-)

  3. Sandy
    | Reply

    Please add me to the Evernote group Virginia Lee:-)

  4. Rachel C
    | Reply

    I’d also love access to the shared Evernote notebook! Your plans look fantastic. Praying you have a great year of learning with all your students. Thanks for all you do for the homeschool community. :)

  5. Michelle m
    | Reply

    Please add me. I’d love to see more about writing and grammar. That seems to be my weak point.

  6. melanie
    | Reply

    I would love access to your evernote group. Thanks. Melanie

  7. Christy
    | Reply

    I’d love access to the shared Evernote notebook. Thanks!

  8. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I’d love access to the Evernote lessons, also! Thanks!

  9. Salena Tucker
    | Reply

    I would appreciate the notes as well.
    Thanks for offering to share!

  10. Katrina Breit
    | Reply

    I’d also like the Evernote lessons. They are brilliant. Mystie, you have a gift. Thank-you for sharing so freely.

  11. Erika
    | Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing your plans! Add me in, I’m learning a lot from you!

  12. Sara
    | Reply

    Please add me as well too your Evernote book… And like others have said, thank you for being so willing to share!

  13. Melissa
    | Reply

    Would love to see how this looks in Evernote…me too!

  14. Kristin
    | Reply

    Hello! Lovely plans – thank you for offering to share your plans and for sharing your talents with us!

  15. Kaysie
    | Reply

    I’d love access!

  16. Chasity
    | Reply

    I’d appreciate those lesson notes! Thank you:)

  17. Heather F
    | Reply

    I’d love to be added to the shared Evernote access too!
    Thanks!

  18. Bethany
    | Reply

    How do we get the evernote access?

  19. Annie
    | Reply

    I would like to see the Evernote notebook.

  20. Heather F
    | Reply

    Could you tell me the author of the Secret Life of Trees book you are using for Lesson #1 in your Various Topics science plan?
    I searched on Amazon but there are several books by that name.
    Thanks!

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