Those who want to center unit studies around historical time periods or cultures will appreciate the help that is available through Guides to History Plus. This book can be used as a teacher resource guide for teaching grades 1-8 or high school students can use it for independent study to develop their own history unit studies.
The same basic approach is used for studying any time period. Study is divided under the headings: customs, religion, government, achievements, changes, geography, and climate zones. Under each heading is a list of questions. For instance, under government, students must answer such questions as, "How was it governed?", "How were leaders chosen?", and "What were some of the basic laws? (Compare them to the Ten Commandments.)" The geography section includes some key terms and a few blackline masters.
The rest of the book supplies helpful ideas and guidelines from which we can select those that are useful to flesh out the course. The first of these supplementary sections has recommended activities for composition, vocabulary/spelling, music, art, science, health/nutrition, math, and geography so that the study can tie together across the curriculum. Next is a general outline of objectives for history coverage, with more detail for high school courses and little more than topics for lower grades. A helpful section of key concepts for history, geography, government, and economics will be especially helpful for older students. Another section, "Practicing Making Connections," suggests composition or discussion questions/topics arranged by topic.
The final section is quite lengthy. It features annotated lists of books, games and videos by topic.
This is not a lesson-by-lesson study guide, but one from which you tailor your own questions and activities on each topic to be studied. Teachers and students must search out the reference sources for answers to questions posed in each section. Because of the work involved this is not a method for those who are short on time or energy. However, those who want to develop their own history-based unit studies will find it a valuable tool.
The Maya is a sample of how the Guides to History Plus is applied to that topic (available for $5). It follows the outline from Guides to History Plus. The questions have been answered and answers presented as a report. Activities are suggested that apply specifically to the Mayan study, but following the Guides subject headings. The Maya can be used as a basis for your own study of that culture or as a sample to better understand how to use Guides to History Plus. The Maya is available only as an e-book.
Author Kathryn Stout also has an audiotape, A Chronological Unit Approach to History ($4.50), that should help you do a better job of helping your children develop a historical overview.