Five Senses Literature Lessons are secular unit studies designed to awaken all five of the physical senses (taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight). They also seek to stimulate the senses of wonder and creativity along with self-awareness and an appreciation of the world and how it works. While these studies address academic skills in social studies, history, science, art, health, language arts, and math, they also touch on a few other areas such as life skills and social justice. Only one of the studies is designed to teach academic skills in a sequential, foundational manner—Foundations and Fundamentals.
Author Laura Sowdon, an occupational therapist, is very aware of the need for play and movement as part of the educational process, especially for young children, so her studies incorporate a variety of activities involving small and large motor skills, play, singing, and sensory learning. Even with all of the activities, this curriculum is fairly easy to use. I would describe it as a relaxed approach to homeschooling. As Sowdon says, “I wanted to create a curriculum that would give kids the most benefit with the least stress on mom…” (p. 6, Wonderful World).
Children’s picture books are the focal points of the unit studies, and a number of them are used for each study. You will need to obtain the literature books on your own.
While Five Senses Literature Lessons has other studies, the three reviewed here are for young children. (The other two studies are based on indigenous people, and you can read that review by clicking here.) The author has used colors to identify studies for different age groups.
Each unit study is a full-color, PDF book with lesson plans, supply lists, book lists, worksheets, and links to videos and other online resources. Worksheets at the back of each book are linked to within the pertinent lesson plans so they are quickly available as you prepare the lessons.
Farms Unit Study – Level: Red (for ages 3 to 6)
The Farms Unit Study is the briefest of these studies and should take about five weeks to complete. It uses picture books and activities to help children develop pre-academic skills, making it most appropriate for children ages three to four.
Farms, farm animals, food, and gardening are the themes supported by the picture books Otis by Loren Long; Click Clack Moos, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin; and Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. Children will learn songs and rhymes such as “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” and “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.” There are also activities involving both fine and gross motor skills such as working with Play-Doh, using blocks and small plastic animals to create a farm, mud play, and arts and crafts.
The Farms Unit Study is a great way to experiment with a unit study approach.
Foundations and Fundamentals- Level: Orange (for ages 4 through 8)
Foundations and Fundamentals- Level: Orange is the only Five Senses course that separate PDF files for a teacher’s guide and a student workbook. It seems best for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten levels even though it is suggested for use with children up to age eight. It teaches letters, beginning phonics, beginning handwriting, numbers, colors, and shapes in a unit study fashion. Each week is themed around the letters (one or two per week), a color, a number, and a shape to be learned. One or two required picture books relate to one of these themes each week. Other optional picture books are suggested for additional reading.
Assuming you are using the course for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten, it takes a gentle, developmentally-appropriate approach with lots of hands-on activities, multi-sensory learning, and flexibility for parents to use as many of the different activities for their children as they wish. As the teacher’s guide explains, the course leaves plenty of time for other activities and play.
Activities for math, shapes, physical development, social studies, science, and life skills are each scheduled for only one day a week so that primary attention is given to phonics, reading, pre-writing, and handwriting.
For phonics, it teaches only the most common sound for each letter and only short vowel sounds. Children create a phonics book as they learn each letter, reviewing it on a daily basis.
Children will color, draw, and cut out shapes, and they will trace various shaped lines to develop fine motor skills. Lesson plans feature a “color of the week” which is reinforced with related art instruction and activities. Children learn to recognize and write numbers from one to twenty and learn to count with objects. A nursery rhyme for each week has been selected to reinforce skills or ideas from one of the themes. Students will recite the rhyme a number of times through the week. Other activities such as cooking, treasure hunts, and identifying countries on a globe also reinforce lesson content.
Student workbooks are available for either left- or right-handed students as well as for students with poor vision or poor fine motor control. Workbooks have over 100 pages, but few of these pages look like traditional worksheets, and none require a large amount of writing.
Foundations and Fundamentals- Level: Orange should work best before Wonderful World.
Wonderful World – Level: Orange (for ages 4 through 8)
Wonderful World has seven units with a total of 28 week-long lessons. Three units are themed to the seasons: Autumn, Winter, and Spring. The other four units, which can be used at any time, are Spooky Things (spiders, bats, and monsters), Things That Go, Stories from Around the World, and Big Ideas (i.e., the oceans and space). You can rearrange units to suit your school year.
This book has detailed lesson plans for each week, and a suggested schedule in the introduction explains what might be done each day. Printable student activity sheets are at the back of the book. (Some of them need to be printed in color.) You are given permission to print these for children in your family, but you need to check with the publisher for licensing for use in a co-op or school.
For each week, one or more picture books are listed under “Reading for the week,” and other books are listed as “Additional reading” for you to use as you wish. For example, in Lesson 2 of Unit 1, the main book is Little Brown Bear Won’t Take a Nap! by Jane Dyer. Four books listed for additional reading are Leaves by David Ezra Stein, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, When Whales Cross the Sea by Sharon Katz Cooper, and When Butterflies Cross the Sky by Sharon Katz Cooper.
For each week, there are a memory verse and a song of the week. Brief memory verses are from nursery rhymes, proverbs, and poems. Songs of the week vary from children’s songs such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider” that children can sing to playing a recording of “Monster Mash” (popular in 1962) and having a dance party. Internet links are included for songs. For example, for the lesson mentioned above, there is a link to a delightful performance of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by one of the book’s authors as he sings and acts out the story.
Other activities vary from week to week. These might include some type of language arts activity involving writing, a hands-on math activity, a science experiment, a critical thinking activity (e.g., creating a Venn diagram), cooking, arts and crafts, a lesson in social skills, a physical game, make-believe play, sensory play (e.g., working with Play-Doh™ or hanging upside down), field trips (e.g., going on a leaf hunt, going apple picking), discussion of a social justice topic, a geography lesson, map reading, or a bilingual activity (e.g., learning some Italian words from Strega Nona books).
While most activities will be suitable for children ages four through eight, a few activities, such as those for handwriting and math, will need to be tailored to the individual child.
There is plenty of activity for four-year-old children, but for kindergarten and beyond you will need to supply more comprehensive, sequential instruction in academic skills such as phonics, handwriting, and math.