Excitement reigns anytime we have the opportunity to review anything based on literature. Moving Beyond the Page is a company offering literature based unit studies in language arts, science, and social studies. I had heard A LOT of great things about Moving Beyond The Page, so I was anxious to see if they lived up to all of the hype. They did. I was pleased with the program and all that it offered.
What We Received
- Language Arts Package – The Sign of the Beaver : We received the online guide and the physical book “The Sign of the Beaver”.
- Social Studies Package – Native Americans : We received the physical guide, the physical book “The Very First Americans”, and the physical book “If You Lived With The Cherokee.”
Why I Chose These
This selection process was actually a very easy one for me. The middle giggly girl has an ongoing interest in Native Americans and we cannot seem to do enough study. When I was viewing the options that Moving Beyond The Page offers in unit studies (and there is a lot), the combination of Native Americans and The Sign of the Beaver just jumped out at me. Since I have been telling L for a while that we would study more Native Americans, this just seemed like it was the right time to do so.
While the selection was easy for me this time, it will not be so easy next time, though the units on the book Ben And Me and Magnetism and Electricity have kind of stuck with me. Each language arts unit has a corresponding science or social studies unit that is designed to accompany and enhance it. This makes it so simple to expand your studies. And the choices!! Check out all they have to offer by visiting Moving Beyond the Page.
- Language Arts Package – The Sign of the Beaver (online guide) : $19.92
- Social Studies Package – Native Americans (physical guide) : $27.97
Moving Beyond the Page has units for ages 4 – 14. The two units we used are designated for ages 8 – 10. Both E, age 10, and L, age 8, fit the age range for the units we worked with.
How We Used The Unit Studies
Each unit study is designed to take approximately 3 weeks to complete. If you are doing a language arts study AND either a science or social studies unit at the same time, plan on several hours a day to complete the activities in both. Because we are working on these in the summer time, we planned to work on the Native Americans unit and follow it with The Sign of the Beaver language arts unit, taking 6 weeks to complete. Each day has multiple activities so there is a lot to do with each of the pieces of information in the units. There were so many activities that we did not complete them all.
The Native American study we received was a physical guide and physical books. I really like having the physical guide to work from. The student pages are integrated into the guide and are very good. They really make the student think, comparing and contrasting, looking up information or definitions, and applying ideas to something new. One drawback is that the copyright states that you cannot copy the student pages. Since they are integrated into the teacher’s guide, it makes it more difficult to use them and only one student can do the writing. Also, if the student is working, you cannot glance ahead or back to check on other activities. Much of the work on the social studies unit is done in the guide, though some of the activities were things each girl could do on her own, so the girls often took turns writing the answers after we had discussed out loud.
The Language Arts study we reviewed had an online guide and we received the physical book for reading. The online guide was much less comfortable for me to use, as each lesson’s activities were spread across three or four pages, taking several clicks to see it all. This made it harder for me to get the big picture with each day. I had to write notes for myself about what we were doing, the information from the introduction, and the suggested closure. Additionally, we only have one computer and if Dad needed the computer at the same time we were working on the unit, I continually was having to disrupt his work so I could access the guide. However, the online guide tracks what you have completed and licenses your family to be able to print the student pages for 90 days. (If you don’t complete the unit in 90 days or if you have a younger student and will want to use the unit with them in the future, you can restart the unit for a fee that is less than buying the unit again.) So, we could print pages for the giggly girls that needed it for each activity option. This is a huge benefit for a family with multiple students.
We did a lot of the unit work out loud, especially when it came to answering questions. This allowed a discussion of the answers, as well as elaboration that just doesn’t happen as well with the oldest giggly girl when she writes. It also allowed the youngest giggly girl to participate. We all got a lot of learning from the discussion format and the units have a lot of activities that ask for discussion to happen.
Native Americans Unit
Each lesson is set up the same way:
- Getting Started – includes big ideas, facts and definitions, skills, and materials needed, as well as the introduction and questions to ask to help guide the student’s reading in the book
- Activities – generally three activities per day and two days of activies; included creative writing, drawing/art, online work, completing student pages, map work, and more
- Wrapping Up – includes questions to ask to help the student synthesize the information and apply it, as well as a life application activity
This unit was designed to help the student examine “daily life of Native Americans and learn about their unique culture and their interdependence with the natural world.” (guide p. 7) We studied the natural resources the Native Americans utilize(d) and where they lived. We studied the tribes of the Southwest, Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Plains. Comparison and contrast was a big part of this study and was helpful for the girls to learn about the differences in the tribes. It also did a lot to strengthen their geography knowledge of the country and its regions. In addition to completing the student pages in the guide, we made a tipi, read a legend, made cornhusk dolls, and visited a local museum to learn more about a local tribe. (You can see more about that in the post H is for Hueco Indians.) This unit was a lot of fun and the girls learned so much. I am really pleased with this study, though the activities made it a lot to do in any one day. It took us longer than the anticipated three weeks to complete this unit.
The Sign of the Beaver Unit
The language arts unit is also set up in a consistent way. Each lesson includes:
- Getting Started – This includes questions to explore, facts and definitions, skills, materials needed, and an introduction. This is where you find the reading assignment for the lesson and comprehension questions to go along with the reading for the lesson.
- Activities – Each lesson typically has three activities, some of which have two options. These options were great because one often focused on writing and one on a creative expression. This allowed the girls to choose which option appealed most to each of them. On a couple of the lessons, the guide planned two days worth of activities but most were only one.
- Wrapping Up – The conclusion includes questions to ask or discussions to have that ask the students to think a little harder, a little deeper. Some of the lessons also include a life application such as watching a movie that relates to the book or making a list of values and someone who lives by those values.
This unit delves straight into the context of the setting of 1700’s Maine and settlers coming into territory once held by Native Americans. After thinking through the setting and some of the prejudices that would have existed (the Natives upset by those taking over their land and wasting resources; settlers scared of the Natives they feel are dangerous), the students tackle the story and quickly begin to understand that life perhaps was nothing like what they were expecting. The story opens up human emotion, asking the student to often put themselves in the place of the people in the story. Because this is a language arts unit, you will find student pages that deal with vocabulary, prepositions, imagery, and more. The integration of the language arts is strong and the students get a good dose of language work throughout this unit. Once again, though, there were a lot of activities for each day and it was difficult to complete all of the activities for a lesson in a single day.
Will We or Won’t We?
Will we buy more of these unit or not is truly a question that is difficult for me to answer. I liked a lot about them but there were some things that I didn’t care for.
The sheer volume of activities was wonderful. Tremendous, actually. These unit studies have the types of activities and the numbers of activities that I like to include when I write a unit study. There is variety and plenty of it. To use them all, though, I felt like I had to get away from the structure of the guides. Often, the girls were still working on an activity and we needed to move on if we were going to get to all of the activities for that day so we could cover the unit in the recommended time. (We didn’t complete all of the activities and this is a big part of why. I would let the girls continue to work on their project or activity until they had completed it, rather than push them to move on and do a less-than-their-best job.) The activities included a good mix of hands-on and written, comprehension and application. Activities is both a plus and a minus in this program. Flexibility is key.
The guides were clear and had lots of great information. The plan for the unit was easy to see. The lists of needed materials made it easy to prepare for your day, and unit, ahead of time. The lists of skills worked on will make it easy to track what the student has completed in the unit. There is very little teacher prep with these guides. The material is easily adaptable for your students and you can pick and choose the activities that are right for your family. If you have multiple students working together, it is easy to adapt activities for all levels. Our 5 year old giggly girl worked alongside her older sisters and we modified activities to things that she could do. For example: instead of writing a poem, she drew a picture.
The copyright is vastly different depending on whether you are using the physical guide or the online guide and thus has both a negative and a positive aspect. The copyright in the physical guide does not allow for copying the material in any way or form. To work with multiple students, you have to purchase additional copies of the student pages. This copyright is somewhat restrictive for a family. With the online guide, you can print off the needed number of copies but it is not an indefinite copyright. You are given permission to print the pages for 90 days.
Price is also something that I am just not sure about. For a single language arts or social studies unit, our family could easily handle this. A science unit can be significantly more costly. We will possibly pick one or two more to use as supplements to subjects we are studying next year. But, to use this as something we do multiple times a year, I don’t think I could financially make the choice to spend that much money.
So, I don’t know if we will or we won’t. Simple as that. But I do know that we have really enjoyed this study, that I enjoy looking through the options of Language Arts titles, Science titles, and Social Studies titles that are available, and that unit studies are something we will continue to do. At Home.
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Tagged: books, curriculum, Elementary, homeschool, kids, Middle School, reviews
Love the cornhusk dolls! We read The Sign of the Beaver a couple years ago and really enjoyed it.
Thanks Kym. I had never read Sign of the Beaver and it was such a good read! The cornhusk dolls were a lot of fun, too.
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