Planning Worksheets for Unit Studies

Written by Debi Polen

The Story Behind Our Planning Worksheets

Click to find Unit Studies in our catalogClick on this image to find Unit Studies in our catalog.

My son wanted to start school the moment we came back from the curriculum fair that we attended in the May before starting Kindergarten. He tore into his math curriculum straight away, while I had the chance to develop my lesson plan for when we got formally started in the fall. Since I was new at being a teacher, I wasn’t quite sure how to write these plans.

From watching my son grow up, I knew that he needed to go at his own pace and that I was the one who needed to follow, but at the same time, I needed to offer him structure and gentle guidance. Most assuredly, any lesson plan I wrote needed to be created with pencils that had big erasers!

Because of our son’s love of reading, we decided to base our lesson plans on children’s picture books, done beautifully by the Five in a Row series of unit studies, written by Jane Claire Lambert. Lambert provided the ideas, but didn’t lay out the type of day-by-day plan that I needed because my son was already using a math curriculum outside the unit studies.

Since I was on a learning curve to becoming a teacher myself, I felt that my lesson planning worksheets and lesson plans needed to—

  1. give my son the needed room to satisfy his natural curiosity and still do some “schoolbook learning”
  2. allow me to have some structure so that I could make sure that I was not leaving out something important
  3. give me a way to learn what worked and what didn’t work
  4. document our home school so that we could help ourselves and possibly others later on

My Unit Study Planning Worksheets

You may already know that I’m inclined to use grids—or tables—as my main organizational tool (see my articles on putting together our history lesson plans as an example). Grids make great organizational tools, but there is a significant number of other ways. If grids are your thing too, you might enjoy the design I created.

Four Pages for a Week’s Course of Study

It sounds like a lot, but I used four pages for each week-long study. These four pages served multiple purposes: they incorporated the planning grid, a teacher’s journal, and a record of resources. I had time to tweak it for a few years before I was required by law to report to the school district when my son turned eight.

I took my four pages to the local copy center and had them printed on 11″x17″ paper so that each week was self-contained. I then put these unit planners in a three-ring binder. Keep in mind that these pages were for personal use because we didn’t have to report to the school district until our son turned eight. If you have to present your plan for official review at the end of the school year, you might want to keep Page 1 separate for personal, private reasons, or replace it with a blank page on which your student can draw a picture about the unit.

Page 1: Materials Needed, Notes, and Comments

UNIT STUDY TITLE: The name of the book or subject being studied this week.
Materials Needed

This is a simple list of basic supplies, such as construction paper, scissors, and glue. It’s project-specific. Sometimes I made learning aids for the lessons for the week and this list reminded me that they needed to be completed.


It was possible that we carried over some projects from the previous week that needed to be noted. I also used this space to write about our overall experience and whether or not we needed to move certain projects to another time.


This is the journal. Sometimes, I’d write about my hopes for the week at the time I planned the lessons, and then I’d write at the end of the week how it went. I recorded my observations on what types of projects or approaches accomplished our goals and which ones needed adjustments. I set goals that got carried over into the next week’s planning. Looking back on this portion of the planner is one of my favorite things to do, since I can see how both my son and I grew in our homeschooling experience.

Page 2: The Left Side of the Weekly Grid

There are five sets of rows, one set for each school day. Below is an example of one set.

School Day #



Each subject had two sections. The top was for what I planned to do. These section titles were derived from the subjects identified in Five in a Row. You could do yours differently, but keep in mind this grid will have six subject headings in total.
The bottom was what we did and how it was done.

Page 3: The Right Side of the Weekly Grid

As with the left side, the top portion of each day’s subject was used for what was planned and the bottom portion, for what actually took place.

Planned activity On Day 4 of our first week of homeschool, our studies got preempted by a field trip. I erased what was planned and that was the end of that. No moving it to another day. It wasn’t that important. Write the unit’s title sideways so that when you flip through your book, you’ll see the unit’s title and its emphasis, such as a period in history or a science concept.
What got done. If there was something that we moved from one day to another, I’d write that day’s number in this space. No need to erase and rewrite or move other stuff around (but you could if you wanted to). My note from our field trip to the Strasburg Railroad that we took at the last minute: “We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we stepped back in time and rode a restored passenger car.”

This last-minute field trip fit in well with “The Transcontinental Railroad” unit we were studying! Moments like this have to be taken when they come, even if they don’t exactly “fit” into your plan or what you’re studying. Allow your creative side to come through!

Page 4: Resources

Sometimes while planning a unit, I found that a company or governmental agency was giving away free stuff if you wrote and asked for it. Keep in mind that a lot of this material is now available online, but some of it is in physical form. For example, we got wool samples free of charge for a unit about sheep, and we got wall posters from the US Geological Survey, along with tutorials on the different types of maps they produce.

I wrote down all of the books and other resources and where they were located in the grid on this page. There’s space for 18 resources. Admittedly, I usually needed only five or so of these spaces, especially when I was merely planning for a Kindergartner!

“The Transcontinental Railroad: Triumph of a Dream” by Dan Elish. The Millbrook Press, 1993.
I’d write the name of the resource and then in the lower right corner I had a code like PL for Personal Library and LIB for Public Library.

Download the Unit Study Planning Worksheets

The file that is available for download in this article is in PDF format and requires the Adobe Reader. You may download this program for free:

Get Adobe Reader

This multi-page unit study planning grid served us well for the first three years of our homeschooling. We had that many years to fiddle with its design because we didn’t have to report to the school district until our son turned eight! The state’s compulsory school attendance age may be different where you live, so make sure to check that out in the law. If you don’t have that many years to fiddle with a design, this design might be a good kicking-off point. You can DOWNLOAD it from here (it has a bonus fifth page if you’d rather have a coloring page instead of the journal page for Page 1).

Enjoy! And, please let us know how you used it and what changes you made that might be helpful to others. Thank you.

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