Tag Archives: FIAR style study

The Giving Tree – book unit

Giving Tree titleWe had so much fun with The Giving Tree. It is such a rich, deep book and there are so many opportunities to extend learning. Without further ado, here is the unit that we enjoyed.

Questions/Discussion of Ideas:

  • What is the main idea? Give examples and support your response.
  • Discuss the idea of giving all you can and all you have to one you love. What might this look like for a human? Is it good or bad? What are the implications of this?
  • God’s perspective: He gave all! Why? What did that look like? What did that do for us?
  • Our perspective: What do we give to God? What do we give to others?



  • Write a tree poem.
  • Write a shape poem using a tree form.
  • For older students, write a persuasive essay about why you should or should not give all you have to one you love.
  • Rewrite the story or a scene from the story from the tree’s perspective.
  • Utilize vocabulary from the book or learn vocabulary relating to trees and plants. We did the later using worksheets from Super Teacher Worksheets. (See our review of them here.)
  • Write sentences. You could use vocabulary you choose from the book or write sentences using vocabulary related to trees. We did the later and J used a cutting page from Super Teacher Worksheets relating to plants and trees and their growth.

J working on sentences


  • A tree unit is a natural outgrowth of from this book.part of a tree
  • Learn the parts of a tree. We used a printable we found online. (The site it was from is no longer a valid address, evidently, so I can’t share that with you.) We glued it to magnet pieces and cut it out. (We used old refrigerator magnets from companies that we get in the mail. I save them for things like this. They are thin and easy to cut with scissors.) Then J matched up the parts of a tree on the white board.
  • Learn about the uses of trees. We researched and discussed the many different ways trees can be used – building, furniture, fuel, recreation, hobbies, etc.
  • Learn about the growth of trees.
  • Visit a museum about trees or your local Forest Service station. We visited a museum that had a small exhibit about trees. If your museum had a large tree section with the rings visible and marked, it is really interesting.
  • Talk about the season and how the season affect trees and their growth.
  • Learn about different types of trees and leaves. We used a set of posters from the Forest Service to study various trees and leaves, as well as animals that live among the forest trees.life of a tree
  • Learn about managing growing things and resources. Learn more about how the forests are managed.
  • Discuss wildfires and forest fires. Discuss their impacts on not only the forest and the animals that live there, but the people, their property, and the larger environmental changes that happen because of forest fires. We viewed pictures of forest fires, including the Little Bear Fire that affected a place near and dear to us a couple of years ago. We have talked about changes because of that fire and what the effects of that were.


  • If you visit a museum that has a huge tree ring, you could study the events marked through the rings.
  • Study the history of the Forest Service.
  • Research one of the National Parks or Monuments. Find out about why someone chose that particular section of natural resources and forests to preserve.

Giving Tree drawings


  • Use water color crayons to create a picture of a tree.
  • Use colored pencils to draw a tree showing the various parts. I found this post from The Inspired Classroom which was super helpful.
  • Make a canvas set that shows the various seasons of the year and how they impact a tree. See our project here.

Art Tree


  • Memorize Psalm 1. We memorized this passage a while back but we went back and reviewed it several times during this study.
  • Matthew 12:33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” – Discuss this and how this is seen in real life. Apply this to the lives of the students. Have students create motions and movement to help them memorize this verse. Apply this verse to the Giving Tree and have students give concrete examples of why they chose which kind of tree the Giving Tree was.

Giving Tree retelling


  • Create a paper tree with the different parts of the story. Attach magnets to the back and use it for retelling the story. You can make your own or print a copy of this one that I made for J.
    Giving Tree play pieces page 1
    Giving Tree play pieces page 2
  • Watch a video of this book. There is one we found on YouTube of Shel Silverstein telling it. It was interesting for the girls to see the author and to hear his voice. It was nothing like we expected. Just do a search on YouTube and it should come up without any trouble.
  • Watch a video of the book being told in sign language. Two of the girls are studying sign language so that was a fun thing for us to see. We also watched a video of a young boy and girl with their mother retelling the story. The girls learned a lot of signs from watching these two youngsters. There are many versions of the story on YouTube so find something fun that will appeal to your students.
  • Take a field trip to visit a museum that has a big tree section with rings that go back hundreds of years. Or go to a tree farm. Or just go to a forest and walk around, observing all that you can about the trees.

I tried to keep this one shorter so if I did too short of a job on the description for something you want to know more about, leave me a comment and I’ll try to give you more information. Most of all, though, the Giving Tree was a fantastic unit that just kept growing and growing from the interest the girls had in it. Enjoy!

At Home.

Take a Book and Learn!

Not too long ago, the youngest giggly girl was completely caught up in this book:

How to make an apple pie book

(Are you noticing a theme of her getting stuck with a book and we end up studying it? Not a bad thing, my friend. Not at all. She is learning soooooo much!!!)

With this fun little book, we hit on geography by pulling out the globe and talking about each of the places mentioned.

We discussed transportation options. There are a lot of ways to get around in this book!

We talked about rhyme scheme.

We talked about predictions. There was a very fun opportunity for a prediction that the book’s wording on caught her by surprise and made her laugh! There are, though, a lot of opportunities for predicting the story line in the book.

We talked about hospitality.

And we ended with her begging to make an apple pie. So we did. Due to food allergies, we did not use the recipe in the book. (Also, we needed to go to the store so we didn’t have all the ingredients.) So, we substituted and she was just as happy with it.

This opened up a lot of practical learning in the kitchen, from measuring and reading a recipe to safety with a knife and the oven.

cutting applesmeasuring cinnamonstirring the applesmaking crustready for the oven

She was so proud of herself. She took the apple pie to a pot luck at church and it was eaten all up. She got lots of compliments on it.

Finished apple pie

So, take your child’s favorite book of today and pick up on a theme or two in it. There is so much learning to be done with hardly any effort at all.

At Home.

Library Lion – a unit study

J absolutely loves the book Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen. We read this book together every week, I think. So, when it was time to start thinking about unit studies with literature for her this year, I jumped on this one. It was super fun to create and we have really enjoyed doing a lot of the activities I wrote about. There is a lot you can learn from this book. The unit I created was shared over on Proverbial Homemaker as part of the Children’s Literature Unit Study Series. Please head over there and take a look. If you choose to use the unit, please come back here and share with me about it. I appreciate all feedback as I strive to write good materials that benefit not just my children but anyone who chooses to use the units. Enjoy Library Lion!

Library Lion unit study at Proverbial Homemaker


Library Lion unit

At Home.

Art Tree

We have been doing a unit on The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I have created the unit and will share that with you after we have finished and I have refined a couple of ideas that I wrote down. We have had a lot of fun and learning.

The Giving Tree

One of our projects was an art tree. We have talked about the seasons – winter, spring, summer, and fall/autumn. In The Giving Tree, the tree is an apple tree so we discussed what each season of an apple tree would resemble. Then, each of the girls and myself took a season and created a piece of an apple tree for that season. When we were all completed, we had a complete tree that depicted all four seasons.

Art Tree

Our canvases were approximately 5″x7″. We got them at Michael’s with a coupon and teacher’s discount. (See my post on teacher discounts for more places where you can get a discount.) I think it was about $6 for them. They were already primed and we had acrylic paints at home. We painted them in layers, letting each layer dry completely in between. We then finished them with Mod Podge to protect them and make them easier to clean off from the dust that will undoubtedly gather over time.

I wish I could take credit for this idea but I can’t. I don’t know who came up with it but I had seen it a while back on Pinterest and knew it would be perfect for something. This was that thing. It fit our study perfect. The girls have loved having them up. It has been about 24 hours since they went up and I have heard a bundle of comments. This was a success!

At Home.

FIAR: The Rag Coat

Rag Coat FIAR

I loved the book The Rag Coat. We didn’t spend nearly the time with it that I wanted to. Things just worked out that way. The good part of that is we will be able to revisit it and do so much more with it than we did. I had planned it for the beginning of January, when it would somewhat fit the weather. With all that happened, we ended up stranded by weather for a bit and then At Home Dad did the teaching for about a week so this book ended up by the wayside. We did read it but we didn’t manage to get to many of the activities that I am going to share.

These are the plans that I had made for the book. Hopefully, you can get some use out of the plans. When we get back to the book, hopefully I will keep track and share what we end up doing with you.

As always, I had planned to use the Five In A Row guide for some of the activities.

Geography: We were going to place the icon circle at the Appalachian Mountains. We were going to talk about how the mountains are different in the eastern and western US, as well as a discussion about what makes mountains, how they are formed, what they are made of, and more.

Geography: We were going to work some more on map reading with a US map. I had planned to add a world map and work on finding mountain ranges from around the world. I also planned to pull out a topographical map to discuss elevation changes and see that in relation to the mountain ranges we identify. I was going to create a compass challenge, as well, to help the girls learn to use and navigate with a compass.

History/Culture: We had planned to study the culture of the Appalachian Mountains. The culture is quite different than what the girls have grown up around, especially when we dig back in history. We were going to take a look at the 1930 and what the Great Depression was like, what caused it, how it affected people in the US. We were planning to look at the various relationships shown in the Rag Coat and how those change and develop in the story. We were also going to speculate about how those relationships were affected by the culture in which they lived and how they might be different if we changed some of the variables in their lives.

History: Coal mining had a large impact on the Appalachian Mountains and that area of the country. We were going to study coal mining and what life was like in a coal mining town. We were going to study the jobs related to coal mining and what it did to family structures, communities, and friendships.

Art: We planned to take a deep look at quilting and sewing. Quilting is such an art form and we generally have a local quilt show in January, so we had planned to visit that. We also have some ladies at church that make a quilt for each of the graduating seniors so I had planned to ask one or more of them to discuss quilting, decision making, color scheme, fabric choices, etc. with the giggly girls. I had planned to have the girls make a 9 patch quilt of their own for one of their dolls. I had also planned to have the girls design a quilt on paper and then cut it into a puzzle.

Art: We were going to take a look at color palettes, especially warm vs. cool. The book shows a warm color palette so we were going to create a picture using chalk pastels in a warm color palette.

Art: We were going to look at viewpoint and size. Each of these has a huge impact on the art of quilting so we were going to visit an art museum that had quilts on display that were a pictures (waterfalls, houses, etc). We were going to use those to discuss the viewpoint and size choices the artist made.

Science: We planned to study coal. Its formation, uses, and chemical makeup were all on the books to study. We planned to study its extraction, as well.

Science: We had planned to study textiles and fabrics. We were going to look at cotton and wool. We have a friend who was going to let us see her shear a sheep but that didn’t work out. I have some wool from when I was younger and we were going to look at it under a microscope and study the fibers. We were going to study the process of making a fiber into a textile or fabric that can be used to create clothing with. We were going to take a look at the process of picking cotton and use a memory from my great-grandmother (I was hoping to be able to play the recording of her remembering her youth cotton-picking in Texas.). We were also planning to take a look at the cotton-gin and Eli Whitney.

Literature Connections: Other books I had around for us to look at and discuss included The Patchwork Quilt, Foxfire, Christy,  Ballet for Martha, The Keeping Quilt, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, The Quilt, and Mandie. These run the gamut of reading levels, including some chapter books for oldest.

Music: Listen to Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copeland. This piece of ballet music is beautiful and will capture the imagination of children. You could use it in conjunction with the book Ballet for Martha and YouTube has some videos of some of the early ballet to go with this piece. Other options for music would include a study of banjos and/or bluegrass music.

Music: There are many beautiful folk songs that originated in the Appalachians, such as “Cumberland Gap,”  “Ida Red,” “Shady Grove,” and “Paw Paw Patch.” There are lots and lots of songs that have Appalachian roots and a large number of them having singing games to go along with them.

Music/Biography: Jean Ritchie is one of the foremost authorities on authentic Appalachian music. She has a beautiful voice and is a talented instrument player. Studying the lap dulcimer and Jean Ritchie would provide a rich, unique study. While writing this, I saw that Jean Ritchie passed away at the beginning of June. Such an amazing person will be missed.


That is the gist of what was planned. Unfortunately, very little of it got done so I am looking forward to tackling it again at some point. There is a lot of rich learning to be done when you dig into books about Appalachia.

At Home.



FIAR: Stopping By Woods

Stopping By Woods

Wintertime is beautiful. There are so many beautiful things about it! I am sure there are many of you that might choose to disagree right about now since I know you are buried under snow many feet deep and your temperatures are rather cold. Overall, though, winter will show us many beautiful things. We have chosen to use January and February to go through some of the Five In A Row stories that involve snow and cold. That is about the only time period in which there is a tiny little chance of us getting some of the white fluffy stuff.

We took about a week and a half and went through Robert Frost’s Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. The illustrations in this version are beautiful and provide a lot of opportunity for discussion. There are other lovely versions of illustrations out there but this one is extremely high quality and we got a lot of joy out of this.

We did follow a lot of the material from the Five In A Row, volume 1 manual. I also added a lot to it.

Math: We talked about pattern, which flows naturally out of the discussion in poetry on rhyme scheme. The girls, especially J, used counting crystals and created a pattern based on the rhyme scheme of the poem. We expanded from there creating a bundle of various patterns, gradually increasing the difficulty level.

exploring rhyme scheme

Math: The illustrations allowed for some interesting discussion on symmetry and asymmetry.

Poetry/Math: In conjunction with the pattern work in math, the girls created their own rhyme scheme pattern and wrote a poem that fit that rhyme scheme.

Poetry: We talked about many of the aspects of poetry and poems, including repetition, rhyme, rhyme scheme, and types of poetry. We have a set of posters that my mom used while teaching that cover 12 different styles/types of poetry and give examples of each. We pulled those out and looked at them. The girls used their knowledge of poetry to write a poem about snow.

L poem E poem

Geography: In order to place the FIAR circle for this book, we discussed where we might encounter this type of weather in the US. We looked at those areas on the map and talked about what they were called. (United States, New England, state names, Canada, and more)

Geography: We discussed the landforms that are more prominent in those areas and contribute to the climate of that part of the nation.

Science: There is so much that could be done with this one! We reviewed snowflakes from when we studied snow and snowflakes last year. We discussed the states of matter and where snow fits into all of that. We talked about the water cycle as part of this discussion.

Science/Current Affairs: There is so much of the US that is getting record snowfall this winter that amazing pictures are out there. Pull up some pictures of the snowfall and take a look at it all. (This also fits REALLY well into the Katy and the Big Snow book, which is where we actually did this. You could work it in great here, too, though.)

Science: We talked about New England and what the seasons look like there. We used several books from the library that discussed various weather types and climates.

checking out tracks tracks in snow

Science: We discussed the illustration where the man is leaving food for the animals and why that would be important. One of the things we noticed about the illustrations in the book is that many of them included animal tracks and other tracks of various kinds. We pulled out a poster that has animal tracks on it. We also pulled up an app for the Kindle that shows the tracks of North American mammals. The girls studied these and discussed how tracks in the snow could be good and bad. They drew some on the dry erase board. We then pulled out the pretend snow we made last year and the girls made different tracks in the snow.

Science: Another thing you could do is animal research about animals that prosper in the snow and cold.

Literature Connections: We pulled Snowflake Bentley from the library and looked at that book again. That was a favorite from last school year. We talked about On The Banks of Plum Creek and how it connects to the Robert Frost poem, as well as other Little House books.

Literature Connections: We talked about other poetry books that we have on our shelves or have borrowed from the library. The girls each chose a book of poetry and read it for a while, studying the poems to choose one they liked. They then shared that poem.

Art: Again we used a lot out of the FIAR guide. We discussed medium (pen & ink, pencil), hue, value, color, illustrations, viewpoint, and mood. All of these were a pretty easy discussion to have because of the vividness of the illustrations. The girls created a drawing using pencil and then used color to draw attention to the focal point of their drawing.

Art: Another art piece that could be created to go along with this would be to choose a favorite illustration in the book and then pick a viewpoint from which to draw it. You could also do this with a snowman, looking down from on top of him, with younger kids that would have difficulty thinking about the viewpoint of something as large as the forest.

Fun: There are so many options to do further activities with this book! One that I wanted to do but we never got around to because of some of the girls feeling crummy was to make a snowflake sculpture with marshmallows. With other wintery books coming up, I’ll bet we can do that with one of them.

Fun: Okay – the kids may not agree with me on the fun part of this but I’m leaving it here anyway. This was an easy poem to memorize and memorization is good skill for children to learn. This is a classic poem and the rhyme scheme makes it fairly easy. The girls memorized this without too much work since we were reading it every day at least once for the lesson.


Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening was an extremely fun unit. I definitely recommend it. At Home.


FIAR: The Story About Ping

FIAR Story About Ping

As we are working through some new Five In A Row material, I started looking back on posts. As I did that, it hit me that there was not yet a post on Ping. So, this will catch us up.

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese

Geography: We studied a map of China to learn more about the size of the country and looked up the Yangtze River on the map. We discussed the meaning of the word Yangtze (yellow) and why the river might have been named that. We used an internet search to come up with images of the river and the people that use the river. We discussed what might happen to commerce in China, or an area of China, if the river didn’t exist or changed in various ways.  We put the image disk on a world map, showing that Ping’s story took place in China.

Asia book


Geography: We also read the material in the book Asia: It’s Peoples and History by Bonnie Rose Hudson. This book gives a really good background to all the turmoil that China has experienced and the people that live there. This is a wonderful resource that I highly suggest getting your hands on for various studies or to do a study of Asia. The material is easily accessible for all ages and is adaptable for your needs.

Geography: We talked about the culture of China and what the girls ideas were. We then looked through the book and found examples of the culture of China, the people, their clothing, their foods, their practices, and more. We then looked at a few modern day pictures we found on the internet and compared.

Literature: Fiction is something that the girls know pretty well but we did take a few minutes to make sure that J knew the difference between fact and fiction. She gave some examples of books that are fiction and compared them to books that are fact.

Art: We used the discussions from the FIAR book to guide our art discussions. We talked about the medium used and how you could tell. Each girl had to give some examples of why she thought her answer was correct and then we talked about how the pictures were illustrated. We talked about the use of water as a repetitive element and how it pulled the whole story together. We talked about unity of the subject and how it was all put together. We also had a discussion about using the whole page and balancing your subject to show it off the way you want. The girls then created a composition that included Ping from their choice of viewpoint, as long as it showed water and used the techniques that we had discussed.

Ping drawing 3 Ping drawing Ping drawing 4 Ping drawing 2

Math: The FIAR book talks about using counting skills to count up the members of Ping’s family. We used the opportunity to talk about grouping, using counting crystals one day and counting disks another. We had the girls do different things with the numbers we could create – division for the oldest, multiplication for the middle, and adding or subtracting for the youngest. We also talked about even and odd with the different groups created. We also talked a little bit about pattern and repetition, as the family members are group in a repeating pattern.Ping buoyancy

Science: We talked about the type of animal Ping is and how you could tell. We discussed the various characteristics of birds and how Ping and his family fit all of these. We looked up what they eat, where they live in the wild, how they have young, and more.

Science: The girls learned the word buoyancy and what it means in context. They then created a science experiment. They chose several objects each and made a hypothesis about each one’s buoyancy, supporting their choice with details. They then tested their hypothesis to find out if they were correct. This one was a big hit!

Ping music


Music: We studied a bit about the music that is traditional for the Far East. We looked at instrument images and listened to excepts featuring those instruments. While the girls were working on their drawings, we put on a CD titled “Sakura: A Musical Celebration of the Cherry Blossoms.”





Hopefully our FIAR study of The Story About Ping will give you some ideas for your own unit with this book or ideas for how to cull interesting learning from other books that your children enjoy. At Home.



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