Tag Archives: FIAR

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: Katy and the Big Snow, Part Two

Welcome back to the rundown of activities for Katy and the Big Snow. Part Two will go through art, math, and science. If you are looking for social studies, history, language arts, and geography, check out the Part One post.Katy part two

Art: Use of Color – We discussed how the illustrations were done and the use of color in them. The minimal pallet choices is interesting and it makes for some very unique illustrations. We really enjoyed looking at that and how to emphasize things with that limited use of color. Especially in a picture such as the one where Katy is surrounded by the snow and there are no words on the page.

Art: Use of Space – We have been talking about the use of space on a page, when to use it all up and when to not, how to decide, and all that. We studies many of the illustrations in regards to the use of space.

Art: Showing Action – We also studies illustrations to look at how they showed action, such as plowing, movement, and helping.

Art: Personification – As I mentioned earlier, we tied this into the literature/language arts discussion on personification. The illustrations do a very good job of showing the personality of Katy and how she changes throughout the action of the book.

Math: Counting and Grouping – One of the illustrations is a wonderful way to show horse power. We used this with the suggestion from the book to talk about grouping. We then pulled a group of fifty-five items and showed different ways to group them. We specifically grouped by fives and practiced counting by fives. We also reviewed tally marks to make 55.

Math: Grouping – We picked something in the book to count and then looked at different ways to get to that number. For example, if we found 8 of something, we wrote out 5+3=8, 4+4=8. 2+2+4=8, etc. We did this with several different numbers.

Math: Statistics and Operations Research – We are always looking for extremely practical ways to show the use of math in the real world. This book was the perfect opportunity. When talking about city governments and the types of things needed to run a city, the girls talked about how many police officers and firefighters and city might need. Well, this is where math comes in and we talked about how they come up with those numbers. I introduced them to statistics and then had their dad talk to them about operations research. These are where mathematicians use research and number to predict something like how many officers are needed in a city of a given size. Or how many lift stations the water department will need in five years. Or how many electrical poles will be needed and how to decide where to put them. It was an interesting discussion and the girls really found out a lot about how math can make a great difference in our lives on a daily basis.


Science: Snow – We discussed seasons and winter in particular. We looked at some books on snow and different states of matter. We also talked about the various conditions that snow occurs under and what a blizzard is. Weather is always fun!


Science: Weather – We visited our local museum which is currently hosting a special exhibit entitled The Magic School Bus Kicks Up A Storm. We learned a lot about weather and how different kinds of weather form due to the current climate conditions.

Science: Snow Crystals – We painted a solution on black paper that dried in such a way that we could watch the crystals forming. Check out more on that project by visiting this post about it.

Science/Writing: Ice – We did a fun activity that I titled Listen and Write. It was a writing activity based on sounds they hear. After we completed the writing activity, we searched for more videos about ice and watched some really fun ones about various types of ice and its formation.

Well, I think that concludes the activities that we did to go along with Katy and the Big Snow by Viriginia Lee Burton. It was certainly a fun study. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. At Home.

FIAR: Katy and the Big Snow, Part One

We have fallen in love with Virginia Lee Burton and her stories and illustrations. The most recent one we have worked with is Katy and the Big Snow. It is a simple yet engaging story about Katy, a snowplow who gets to do her job and does it well, in a big way! Our activities came somewhat from the FIAR volume 1 book but it was easy to add a lot to it, as well.

Part One collage

Because there is so much to the activities we did, I am breaking this post up into two parts. Part one will come today and part two will come tomorrow. This post will include Social Studies, Geograpy, History, and Literature/Language Arts. Part Two will consist of the activities for Art, Math, and Science.

Social Studies: Cities – We talked about the requirements for running a city – what city departments are needed, what utilities, what people, what leadership. We looked at the current city we live in (the city website it a good resource) and compared it to where we used to live. This led us very quickly to the way a city government is run. (Check out math activities because the differences in city sizes and governments led us to some interesting math discussions.)

Geography: Maps – There are many map directions in this story. We talked about a compass rose and how to create one, where it goes on a map, what it shows, etc. We discussed various map directions and how to read a map. We pulled out a street map and looked at it.

creating chalk citiesGeography: Maps – We talked about all of the different street signs that you come across and how those affect directions. I created a scavenger hunt for the kids based on images I found with a Google search. They did this one day in the car while we were driving around town. They looked for things such as stop signs, yield signs, street signs with different things on them (Drive, Lane, Street, Boulevard, etc.), a billboard with an address, etc.

Geography: Maps – We used chalk to create our own city maps using the knowledge of maps we had and combining that with what we learned about what things are needed in a city. They drew their own maps on the driveway. Each one came out very different. It was a really interesting exercise.

Geography: Maps – We talked about the amount of snow in the book and where they might see snows like this. We discussed various possibilities in the US. This was happening about the time that the Northeastern parts of the US were getting some major snow and one of my friends posted pictures of her house with snow way above the windows and doorways. We also looked up pictures on the internet, finding several of snow up to second story windows, just like in the story. We looked all of these places up on a map. There was even one news story of a place in Europe, Spain perhaps, that had some major snowfall and that was a very interesting story.

History: The “big snow” pictures also feel pretty relevantly under history. These types of snows are unusual for most of the US, especially when you take into account how many “big snows” places got this year. We looked up some almanacs and found out about other times in history where there were “big snows.” I am not linking these for two reasons: 1) I didn’t save them and 2) looking it up is part of the educational experience if you have older students. They need to learn to look things up.

literatureLiterature Connections: This connected very clearly with a couple of other FIAR books that we had recently studied and so I asked the girls to come up with some literature connections. They did it quickly. Two easy ones were Walking Through Woods On A Snowy Evening and Mike Mulligan. They also recalled some of the chapters in Little House in the Big Woods. We read a book titled Weather that has overlays inside of it that help explain the weather and is an early reader that our youngest could read part of. I also really like the book Its Snowing by Gail Gibbons. She does an amazing job of explaining nonfiction topics. I always try to ask the girls to make connections to other things we have read or studies because it strengthens recall ability and memory but it also allows them to make other connections in author or subject or topic. Transfer of knowledge is a very important ability that I try to strengthen.

Author: Virginia Lee Burton – The collection we were reading this story from had a very nice biography of Virginia Lee Burton. We read that and talked about some of the things mentioned in it. We also talked about what the girls remembered from the Mike Mulligan study. The collection allowed us to read through several of Virginia Lee Burton’s stories.

Literature/Language Arts: Prose – We talked about this word and how it applies to this story. We talked about it in contrast to poetry and other structured forms of writing.

Literature/Language Arts: Personification – Once again, Virginia Lee Burton write an inanimate object with great personality. She give Katy so many human qualities. We talked about those, listing them and giving examples of places in the story. We also tied this discussion into art because Katy is drawn with a lot of personality, as well.

Literature/Language Arts: Vocabulary – We used the vocabulary listings out of the FIAR book and this was mostly done with J, who is 6.

Literature/Language Arts: Capitalization – This book has some great examples of the use of capitalization for proper nouns and their more difficult uses. We also talked about using capitalization for emphasizing the importance of something. Big Snow is an example of that. Directions are another time that it is difficult to remember whether to capitalize or not. It is great for J to start looking at these now.

So that is a run-down of what we did with Katy in regards to literature, language arts, geography, social studies, and history. Part Two will be published tomorrow with the rest of the activities we did. I hope you don’t mind a two part post but I don’t like leaving things out when I feel like we have had a great study. We took quite a while with this one because we were enjoying all the parts of it so much. I hope you all enjoy it, too. See you tomorrow. At Home.

Painting Crystals

Painting crystals

Several of the FIAR books we have chosen for this time of year have to do with cold and snow. That was on purpose. We don’t get much snow around here, though we have gotten a lot of cold this year. So, we are living vicariously through the books.

We have looked at snow crystals in the past and have studied them in a couple of different ways. But it is hard to see how crystals form, how they grow out of one another to make their larger structure. So, we tried crystal painting.

painting crystals formation


Painting crystals materialsTo do this, all you need is black construction paper, boiling water, and Epsom salt. Your ratio of water to salt is 1:1. I used 1 tablespoon of salt in a small container that wouldn’t tip and wouldn’t melt with boiling water. I put in 1 tablespoon of boiling water and stirred. Once all of the salt is dissolved, you have a super-saturated solution and you are ready to paint.  (We reviewed all of this information since the girls did some science activities last year that involved super-saturated solutions.).


painting crystals E



Using a paint brush (the wider, the better), paint on the black paper. You want it to be somewhat “thick” because the crystals form in the water as it cools and dries, the salt coming back out of the solution. After you have painted your picture, just let it dry and watch it, as it changes a lot during the drying process.






After they are dry, if you painted it with enough salt dissolved in the water and left it thick enough on the paper, you’ll see some really neat crystal formations on the paper. We had a few that we could see the crystal growth from one to another. It was a fun project that was super simple but taught a lot about crystals. We then applied that to the formation of snow. And that tied into our books.

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.



FIAR: The Clown Of God

Clown of God

Tomie dePaola is one of our very favorite authors. We enjoy reading his books, no matter the topic. We try to purchase them when we can because they are such rich stories. This one is no different and our experiences for FIAR have been fun!

The Clown of God is a retelling of a French legend. It is, however, set in Italy with Renaissance influences seen throughout.

We followed much of the discussion points in the FIAR book. There is a lot of rich information there. We did add a discussion about Italy and the Renaissance and its music.


Map work was almost the first thing we did. We marked the map with the FIAR circle for Italy but we also located France. We discussed what we knew about each of those countries, building our knowledge as we go along. We pulled up some pictures on the computer on each of the countries and talked about the differences we could see.

Juggling 2Juggling/Physical Science

Juggling was very prominent in this story. We pulled out some juggling balls and taught the girls the basics of juggling. They practices quite a bit but never got the hang of it. It is much harder than they thought. We also looked up some juggling videos on YouTube. Here are some of what we watched:

example of artwork



Art: chalk pastels

Our favorite media is chalk pastels. We used this again to make some art pieces showing the juggling hands. There isn’t much to what we did. We drew a pair of hands based on a page on the book. Then we drew each of the balls that were juggled, taking care to draw them in the same order they were repeated in the book.




ceiling work


Art: Michelangelo and fresco paintings

We studied a bit about Michelangelo. When he came up in our Bible study a few weeks ago, we did a drawing as he would have had to work on the fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We taped papers to the bottom of the piano bench and coffee table. The girls lay on their backs and drew a picture of their choice. It was an interesting perspective for them.




So for this study we invited some friends over. Then, we reviewed a bit about Michelangelo and what a fresco is. We looked again at pictures of the Sistine Chapel. We went outside because it was about to get messy! We mixed up some plaster of Paris (best we could do for a fresco) and poured them into saucer sized paper plates. The girls then painted on them with brushes we were willing to throw away and acrylic paints. It was lots of fun and taught them a bit about the difficulty of the types of artwork that Michelangelo created.



We found a lot of repetition in the book, particularly in the colors of the balls. We used that as a springboard to patterning and creating patterns. J did a lot of different patterns with counting crystals and counting chips. She also worked on classifying the counting chips according to color, counting them, and writing the number on a white board.

counting chips

The Clown of God video

I found a video of the story of The Clown of God on PBS.org. We watched it and compared it to the book. There is a bit of the book left out and it changed the impact of the story, in my opinion. It was a good study of variations, though.

Music: Renaissance and Italy

We have talked about the music of the Renaissance before. However, we pull out music whenever we can so this a perfect opportunity. We pulled out some CDs that we have from Music Literature classes in college. There are some very nice pieces by DuFay, Despres, Praetorius, and Byrd on them. I also used Last.fm and created a channel for the 1500s. We listened to it while working on artwork and transition/clean up times.

Culture: Renaissance

Because the dress and dance of the Renaissance period is so important to the culture of that time, we studied it a little bit. We studied the drawings that Tomie dePaola created and discussed the way the characters dressed. We talked about when you could see the class change by the way someone dressed in the illustrations. Then we visited YouTube. (YouTube is definitely becoming my friend!) We watched a video of traditional dance and music with examples of traditional instruments and food as well. We all loved it and watched it more than once.


We were able to use the story in The Clown of God to discuss the religion that is primarily found in Italy and how it differs from our beliefs. It was a natural and helpful way to bring in the fallacies of some religious groups that exist. We brought out the Bible and looked up passages that related to the specific questions the girls asked and things they noted based on observing the book’s story and illustrations. I didn’t write those down but they might not be of help to you anyhow because they were specific to questions the girls had.


We didn’t do a whole lot with food but while I was at the store one day during this study, I found a couple of boxes of Italian Ice on sale. I thought it would be a fun little addition to our study.snack food


We had a lot of fun with The Clown of God. This is a book we don’t own but I would really like to. It is a fantastic story. If you have studied The Clown of God, as part of Five In A Row or not, I would love to know what you did. This book was so much fun that we will probably study it again another time outside of the FIAR series. At Home.

FIAR: Mike Mulligan

FIAR Mike Mulligan

Until we reviewed Maestro Classics a few months ago, I had never heard of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Since then, we have received a copy of the book as a gift and we bought the Maestro Classics version. When we got those two things, I had no idea we would be doing FIAR this year for J’s kindergarten year. Surprise! It has been so much fun!

Mike Mulligan book

Geography/Map Work

Of course, we follow a lot of the ideas in the Five In A Row Volume 1 book. We have a map on the wall and we added a circle to it in “imaginary land” for Mike Mulligan, since it does not take place in a real city or town. We also looked up the Eric Canal, the Panama Canal, the Empire State Building, and some other big things and found where they would be located on the map. We searched the internet to look up pictures of those things, as well.

steam powerSteam Experiment

We made a pinwheel. After discussing the mechanics of how it spins, we applied steam. We figured out that it had to be a very concentrated stream of steam (the pour spout that makes the kettle whistle had to be closed) and the pinwheel had to be smaller than our original versions. But, when we got it right, the steam made that pinwheel spin so fast it was a blur. The girls had a lot of (supervised) fun making the pinwheel spin in the steam. It really helped them understand how MaryAnn worked and ran in the book. It had been helpful a number of times since then in a discussion of the creation of energy.

train ride


Field Trip

We took a field trip to ride a train. It was a train that was originally powered by steam (we didn’t know it was a diesel until we got there and found out it had been converted). It still gave the girls a much larger working knowledge of the application of steam power and its uses. And the conductors were still pretty knowledgeable and were able to talk to the girls about how the train ran.




foundations straight and squareArchitecture/Geometry

The book talks about the corners being made neat and square. We talked about the importance of that for a foundation. Then we pulled out the blocks and let the girls play with what happens if your foundation is not neat and square. Does it fall down? Is it just a sturdy? Which type of foundation would be the sturdiest? What building that you can build will stand up to the biggest puffs of air your sisters can make? These are some of the questions they tried to answer with their buildings.



Art Work

The girls created various works of art that included Mike Mulligan and/or MaryAnn. E chose to draw a picture of MaryAnn and color it. J chose to create a pencil drawing of the hole that MaryAnn dug.

CD cover




We listened to the Maestro Classics recording and information about Mike Mulligan. They did some of the work that is included in the liner notes of the CD. This CD is a favorite and the girls sometimes listen to it in their rooms while they are playing.



Have you studies Mike Mulligan? I’d love to hear about some of the activities your students participated in. At Home.


FIAR: Madeline

Madeline title

We are using Five In A Row as a literature curriculum this year. It is directed at J, who is a kindergartener. However, all three of the giggly girls want to be a part of it, so we are trying hard to differentiate the activities so that all of them get something out of it. E, at 10, is absolutely loving the FIAR series and is upset with me when I do an activity without her.

Our first book to use with FIAR was Madeline. We have enjoyed this book for many years, since our now 10 year old was a very little one or two year old.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, it begins”

“In an old house in Paris, covered with vines,
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”

Thus, you are introduced to the Madeline and her companions. Miss Clavel is the mistress of the boarding house and the girls have all sorts of fun, some of it sanctioned and some of it not. This is a book that all little girls will be drawn to. Sorry but I cannot speak to whether or not little boys will be drawn to this book.


Madeline reading

As suggested in the curriculum, every time we planned to do an activity related to the book, we read the book. Sometimes I read. Other times, the bigger giggly girls read.


Geography/Map Work:

Madeline globe

For each book we read, we will be placing the little circle that is provided in the book on a large map that we have. J will be in charge of taping it on because this is mainly for her. J placed the circle for Madeline on France. To be sure we placed it correctly, we looked at the globe. We also pulled out an atlas and looked up where Paris was within France’s borders.



From the FIAR curriculum book:

We talked about relationships, good vs. bad, the vocabulary words suggested,


Madeline symmetryAfter discussing what symmetry is, we looked through the book, noticing all the different places Ludwig Bemelmans used symmetry in his drawings. Then, I made a page for the girls to complete. It was half finished drawings that the girls had to complete, showing the symmetry in the shapes. You can download and print this page by clicking on the link below. If you want to print it smaller in order to have older children have to work a bit harder at creating the symmetry, just change your printer settings. For the middle giggly girl, I printed it two sheets to a page, which made it half sized. For E, I changed the percentage for the print and it shrunk it down to 1/4 the size of the original.

Click here for Symmetry activities.


Madeline groupings

Using counting crystals, we created the “twelve little girls in two straight lines.” We used different colors for each of the groupings of twelve that we could come up with. This helped J to see that changing the way you group something does not change the total number that you use.








The Eiffel Tower is prominent on the cover of Madeline. We talked about the Eiffel Tower, where it is located, what is important about it, and why it is famous. We looked at some photographs of it that we found on the internet. Then, we drew it.

Art Work:

Madeline art

Symmetry is prominent throughout the books illustrations, so we discussed that. We also talked about monochromatic color schemes and how that was used in the illustrations. Another concept that Ludwig Bemelmans used in the illustrations was variation of sizing. After discussing various artistic techniques over several days, we got ready to illustrate. Using what we have learned about chalk pastels, we draw an imitation of the cover with the Eiffel Tower, Madeline and her friends, Miss Clavel, and the trees.

Since Madeline is a favorite, we really enjoyed this. Our next FIAR book will be Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

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