Sunday, February 5, 2012

FIAR Week: Katy and The Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton

Photo Credit
I purposefully chose to row Katy and The Big Snow this week because we finally are getting snow with some regularity, and there were so, so, so many snow-related things that I wanted to do with this row! Our patience was rewarded this week with two big storms, so we got to do plenty of fun stuff outdoors with real snow, but also got to stay inside, cuddled and warm to read this wonderful book. I couldn't believe how many opportunities there were for extension activities during this row.

Our week:

Monday: Social Studies
First, we pinned our story disk. This was our first addition to my home-made Land of Make Believe map, so that was a fun discussion to have with the kids. We talked a bit about the concept of "Geoppolis" and why the author might not want to choose a specific place to set her story, but rather keeping it open to her reader's interpretation.

 Next, we built a city with blocks, much like the city of Geoppolis used in Burton's illustrations. I printed off a compass and we played a simple game to reinforce the concept of direction: I called out which direction to move "Katy" (OK, so it was a Bob the Builder toy), and Ben had to use the compass to help Katy plow out that side of town.

I will admit that we tried to build the town using toothpicks and marshmallows before resorting to blocks, but strangely the marshmallows kept disappearing so we eventually gave up and ate them all. Still, very fun activity and well worth the time (and calories). 

(Doing school in our jammies with awesome bedhed.)

Tuesday: Language Arts
We talked about personification today, and I sent the kids scouring through magazines and our sticker collection for examples of personification. Considering the fact that they had to first have a concept of what is "living vs. not living," rather than "fictional" (trust me, this doesn't seem so much like semantics when you're explaining the difference to a five year old who wants to put a picture of a dragon talking on his collage because they aren't real) we did quite well.

We let the TV comic addition slide because the reasoning was quite good: "TVs aren't living and still it's talking! That's personification!" Well, close enough for me! :)

Wednesday: Art
OK, truth. We did absolutely nothing for school on Wednesday. See The Importance of Nothing post if you'd like more info on that.

Thursday: Math
We kept math simple this week and focused mainly on counting. We counted telephone poles, horses, buildings (that took a while!) and lots of other things with the younger children. 

With my oldest, we practiced counting by fives to get up to 55 (the amount of horsepower that Katy has at drawbar).

We introduced the concept of inches in feet, as well. I got out my homemade felt board and cut up some simple props to introduce the concept of 12 inches being equal to one foot.
I made the foot lengths double the width of a ruler (so that I could stack up the inch parts on it with blue showing). I made the yellow blocks one inch squares.

Since the snow in Katy gets to be five feet deep, I cut six "foot" lengths (one extra to stack the one inch blocks on).

The kids practiced putting twelve inch blocks onto the felt board to equal one foot length.

To put our measurements into practice we headed outside to see how much snow we had in our backyard.
We recorded our results on our clipboard.
 Then we came inside to compare the "big snow" from the book to our last snow storm.
We measured out 10 inches onto our graph because that was how much snow Virginia Burton gave Geoppolis. Next, we added 4 inches because that's how much snow we have at our house. Geoppolis had more! :)

Next, we measured out five feet, marking each foot just as Burton does in the book. "One foot, two feet, three feet..."

Just to put it all in perspective, we measured how tall we were in relation to the snowfall amounts. The kids were pretty amazed at how tall five feet of snow really was!

The blue Post-Its on the chart are Ben's height and mine.

Friday: Science
Since we worked on counting and measuring in math, we continued the theme into our science work today. We decided to find out how much water is really in snow, and here's how we did it:
We took a mason jar outside and collected some snow.

Then we marked the jar with the level of snow, using a dry erase marker. We measured how many inches we had.

Then we let it melt. We checked in every hour and recorded the time and the level of the snow/water. (I know that this should be a volume measurement rather than a length measurement, and we briefly talked about the difference, but my main objective here was counting and beginning to explore inches as a form of measurement so that's where the emphasis stayed. We'll save volume for another day.)

We had to go to bed before our glass was completely melted (maybe that's a commentary on how cold we keep our house??), but by morning here's how the jar looked. Totally melted!

The dry erase marker had been rubbed off with all of the measuring that we had done, but using our chart I was able to recreate the important lines. It would seem that it takes just a little water to make a lot of snow!
I had intended to do some work on weather systems as well, but the day just got away from us. We had our second snow storm of the week and we were busy outside playing in it. We're rowing the Snowy Day next week though, so I'll just tack the weather study in there. (Have I mentioned lately how much I love the flexibility of homeschooling?!)

Other activities we did this week which relate to our row:
Because I don't use separate curricula for all my age groups (I have an infant, a toddler, and a preschool/kindergartner) I use differentiated activities throughout the week to appeal to my younger kids within the context of the FIAR book (which is designed for kids 5-8). (If you have only younger children you may want to check out Before Five In a Row, which is designed for children ages 2-4.) Sometimes this means adapting the planned activities from the lesson book, and sometimes it means creating completely different experiences for my littlest ones. Below are our whole-family approaches to this book.

We were fortunate enough to have a snow storm at the beginning of the week, so we did some dramatic play outside with "Katy-like" props.

This is a rowing activity for all ages!

Here's "Katy," plowing the roads!

Here are a couple of the smaller snow plows getting stuck.
Here comes "Katy" to rescue the stuck snow plows.

When she tired of building with marshmallows and toothpicks, Ava worked on coloring some street sign printables. This was appropriate because Burton's illustrations include many road signs. We used this set in our work this week.

Even little Ellie won't be left out- she colors on, well, everything.

Ava colors a few more street signs.

Then she cuts them out (this is great fine motor skill work). We match the signs we can with the book and put the rest in the van to match out on the roads as we drive around town for a little "real world application."
The girls did a lot of snow stickers and stamping as well, particularly when Ben and I were doing math and literacy work (the younger two don't do those yet). No pictures, but I'll post them next week because our exploration of snow will continue.

Our last activity was very sciency, but also very artsy: we made Borax crystal snowflakes. Ava couldn't handle the hot glass by herself (her brother was all too happy to take over this task), but she had a grand time bending her pipe cleaners and playing with the final product.
Make a "snowflake" from pipe cleaners.

Add Borax to boiling water in a mason jar.

Stir. (Awesome dinosaur oven mitt courtesy of Uncle Phil.)

Suspend snowflake from a string tied to a pencil in the solution.

To the adult eye this may not look like a snowflake (note to self: don't use colored pipe cleaners for this activity!), but to a couple of young kids in my house this is the coolest thing that has ever happened in the history of the world. Seriously.
Next up: We row The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats


  1. We loved this activity to. My guys also chose to use colored pipe cleaners.

  2. They didn't wind up looking like snowflakes per se, but I tend to favor the artistic and creative choice of the child anyway. :)

  3. Thank you for all of these fun snowy ideas! I will be using them with my kids next week. I appreciate you taking the time to share.



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