Tuesday, March 13, 2012

FIAR: The Story About Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

It feels as though it's been a century since we rowed an FIAR book, but it's really only been three weeks. We took a week for Black History, a week for Dr. Seuss' birthday, and a week for vacation/unschooling. Three weeks.

I was relieved to pull out the teacher's manual yesterday to prepare for The Story About Ping today. I really do love this Five In A Row curriculum, and so do the kids.

Monday: Social Studies
First, we pinned our story disk on the map. This story takes place in China on the Yangtze River, so we first had to find the Yangtze on the map, and then place this disk above it.

Next we did our word for the day. This is my own addition to the curriculum: we are taking one vocabulary word from our story to learn to read and write each day. These words are posted on our morning board, and we are building the word with our word blocks, then writing them on the white board.

(A note about whiteboards: we are using one because it's an enticing special treat at our house, and we need the encouragement to write at the moment, but I recommend chalk boards or crayons for emergent writers. Those tools force the muscles to work harder because they create more drag on the writing surface, slowing the writer down and allowing them more control.)
Ben uses magnetic letters to first spell the word.

Then he uses the marker to write it, using the letter guides for help if he needs it.
For Ava, I trace the magnetic letters and ask her to put the correct letter with it's outline. Then we do the same for our weekly vocabulary words.
We colored in a map of China and the Chinese flag from Homeschoolshare.com.

One of the topics that we discussed with this book was living on a boat, so of course we had to build a boat to "live in" and experience for ourselves. I love using dramatic play as part of our social studies explorations because part of social studies really is learning about how people (all over the world and throughout time) live. Use of dramatic "playscapes" really make these concepts come to life for children.

 We tried some Chinese food to round out our exploration of China, choosing to eat a traditional vegetarian dish called Buddha's Delight. Much to my delight, the kids loved it.

We also discussed the concept of "discernment." In the story Ping chooses to avoid consequences by taking the seemingly easy way out, only to find that it was much harder and more painful to avoid his "just desserts". In the end, he chooses to take the consequences for his actions and is happy to do so. We shared examples with one another of times in our own lives when we have wanted to take the easy way out, and what the consequences were, or could have, been.

Tuesday: Language Arts
We talked about what makes a "fiction" story. Since this wound up being a light FIAR day, we focused a lot more on our target math and writing skills for the month.

Wednesday: Art
We colored a picture of a duck with colored pencils like the illustrations in the book by Kurt Wiese. I traced the picture myself and copied it for each child to color in. Art is a tough sell at the moment, so keeping it simple and straightforward worked really well this week. We tried out different colors and color mixing with the pencils, played around with wiggly lines to make it look like water, and played a bit with sun reflection on water.

Thursday: Math
We counted Ping's family using the "Ping's Family" printable from Homeschool Share.  This was a great lesson for our oldest in terms of writing the numbers, and for our youngest in terms of doing the counting.
Friday: Science
We used a printable from Homeschool Share to predict whether some household items would sink or float. Check out this video to see how we used it. I get no awards for cinematography here. I move the camera uncontrollably, often cover the mic with my finger and generally don't excel at capturing the moment on film, but I'm sharing it just the same. *smile*

And then, once we'd done a few, we worked on using our past experience to inform our predictions.

We also used this experiment to illustrate the idea that ducks keep oil on their wings to stay waterproof. (Oil and water don't mix... thus, the experiment.)

Other things we did to enhance our experience:
We watched the Wild China series on Netflix... in five minute increments, as attention spans allowed. *smile*

Our unit lapbook:
To document our learning, and to encourage self-initiated exploration and review, we created this paper bag book from Tinkerlab. It was really fun to have something to show Daddy each day when he got home from work, and there were multiple occasions when one child used the book to show another what they'd done in their lesson that day.


  1. Found your unit on Ping on Pintrest...love the paper bag book. I am doing Ping with my kids right now and you've given me inspiration!

  2. Thanks for visiting, Leah. The paper bag books really have been fun additions to our last few rows, and I hope they prove fun for your family as well! Good luck with Ping!

  3. We are starting FIAR for my 5 year old this fall (also have a 3 yo and soon to be 2 yo). Thanks for showing a week's work and how it goes practically! Love the white board/vocab idea.

  4. Is there any way to get the worksheet for counting Ping's family? Homeschool Share no longer has it.

    1. Hi,
      I'm sorry I didn't keep a copy of it once we were finished. I only keep a sample of our work in our yearly portfolios, and that sheet apparently didn't make the cut. :( You could try making your own using clip art, I imagine, just copying a simple duck and then pasting it over and over and over, making the color code whatever you want (blue for brothers, green for cousins, etc.). Good luck!

  5. This is a great example of using Five In A Row as the foundation of a really broad, robust, fun curriculum. I feel inspired! Thanks for sharing your creative and flexible ideas. Also, I'm totally going to check out homeschoolshare.

    1. Hi Bailey,

      Thanks for the comment. FIAR is just that- a fun, broad and robust curriculum which prompts such great curiosity in literature and the topics covered that it's hard to *end* any of our rows. Do check out homeschoolshare- they have such wonderful resources, all free of charge!



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