Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

So, at the suggestion of a good friend, I decided to give Five in a Row a try (  For those of you who don't know, Five in a Row (FIAR) is essentially a curriculum plan of unit studies with real books (including many classics) as the foundation of each.  You read each book every day for five days in a row (hence, the name), and each day, focus on something new from the reading.  I love the idea, so I decided to make this the basis of our study of Literature for the new school year.  Out of sheer curiosity, however, I decided to try one of the unit studies/books a bit before our new year.  So, here we go!

We had recently been studying boats and transportation, so I figured I would start our Five in a Row studies with The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, a classic by Hildegarde H. Swift.
Day 1 of 5
First thing's first, we read our book. 
It's a good read, about a little lighthouse in New York City who is very proud of his job, and becomes too proud, until the day a great gray bridge is built up high above him.  He is quickly deflated and falls off his high horse, but soon, he realizes that though he's small, he is still important and needed in a big way!  Mags enjoyed it a lot.
Every book in the FIAR series comes with what's called a story disk.  These are used to help your child understand the setting of each story, by placing the disks on a map so they can see the location in relation to themselves and the rest of the world.  Here is our story disk for The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge,  colored by Maggie, and ready to be placed on New York City, the setting for this book.
 (As we read more stories in the FIAR series, we will add more disks to our maps.  Maggie is quite excited about this!)
 For our first day of studying this book, we delved into some Geography and Social Studies,     starting with some reading about the great New York City.  The first book we read was an awesome find, My New York by Kathy Jakobsen.  She also painted all the pictures throughout, and her illustrations are unbeatable!  I would recommend this book to anyone doing this FIAR study, and to anyone planning on travelling to NYC with a child!  It is interactive, too, so pages folded out, and you had to turn the book to see others.  We enjoyed it immensely.
Here is one illustration from the book. 
And looking more closely at the same picture, you can see the great gray bridge with the little red lighthouse underneath it!  (Maggie was tickled to spot it and tickled to find out it was a real place!) 
We then moved on to read New York City by David F. Marx ...
 ... and Portraits of the States: New York by Jim Mezzanotte.
After our reading, we watched this great video about the little red lighthouse (Check it out!) ...
... and located the little red lighthouse on Google Earth!  (Mags thought this was super cool!)
After we finished studying about NYC and finding the facts about the little red lighthouse online, we set to work on our lapbook (our first!), which we'll add to all week as we study more.  (We used some of the great suggestions for our lapbook from  Here, Mags is coloring a map of New York, outlining the Hudson River and the spot where the lighthouse sits.  (You may have noticed the little lighthouse on the table.  I snatched it up at the Dollar Tree for only $1 for this week!)
Showing off some decorations on the front of her lapbook!
Here is the inside flap of our lapbook after Day 1.  (Keep scrolling for more additions!)
We then did a Bible lesson to better understand pride, focusing on the story of the proud Goliath and how he fell from his pedestal by David, who slayed him (1 Samuel 17).  We went on to talk about the prideful King Nebuchadnezzar and his fall.  We distinguished good pride (being proud of a job well done) and bad pride (being boastful and thinking we're better than others).  (I really like the Bible tie-ins.)
After that, we set out to make a meal to go with this week's selection.  The FIAR Cookbook (which I purchased used from Amazon for a very small price) suggested an Italian fare for our study of NYC.  We decided to make one of the suggested dishes today (Italian Cream Cake), and the other two tomorrow, to split up our time in the kitchen. 
Here's Mags, adding buttermilk to our bowl for our Italian Cream Cake!
Mixing ...
 Later, after it was baked, it was time to frost our cake with homemade frosting!
 All done!  Presenting our Italian Cream Cake!  She was so proud (in the good way, which we discussed), and insisted we take a piece to Daddy at work ... which we did.  :)

 Day 2 of 5
Day 2 of our study of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge focuses on Language Arts, specifically, reading comprehension, personification, and compound words.
 I got this great set of compound words at a teacher store for an incredible price at only $2.00(!), but they can also be purchased at for $11.99.   
 Once cut, you can make compound word sentences like this one (BEAN + BAG = BEANBAG)!
And, on the back of the cards, I wrote the words in Sharpie so she can see them in word form, not just picture form.
The first one we did was the main compound word throughout this book, LIGHTHOUSE.
(We added this one to our lapbook.)
 Then, Mags dug into the rest of them!  (She loved working with these!)
 After that, we continued our cooking for this book, today making Baked Lasagna and Focaccia Bread.  (Again, all of these recipes can be found in the FIAR cookbook pictured above.)
 Heating up the ground beef for our lasagna ...
 She was tickled with the size of the noodles we used!
 Let's cook them!
 Maggie's first lasagna!
 Once our lasagna was in the oven, we set out to make our Focaccia Bread!  (I love this girl!)
 Making dimples!
 Adding rosemary to ours (the recipe didn't call for it but we think it made it that much better)!
 Here is our lasagna, done and delicious!
 And our Focaccia!  So good!
Day 3 of 5
On Day 3, we studied art.
 First, we studied contrast in size, noting the difference in size between the little red lighthouse and the great gray bridge, as seen here in an illustration from the book.
 Then, I challenged Maggie to draw a picture of the two main characters in this book, being sure to show their contrast in size.  Here is her drawing, complete with the lights on both, the little side door in the lighthouse, and both characters personified!  :)
We then talked about repetition of line in art.  I asked her to draw a picture showing repetition of line.  She chose to draw a picture of her piano.  My clever girl.
 Next, we discussed how the artist achieved the effect of night in his drawings, by using shading and stars in the sky.  For her own picture achieving the effect of night, she asked to use her chalkboard and chalk.  (I giggle at this photo because our cat, Emmett, is always so nosy when we're homeschooling!)
 Maggie's "night picture."
 And finally, I decided to implement one more art project for today, which I found at, using a lighthouse template from
First, we used small squares of paper to adhere to our lighthouse to make a mosaic effect.  (This is always a fun alternative to simply coloring a picture.)
 My silly lady.  :)
 Then, once our lighthouse was covered, we adhered it to a large piece of blue construction paper, to simulate the illustrations in the book.
 Next, we took some gray paper and cut strips out of it to construct our bridge.
 Maggie then adhered those onto the paper as well, over the lighthouse, to illustrate the little red lighthouse and the great gray bridge!  It looks so good, Mags!
Day 4 of 5
For Day 4 of this week-long study, we focused on Math.  The suggested ideas in the FIAR manual were either too young (counting) or too old (multiplication) for her, so I decided to look online for some other ideas from FIAR followers.  I found a great one at, where she used a "Map the Coordinates" worksheet to implement Math.  Genius!  I made the same, using things you would see in New York City.

 Great job, Mags!
 We then added the sheet to our lapbook!
Day 5 of 5
So, for our final day studying this book, a day focused on Science, we had lots to do!  (This day and Day 1 were the busiest of this venture, which makes me wonder if this is typical for an FIAR week, when you start a new story, then wrap it up on Day 5.)
 For our first discussion today, we learned more about rivers.  First, we read All Along the River by Allan Fowler ...
... and Rivers: Nature's Wondrous Waterways by David L. Harrison.  We learned that rivers originate from high places, and make their way down, until eventually, they reach the sea.
Then, we set out to see what rivers we could find in our state, and trailed them to the Gulf of Mexico.
 Next, we headed outdoors, and drove to the Chattahoochee River, for some sun and more learning.
 I love this kid!
Once we got back home, we set out to create a model of the path of a river, starting at the top of the mountain, then moving down through valleys until it reaches the sea.  (We used green Play-Doh on thick cardboard to form our mountain.) 
 Next, we painted our "sea," followed by the land, which we painted to match our mountain.
 Looks great, Mags!  Let's let it dry!
 Later, once it had dried, we set our model in a shallow pan and started our experiment, gently pouring a bit of water onto the top of our mountain.
 There it goes, down!
 And almost to the sea!
 (This worked great!)
After we wrapped up our study of rivers, we delved deeper into learning all we could about lighthouses.  We read Beacons of Light: Lighthouses by Gail Gibbons (a GREAT book, as all her books are) ...
... Safely to Shore: America's Lighthouses by Iris Van Rynbach (which has some great illustrations about all the differences you can find among the lighthouses around our country) ...
... Lighthouse: A Story of Remembrance by Robert Munsch ...
 ... and Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie by Peter and Connie Roop.  All were great reads!
Next, we completed this lighthouse worksheet ( which had her trace, then right the word.  That was added to our lapbook.
 After that, we made a fun lighthouse project that I found in Family Fun magazine, August 2011, page 26, using a red Solo cup, a 9-ounce clear plastic cup, black card stock, Tacky Glue, scissors, and a battery-operated tea light.  First, we traced the bottom of the clear cup onto our cardstock to get a nice, even circle.
 Once our circle was made and cut out, we cut out three rectangles, two the same size for our lighthouse's windows, and one slightly larger for its door.
 Then, we trimmed the upper rim of our clear cup so that it fit snugly onto the top of our Solo cup, with about a half an inch of overlap, seen here.
 Next, glue your black circle to the top of your clear cup using the Tacky Glue.
 Follow that with the gluing of your door and windows onto the red cup.
Turn on your tea light.
 Place the tea light on the top of your Solo cup, replace the clear cup and there you go!  A working lighthouse!  She was so tickled with this project and said how much she couldn't wait to have it lit in her bedroom tonight!  (It did turn out very cute!)  :)
 We continued with a worksheet we found online of some tanagrams that you put together to make a lighthouse, with a little Bible study of Matthew 5:14.  This we also added to our lapbook.
 And for our final lighthouse project (the idea of which we found at, we colored this lighthouse clipart, glued it to a piece of gray paper, then adhered a piece of wax paper over that.  Here, Maggie is demonstrating how the lighthouse looks on a clear day.
And here is our lighthouse on a foggy day!
 And of course, this made it to our lapbook, too!  :)
Next, we did a short study of bridges.  We read Bridges by Ken Robbins ...
 ... and Cross a Bridge by Ryan Ann Hunter.
Then, using Lincoln Logs, index cards, a stack of pennies, and an idea found at, we did an experiment to understand the importance of a well-designed bridge.  First, we folded one index card in half, lengthwise, and placed it over two Lincoln Logs, spaced apart.  We started adding pennies (weight) to the center of the bridge.
 Our bridge started to collapse in the middle with the more weight we added!
Next, we took another index card and constructed another bridge, this time, folding the side of it up, like below.  When we added the same number of pennies that made the former bridge collapse, this one didn't!  It was designed better! 
Finally, we did some reading about boats, including Boats by Gail Saunders-Smith ...
 ... Busy Boats by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker (a cute, informative book) ...
... and the classic Little Toot by Hardie Gramatky.
To wrap up our week, we finished our lapbook and talked about all the fun we had with our first FIAR book study!
 See you next week!