Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wee Gillis

I chose Wee Gillis for this week's FIAR read because St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching, and though the setting for this book is Scotland, there are enough similarities between the two countries that I thought it would be a good pick.  Wee Gillis was written by Munro Leaf, the same man who authored Ferdinand.  Wee Gillis lives in Scotland and he spends half of each year with his mother's people in the Lowlands, while the other half finds him in the Highlands with his father's kin. Both sides of Wee's family are eager for him to settle down and adopt their ways. In the Lowlands, he is taught to herd cattle, learning how to call them to him in even the heaviest of fogs. In the rocky Highlands, he stalks stags from outcrop to outcrop, holding his breath so as not to make a sound. Wee Gillis is a quick study, and he soon picks up what his elders can teach him. And yet he is unprepared when the day comes for him to decide, once and for all, whether it will be the Lowlands or the Highlands that he will call his home. 
To start our study, we located Scotland on the globe.
Then, we colored the story disk for this read ...
... and placed it on our world map over Scotland.
 To learn more about Scotland, we read Scotland by Tamara L. Britton ...
... looked at pictures of Scottish country ...
... and completed the great lapbook elements on Scotland that we found at  Here, Maggie is coloring the Scottish flag.
Learning about Scotland!
After our lapbook was complete, we popped in Disney's Brave, to observe life and the culture in Scotland, but first ...
 ... we got a little snack -- little shortbread Scottish Terriers that I picked up at the grocery store for this read!
To start our next day with this FIAR book, we had a hearty, warm Scottish breakfast, complete with oatmeal (which we see Wee Gillis eat twice during the story) and Scottish "Potato Farls," a potato pancake that we found the recipe for in The Five in a Row Cookbook.
 After breakfast, we talked about family names, because Wee Gillis (actually his nickname) had quite a long one!  We pulled out her Daddy's ancestry album and found some ancestors that were from Scotland, then added all of their surnames to Maggie's to see what her long Scottish name might be.
After that, we talked about her Scottish ancestry on my side of the family, and looked up information about her ancestors' clan, Clan Macfie (  She was especially excited that our clan's tartan was mostly red (her favorite color)!
After our research, we decided to recreate our tartan with some paint on red paper.  Here, Maggie is placing the green stripes.
Once the green dried, later, we added the smaller white and gold stripes.
All done!  Here is our tartan painting of Clan Macfie!
 After our tartan was complete, we talked about the illustrations in this book.  The illustrator was Robert Lawson and he only used black tempera paint with a brush on white paper for the book's pictures.  But the way he used a technique called cross-hatching with his lines here, you know that Wee's face is actually red.
We then set out to make our own pictures using cross-hatching lines in pencil. 
Here is Maggie's Furby (her latest obsession), with cross-hatching lines in the cheeks to show his anger and agitation.
Good work, Mags!
Next, we set out to learn more about bagpipes, as that was a big component in this book.  We read Making Music: Blowing by Angela Aylmore, and Live Music! Woodwinds by Elizabeth Sharma (not pictured).
We then watched this video of bagpipers playing ...
... and this one, on how bagpipes are made.
It was then time for another craft.  I found a cute craft for bagpipes at, using an empty giftwrap tube, a brown paper bag, newspaper, a rubber band, string, construction paper, tape, scissors, and markers.  First, Maggie used her painted "tartan" to copy the same pattern on her brown paper bag, using markers.
Now, her bagpipes will match her family's tartan!
Then, we opened the bag and stuffed it with newspaper to make it look like it was filled with air.
Next, we cut our tube into five pieces (one blow pipe, one chanter, and three drones) and covered them with the construction paper.
We attached the blow pipe to the opening of the bag with tape and a rubber band to keep it secure.  Then, we attached the chanter to the bottom by making an opening in the bag and taping it in place.  Finally, the three drone pipes were placed in another opening we made at the top of the bag, taped in place, and strung with our string.
Our bagpipes!  Great job, Mags!
We also blew into this bottle to make music ...
... and made a set of pan pipes as seen at, using straws, scissors, and tape.
First, we cut each straw so that the one next to the previous one was about three quarters of an inch shorter.  Once they were all cut, they looked like this.
Next, we used our tape to adhere them together so they wouldn't move.
And, finally, we blew across the top of each, to hear the different sounds!  (Maggie really liked this activity!)
For the Math study of this book, we talked about halves (as Wee Gillis felt pulled in two different directions) and the months of the year, as he spent half his year in the Lowlands and the other half in the Highlands.  To further our study we used these two great worksheets from and, respectively.
Finally, we tackled some of the science concepts in this book.  First, we talked about fog, as Scotland has a lot of it, especially in the Lowlands.  We repeated the "Cloud in a Jar" activity we did earlier this year (, using a clean jar, plastic wrap, boiling water, a rubber band, and ice.  To start, put boiling water into your glass jar, leaving space without water at the top.  Immediately (and carefully) cover the top of the jar with plastic wrap and secure with your rubber band.  Place ice cubes on top of the plastic wrap and observe.  You will see the space between the water and the plastic wrap fog up (your "cloud").
We also talked about sheep, and watched this video of a sheep shearing in Scotland ...
... then, talked about how wool is used to make clothing.
We made the "Yarn and Foam Craft Sheep" we saw at, using a piece of black foam, cut into the shape of a sheep's body, and white yarn.
To finish, we attached a googly eye to our sheep with some glue.
And lastly for this book, we talked about our lungs and breathing.  First, we read about it in our Usborne See Inside: Your Body flap book.
(I just love these See Inside books!)
(We even had an opportunity to talk about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.)
We continued our reading in our Time: For Kids: Super Science Book, completing the "How Much Can You Breathe?" activity as well.
(I photographed the instructions for this experiment here.  To see them larger, just click on each image.)

Here is our experiment, getting set up.
Taking a deep breath ...
... and blowing out all the air in her lungs!
We marked the spot where the water level was in the bottle.
This is how much air she can hold in her lungs!  Cool!
Next week, we will read The Rag Coat!  Check back with us! 


  1. We are currently working on this FIAR story. Thanks for your post; it looks like a fun unit!

    1. We loved Wee Gillis! I hope you do, too! Happy rowing! :)