Monday, March 12, 2012


Mirette on the High Wire was a great Five in a Row book that seemed to really capture K's imagination. It is the story of a girl in Paris, France, who meets the great Bellini, a retired high wire walker.  Bellini reluctantly teaches Mirette how to walk on a high wire and she, in turn, finds a way to help him.   Here are some of the highlights of our activities with this unit.

In yet another FIAR serendipity, it so happened that the Netflix we had just before K started this unit was Midnight in Paris.  Its first 4 minutes are simply various shots of modern day Paris streets--you see glimpses of famous landmarks while winsome French music plays.  I was excited to show K these opening scenes.  The first day we started rowing Mirette, I got out last year's notebook and K and I looked over the Paris landmarks we'd discussed back when we rowed Madeline.  Then K watched the opening minutes of the movie and I paused it when we saw landmarks that looked familiar. We tried to identify them--some were difficult, but K enjoyed seeing the beautiful shots of the Eiffel Tower as well as all the motorcycles and the funny buses in modern day Paris.  She was also fascinated by all the outdoor cafes.

K was really intrigued by the high wire in Mirette.  We hadn't read the book many times before she asked if we could make a high wire for the backyard.  I don't think she quite understood how difficult they can be to walk on.  But perhaps we could give her a taste.  I made a balance beam with a 2x4 and some other scraps of wood.  I still have a teaching PE book from my classroom years and it has a nice progression of balance beam exercises.  Here they are if anyone else wants to try them:

1.  Walk forward.
2.  Walk backward.
3.  Walk forward; come back backward.
4.  Walk sideways.
5.  Walk sideways on the other side.
6.  Walk forward, keeping hands to sides.
7.  Backward--hands to sides.
8.  Walk forward and back with a balancing rod (we used a Swiffer).

9.  Go forward, step over object(s) on the balance beam.
10.  Go forward, pick up a beanbag from the beam and put it on head.
11.  Walk backward--bend down, reach behind and pick up the beanbag from the beam.
12.  Walk forward and backward with the beanbag on head.
13.  (Teacher) holds a yardstick about 3' above balance beam.  Walk under; walk under with hands clasped behind back; walk backwards under; backwards under with hands behind back.
14.  Hop--best foot; other foot.
15.  Stand in the center and balance in a swan pose; in a high balance; low balance; with eyes closed.
16.  (Teacher) holds yardstick out; step over it going backwards; step over with beanbag on head.
17.  Fold a piece of paper and stand it in the middle of the beam.  Walk to the middle, kneel and pick up paper with teeth. Stand up and walk to end.
18.  Walk across with eyes closed.

We got through most of the list.  I was surprised by how well K did.  Of course, T wanted to try everything too, and that slowed things down some.  Afterwards, I left the balance beam up so the kids could play/practice on it on their own.  T  later informed me that he found another piece of wood and "added outriggers to the high wire so it wouldn't blow over".  The crosswise piece of wood is the one he added.

We also watched a few Youtube videos of tightrope walkers.  This one is lovely:

I took the kids to an Open Gym at a local gymnastics place.  There were some real balance beams of varying heights that were fun to try out along with all the other available activities.

For art, I showed K a color wheel and showed her how the colors opposite each other are complementary.  She made a watercolor painting after choosing two colors. (Orange and blue, like what is used most often in the book.)

For applied math, I printed out a couple of maps and K chose a city she'd like to go to.  Using a ruler, she first drew a straight line from our town to a city of her choice with a colored marker.  Then we figured out which roads she'd have to drive if she were to go there in a car and she traced that route with another color.  She found that the straight line is shorter.  Would that we could be birds when it comes to traveling!

For science we studied copper, and who would have guessed that it could be so interesting.  I started by explaining that copper is a metal and showed K various household items made with copper.  I had two bracelets with copper in them and I also showed her pictures of copper pots and talked about why they make such a great cooking material.  We looked outside and saw that our bird feeder has copper on it.  K noticed an antique kerosene lamp we have is copper.  (It was fun to light the lamp that night and eat supper by the glow.)

Then we talked about pennies.  I showed K where the date is printed on them and she put a sequence of about 5 or so in chronological order.  Then she suddenly HAD to make a chart about coins.  We were about to embark on another part of the lesson, but it was one of those moments where it seemed she needed to synthesize new and old information now.  She went off on her own and later came back with this chart.

Chart completed, we went on to do an activity to clean some old, dull coins.  We poured vinegar into a dish and added a tablespoon of salt.  It worked!  After 15 minutes, the pennies came out clean and bright(er).

When Daddy came home, he showed K where copper is on the Periodic Table.  He and K also found other elements that she recognized/understood (sodium, oxygen, silver), and he also explained a few of the more exotic elements (uranium, neptunium, plutonium).  Then he got some electrical wiring from the garage and showed the kids how it had copper wiring inside.  He explained how the copper wire conducts electricity from the outlet to the lights super fast.  The kids were, ahem, exhilarated by the explanation.  Of course, it was then time for bed.  That night as I tucked K in bed, she wailed, "I learned so much I can't go to slee-eep!" 
Ah, the tribulations.

Our last day with Mirette was spent learning to say the colors in French.  There are some cute videos that teach these here, here and here.

Another fun row!


Dana said...

I felt dizzy just reading about the balance beam! What a fun experience.

Joelle said...

So fun! I like the list of things to do on the balance beam. I don't know how Audrey would do - she is a little off balance at times. I'm going to try to row this in the fall when someone is supposed to try to walk across Niagra Falls (I think? It was on the FiaR site). Love her chart about coins! Audrey sometimes does things like that. I love how kids think!

Actual Exams said...

Very difficult work she is going to do.
Good luck...