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Mrs. Mack Free Unit Study and Lapbook

Mrs. Mack


Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Summary: Patricia remembers the summer when she was ten and started riding lessons.

    A Literature Based Unit Study by: Cindy in BC



From California to Michigan Simple Fold
Gaits Minit Books
Possible Cover Page
Great Lakes Shutterfold
Horse Vocabulary
How to Shoe a Horse Accordion Book*
Body Language Flap Book
Label a Horse's Hoof*
Horse Care Layer Book
Autobiography Pocket
Horse Breeds Tab Book
requires additional research
Saddle Diagram*
Facial Markings Hot Dog Book Template
(follow these instructions)

*items don't go with lessons found in this unit; they've been included as extras for the horse-crazed! 

Social Studies: Geography-Michigan and California
On the first page of this story Patricia tells us that she spends her summers with her dad in Michigan. Ask your child if he/she knows where Michigan is? Look at a map of Michigan in an atlas and discuss it. [How its shape looks like a mitten.  It is surrounded by four of the Great Lakes - Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Erie.   You may wish to point out the other two Great Lakes:  Lake Ontario.  Michigan is in the Central United States.] Have your child make and color a story disk and place it on Michigan on a wall map.  

Michigan Facts

Enchanted Learning Great Lakes Map

Great Lakes Plants Word Search

Michigan State Flag

Michigan State Map

Michigan State Bird- American Robin

Michigan State Flower- Apple Blossom

State Bird/Flower Coloring Page

On page 11, Patricia tells us that soon she will be going back to her mom in California for the school year. Ask your child if he/she knows where California is. Look at a map of California in an atlas and discuss it. [It is in the lower west coast section of the United States / It borders the Pacific Ocean on one side with a long coastline that stretches the whole length of the state] Have your child place another story disk on California on a wall map.  You may wish to use a piece of yarn to connect the two story disks.

California Facts

California Outline Map

California Flag

In the Hands of a Child California Lapbook

Social Studies: History-- Appaloosa
In the second paragraph on page 11, Patricia tell us that Apache is Mrs. Mack's horse and she is a strawberry Appaloosa.  Ask your child if he/she knows how the Appaloosa got its name. [Early settlers referred to this spotted horse as "a Palouse horse" as a reference to the Palouse River which runs through Northern IdahoOver time the name became "Appaloosa."]  Find the Palouse River on a map of Idaho and show it to your child.
The Appaloosa was introduced to North America in the early 1700's by Spanish explorers and quickly spread across North America.  The Nez Perce Indians bred them in large numbers and to be fast, sturdy and sure-footed.  This careful breeding aided the Indians in buffalo hunting and in war.  The three-color spotting pattern helped to camouflage the horse and to break up the horse's outline among the trees, making it difficult to see from a distance.
When settlers began flooding into the Nez Perce reservation, conflicts soon arose and the Nez Perce war of 1877 broke out.  The Appaloosa helped the Nez Perce Indians elude the US calvary for many months before being captured.  Many of the Appaloosa were killed in this battle and the breed was nearly forgotten about until recently.  The Appaloosa is now one America's most prized breeds and was adopted as Idaho's official state horse in 1975.

The Appaloosa is the fifth most popular breed.  An older child may wish to explore the other four popular breeds by reasearching and writing a paragraph on each [Quarter Horse, Paint, Thoroughbred, and Arabian].

Make your own spots on
this Appaloosa coloring page  or  color this Appaloosa in the style of Native Americans in days of old.
 Parents, if you wish a more complete history, read here.
Language Arts: Literary Device-- Similes
Note: Begin this lesson on Monday
Have your child copy the following passage from the story.  Younger children can take the whole week to copy it - one line each day.  Older children should copy the entire passage each day.  For the younger child just mention how the sentences start with a capital letter and end with a punctuation mark [period].  With older children, discuss the use of similes in this example.  Similes are used to compare two unlike things.  [The word danced is compared to the sun's movement and a bright copper penny is compared to Penny's coat color].  Ask your child if he/she can tell you a sentence of his own that uses a simile.
"Her tail was short, but she held it as if it had been "set" up for a fancy horse show.  She stood there almost motionless,  As the sun danced through the leaves of the overhanging tree, her coat shone like a bright copper penny."
Language Arts: Italics
Sometimes italics are used in a sentence to emphasize a word.  That means the iltalic word tells the reader this word is important and to say it a little stronger.  That is how Patricia chose to use italics in this sentence of her story.  Ask your child if he/she can find the italic word in the sentence at the bottom of page 32.  Have him/her practice reading the sentence aloud a couple of times.  Be sure he/she emphasizes the italic word in it.
"It was at that moment that I realized that Mrs. Mack chose to be in Dogpatch with her horses and these kids."
Language Arts: Autobiography
In this story, Patricia is telling us a true story from her childhood.  When you write a true story that is about yourself it is called an autobiography.  Ask your child if he/she would like to write a brief autobiography of a favorite memory.
Language Arts: Horse Vocabulary
Choose two to four of the following vocabulary words to study.  Prepared Vocabulary Worksheet (created by Jodi Small)
Each day review the words briefly before reading the story.  Print the words on small index cards - word on one side and definition on the other.  Use them like flashcards.
filly -------- a young female horse under four years old
saddle horn ---- the big hard bump at the front of the saddle
bridle ----- usually made of leather and fits over a horse's head and ears; when the reins are attached to it, a person can control the direction of the horse
corral ---- a fenced in riding area for a horse
withers ------- the horse's shoulders
stable ---- a barn
curry comb ---- a plastic or rubber brush used to bring the dirt on a horse to the surface
reins ------ the leather straps attached to the bit
colt ----- a young male horse
hitching post (or rail) ----- what you tie the horse to while putting the saddle on
stall -----
an enclosure within the barn or stable where the horse eats and sleeps
Art Appreciation: Medium
By varying her use of sketchy pencil outlines and water colors, Patricia has created different depths of memories from her past.  Look carefully at the pictures and you will notice she does not color everything in, but selectively decides what to color.  Ask your child if he/she would like to draw a favorite memory and paint it in selectively like Patricia did.
Art Appreciation: Viewpoint
Look at page 17 together and notice how you are looking up at Pat on the horse.  Patricia chose to draw the picture as if you are standing on the grounding looking up at Pat so you can feel just how big an animal Penny is.
Art Appreciation: Painting Horses
Mrs. Polacco mentions two horse colors in this story - bay and buckskin. There are others too, like dun, pinto, palamino and flea bitten grey [page 7]. Arenít these neat names to describe the colors of a horseís coat? Penny is featured on many pages in this story; she is a buckskin. Ask your child if he/she would like to try and paint a picture of Penny using just pencil outlines and water colors like Patricia did in this story. Notice how Patricia used dark rich browns to paint Penny.

Horse Color Chart

Applied Math: Counting

There are many things in this story for you and your child to count together; horses, shoes, fence rails, people, corn, patterns, etc.
Applied Math: Measurement Unit -- Hands
Ask your child how he/she usually measures something. [ruler, tape measure, yard stick]  Horses are measured in a  unit called hands.  They have been since Bible times.  The average adult male hand was approximately 4 inches wide (not including the thumb) and so the hand became a unit of measure equal to 4 inches.  The average horse is about 15 hands high.  Ask your child where he/she thinks you measure a horse from. [You measure from the withers to the ground]  Have your child practice measures various things around the house in hands.  Make a chart of his findings.  And older student doing multiplication could convert various hands to inches.
Applied Math/Science: Speed-Gait
Pat rode several horses.  Some walked, some cantered, some trotted, and some galloped.  Ask your child if he/she knows the word used to describe all these words. [Gait.  A gait is the pace that a horse moves at.  A horse has four natural gaits, though some horses can do more.]   The four natural gaits of a horse are:
Walk  --- the slowest pace, each foot steps individually
Trot   --- a faster walk that is the horses natural pace
Canter -- a fast three-beat run
Gallop -- a full speed run [A horse can gallop up to 42 mph in short bursts in order to escape predators] 
Read the last two paragraphs of page 29 aloud and look at the double page picture on the next pages.  Have your child try a gait while you guess which one it is.  

Gait info at Wiki.  

Speed is the rate of motion.  
We can use math to help us determine how far a horse can move in a certain amount of time.  For example, if a horse cantered at 30 miles per hour, how far could he travel in a half hour? A half hour is half of an hour.  So if we divide the speed at which the horse is traveling (30 mph) by 2, we get that he traveled 15 miles in that half hour.   Create other story problems for your student to calculate distance.   You could also turn the problems around and have your student calculate the speed.  For example, if the horse traveled 15 miles in one-half of an hour, how fast was the horse traveling?   

Applied Math: Copyright
Have your child find the copyright and determine how long ago this book was written.

Science: Horse Care
Horses need a lot of care.  Look at Patricia cleaning out a stall on page 15.  She looks tired.  Ask your child if he/she thinks she has cleaned the other two stall yet.  And has she curried the two horses.  It is important to keep the horses stalls  and the horses themselves clean as they will easily get sick if you don't.
The horses at Mrs. Mack's stable also need to be fed correctly.  They need a varied diet of water, grass, apples, hay, grains, nuts and root vegetables everyday.  They need 8-12 gallons of water each day and three meals a day with lots of fiber [hay].  But not too much grain or the horse will get gas or colic.  Mrs. Mack cared about her horses and surely made sure that the hay was of good quality - plenty of nutrients and cut and dried properly.  Ask your child  to list what she thinks Mrs. Mack's horse were fed each day. ?  Did Pat, Nancy and Donnie feed them?
Mrs, Mack knew that horses liked to live in family groups in large grassy pastures.  That is why had a bigger farm she took the horses to after the summer was over. There they could graze and run and just be horses.
Science: A Horse's Senses
A horse relies on its five senses.  Four of these senses - hearing, sight, touch and smell are very sensitive.  Much more than people's.  [Taste is the fifth, less sensitve, sense]  A horse can even see in two different directions at the same time.  Ask your child if he/she can do that.   
Because Penny can hear and feel things that we can not, she was startled and leaped to the left when a leaf blew in front of her.  [Penny probably heard the leaf blow across the ground in front of her.  She might have even smelled the leaf with her sensitive membranes in her nose and lips].
Science: Body Language
Look together at the pictures of the different horses in this story.  Ask your student how we can tell how the horse is feeling?  By paying close attention to their ears, tails and body positions....their body language.  Our body language also tells other people how we feel.  Act out several emotions (sad, angry, tired, bored, etc.) using body language and see if your  student can guess what you are feeling.   Now go back through the pictures and mention the following causually as you look at the horses:
Ears pricked forward - listening, content [cover, pages 3, 13, 17, 27, 39, 40, back cover
                and inside back jacket]
Ears pricked forward and huddled together - listening, cautious - [pages 1 and 7]
Ears pinned back and pointing in two different directions - scared and attention divided [page 18]
Ears pinned back, front feet raised, nostrils flared and tail swishing- frightened [page 28]
Horse lying down and body limp - ill [pages 33, 35 and 37]
High neck and high tail - excited, eager [pages 30 and 31]
Nuzzles or rests head on you - friendly gesture, trusts you [page 21]
Nicker - friendly greeting [pages 13, 17 and 20]
Nay or whinny - I am hear-where are you [page 38]
You may wish to
read more about body language at this site and print out it's pages to use the graphics for your lapbook.

Science: Facial Markings
Look at the picture of Pal on page 18.  Point out the wide white stripe down the center of his face.  Ask your child if he/she noticed if any of the other horses at Mrs. Mack's stable has white on their face. [None!]  These markings have names.
Blaze - a wide white stripe down the center of the face
Star - a white patch between the eyes
Snip - a white patch between the nostrils
Stripe - a long narrow white strip down the center of the face
These markings are used to help tell horses apart.  Ask your child what marking he/she thinks Pal has. [Blaze]

Interactive website for your child to take a quiz on facial markings

Graphics of facial (and leg)  markings  
Another website for Markings  

Note to parents:  In the Hands of a Child recently updated their horse unit and Celia says it is WONDERFUL.  It would go well with this unit.  You'll find items for your lapbook on vocabulary, breeds, gaits, body language, senses, and more!  Horses Project Pack
Science: Simple Machines-Pulleys
Read pages 36 and 38 aloud.  Be sure to show your child the pictures after you read each page.  Ask your child to narrate to you how Pat, Mrs. Mack, Doc Beck and Hap used a sling to save Penny.   Pulley info at Wiki

Bible: James 3
Pat worked hard to learn to ride.  She had to practice everyday and use several horses with different abilities as she gained experience.  People have to train to ride horses, but they also have to train the horses.  One way this is done is by putting bits in horses' mouths in order to train them; this is mentioned in the Bible in James 3:3.  The verse is comparing the taming of the horse to the "taming of the tongue" -- read James 3:3-10 together and discuss.   What is meant by "taming the tongue" -- why is this something we have to work hard at in order to practice/train it?  What other things are compared to the tongue? (bit in the horse's mouth, ship/rudder, forest fire started by small spark, fresh water/salt water--from the same spring?, etc.)                    

Cooking: Sweet Corn
Ask your child if he/she likes sweet corn.  Look together at the picture on page 5 and briefly discuss how they are really enjoying their sweet corn out on the porch. [Pat's brother, Richie, is eagerly sinking his teeth into his corn.  Look at Pat's plate - she ate two!  Her dad must have eaten even more because he is stretched out and leaning back on the steps and he had to loosen his belt.]  Look closely at the sweet corn with your child, do think they added butter?
Make some sweet corn together and enjoy it out on the porch just like Pat and her family did.

Cooking: Molasses
Ask your child if he/she has ever tasted molasses. Molasses is a thick syrup made by processing sugar cane or sugar beet. Look at page 23 and discuss how Pat was thoughtful for leaving a bag of molasses cookies each day for the trapeze artist because she knew how sad he was. Bake some molasses cookies together and put them in a bag and tie them with a nice ribbon and think of someone to give them to.

Cookie Recipe (click link)

Field Trip: Riding Lessons
Consider signing your child up for some horseback riding lessons.  Just a couple or maybe the whole summer just like Pat did. 
Go Along: Autobiography
Black Beauty by Ann Seawell
Go Along: History-Nez Perce Indians
Scrapper John-Valley of the Spotted Horses by Paul Bagdon
Career Path: Veterinarian
Look for a book about veterinarians or visit one in your area and let your student ask questions.