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My Mountain Song  Author

My Mountain Song

Author: Shutta Crum
Illustrator: Ted Rand
ISBN: 0618159703

Unit prepared by: Michelle Kiser; additional lessons by Celia


Social Studies

In this story, Brenda Gail is visiting her great-grandparents farm.  Discuss the names for generations (grand parent = the parent of your parent & great-grandparent = the parent of your grandparents, etc...)Look at pictures of different generations in your family.  If possible try to find pictures of multiple generations in one picture or pictures of place with different generations at it.  For example, I had a picture of my dad as a child in my grandparents’ yard, and then I showed them a picture of myself as a child in the same place.  Look at pictures of one person at different stages of their life.

Appalachian Geography
Discuss what mountains are.  A mountain is a very tall high, raised area of land; a natural place on Earth - higher than a hill.   If you have hills or mountains where you live, discuss both. This story is set in the Appalachian Mountains. 
The Southern Appalachian Region includes the mountainous regions of Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, all of the mountain state of West Virginia, and the hilly region of southern Ohio.  Locate the Appalachian Mountains on your Map.  Using a piece of tracing paper, let your student trace the mountain range from one end to the other.   How many states house these mountains? 

Choose one of the states to place your story disk (make a circle and draw a picture that represents the story).  You may want to use Kentucky for this book; 
the dust jacket flap says the book is set in the Kentucky mountains, even though there is no specific mention of it in the story.  The author was born in Paintsville, Kentucky (famous for Buther Hollow, birthplace to country music's Loretta Lynn and her sister Crystal Gayle.) and their website has many photos of the Paintsville area.

Basic Facts about Kentucky
State Capital - Frankfort
Largest City - Louisville
Name for Residents - Kentuckians
Major Industries include the following: agriculture (tobacco, corn, peanuts, wheat), coal mining, horse-raising, manufacturing (whiskey, automobiles & trucks, and chemicals)
Major Rivers - Ohio River, Mississippi River, Cumberland River, Kentucky River, Green River
Highest Point - Black Mountain - 4,145 feet (1,263 m) above sea level
Bordering States - Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia
State Nickname - Bluegrass State
State Motto - "United we stand, divided we fall "
State Song - My Old Kentucky Home, by Stephen Foster

Kentucky Printables
Kentucky state flag
Kentucky state map
state bird (Cardinal) activity worksheet
state flower (Goldenrod) activity worksheet


Appalachian Culture
You may want to point out the pieces of Appalachian culture shown throughout the story.  Two examples to include in your discussion are the log cabin and rag rug. discuss log cabins and rag rugs. 

Log cabins: Big Ma & Gran Pap live in a log cabin.  Why is this a good housing choice for those living in Appalachia?  Use Lincoln logs to build homes

Rag rugs: notice the large rug in the illustrations .   Most likely this is a type rug made from old rags.  Many Appalachians would make these types of rugs from scraps or worn out clothing.  This site offers directions for making rag rugs.

Additional information on Appalachian culture

Language Arts

to make a harsh cry, to protest or complain noisily (in the story it used to describe Melvin’s singing.  Based on this definition do you think Melvin sang well?)

a unit of dry volume, usually subdivided into eight local gallons in the systems of Imperial units and U.S. customary unit

to grasp or hold with or as if with the hand usually strongly, tightly, or suddenly

Scolding: to quarrel noisily

compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power
(quality shown by Big Ma)

Wow!  This book is full of great descriptions.  Re-read the first page with your student.  Brenda Gail announces, "In the mountains down south, morning is musical."  Then, she goes on to describe the sounds of morning in the mountains.  List these sound descriptions and discuss with your student.  The author has included these details to help the reader place himself right smack dab in the middle of the mountains and to feel what it's like to be there in the morning.  You can almost hear the rooster, the screen door, the grandparents "clinking" around the kitchen, and the chickens greeting each other with their cackling and scolding.

Help your student record the sounds of his morning.  What does he hear when it's time to wake up?  If morning is a super quiet time at your house, choose another part of the day to focus on.  Help him write these details down in a way that another reader would be able to experience the sounds, too.

Vivid Verbs
Crum has a way with words, and she chooses some great verbs for this story-- verbs that give a very clear picture of the action taking place.  Review what verbs are and then look for good examples throughout the story.

I wiggle my bare toes back in forth in Duke's warm fur (also note the touch/feel detail-- the warm fur on the toes)
raindrops plip-plop (did Shutta Crum create her own verb?  How fun!)
...turns and stalks away
staggering and flopping
I'd have whomped Melvin
...clink about the kitchen
screen door swishes open

Crum also uses plenty of colorful adjectives in this story that enhance the nouns she's describing.  Look for adjectives with your student.  A few examples are listed below:
knobby hands
pesky cousin
clenched teeth
warm fur

Writing prompt: 
In the story Brenda Gail’s first impression (what you believe to be true about someone after the first time you meet them)  of cousin Melvin is not favorable.  How did her view of cousin Melvin change by the end of the story?  Write or tell a story about a first impression of someone that changed over time (the first time you met your new neighbor or the first time you went to a new doctor or the dentist).

See copywork lesson in Bible ("Donkey") section.

Art and Music

Song Composition
Maybe your student has a song that's just waiting to come out of her!  Help your student think of all the things she likes about where she lives. Discuss meter and rhythm.  Take a simple tune you are familiar with such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and write lyrics about your family or life.

You may also want to discuss meter and rhythm.
Meter-The meter of a piece of music is the arrangement of its rhythms in a repetitive pattern of strong and weak beats. This does not necessarily mean that the rhythms themselves are repetitive, but they do strongly suggest a repeated pattern of pulses. It is on these pulses, the beat of the music, that you tap your foot, clap your hands, dance, etc
Rhythm-The term "rhythm" has more than one meaning. It can mean the basic, repetitive pulse of the music, or a rhythmic pattern that is repeated throughout the music (as in "feel the rhythm"). It can also refer to the pattern in time of a single small group of notes (as in "play this rhythm for me").


Using watercolors paint your own mountain sunset. 

(some ideas contributed by Cecelia)

Geometry: Shapes
Explore the book looking at various shapes.  (The oval rug, the circle of grandma’s glasses.)

Look at page 24 and point out the pattern on the kitchen floor.  Practice using shapes to make a pattern.
   If you have pattern blocks, let your student explore different pattern possibilities.  Can she design a pattern for a floor?

Discuss big and little.  Take a small lunch sack (labeled little) & a regular grocery sack (labeled big).  Take various sized items and decide which sack they should be placed.  How did you decide?   Take a “big” Item compare it to another on of the “big” items.  Decide if the item is still big in comparison, do the same for a little item. 

Addition and Subtraction with Eggs
The book says that Brenda Gail and Gran Pap have nine eggs.  Then, Gran Pap takes one more egg.  How many do they have now?  Make ten egg manipulatives (or use plastic Easter eggs)  and use them to discover basic addition and subtraction facts.

In the story Big Ma places her injured hen in a bushel basket. A bushel is a traditional unit of volume used for measuring dry commodities such as grains and fruits. In the United States, the customary bushel is based on an old British unit known as the Winchester bushel. This unit dates to the early fourteenth century. 
King Edward I defined the bushel to be 8 gallons in 1303. The form used in the U.S. was legalized by Parliament in 1696. One U.S. or Winchester bushel equals 4 pecks or 32 (dry) quarts  There is also a heaped bushel, which is 27.8% (sometimes 25%) larger than a regular bushel. The regular bushel is also called struck measure to indicate that the bushels have been struck, or leveled, rather then heaped.


Activity: How many potatoes?

Show your student a bushel basket.  Ask the child to estimate how many potatoes the basket will hold.  Right down his guess.  Then place 20 potatoes in the basket.  Ask the student if he would like to change his guess.  Then help the student to count the potatoes as you fill up the basket.  (it should take around a 100 small)  Ask your student if there will be the same number of potatoes each time you fill the basket? Why or why not?

I Spy the Donkey!
Did your child notice that almost every illustration shows the donkey?  Sometimes you really have to look closely to find the donkey!   Give your student a small piece of paper and have him make a tally mark each time he sees the mule in the illustrations as you read the story to him.  Remind him to draw a diagonal (or horizontal) line for every fifth spotting.  Have him write the final Arabic number near his tally marks.  If you are lapbooking, create a pocket that says "I Spy the Donkey!" and add your student's paper.    (Counting the front cover, the back cover, and the dedication page, I came up with 13.)



Botany: Potatoes
Potato harvest.  Discuss the parts or a plant & types of potatoes.  Point out that the part we eat is the tuber. 

Grow potatoes in a barrel.  Items needed : a large plastic garbage can or barrel punch drainage holes in the bottom & commercial potting soil.  What to do: Choose a location for the barrel. Some place that gets sun for most of the day is ideal. Avoid shady areas or spots that are extremely hot. Fill the barrel half-way with potting soil. You can plant either whole potatoes (if they are about the size of an egg) or cut them into sections so that each piece has a couple of ‘eyes’ or sprouts. Plant the potatoes or pieces 3 inches below the surface of the soil. As the sprouts begin to grow, gradually fill in with more soil. Be sure that you don’t completely cover the shoots. Water the soil as it becomes dry. By the middle of summer you should be able to dig into the soil and feel around for the potatoes.

Zoology: Chicken

The study of the hatching of chickens is called embryology

Hatching chickens: Have a supply of plastic eggs which will open.  These are easily obtained around Easter.  Make a set labeled #1-21.  Open the egg and trace the diameter of the smaller egg onto cardstock.  Glue the circle onto the opening of the smaller egg half making sure that the egg will still close.  On the circle, glue a picture (pictures) showing the daily development of the egg corresponding to the number on the egg.  Store the eggs in an egg carton.  Each day you can open a plastic egg to see how the real chicks would be developing. In a cardboard box create a nest include a thermometer.  Explain that in order for the chicks to hatch the eggs must stay between 99-102 degrees.  Each day place the correct egg in the nest.  You could compare each one to the day before.

pictures of the actual process
If you are brave enough to indulge your budding scientist, you can get a fertilized egg and watch it until it hatches!
Classroom incubators can be purchased (a chick-u-bator is a cheaper model)  or older students could build their own. 
These sites have a few different designs:
CG Farms-- build your own incubator
Backyard Chickens-- build your own incubator

Buy fertilized eggs
Practice sequencing using pictures of the chicken lifecycle


Animal Parents: Hen
The book says that one of the hens made the "best mama."  How do hens care for their chicks?  Mama hens bond with their chicks before they hatch!  They turn their eggs up to five times an hour and softly cluck to their unborn chicks who will chirp back to her.   The hen then dotes over her brood after they have hatched; she cares for them by teaching them what to eat, how to drink, where to roost, and how to avoid enemies. 

You may want to discuss the idea/saying "mother hen."  This saying is used to describe a person who fusses over others in an overprotective manner.

Zoology: Donkey
If your student enjoyed finding and counting the donkey in the math lesson, he may also enjoy learning more about donkeys.  A donkey is a domesticated (tame) animal in the horse family.  Most donkeys are beasts of burden, i.e., a work animal.  They are mostly used for riding, pulling carts, transporting, farming, etc.   Donkeys have a reputation for being stubborn, but really they are just more cautious than a horse.  They do not like to go somewhere that they feel might endanger them or that they are unsure about.   In North America, a male donkey is called a jack and a female donkey is called a jennet or jenny.  (See related Bible lesson below.)

In our story, Gran Pap mentions drinking cold spring water with his mother after having just brought it down from the mountain, and later Brenda Gail asks Big Ma if they can go up the mountain to get spring water.   A spring is a place where groundwater emerges naturally.   The water source for most springs is the rain or snow that falls higher up and that trickles down through the soil and rocks until it comes to the outlet.  The water then may flow down the hill and become a stream.   Most spring water is very cold, refreshing, and clean.  Many companies have begun bottling and selling spring water.


In the Bible, donkeys are mentioned several times.  In Numbers 22:22-4, God allowed a donkey to speak to Balaam.  In Matthew 21 (or Luke 19), Jesus rides on a donkey through Jerusalem.  Use a concordance to look up other references to donkeys.  For copywork, have your student write out "The Legend of the Donkey's Cross" by Mary Singer in his best handwriting.

The Legend of the Donkey's Cross
by Mary Singer

"Bring me the colt of a donkey," was the Master's request.
A young donkey was brought to Jesus to carry Him into Jerusalem.
A week later Jesus was ordered to be crucified.
The little donkey so loved the Lord that he wanted to help Him carry the cross.
But, alas, he was pushed away.
The sad little donkey waited to say goodbye until nearly all had left.
As he turned to leave, the shadow of the cross fell upon the back and shoulders of the little donkey.
And there it has remained, a tribute to the loyalty and love of the humblest of Gods creatures.

Human Relationships and Character Study
This book presents the opportunity to discuss many different emotions. 
You may want to discuss the following this week:

Have your student pick out examples from the story where one character is teasing another.   How does it feel to be teased?  How should we respond if we are teased?  Look up Ephesians 4:32 and read it.   What does the Bible teach us in treating others?

Acting in Anger
Ephesians 4:26 (see memory verse below) is a good reminder to us about anger.  It's not necessarily wrong to be angry, but we have to be careful about what we do with that anger.  Help give your student some strategies for how to deal with anger.  What are the consequences when we act in anger?  What were Brenda Gail's consequences?

What needed forgiven in the story?  Has your student ever had to ask for forgiveness?  Has she ever had to forgive someone?  Discuss apologies and how they need to come from the heart (not just the lips).  Discuss the importance of forgiving others.  

Memory verse
"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Ephesians 4:26 (New International Version)

Just for fun 

Cook up some biscuits and sausage gravy this week!
Here is a recipe from Dawn (from our Yahoo! Group)

"We use the Bisquick recipe on the back of the box for the biscuits.  Then for the gravy we don't use a recipe, but just do it by eye.  In a frying pan we fry Jimmy Dean sausage until it is brown.  We drain it and add a couple of tablespoons of oil.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder....all to your taste.  Stir so that the sausage is coated.  Add flour and stir until there is a thick coating of flour on the sausage....this is what helps to make the gravy thick.  Then turn the heat to med-high and add milk slowly.  Stir constantly.  It should be boiling while you stir.  Keep adding milk until it looks like you have the right meat to sauce ratio for what you like.  Then cook until thick.....this also depends on how thick or thin you like your gravy.  We like ours a little thicker with lots of sausage.  It is delicious.....hope you like it."

Potato Experiments

More fun with potatoes

Lesson Plans-- Eggs
Chicken Information

Appalachian Culture Heartland Series

Library List

A Quilt for Baby by Kim Lewis
Quilt Counting
by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton; illustrated by Judith Sutton

The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills

From Chick to Chicken  by Jillian Powell

The Chicken or the Egg? by Allan Fowler
The Enormous Potato by Aubrey Davis