FIAR – Three Names

Three Names is about a grandfather’s retelling of his old school days on the prairie with his dog, named “Three Names.  I have to be honest, I wasn’t as into this story as I was some of the other ones.  The kiddos seemed a bit distracted, too – maybe because it was kind of long?  Or maybe they just didn’t understand it?  I don’t know.   

Geography/History/Social Studies
I didn’t pull a lot of elements from the story to focus on, so maybe the content just felt weak and uninteresting.  But we did talk about the prairie eco-system, what lives and grows on the prairie and which states contain prairie.   

Gwen and I did this neat online interactive activity called Build-a-Prairie.  We “built” two types of prairie – tall grass and short grass – and had to populate them with vegetation and wildlife.  Along the way there are all sorts of tidbits of information with actual pictures; I didn’t read all of the technical stuff but it was great for giving you more of an idea of what the prairie is like.

Since the story is set in the past, we did a little activity comparing old-fashioned items with more modern inventions.  Some of them weren’t entirely clear because we use them at our house – like a clothesline and a wood stove, candles when we lost power! – but for the most part it put things into perspective.

Language Arts
We read the story and identified some vocabulary words, which we then talked about.

There were quite a few examples of simile in the story, so I took the opportunity to introduce this new literary concept.  I compared it to onomatopoeia, in the it might be a strange new word, but it’s really an easy concept about comparing two things.  We did a couple simile activities, filling in the blank with all sorts of similes about ice cream (cold as “ice,” soft as “snow,” colorful as a “rainbow,” etc.) and identifying sentences with and without like or as comparisons.

Fine Arts

Gwen chose a picure of a wagon in the story to reproduce in watercolor.  We don’t have special paints, just your basic tray of watercolors, but she did a great job with the wheels and spokes.  It’s neat to see her attention to detail as she gets older.

Since the story is based on a dog, I showed her this neat way to draw a dog, building upon each using different shapes. 

The students in the one-room schoolhouse make paper chains for a class Christmas party, so the kiddos helped me cut up construction paper which I stapled into a chain.  We each guessed how many pieces of paper were in the chain and counted them before hanging it up in the living room.

I’m finding out that the science activities are usually the most fun, for me and the kiddos.  They’re usually more hands-on and involve some sort of neat experiment or observation.

The story talks about the tornadoes that occur in the prairie, so we read a book about tornadoes and made a tornado-in-a-jar.  SUCH a hit with the kids!  We mixed water, vinegar, dish soap and glitter in a tall vase then swirled them really fast with a butter knife – presto, a tornado!  They wanted to do this again and again.  Later, I discovered we had stirred so much with the knife that we cracked the vase – oops.

We talked about high winds during a storm or tornado, during which we learned about windmills, so I had Josiah get his pinwheel to show them the basic concept.

Ironically, I had used up our whole bag of potatoes making crock pot baked potatoes earlier in the week – a revelation! – and I had wanted to make potatoes with fresh butter as in the story.  Instead, we attempted butter in a jar (which evolved into butter from the mixer), which we spread on French bread.  Yum!  Once we gave up the arm-tiring shaking of the jars, it was really easy whipping up the cream in the mixer.  It first becomes whipped cream, then eventually separates into butter and buttermilk.  I saved the buttermilk to use in pancakes the next day; the fresh butter itself was a bit hit.  I’ll have to keep an eye on sale prices as I much prefer butter this way than the packaged sticks.


One of our vocabulary words for the story was “aggie,” a marble made from agate.  A favorite pasttime for the children in the story is to play a game of marbles, so one evening before bed we played our own game.  What fun!  The kiddos don’t quite get the correct way to shoot a marble, so it’s most entertaining to watch.  We used a little quilt on the floor as our playing area, and as Gwen won marbles she would place them just so on little squares within the quilt – so cute.


Bell Museum’s Build-a-Prairie
Homeschool Share’s Three Names resources
Aussie Pumpkin Patch’s Three Names pack
Step into 2nd Grade’s simile printables
Tornado in a jar inspiration

Go-Along Books
A Prairie Alphabet
Prairie Town
My First Little House Books – A Little Prairie House
My First Little House Books – A Little Prairie House
What Live in the Prairie?
Prairie Dogs
Our Puppies are Growing
Feel the Wind
Tornado Alert

*See my Five in a Row (FIAR) Pinterest board for more inspiration.