Monday, June 20, 2011

About Five in a Row (FIAR)--My review

We recently started doing a new program called "Five in a Row".  Five in a Row (often abbreviated FIAR) is basically a set of unit studies involving great children's book.  We are doing this program in addition to our regular handwriting, reading, and math.  It is just basically a way for us to sneak in some more great books and help make some wonderful memories this summer.
 Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 1
The creator of Five in a Row is named Jane C. Lambert.  One of the first things you will notice when you start researching FIAR is what WONDERFUL books are included in the program.  Lambert has an uncanny knack for choosing very high quality children's literature to include in her program.  Books that not only appeal to the adult in the child, but the child in the adult.  (You will enjoy reading them to your children as much as they enjoy listening!)  Some of the books are popular classics that you will probably all ready be familiar with.  Other of the books are more obscure, but they will most likely become welcome additions to your home library.

When Lambert set out to create FIAR she noticed that many children love repetition when it comes to their favorite picture books.  (As parents we know that too as we often wind up reading the same book over and over again to our kids!)  So she put together a program that utilized this natural want for repetition.  She used it to explore various aspects of this book in a deeper way.   So, the basic premise behind FIAR is that a book is read to the child five days in a row.   With each reading, a different aspect of the book is explored further.   This process is often refereed to as "rowing" a book.

Here is a description of what "rowing" a book might look like from the FIAR website:
"The first time you read a story, children simply want to discover what happens. But each day we peel back the story, learning to write using some of the techniques the story's writer has used or learning to draw or paint using some of the techniques, materials or palettes the illustrator has used. We learn more about the culture or setting where the story took place, etc. So with each new reading, the child can look at the illustrations, think about the cuisine or the architecture; appreciate the writing style, etc. Each day builds on the previous days learning experience. And each reading builds a bond with the book for your child so that they develop a deep and abiding love for each wonderful story. Then each time they read the story they'll recall and strengthen their grasp on the dozens of lessons learned from that beloved book."
Five in a Row can also be a very affordable program for families to participate in.  Once you get your hands on one of the Five in a Row instructors guides, all you really need to "row" a book is a library card.  I saw somewhere that someone had worked out that the average minimum costs of a FIAR unit study is 5 cents or something ridiculously low.   I am not exactly sure how that was calculated, but I can tell you that it is possible to do FIAR for next to nothing.  So it is a great program for those on a budget.

Another reason FIAR is so popular is all of the flexibility built into the program.  The program covers a wide range of ages.  So siblings can all enjoy reading and listening to the books together.  More complex studies are included for the older kids and less complex subjects are included for the younger kids.  Also, there are MULTIPLE options for each subject included in the instructors guide.  This allows the parent to choose things that they think their kids would actually be interested in learning about.  I also know that some families will "row" a book multiple times because it is nearly impossible to cover all of the options given in 5 days.  The parent also has maximum flexibility when it comes to choosing the order that the books are rowed.  The parent can start with ANY of the books included in any of the four volumes of instructors guides.  There is no right or wrong order when it comes to FIAR.  (This is helpful when it comes to library reservations.  You could potentially row a book as you get it.)

Perhaps the greatest thing about FIAR is that it teaches us to become critical readers.  I know as a parent, I have gotten so much out of FIAR too.  Lambert has taught me to notice all of fascinating details of books that I might have completely passed over before.  She has taught me a new level of appreciation for the art work in these picture books.  She has taught me how to look for and notice all of the particulars that make up a great story.  She has taught me to read critically, ask questions about the story, and not to take so much for granted.  I hope that this is a skill that my children pick up while doing FIAR too.

Potential FIAR Pitfalls--

OK, OK, so I told you all of the good stuff about Five in a Row, let me discuss some of the cons.

First and foremost, I mentioned that FIAR can be done for next to nothing.  However, I didn't mention that one could very easily spend hundred of dollars "rowing" these books.  When it comes to the cultural recipes, the field trips, the "go-along" books and movies, and everything else that could be done with these books, the money can add up quickly. I mean, the sky is the limit when it comes to what is done with these books.  So I caution people that while it can be done for next to nothing, you need to watch out because things can up quickly!

Secondly, be aware that FIAR can be very planning intensive for the parents.   Much more planning intensive than other literature based curriculum like Sonlight for example.  This is probably the biggest con for me when it comes to the program.  The program is a lot of fun.  The program is also very rewarding.  But expect to put in a lot of outside planning time.   If you talk to some parents using FIAR they will admit that they spend a significant part of their free time planning for these "rowing" adventures.  It is very easy for parents to become burnt out after only several weeks of FIAR.  I know this first hand.  When the kids were younger I actually started the Before Five in a Row program.  (It is for kids 2-4 years old.)  However, the planning was just too much for me at the time.  SO, we just used Before Five in a Row as a reading list.  I referred to the Before Five in a Row teacher's guide whenever I needed ideas, but I wasn't able to do the program strictly.   In another article, I am going to talk about some tricks for making FIAR less of a burden when it comes to planning.  Please stay tuned!

Another con to the program is that some children simply aren't going to like reading the book that many times in a row.  Most kids like repetition, but some simply do not.  Despite what you might read online, FIAR is not going to be a good fit for all families.   I have found that if the child starts to grow weary of listening to the book it is best not to force the issue.  Instead, you can work around this issue by perhaps just pointing out a particular illustration that you want to talk about---Or perhaps just reading an exert from the book instead of the whole book.

Five in a Row Instructor's Guides:
Before Five in a Row

Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 1

Five in a Row, Vol. 2 
Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 3 
Beyond Five In A Row Ages 8-12 volume 1 

Disclaimer:  I was not compensated by Five in a Row for this review in any way.  These opinions are a result of my direct experience with the product.


Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

I always thought that FIAR is not going to work for my daughter who reads 30+ new books every week and constantly asks for more. However, we tried this approach on Madeline this week, and she kind of got into the spirit, especially after I told her that we will put together a lapbook for it.

Ac said...

Fiar tips for planning can you link me to the article if poss?


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