This free, printable, unit study is a ministry of Heather Idoni, and Funschooling Units
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Book by Virginia Lee Burton

Unit study by Lori Carter

Edited by Karen Caroe

This literature-based unit study is designed along the concept of the FIVE IN A ROW curriculum. If you like this style of unit study, I recommend you visit the FIAR website and learn more about it.

Here are some helpful hints associated with this kind of unit study that will allow you and your child(ren) to get the most from the study.

1. This unit will typically take one week. (It can be expanded to two.)
2. You must read the book everyday as part of working the unit. (This will not be boring. Be creative.)
3. If expanding the unit to 2 weeks, you can read the book every other day. Or everyday for the first week and a couple of times the second week.
4. The unit study is written as a one-week unit with character-building Bible supplement. Ideas for expansion are noted throughout the unit.
5. There are 5 subjects plus Bible. You select one subject to do each day and include Bible as you see fit.


Language Arts

1) Begin every literature unit with a good look at the specifics of the book.
*Illustrator (if separate from author)

2) Personification.
* This is a literary device in which the author attributes personal or human character or qualities to a non-living thing. It is common in children's literature. Teach the term and correct usage to your child(ren)
* Can you think of other "things" in children's books that have been personified?
* Have your student think of some sentences that show examples of personification. For older students, try writing a paragraph or a short story.

3) Classic Literature.
*A classic is a book that has stood the test of time. It has been enjoyed by readers for many years. This term should become part of your child's vocabulary. Though the time period may be dated and the style different, the story is still fresh and appealing.
*Refer back to the copyright. Have your child figure out how many years have passed since the book was written. Try to identify that time with someone the child knows who may have been about their age at the time. This helps the student see how long the book has been around and why it is called a "classic."

4) Writing Style
* Notice how the words are laid out on each page and how they compliment the illustrations.
* It appears to be written as poetry but not all words rhyme.
* Find the rhyming words.

5) Vocabulary words.
* fares
* economical
* route
* committee
* petition
* ballot
* poll

6) Expansion ideas: Talk about the rhythm of the writing.


1) Geography
* Find San Francisco on the map. Notice the bay.
2) Jobs people do
* Make a list of the many occupations mentioned in the book. Try to find out what the responsibilities were for each job.
3) Transportation
* Talk about the importance of transportation to our lives. Make a little book of "vehicles" from this book. Give each vehicle a page. Title it (ie Cable Car) and draw, cut out, or use some other medium to show what it looks like. Write a couple of sentences about it.
4 ) Civics: Define "democracy" and "petition". Talk about our system of government and the importance of voting and participating in government.
5) History: Talk about the history of San Francisco. Some possible subjects/questions might be:
* The Gold Rush
* Chinatown: Why does San Francisco have a Chinatown?
* Who invented Cable Cars and why?
* How long has the 49 ers football team been around? Why do they have that name?
* Expansion topic: Transcontinental Railroad.


1) Talk about construction and engineering. See if you can find a picture of Lombard Street. Also, the Golden Gate Bridge.
2) Electricity: How do cable cars run?
* Try different projects with static electricity. Balloons are good for this.
*Build your own electric generator or battery. You can make your own bell.
*IMPORTANT: If you select electricity to study with this unit, do not neglect to teach safety around electricity and in electrical storms.
3) Geology: Study earthquakes--specifically the ones that have hit San Francisco. How does this effect construction design?


1) Talk about the way votes were counted in the book--using tally marks. Practice using tally marks.
2) Tie math in with construction and the importance of measuring.
3) Discuss the Richter Scale for measuring earthquakes
4) Practice figuring elapsed time. How many years has it been since Maybelle ran?


Focus your study on noticing what techniques were used to make the pictures "active".
1) Find pictures that show rain.
2) Pictures that show wind blowing.
3) Pictures that show lights glowing.
4) How does Burton show the geography of San Francisco?
5) Do you get the feeling of moving up and down and around? Why?
6) How can you tell when it is daytime/nighttime?


The charater quality to get from this story is contentment. Being content with who you are and trusting God's Plan for you.
1) How does Maybelle show contentment/ discontent?
2) What about "Bill"? Was he content? What was his negative character trait? (Pride)
3) Can you think of a character in the Bible who was content or learned contentment?
4) Look up and memorize some verses about being content no matter what the circumstances.


I hope you enjoy this unit study about Maybelle the Cable Car. These kinds of studies are so much fun and have many topics that can be revisited in the years ahead.


For questions, comments, and suggestions, Please e-mail Heather at

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