Literature Unit Study: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

This post is part of the 31 MORE Days of Literature Unit Studies series. You can find all of the links to the thirty-one studies in this post. If you’d like to use these ideas to create your own unit study, this post has step-by-step instructions as well as a free unit study planner. (Want to know more about what, exactly, a unit study is? This post will help.)

While you’re reading and working on your unit study, you can download this free printables pack of graphic organizers for reading. It has a plot chart, venn diagram, KWL chart, two mini book report organizers, a character analysis chart, a plot outline chart, and a reading response sheet where students can record facts while reading.

Literature unit study for When I Was Young in the Mountains
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When I Was Young in the Mountains is a simple book. But the writing and illustrations are beautiful. Even young kids will enjoy the author’s account of growing up in her grandparent’s mountain home.

Book Information

Author- Cynthia Rylant
Recommended ages– K- 3rd grade
Synopsis- The author shares with readers her life, growing up in the Appalachian mountains with her grandparents. Life was much simpler without some of our modern conveniences. The story is told in a simple way with beautiful illustrations.

Language Arts

Creative writing- This beautiful story is all about the author’s memories of growing up. Have kids think of several things that are favorites they would like to always remember about growing up. Older kids can write these in a mini book and illustrate them. Younger kids can dictate to you and then illustrate.
Compare and contrast– Use a Venn Diagram (included in the free packet mentioned above) to have kids compare things they like and how they live with those mentioned in the author’s story. Does their life have similarities? Differences?
Creative writing- The author talks about supper with her family. Have kids write and illustrate a menu of their favorite supper.


Coal- Try this science experiment to make colorful crystals from coal.
Snakes-The author’s grandmother chases a snake out of the chicken yard. Learn more about snakes from LiveScience.
SnakesRead more about black snakes and what they eat here.

History/Social Studies

General stores- The author and her brother went to a general store that sold a variety of good. Kids may not be familiar with the idea of a general store because there aren’t many around today. Wonderopolis has a good explanation of what a general store is. This site also has some pictures of general stores- modern and historical.
History of indoor plumbing- The author talks about having to use the Johnny House in the middle of the night and about pumping water from a hand pump outside. This article has a timeline that leads up to indoor plumbing as we know it today. It might be too much information for younger kids, but there are some good pictures. And it’s pretty interesting to know how plumbing has come to be as we know it.
Geography- Draw the Appalachian mountains on a blank US map that you can print here. This article has information about the Appalachians and a map that shows where they are.

Crafts and Fun

Make pinto beans, cornbread, and fried okra to have a supper like the author in the story.
Create a diorama of the Appalachian Mountains. You can get inspired by the photos here. And this article has information about how to create a diorama.
When I Was Young in the Mountains literature unit study


Don’t miss the other literature units in this series!

Literature unit studies for kids

The Homeschool Post

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