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This literature based unit study includes lessons and activities based on the book The Cello of Mr. O by Jane Cutler.

As the war rages on and times get difficult, Mr. O makes his contribution to the community by playing his cello in the square every Wednesday afternoon, thus as things get even more desperate, all in the community soon begin to realize the meaning behind his special gift.

from The Cello of Mr. O summary at

Thanks to Debbie Palmer for preparing this The Cello of Mr. O unit study.

The Cello of Mr. O Unit Study Lessons

Here is a sample of the lessons found in this The Cello of Mr. O unit study:

Social Studies: The Red Cross
Notice the relief truck is from the Red Cross. The Red Cross was the inspiration of Henry Dunant, a Swiss man. During a trip to Italy in 1859, Dunant witnessed the Battle of Solferino. He was horrified to see the aftermath of the battle and that there was no aid for those that had fallen. He organized the women and the children of the area to provide aid to those injured soldiers. After returning from Italy, he wrote A Memory of Solferino, which described his experiences. He later went on to help create the organization of the Red Cross, whose main objectives were to bring aid to the sick and wounded regardless of their nationality. The international symbol of the Red Cross is a white background with a red cross. This symbol was taken from the flag of Switzerland, Henry Dunant’s birthplace. It is basically the reverse of the Swiss flag. The Swiss flag is a red background with a white cross. Have your student find Switzerland on a map.

Music: Cello and the Violin Family
Cello is the shortened form of the Italian word “violoncello” (See language arts lesson on Word Origins). It is a bowed string instrument. The person who plays a cello is called a cellist. It is often heard as a solo instrument in chamber music and in an orchestra. Some of the most famous pieces for the cello include Bach’s six unaccompanied suites. If you can find these it might be nice for your student to listen to some of them.

The cello is a part of the modern violin family. The family consists of the violin, viola, cello, and the double bass. The violin has the highest “voice” in the family and is like the soprano of the group. The viola is the alto and larger than the violin. The cello is the tenor. The double bass is the bass voice.

As each voice gets lower, each instrument gets bigger with the violin being the smallest of the family and the bass, the largest. To play the violin and viola the musician must put the instrument under his/her chin. With the cello, the musician must sit with the instrument between the knees like Mr. O does in the story, but the bass is so large that the musician must stand to play it. All four instruments are played with a bow, but they can be plucked also.

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach
The music of Bach is mentioned in the story. Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Germany on March 21, 1685. He came from a family of musicians. Over 300 years of Bachs all worked as musicians! During his lifetime, Bach had three major jobs: he worked for a duke, he worked for a prince, and he became the director of music at the St. Thomas Church and School in Leipzig, Germany. His music did not make him famous until 100 years after his death. Although Bach may be famous for his music, there is something else that made him famous during his lifetime: his twenty children! Five of the boys were named Johann and two of the girls were named Johanna! A few of his children grew up to be composers themselves. Bach died on July 28, 1750. Probably the best way to experience Bach is to listen to his music. Pick up some of his music at the library for your student to listen to. Does he/she recognize some of the songs?

You can grab a copy of the entire The Cello of Mr. O unit study in an easy-to-print file at the end of this post.

How to Get Started with the The Cello of Mr. O Unit Study

Follow these simple instructions to get started with the The Cello of Mr. O unit study:

  1. Buy a copy of the book, The Cello of Mr. O, or borrow one from your local library. Unfortunately, the book is currently out of print, but you may be able to borrow one from your library’s interlibrary loan program.
  2. Print the The Cello of Mr. O unit study.
  3. Choose the lessons you want to use with your student (a highlighter works great for this).
  4. Enjoy a week of book-based learning with your student.

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The Cello of Mr. O Unit Study

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