Second Grade Humanities Welcomes Special Guest

IMG_6162 Today in second grade humanities, we were extraordinarily lucky to have a special visitor.  My former law school classmate (and Anand and Ashwin’s mom), Shilpa Satoskar, came to talk to us about the law.  Shilpa is an attorney for the Appellate Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.  She talked to the kids about so many different things.  They learned the difference between direct evidence and circumstantial evidence (can your child tell you the difference?).  They learned how to pick a jury.  They thought about how to write questions for witnesses in a way that elicited the parts of the story most favorable to their side of the case.  Shilpa talked to them about appeals, since that is her specialty, and explained that she represents parties who seek to have their convictions overturned.  Shilpa writes briefs on their behalf and then argues in front of a three-judge (7)

IMG_6163Shilpa then helped the kids work on their questions.  Most of the students brought back the ten questions they were supposed to have written for homework, but there were definitely some who did not.  Please send these in as soon as you can!  We are under the gun preparing for trial, especially since we won’t have school next Tuesday because of conference day.

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The kids also took turns questioning each other, acting alternately as witnesses and attorneys.  Their knowledge of trial strategy is pretty impressive.

IMG_6167Keep working on those questions!  Next time, I will collect them all and pool them in Schoology.  Though now that I’ve set up a course for our class, I realize I need to separate it into prosecution and defense.  That will be the next order of business from my end!

Thank you, Shilpa, for spending the morning with us!  The kids (and I) all loved hearing from an expert!

First Grade Reading — Mystery Solved!

Alas, the day has come where the first grade readers became privy to all of the information surrounding the case of the Pilfered Hippopotamus.

For homework last week, the first graders wrote persuasive paragraphs explaining who they thought committed the crime and why.  Their paragraphs were impressive — super detailed and full of factual support for their hypotheses.  In the end, most kids correctly identified the two guilty parties:  Brandon and Julia.

We knew Brandon looked guilty because he brought the brown dye, he brought pie, he didn’t drink from the cup, his footprints (well, footprint!) were at the scene of the crime, he wanted to swim in the ocean, and he was wearing a purple cotton sweater.  We knew Julia looked guilty because she didn’t drink from the cup, her footprints were at the scene of the crime, Danny smelled like her shampoo, she brought pie, and she has a dog, whose hair was found on Danny and whose footprints were found at the scene of the crime.

In case you were wondering (we were!), the mystery powder in the ice cubes (and then the juice) was indeed sleeping powder.  Ask your kids how the powder wound up in the juice!

After we solved the mystery, we did a little work with secret codes, and the kids have a code assignment for homework.

I will not see the kids for reading next week because they have the first grade Fall Festival all day next Wednesday, but we’ll be back on track the following week.

Second Grade Math — Blueprints and Scale

This week in second grade math, we talked about scale (again).  I think the kids are starting to get it?  I hope so!

We discussed how a typical mini-golf hole is 24 to 40 feet long, and our tabletop holes will be 24 to 36 inches long.  I asked the kids — if a typical mini-golf hole is 24 feet long, and a tabletop hole is 24 inches long, what is the scale?  This is actually a pretty tricky question because it requires converting inches to feet, but in every class I had at least one student who immediately answered 1:12.  It was impressive and a little bit spooky.

The kids sketched their tabletop holes if they weren’t ready to make blueprints.  Those who were ready used graph paper and straight edges and/or T-squares to create to scale side view and bird’s eye view blueprints of their tabletop holes.  This was tougher than it sounds, and some of the kids struggled.

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Working on sketches or blueprints.

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Young architects at work!

Most students are working on themed holes.  We have jungle, disco, computer, roller coaster, ocean, and sports holes in progress, among others!

We will start building holes next week and we need supplies!  Do you have any boxes hanging around that you could donate?  How about paper towel tubes or construction paper?  We welcome all of it!

I told the kids that if they had something particular in mind for their holes, then they needed to supply it (e.g., one student’s hole has a wooly mammoth as part of it.  That student will probably need clay to make the wooly mammoth).  I will store all of the materials in my room and I told the students that they could bring items there at any time and leave them behind my desk.  Thank you in advance for anything that you can contribute!

Second Grade Humanities — Writing Questions

This week in second grade humanities, we watched clips of several fairy tale mock trials put together by kids (and, in one case, adults). I promised the kids I would put the links here so they could watch the full videos at home, so here they are!

6th Grade Goldilocks and the Three Bears

Golidlocks mock trial put on by adults with kids as jury

Fifth graders Hansel and Gretel mock trial

We also used this fairy tale mock trial transcript to help us model our questions.

For homework this week, the kids have each been assigned a witness. Each student needs to write at least ten questions for his or her witness and bring them to class next week.

First Grade Reading — Crime Lab Day Two

Last week in First Grade Reading, we performed another series of Crime Lab tests designed to get us closer to discovering the culprit in our Pilfered Hippopotamus Mystery.

First, we examined three cups.  One contained salt crystals, one contained sugar crystals, and one contained the “mystery crystals” found on Danny at the scene of the crime.

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The kids looked closely at all of the crystals and tried to determine if the mystery crystals best matched the salt crystals (which were chunky) or the sugar crystals (which were smooth and shiny).

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Next, we performed a tape lift to determine what particles were stuck to Danny.  We ripped off a small piece of tape and pressed it to Danny.

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We then stuck the piece of tape to a white piece of paper to examine what we had removed.  Was it dog hair?  Grass?  And who looked guilty based on what we found?

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At the next station, we examined three types of thread — cotton thread, wool thread, and the mystery threads found at the scene of the crime.  Were the mystery threads smoother and tighter, like the cotton threads?  Or were they wiry and loose, like the wool thread?  Who was wearing cotton and who was wearing wool?

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The next-to-last station required testing the white powder found on Danny.  At the station there was a cup of mystery white powder.  Was it powder used to make cookies, or powder used to make pie?  The kids used an eyedropper to add Iodine to the powder.  The station directions informed them that if the powder turned bright yellow, it was cookie powder.  If the powder turned purple or black, it was pie powder.  Who brought cookies and who brought pie?

FullSizeRender (22)Finally, the students tested the melted ice cubes to determine if they had contained a mystery substance.  The station directions informed them that if they dipped pH paper in the melted ice cubes and the paper stayed yellow, the ice cubes were simply water.  If the pH paper turned green, the ice cubes contained a mystery substance.

We then sat down to take a long look at our Data Sheets and Clue Boards.  Who looked guilty based on the tests we had performed?  What did we think happened based on the evidence we had found?

I sent the Data Sheets and Clue Boards home so that the kids could use them to complete their homework assignment — writing a paragraph or two that explains their theory of what happened and their best guess as to who took Danny.

Throughout this unit, I have been impressed by the kids’ attention to detail and their ability to make appropriate inferences.  There are a lot of pieces to tie together here, and they have shown great facility at taking information obtained in one way and applying it somewhere else.  Most of them have been careful not to jump to conclusions, and to modify their theories when the evidence contradicts them.  If I needed a group of detectives, I would hire them for sure!  If I needed a group of first graders who could pay attention to a text, make inferences about it, and connect it to other texts and situations, well, I’d hire them for that, too!

Second Grade Math — Newton’s Laws of Motion and Trial Mini Golf Holes

Last week in Second Grade Math, we spent some time discussing Newton’s Laws of Motion.  We started (just to be tricky) with Newton’s Second Law:

We talked about how acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass, and how the greater the mass, the greater the amount of force is needed.  The kids easily identified the mass in mini golf as the ball and acknowledged that this is a concept they’ve always intuitively understood — the bigger the object, the harder you have to work to get it to move.

We then talked about the Third Law of Motion — for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  I asked the kids:  if my action is hitting the ball with the putter, what is the equal and opposite reaction?  They didn’t hesitate before answering that the reaction is the movement of the ball.  They were also able to explain that the movement is caused by the elastic collision between the putter and the ball.

The balls we used in class were pieces of Kix cereal.  As you can imagine, when stepped on, the piece of Kix does not bounce away from the foot. Which is what led one student to bring me a smashed ball and utter these words I tweeted last week:

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The kids then got to work using cardstock, scissors, and tape to make trial versions of their tabletop mini golf holes.  They tried making ramps and tunnels and other different formations.  They used their putters and balls to play the holes to see how they worked.  As they designed, I walked around and talked to each one of them about Newton’s Laws of Motion to be sure they understood.

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Making ramps.

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Attaching a tunnel to the ramp.

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Testing out the tunnel with the ball.

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Using the putter to play the hole.

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This one needed a wall to contain the ball.

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Sometimes a desktop doesn’t provide enough space to work.

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Good thing we have room on the floor.

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Concentrating hard!

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Playing tabletop mini golf on the floor can’t be good for your back!

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So some of us chose to sit down!

We will be working on the architectural drawings of our holes next week, and then it will be time to construct the real holes.  Do you have things around the house that we could use — boxes, cardboard, box lids, etc.?  We welcome any donations!  The kids can just bring them to my room and leave them behind my desk.

Second Grade ACE Humanities — Trial Preparation

This week in Second Grade ACE Humanities, we really dug into our witness statements to see how they looked for our case.  To their utter dismay, the kids found that the witnesses for their side often said seriously damaging things.  There were audible gasps as the students read the statements and contemplated their implications.

The kids busily highlighted, starred, and circled relevant portions of the statements.  We discussed how each side would need to draft an opening statement, questions for direct examination of their witnesses, questions for cross examination of the other side’s witnesses, and a closing statement.

The students diligently tried to start writing questions but it rapidly became clear that they didn’t really know what to do and needed guidance.  Many (most, probably) have no real concept of what a trial looks or sounds like.  Next week, we will screen a few clips of fairy tale mock trials done at other elementary schools, which I think will give them a better idea of how to begin.

Parents will be invited to attend the trial if interested.  I’m not exactly sure when it will be yet, but I’m guessing Tuesday, December 2nd.  I’m already nervous about not being ready in time — but I know we can do it!