First Grade Reading Week of 4/20 — Advertising Techniques

This week in first grade reading, we talked about advertising techniques.  We discussed a list of different techniques, including:

  • Association
  • Call to Action
  • Claim
  • Fear
  • Games and Activities
  • Humor
  • Hype
  • Must-have
  • Prizes, sweepstakes, and gifts
  • Repetition
  • Sales and price
  • Sense appeal
  • Special ingredients
  • Testimonials and endorsements

In class, I gave each student an ad and we discussed which of the ads used which of these techniques.  For homework, the kids need to choose an ad of their own and figure out which techniques are used in the ad.  All of the techniques and their definitions are listed on the back of the homework paper.

I loved reading the homework papers the kids completed about the Z form. It was fascinating to me how many of the ads (99%, I say completely non-scientfically) followed the Z-form.  Who knew?

Next week, I will be at a meeting all day Wednesday so we will not have first grade reading.  The week after, we will delve into analysis of television commericals.  All that TV watching should come in handy!  (But don’t let them snow you and tell you that I assigned TV as homework again, because I didn’t!).

Second Grade Strategic Thinking — Blokus

This week in strategic thinking, we played the game Blokus.

Blokus is a two- to- four- player game where each player is assigned a color and 21 game pieces in that color in different geometric shapes.  The goal of the game is to put as many of your pieces on the board as possible.  The trick is that all of your pieces need to touch one another, but only at the corners — none of the sides may touch sides of pieces of the same color, and none of the pieces may be free-floating.

True Blokus-devotees know the official names for the pieces, so I provided the kids with a cheat sheet to help them learn the names:

We then discussed strategy.  I gave the kids the following strategic tips:

  1. Play toward the center.  Since you want to cover as much of the board as possible, start by claiming as much of the board as you can by placing your pieces in a line angling toward the center.
  2. Play your biggest pieces first.  You should play a five-square piece if you can, unless you have a strategic reason why a smaller piece makes more sense (and usually you don’t have such a reason).
  3. Block your opponent from moving into your territory.
  4. Save your one-square piece for as long as you can, and use it to jump into another area if at all possible.

Then I set them loose to play.  One of the great things about Blokus is that it’s often easy to see who is winning just by glancing at the board from across the room.  It’s easy to tell who is working toward the center, and who is playing their biggest pieces first.  Kids who play Blokus with their pieces all in a pile clearly aren’t paying attention to what they have or thinking about their next move(s).

The kids were divided about the game.  Many of them loved it, but an almost equal number were frustrated and found it more difficult than they expected.  They forgot to try to anticipate their opponents’ moves and were upset when the moves they planned to make wound up blocked.  It was a good lesson in considering not just your strategic moves but the moves of your opponents as well.

I highly recommend Blokus for play at home.  You can buy it on Amazon here and the free app is available here.

Kindergarten Reading Weeks of 4/13 and 4/20 — Frances, Frog & Toad, Real Me, Similes and Metaphors

Last week, each of the kindergarten reading groups took home a different book.  One group took home Best Friends for Frances, one group took home Frog and Toad All Year, and one group took home The Real Me.  Each group then answered questions and completed an activity having to do with the book.  They did a great job!  In the coming weeks, each group will take home the books they haven’t read yet.

This week, we talked about similes and metaphors.  I explained to the students that similes and metaphors are kinds of comparisons.  Similes make comparisons using the words like or as (or sometimes resembles or than).  Therefore,”he swims like a fish” must be a simile, because it uses the word like.  Metaphors make comparisons without using these words.  Therefore, “he is a fish” must be a metaphor, because I’m not saying that someone is literally a fish, I’m comparing them to a fish because they are such a great swimmer.

After we talked about the differences, we played two different simile and metaphor games. The first was called “Fling the Teacher.”  It involves building a fictional teacher and then answering 15 questions correctly to build a cataplut.  Once the catapult is built, you can fling the teacher off the catapult.  The second was a version of Jeopardy with questions about similes and metaphors.  The kids did a great job with both games.

Homework is a sheet of statements that the kids need to identify as similes or metaphors.  The back side requires the kids to write “ironic similies,” or similes designed to show that something is not really what you say it is.  Examples include “clear as mud,” “hot as ice,” “quiet as a roar.”  The kids loved coming up with these kinds of contrary similes.  From what I’ve seen of the homework so far, they did a fantastic job coming up with examples at home, too.

First Grade Reading: Analyzing Advertising with the Z Form

This week in first grade reading, we spent some time analyzing print advertisements.  With my first group, I gave each student a magazine and instructions to choose a full-page advertisement for a product.  It quickly became clear that almost all first graders find it impossible to tell advertisements from magazaine articles.  Interesting, huh?  Most of the kids were totally stumped and needed a lot of help to identify ads.  With the next two groups, I chose the ads in advance.  This also helped weed out the kids who were determined to pick ads with big pictures of toilets.  We’ll call it a win.

Next, we talked about the Z form.  The Z form theory posits that, if you learned to read left-to-right, your eyes will scan over the page from left to right in a Z form, like this:

Z Form

Marketing firms use this theory to place ad elements where they will catch your eyes.   At the top there will usually be something to lead your eyes in, then something catchy in the middle, and the logo will usually appear in the lower middle area, to the right.

I used the following ad as an example:

z form adAs you can see, when I placed this Macy’s ad in my Z-inator (a page protector with a Z drawn on it in Sharpie. So fancy!), the ad followed the format to a… well, Z.  At the top they draw your eye in by reminding you that Father’s Day is coming up and dad’s are awesome.  In the middle you see the clothing items you could buy for your dad, and a picture letting you know that hopefully they’ll make him as happy as the chipper dad in the ad.  At the bottom is the Macy’s logo.

The kids then examined their ads for the Z form and we discussed which ones followed the format (spoiler alert:  most did), and which ones didn’t.  We went over the homework sheet, which is to do the same thing at home — find a full-page advertisement and analyze it to see if it follows the Z form.

Apologies if for the rest of your life you only see Z’s when you look at ads!

Second Grade Strategic Thinking — Working Backwards and Finding the Key Move

This week and last (I was out last Tuesday, so going forward the Thursday classes will have the lesson first), we covered the strategies WORKING BACKWARDS and FINDING THE KEY MOVE.

We played the game Rush Hour by Think Fun:

About half of the kids were familiar with the game and had played it before.  In the end, this didn’t really prove to be as much of an advantage as the kids thought it would be.  Now that they were using specific strategies that they may not have articulated before, their play was different.  It was interesting to watch them realize this.

The object of Rush Hour is to free the red car from the traffic jam by sliding the cars backward and forward.  Cars in columns must move up and down and cars in rows must move back and forth.  Cars cannot jump from row to row or column to column.

First, we talked about FINDING THE KEY MOVE.  A lot of the time, this is sliding one (or more) of the three-space trucks down to the bottom of the board.  The kids practiced setting up the board and then pausing to identify the key move.  I could hear them doing this from across the room (“I can’t find the key moooooove!”)

Next, we discussed WORKING BACKWARDS.  Once you identify the key move, ask yourself what you have to make happen in order to effectuate the key move.  The kids were really good at this.  They worked backwards through all the steps — I need to move this truck, which means I need to move this car, which means I need to move this truck, etc.  Sometimes this requires moving a car only to move it immediately back when the blockage is moved.  The sooner the kids accepted that backtracking was sometimes necessary, the better off they were.

Rush Hour is a fantastic game for strategic thinking.  Working out which moves depend on one another is straightforward and doing so clearly leads to success.  The Rush Hour app is fantastic and I highly recommend it to fill time while waiting in the doctor’s office (for you or your child — not that I’m admitting that I play it at home on my own.).  There is a free version so you can give it a try before committing to the $3 for the paid version.  You can find the app here and the game itself here.

First Grade Math week of 4/6/15 — Fiddle Faddle Flop

In first grade math this week, we played a game called Fiddle Faddle Flop.  This is a number guessing game.  The game leader thinks of a 3-digit number with no repeated digits and then the students take turns guessing.  The game leader then tells if each digit is a:

Fiddle:  the right digit in the right place

Faddle:  the right digit in the wrong place

Flop:  The wrong digit in the wrong place

For example, if the secret number is 345

Student guesses 351

The game leader says:  fiddle, faddle, flop

Student guesses 245

The game leader says:  flop, fiddle, fiddle

Student guesses 345

The game leader says: fiddle, fiddle, fiddle

The kids picked it up pretty quickly, though some had trouble remembering to eliminate digits entirely if they had been revealed as “flops.”  We played several rounds and students ran the game at the end.  (They received payment for their services!  Ask them about it!)

Homework is to teach a family member to play Fiddle Faddle Flop and play two games.  Good luck!

Kindergarten Math — Fractions and Chocolate

Welcome (or welcome back) to kindergarten math!  I see each kindergarten math group once a week for half an hour on Thursday or Friday afternoons. This week, we talked about how some of the work we do in the group, and some of the questions we ask and answer, will be difficult sometimes. That’s okay! We’re here to push their limits, and that is what we’ll do.

There will be homework almost every week. This week, as always, your child’s name and the due date is written at the top of the homework in green. That’s how you know it comes from me. Homework is due one week from the day it is assigned. It’s always okay to turn it in early!

This week, I opened class by offering the students the choice of 1/4 of a Hershey bar or 1/12 of a Hershey bar.  Most of the time, the majority of the kids choose the 1/12.  This year, however, that wasn’t the case.  In some groups, it was pretty evenly divided.  In some, the majority of the students chose the 1/4.  I then showed the whole group what 1/4 of a Hershey bar looks like and then what 1/12 looks like.  There were some sad students.  I offered the kids the chance to change their mind, and everyone who had picked 1/12 switched to 1/4.

We then did a little introduction to fractions, talking about how the denominator represents the number of parts into which the whole is divided and the numerator represents the number of pieces you get.  A bigger denominator means more pieces and therefore the pieces are smaller.  The kids seemed to understand this.  I gave each student 1/2 of a Hershey bar and we used the pieces to represent different fractions.  After I confirmed that the students understood, we threw all of the chocolate away.  Just kidding, of course.  It seemed like it would be a terrible idea to waste all that sugar, so we each ate our half of a Hershey bar.

Homework this week is a short fraction sheet about parts of a whole.  It parallels what we did in class, so it should be relatively straightforward.  Not quite as sweet as a candy bar, but it will have to do.