First Grade Reading: The Case of the Pilfered Hippopotamus, Week Two

Week Two of the Case of the Pilfered Hippopotamus is upon us!  During class, I told the kids the facts of the case.  We met our main characters (and suspects!) — five friends named Sam, Brandon, Tessa, Julia and Alex.  These friends formed the Stuffed Animal Adventure Club.  They got together for a playdate and to build a clubhouse.  After awhile, they wanted to do something else but could not agree on what.  They decided to take a nap, and when they awoke, they found that someone had played with Danny while they slept, leaving him soaking wet.

After we discussed the facts, I gave the kids a fact sheet and a graphic organizer that we will use throughout the unit.  They spent some of our class time filling out their Clue Board.


Most of the students did not finish, and I sent the Clue Boards home to be finished as homework.  The purpose is merely to consolidate all of the information; I don’t expect the kids to solve the mystery on their own.

Over the next few weeks, we will perform a series of tests to determine the culprit.  We’ll test clothing fibers, examine footprints and fingerprints, use pH paper to test juice, and examine a mystery brown stain.  Each test will provide another piece in the puzzle and lead us closer to the solution to the mystery.

During this unit, the kids are working on logical and sequential thinking, making inferences, using evidence to support an argument, and not jumping to conclusions unsupported by the text.  They don’t really know they’re working on these things, of course.  They just think they’re sleuthing out a solution to a mystery.  I won’t tell them if you don’t!

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

This 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.  They were also able to explain that the movement is caused by the elastic collision between the putter and the ball.

We then talked about the Third Law of Motion — for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.   We looked at a series of photographs of a golf swing, and observed both the motion of the swing and how, when the face of the putter connected with the ball, the putter had the equal and opposite reaction of  recoiling.

We also, of course, covered the First Law of Motion, and discussed how objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force (and how objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force).  We discussed what those outside forces can be — how a putter acts as an outside force on a ball at rest, how gravity can both accelerate and decelerate a ball in motion, and how both friction and collisions can also act as outside forces.

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.

Working with cardstock is considerably easier than working with cardboard, as we will be doing in the weeks to come.  I told the kids that they will come to curse the day that cardboard was invented.  At least until their amazing finished holes emerge from it!

FullSizeRender (8) Katie works on her doughnut-themed hole.

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Jack adds walls to his ramp.

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Greyson makes a tunnel.
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Mateo, Jahan, and Brooks work on their holes.FullSizeRender (13) Claire works on her Harry Potter-themed hole.FullSizeRender (14) Rawr!  Lorien works with her tiger-themed hole.FullSizeRender (15) Pink fluffy unicorns abound on Corinne’s hole.FullSizeRender (16) Hannah’s tunnel ramp is pretty fancy.FullSizeRender (17)

Brooks works on his tunnel ramp.

We are doing well with desk-size donated boxes — though we could use a few more.  I have donated quite a few to the cause, after finding through diligent research that Nordstrom boxes are perfectly desk-sized.  The sacrifices I make for this job!

We still need:

*double stick tape (like this)

*scotch tape

*construction paper

*paper towel rolls (they make excellent tunnels)

*egg cartons (they make great obstacles)

I have added these items to my Teacher Wish List (you can find it“>here — thanks PTA!).

Have a great weekend!

First Grade Reading — The Case of the Pilfered Hippopotamus Week One


When I picked up the kids today for reading group, I let them know that my cloffice contained a crime scene. I told them that their job was to be the detectives, observe the crime scene, and record everything they observed so that we could figure out the solution to the mystery.  I reminded them that it’s important to record everything because it’s impossible to tell at first glance which things might be clues.

I gave very little details about the mystery. When we meet next week, we will go into much greater depth about what exactly happened.

The kids diligently began to make maps of the crime scene.

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They recorded and labeled each item they saw, as best as they could in the tight space (it is a cloffice, after all!) and within the time they had.FullSizeRender (13)FullSizeRender (14)There was quite a bit of discussion about the clues.  How many sets of foot prints were there?  Why were there two empty juiceboxes but no straws?  What did it all mean?FullSizeRender (15) FullSizeRender (16) FullSizeRender (17)

I sent the maps and lists home because most of the kids did not have time to write down everything at the crime scene (and later they might not be able to interpret their own maps). I wanted them to create the lists while everything was fresh in their minds.

Starting next week, we’ll be learning all about the facts of the mystery, and then performing various tests to solve the crime.

Book Fair Wishes

The Book Fair is upon us!  I hope you will all stop by and check out the offerings — there are so many fabulous choices!  Specialists no longer have wish list cards, but a parent today asked me if I have any items on my wish list. Of course I do!  These are the books I have my eye on — maybe some will appeal to your children, too:

Where’s Walrus?  And Penguin?  by Stephen Savage  (16.99)

We Forgot Brock! by Carter Goodrich  (17.99) (purchased)

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry  (16.99)

Sparky! by Jenny Offill (16.99)

The Egg by M.P. Robertson (6.99)

Katie Woo and Her Big Ideas by Fran Maushkin (4.95) (purchased)

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson (6.99) (purchased)

El Deafo by CeCe Bell (10.95)

125 Cool Inventions (12.99)  (purchased)

I’ve also added these titles to my Amazon Wish List (which you can find here) — but if they interest you, please purchase from the Book Fair if you can!

Outside Enrichment Opportunities — Act Fast!

Just checking in to let you know about some enrichment opportunities on the horizon — or, in the first case, above the horizon!

Yesterday, I learned that the White House is hosting an Astronomy Night tonight.  You’ll need to register quickly if you’d like to watch the live event!  The White House Astronomy Night promises to be an exciting evening celebrating science, technology, and space!

If you’re looking for a weekend enrichment opportunity, the University of Virginia, in coordination with the Curry School of Education Gifted Department, is offering Saturday enrichment courses for gifted students in kindergarten through grade five.  Applications are now online at and are due by December 1, 2015. 

The classes are held on five Saturdays in late January/early February on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville.   Class topics this year include molecular biology, theater, architecture, storytelling, blogging, space exploration, neuroscience, technology as it emerged in the Civil War, and much, much more.


Second Grade Humanities — Crafting an Argument

This week in second grade humanities, we started working on our arguments for our mock trial.  The students received their pre-trial packets (which are confidential and will be kept at school).  The packets contain a statement of the facts, the law at issue in the trial, and the witness statements for each side.  The prosecution packet includes statements from Martha Giant and Inspector Morse, and the defense packet includes statements from Jack Jones and his mother, Nora Jones.

The kids used a Legal Argument Form to begin classifying facts as good for their case or bad for their case.  They were quite skilled at figuring out which facts belonged where.

I briefly showed each of the mock trial clips below in class, but my computer speakers are absolutely pathetic and we could barely hear.  I promised the kids I would post the clips on the blog so that they could watch them at home, so here they are:

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

Next week, the students will begin writing questions for their witnesses.  We will use this fairy tale mock trial transcript to help us model our questions.

Have a terrific weekend!  Don’t trade your cow for magic beans.

Second Grade Math — Making Putters

This week in second grade math, we talked about the parts of a putter — the shaft, the grip and the head. We discussed the fact that the head of the putter needs to be attached to the shaft at an angle greater than 90 degrees (ask your child why this is).  We covered collisions, both elastic and inelastic, and momentum.  The kids easily explained that we can tell a putter’s momentum transfers (partially) into the ball, because the ball moves when the putter hits it.  Your child should be able to give an example of both an elastic collision and an inelastic collision.

The kids then set out to make their own putters. They cut dowels to between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 inches in length. They attached a head with a wide, flat face at an angle greater than 90 degrees. They made a grip, and decorated their putters to make them look as realistic as possible.

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Next week, we’ll take our first shot at creating our tabletop holes. We’ll then do some drafting, making architectural drawings of the holes we plan to make. As we go along, we’ll continue to discuss area and scale. We’ll also chat a bit about Newton’s laws of motion.