Tabletop MiniGolf Courses Complete

Today in second grade math, the students completed their tabletop mini golf holes, put their holes together to make a class mini golf course, and then played some mini golf!  Many students finished construction last week, and they were able to spend some time calculating par for their holes.  Students who hadn’t finished construction skipped calculating par and went straight to the business of playing.

The students kept track of their scores on the SmartBoard score card.  In case you would like to admire their excellent work, I present SECOND GRADE MINI GOLF MADNESS!Copy of File_002(2)

Aaron puts the finishing touches on his hole.

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Addison shows off his orange and black ramp.

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Greyson seems pretty excited about his hole!

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Mia’s yellow hole is a work of art.

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You don’t need me to tell you that Sylvia’s hole is modeled on a road.

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Jacob gives his pom pom hole the side eye while Hannah tries it out.

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Eli “ramps up” to try out his hole.

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Lili’s chess board hole is ready for action.

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Oliver’s hole is full of twists and turns!

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Katie made a “donut hole”!  Delicious!

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Tyler’s gigantic ramp is ready to roll!

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Just try to avoid the obstacles on JP’s hole!

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Jack poses seriously with his hole. And with his putter on his head.

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Ashok’s pizza hole.

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Jack’s Hogwarts hole is ready for Wizarding.

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Ezra takes mini golf seriously.

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Recording our scores.

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James is ready to play!

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Henry is all smiles while he waits for friends to try his hole.

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Tyler’s colorful hole comes complete with a roof!

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Just try to get your ball through the tunnel on Nick’s hole!

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Avery demonstrates how to start off at his hole.

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Claire’s soccer hole scores!

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Skylar’s all blue hole has sticky obstacles afoot.

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Jahan’s hole is full of obstacles, ramps, and turns.

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Zoe gives her own hole a shot.

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Brooks worked to perfect his hole until the last possible minute.

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Lorien scrapped her tiger hole at the last minute and went with a cloud land hole instead.

And Corinne took her pink fluffy unicorn hole back to class before I could capture it’s brilliance!

The kids worked really hard and learned a lot about design, building to scale, and Newton’s laws of motion.  It was great to end the unit by playing the entire course.

Wishing you all a restful and fun winter break!

Second Grade Humanities — Verdicts Rendered

Today the Mock Trial Court of Storyville in the State of Fable held two sessions.

In the morning session, a devastating turn of events led to one of the prosecutors mistakenly leaving her briefcase at home.  With moments to spare, the attorney’s loyal paralegal delivered the necessary notes just in time for the trial to begin (thanks, Averi!).  Ms. Levitt didn’t miss a beat and then delivered a powerful opening statement outlining the reasons why the jury should find the defendant guilty of burglary and murder.  On behalf of the defense, Mr. Hardi spoke eloquently about the difficult life led by the defendant and the reasons why he could not be found guilty of the crimes.

The prosecution then called their first witness, Mrs. Martha Giant.  Mrs. Giant proved a despondent but resolute witness.  Through tears, she denied that she had given the defendant, Jack Jones, permission to take the goose and golden egg.  She maintained that her husband, the deceased Mr. Arthur Giant, had not been threatening Mr. Jones but had simply been singing his favorite song (that age-old ditty “Fe Fi Fo Fum”).

The prosecution then called Inspector Albert Morse.  Inspector Morse testified as to the circumstances of the crime.  The defense on cross examination attempted to expose that Inspector Morse was biased against the defendant and that this bias affected his judgment during the investigation.  Inspector Morse testified that he is impartial and treats everyone fairly.

The defense then called Mrs. Nora Jones, the mother of the defendant.  Mrs. Jones testified that her son was simply trying to help support the family.  Somewhat surprisingly, she stated her full support for Jack’s decision to take the goose and golden egg, and expressed pleasure that the goose would have given her and her son the financial security they craved.  The prosecution was relentless in their cross examination of Mrs. Jones, admonishing her repeatedly when she attempted to answer yes or no questions with longer narratives.

After closing arguments from both sides (Ms. Weatherly for the prosecution giving a particularly touching description of how Mr. Giant had had such a lovely morning before his encounter with Mr. Jones, and Ms. Shin for the defense imploring the jury to take pity on “poor, poor Jack Jones”), the jury retired to deliberate.

They returned within moments and delivered their verdict — they found Jack guilty on all counts.  None of the jury members seemed at all convinced that Jack had been acting in self defense (although they did concede that Mrs. Giant seemed concerned that Mr. Giant was going to kill Jack).

In the afternoon session, Ms. McCowan delivered a powerful opening statement without notes, having lost her outline only moments before (something about prosecution opening statements was cursed today!).  Ms. Nowlin then spoke for the defense, arguing that Jack could not be found guilty of either burglary or murder.

The prosecution called their first witness, Mrs, Martha Giant.  Mrs. Giant testified that Jack refused to leave her home when asked, stole her husband’s goose, and that he was responsible for her husband’s death.  On cross examination, the defense hit Mrs. Giant with some difficult questions, painting her into a corner and attempting to get her to admit that she told Jack he could take the goose.  At one point, Mrs. Giant broke into tears and could not continue her testimony.IMG_0834


The prosecution then called Inspector Morse to the stand. After he testified as to the details of the crime scene, the defense presented him with a line of difficult questions about his feelings toward the defendant and possible past misconduct on Inspector Morse’s part.


The defense called Mrs. Nora Jones, the mother of the defendant.  She testified that her son had lived a difficult life, and admitted that he had been in trouble.  She attempted to tell her story as much as possible, even when asked yes or no questions.




Thereafter, Mr. Jack Jones took the stand.  After a thorough direct examination, the prosecution really let Mr. Jones have it.  They were relentless in their questioning.  Mr. Jones held firm, listening to all of the questions and making sure he answered them to the best of the ability and in the way that told his story best.  He kept his cool under pressure!


We then heard a professional and persuasive closing argument from Ms. Boesen, speaking for the prosecution, and a stirring defense for Jack from Ms. Klein.



The jury retired to deliberate, and at times we could hear the sounds of their spirited discussion next door.  They returned shortly thereafter with a verdict — guilty on the burglary charge and guilty of “second degree murder.”  They felt that Jack hadn’t planned the crime in advance so couldn’t be guilty of murder (something that we hadn’t mentioned during the trial… I think some of them watch Law & Order).  I asked them about self defense and they replied that they did believe that Jack was acting in self defense, but that they didn’t believe this was enough to justify murder.  Even though the law says it is (it was at this point that someone in the courtroom mentioned “jury nullification”).

I hope this unit gave the students some sense of how our justice system works.  They used their critical thinking skills to develop their arguments and questions.  They got a taste of how it felt to be attorneys and witnesses.  Watching their classmates react emotionally on the stand I hope helped them understand how a real witness might feel during a trial.

Overall, the students did an admirable job and they should be proud.  I apologize that it was so hard to hear at times (or much of the time).  For next year I think I need to look into obtaining a microphone of some kind.  It was so nice to have so many of you here and I know the kids were thrilled.  I wish I could have provided more comfortable accommodations!  If you have photos of either trial (but especially the morning one) and you wouldn’t mind forwarding them, please do!  I would love to insert them into this post so that we have some visuals.  Thank you Blanca Snyder for the pictures in this post!  Video clips hopefully to follow once I have them uploaded.


Finally, I have to give a huge thank you to all of the second grade teachers, who were so flexible and supportive while this trial came together, and to Shelly Skomra, who loaned me seven of her students to serve as jury members.  I couldn’t have done it without Heidi Lang, who supervised both juries, gave up her own lunch to oversee the afternoon deliberations, and pleaded with the cafeteria (who kindly obliged) to feed our jury members when they missed their lunch time during the trial.  Thanks also go out to our third and fourth grade jurors, who served enthusiastically and took their responsibilities quite seriously.

First Grade Math — CodeBreakers

Last week in first grade math, we worked on code breakers.  These problems present the students with colored circles, and each colored circle represents a unique number.  The students need to decide which number belongs in each colored circle.  They look like this:

The code breakers at the beginning of the book (the ones we worked on in class) are relatively easy to solve for students who know their doubles.  Most include a puzzle with two of the same-colored circle added together to obtain a particular sum (e.g., RED + RED = 16).  Students who know their doubles can easily figure out that only one number added to itself fits in the equation.

When we worked on these in class, it rapidly became clear that there are students who do not know their doubles.  Most of the puzzles proved quite difficult for these students (which led to our coining the fabulous phrase “If you don’t know your doubles, you’re in troubles!” — aren’t we clever?).  If you worked on the homework with your child, you might have discovered that this is an issue.

A student in one group wailed “But what am I supposed to dooooooooooo?” and I replied that perhaps she needed some flash cards to help her remember her doubles.  This suggestion did not go over well.

Computation receives far less of our attention in enrichment math than problem-solving, and that is by design. But if the computation skills aren’t there, knowing how to attack the problem isn’t enough.

We will have new math groups after winter break.  Participation in enrichment math groups is dependent on assessment information (in this case, STAR Math).  Students may participate one session but not the next.  Students who will be participating in enrichment math next session will bring home letters the week after winter break.

First Grade Reading — Secret Codes


We’ve been plugging along with mysteries.  The week of 11/30 we worked on secret codes.  I asked the kids:  what do you think secret codes have to do with reading?  We had a brief discussion, and I encouraged them to try to remember what looking at books felt like before they knew how to read.  Before we have the skills and strategies to read, all strings of letters tend to look like secret code.  They seemed to get the connection.

I explained the different codes in the packet to the kids and then I told them they could either put the packet in their green folders or bring it home, but that it was not homework.  They did have one homework sheet — the colorful directions code.  They all seemed to have a relatively easy time of it.  Last week, we worked on mystery nouns, verbs, and adjectives.  The kids took their packets home but didn’t have any homework associated with them.

We’ll be starting a new unit after winter break, and we’ll have new groups then as well.  Group membership changes based on assessment information (DRA levels and STAR Reading scores).  Your child might come for enrichment reading one session, not come the next, and then see me again the next time around.  Letters will come home the week after winter break with students who will be participating in enrichment reading this session.

Wishing you a relaxing but fun winter break!

Second Grade Humanities: Mock Trial Preparation

We have one more class session next Tuesday before our mock trials on Tuesday, December 15th.  Students need to be preparing and rehearsing at home.

  • Witnesses should be reading over their statements and practicing answering questions.  I emailed the witness statements to all of you last Tuesday as part of the defense or prosecution materials packet.
  • Direct examiners should practice asking their questions of a family member, using the witness statement to guide the answers
  • Cross examiners should make sure they have written enough hard-hitting questions.  See here for some tips.
  • Opening statement and Closing argument both require a lot of writing.  See here for some tips on how these two roles differ.  If your child is in charge of opening statement or closing argument, please ask him/her if they have something written and feel prepared.

We’ll have a run-through next Tuesday, and then we’ll be ready for action on Tuesday, December 15th!

First Grade Math — Secret Numbers

This week in first grade math, we worked on using clues to locate a “secret number” on a hundreds chart.  I gave the kids four clues for each number.  As they received the clues, they used dry erase markers to eliminate numbers on the chart that could not be the secret number.  For example, if the clue was “the number is odd,” then the kids crossed off all of the even numbers.  This is a bit more confusing than perhaps it sounds, because one has to be careful to be sure to mark off the inverse of the clue (if it says that the number is even, for example, then you need to mark off the odds).  Some of the kids got the idea quickly; many of them did not.  Of course, then the clues got harder (“if you add the digits, you get 12,” for example).  They worked hard and with great enthusiasm (for some of them, it was almost equally difficult not to shout out the number as soon as they found it).

Homework is to create a set of four clues that lead to a secret number.  All of the clues should be necessary to find the number, and they should lead to only one number.  I sent home a hundreds chart to help.  Please do not cut out the clue cards — keep them as a whole sheet, turn them in and let me check them, and then we will use them in class the next time we play “Secret Number.”  I told the kids they need to practice to be sure that their clues actually lead to one (and only one) number.  It might be a good idea to make copies of the hundreds chart, in case they need to practice more than once.

This activity was “confusing, and hard, and SO FUN” according to one of the first graders. I would say this is a pretty accurate summation of how most of the kids felt.  Your child may need some help creating his/her clues and practicing to make sure they only lead to one number.

You can find the packet at this link (Secret Number), if you need another hundreds chart or more cards.

Welcome to kindergarten reading!

Welcome to kindergarten enrichment reading! You’ll know if you have a kindergarten student in enrichment reading because your child will come home today with a letter from me.  I see each kindergarten group once a week for half an hour on Wednesdays. The groups will re-configure next trimester based on assessment information; they are designed to be fluid, based on the students’ needs.

This week, we spent some time going over the rules and getting acquainted. We talked about how some of the reading 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.

Some weeks the kids will bring a book home with a sheet of questions about the book. This week, one group brought home Animal Hospital and the other group brought home Mammals. Both are non-fiction, though Animal Hospital does have elements of a fictional story mixed in. Other weeks, the kids won’t bring home a book because we’ll be doing other reading-related activities like word games, parts of speech, anagrams, onomatopoeia… the list goes on.

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!

I’ll post updates here on the blog, and that’s where I’ll share details about what we do in class.  You can sign up to have the posts sent straight to your inbox.

Thanks for sharing your children with me!  I’m looking forward to working with them!