Kindergarten Enrichment Reading — Anagrams

Today, we started class with these words on the Smart Board:

many do

sea duty

sandy weed

yard huts

I explained to the kids what anagrams are, and told them that each of these pairs of words is an anagram for another single word, and the four words all have something in common.

We started by looking for letters common to all the words and discovered that all of the words contain the letters y, d, and a.  We separated those letters and then looked at what we had left.  It didn’t take long before we realized that “many do” is an anagram for “Monday.”  And y, d, and a are all letters in “day.”  It was pretty quick from there:  sea duty = Tuesday, sandy weed = Wednesday, and yard huts = Thursday.

Then we did the next four.  Can you figure out the anagrams and what they have in common:


runs at

teen pun

usa run

The kids did!  Next we moved on to a super tough anagram challenge.  It was difficult.  Really difficult.  But your kids were champs.  It took them very little time to discover that the words were anagrams for names.  And there were eight (or nine, depending on the group) sets of them.  And eight or nine kindergarten reading students!  From there, it was a simple hunt for the letters in each child’s name.  I sent the sheet home but it is not homework, the kids just wanted to be able to remember the anagrams for their names.

Homework is a sheet of anugrams.  An anugram is an anagram where the anagram makes a true statement about the original word(s).  For example, twelve plus one is an anugram for eleven plus two.  I provided blanks to fill in the letters for the anugrams and gave punctuation and filled in some letters.  Still, let’s be honest — this is challenging.  Really challenging.  I explained this to the kids and asked them to give it a shot.  I told them to write the original phrase on a separate paper and cross out the letters as they are used so that they don’t cross it out on the original worksheet, make a mistake, and then find themselves without the original phrase.

As I told the kids in class, I am totally okay with blank papers coming back to me.  It may be that your child cannot figure these out.  That is okay!  It may be that s/he loves this kind of stuff and is good at figuring it out.  Fantastic!  Either result is fine.

To make anagrams of your own, check out the anagram generator here.  So much fun!

Ravaged hay eat!  (That’s an anagram for “Have a great day!”, of course!)


First Grade Enrichment Math — Charts and Tree Diagrams

Today, we continued our “Math on the Menu” unit.  We picked up where we left off last week and discussed the Rosada family’s problem of how many tostada combinations can be made with the 5 toppings they plan to offer at their restaurant — beans, cheese, olives, lettuce, and salsa — if each tostada can have 3 of the 5 toppings and no tostada can have a topping repeated twice.

The students presented the conclusions they came to last week.  Most groups agreed that there were ten combinations.  They also agreed that they hadn’t really used a strategy when trying to find the total number of combinations, and that the work would likely be easier if they had a strategy.  (Many of them pointed out that their parent(s) helped them develop a strategy when working on last week’s homework, so they did indeed give you credit!)

I presented two different strategies — using a chart with an organizational system where you exhaust all possible combinations for a particular ingredient before you move on to the next ingredient, and using a tree diagram with the same organizational system.

First, we completed the tostada combinations chart together using the organizational system described above.  The students picked this up quickly and we finished the chart in just a few minutes. We all agreed that it was clear there were only ten combinations.

I then demonstrated this strategy using their homework from last week, which had to do with combinations of ice cream flavors.  The kids clearly understood the strategy, and they were the ones who told me which combinations to check off on the chart.  In the end, we had this:

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The chart clearly showed that there were 20 possible three-flavor cone combinations.

I also showed the students how to make a tree diagram.  Our diagram looked like this:

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I told the students that for this week’s homework (more ice cream combinations), they can use a chart, a tree diagram, or whatever method works best for them, so long as they show their work and can explain how they know that they found all of the combinations.

Next week, we’ll perform a cost analysis for the Rosadas, to help them decide how to price their tostadas.   For now, I’m off to find myself a snack — talking about delicious food all day has left my stomach growling!

Second Grade Enrichment Humanities — Motel of the Mysteries

So if your second grade humanities student comes home and asks to worship at the toilet, I’m probably to blame. Actually, David Macaulay is to blame, but since I introduced his book Motel of the Mysteries to your children, it’s my fault, too.

Motel of the Mysteries is the story of Howard Carson, an amateur archaeologist in the year 4022.  Carson comes upon the remains of an abandoned excavation site located in the ancient country of Usa, which was destroyed in a mass extinction event in the year 1985.  At the site, he discovers a host of objects, and he uses them to piece together the fabric of the ancient civilization.

Let’s just say that the conclusions Carson draws are… interesting.  When he comes across the site, he assumes he is at the entrance to a tomb.  All of the conclusions he draws about the objects within are based upon this assumption that this is the CONTEXT.  Since the site is actually a motel, his conclusions about religious burial objects don’t really fit with the reality.

I divided the students into groups and gave each group drawings of the objects Carson found and the summary descriptions he wrote for them. The kids read the descriptions and matched them with the items.

For example, Carson discovered what he calls “The Great Altar.” His description reads:

“This magnificent structure, toward which everything in the outer chamber was directed, represents the essence of religious communication as practiced by the ancient North Americans. Although it was capable of communication with a large number of gods, the altar seems to have been intended primarily for communion with the gods MOVIEA and MOVIEB. Judging by impact marks on the top and sides of the upper altar, some aspect of this communication was dependent upon pounding the surface. Communication with the altar was symbolically continued into eternal life by placing the communicator box in the hand of the deceased. Below the exquisite glass face of the upper altar are a number of sealed spaces for offerings.”

And here is the Sacred Altar:

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I don’t think I need to tell you that the kids found this highly amusing. Though not nearly as funny as the Sacred Urn:

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And they also enjoyed this depiction of a woman wearing the Sacred Collar, Sacred Pendant, and some pretty amazing earrings.

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We talked about the danger of drawing conclusions without enough information or making assumptions about what you think the conclusion should be.  The kids had to admit that the descriptions of the items *sounded* plausible if you didn’t already know the actual uses of the items.  Maybe Ancient Egyptian canopic jars were actually ice buckets after all!

See what your child has to share about Howard Carson and his findings!

Second Grade Enrichment Math — Ancient Egyptian Numbers

Today we continued with our “Can You Count in Greek?” unit.  I divided the students into groups and gave each group a stack of index cards, each of which had an Ancient Egyptian numeral on it.  Some of the cards also gave some sort of clue about the number (i.e., this number is the same as the number of days in a year).  Using all of the cards, the kids were able to figure out what number each symbol stood for:

Your children are particularly fond of the “astonished man.”  Several students asked if they could complete the million marks march by simply drawing an astonished man.  No such luck I’m afraid, but they sure did appreciate how much easier it is to write one million using this number system than it is with tally marks.  The kids have considerably less love for the tadpole, which they find difficult to draw (though personally I think the lotus flower wins the “most tedious to write” contest).

As they worked in their groups, the kids discovered that the Ancient Egyptian number system is additive and has no place value.  This means the symbols can be written in any order and you just add up the values, a major difference from our number system, of course.


We didn’t finish our Ancient Egyptian number work, so we’ll pick it up next week. We’ll also take a look at Ancient Greek numbers.



First Grade Enrichment Reading — Introduction to Inventions

Today was the first meeting of the new session of first grade enrichment reading.  If your child is in an enrichment reading group this session, s/he will bring home a welcome letter from me today.  This session, the first grade readers will be working on a unit about inventions.  To begin, I divided the kids into two groups and gave each group a different object — one group received a cup and one received either scissors or a paper clip.  I asked the groups to talk to each other about the following four questions:

*What is your invention?

*What problem was your invention created to solve?

*How has your invention helped people?

*What are five alternate uses for your invention?

We discussed the students’ thoughts.  Everyone had an easy time answering the first two questions.  Some groups struggled to explain how their invention helped people.  Groups with scissors and paper clips had a particularly difficult time with the last question.  It rapidly became clear that some students (I’m looking at you, Lucie) were particularly talented at devising alternate uses.  I told the students that they had to ignore the part of their brain that was shouting at them “But I know the RIGHT answer!  They’re scissors!  They cut paper!” and listen to the part of their brain that can see things differently.


I then asked the kids if they thought the items were technology.   Only one student said YES.  We went around the room, and this student, bless his heart, stood firm even when every other student in the class argued that no, of course these items are not technology.  My heart almost exploded with admiration.  I hope he never loses that confidence and ability to express his own viewpoint even when no one else agrees.  (This experience might have helped, since according to the definition we were using, he was correct!).

We talked about the definition of technology — the students decided that to be technology,something must have an outside power source.  The kids specifically mentioned electricity, batteries and solar power.  They came up with these on their own!  I then read them the wikipedia definition of technology:

Technology is the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems, methods of organization, in order to solve a problem, improve a preexisting solution to a problem, achieve a goal or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures. Technologies significantly affect human as well as other animal species’ ability to control and adapt to their natural environments.

Based on this definition, what do you think?  Are a cup, a paper clip, and scissors technology?  The kids decided that indeed they are.   I assigned the kids homework that had to do with this concept.  There was no worksheet — the homework was just something they were supposed to say to you at the dinner table.  If you don’t think you heard it, ask your child!

As our unit progresses, we’ll examine a number of enduring inventions that were actually “accidents.”  I love the idea of leading the students to the realization that  “mistakes” are not just okay, sometimes they’re actually more valuable than if things had gone the way we expected.  Students will also come up with their own inventions, and we will share them at our Invention Convention at the end of the unit.


First Grade Enrichment Math — Math on the Menu

Today was the first meeting of our new enrichment math groups.  If your child is in enrichment math this session, s/he brought home a welcome letter from me today.  This session, we will be working on a unit called “Math on the Menu.”

Today, I introduced the kids to the Rosada family.  The family is in the process of opening a tostada restaurant called La Tostada Sabrosa (ask your child what this means), and they need help!  The restaurant will serve tostadas with a choice of 5 toppings — beans, cheese, olives, lettuce, and salsa.  Each tostada can have 3 of the 5 toppings.  No tostada can have a topping repeated twice (many children were disappointed that they could not choose the creative combination of cheese, cheese, cheese).

The Rosadas asked the students to help figure out how many different combinations of 3 toppings are possible if each tostada must have 3 toppings, and no topping can be on a single tostada more than once.

I gave the students paper tortillas, beans, cheese, olives, lettuce, and salsa, and they set about trying to figure out how many different combinations they could make.  For many, this was tedious work.  Most of the groups went about their business in a rather random fashion; none of them articulated a specific strategy before beginning to make combinations.

Most groups at least came to a conclusion about how many combinations they thought existed.  We ran out of time before we could share their ideas, but the kids are prepared to share next time.  Homework is a similar exercise, and the kids will need to do make combinations of ice cream flavors.  A chart or diagram tends to make the work significantly easier, and the kids MUST show their work on the homework.

Second Grade Enrichment Math — Million Marks March

We began our new enrichment math session with a little introduction about the origins of math.  We talked about primitive math and discussed how even tally marks, which use the cross hatch lines to organize them into groups of five, are an improvement over the earliest marks.  I asked the kids how long they thought it would take to make a million tally marks.  The answers ranged from “15 minutes” to “15 hours.”  So we endeavored to come up with a better estimate.

First, I timed the kids writing marks for one and five minutes.  There was a lot of moaning. This is tedious work!


We then found the average number of tally marks they could make in five minutes.  In every class, the average was about the same — 500 tally marks in five minutes.  I asked the kids, given this average, how many minutes it would take to make a million tally marks.   They divided 1,000,000 and concluded that there are 2,000 groups of 500 in a million.  Since 2,000 times 5 is 10,000, it should take 10,000 minutes to make a million tally marks.

We went on to calculate how many hours that would be, and then how many days.  Ask your child how we did it, and what we found as our final answer.  (Hopefully they’ll say “six to seven days” because that’s what we came up with).  We talked about all of the things we WOULDN’T be doing if we were making tally marks for seven straight days (eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, going to school…).

I then issued the following challenge: there are twelve weeks in this enrichment session. Any student who wishes may attempt to make one million tally marks during that time. I will take anyone who can accomplish the task and two of their friends out for ice cream. Tally mark pages must each be labeled with the student’s name and must include a subtotal in the top right corner. As I told the kids, I have never had a student actually succeed at this challenge. They didn’t seem deterred.

There definitely seem to be some students who are determined to take the challenge. Like my husband, you may think this exercise is one of my dumber ideas and that there really isn’t any point. I get it — making tally marks isn’t really increasing brain power. But a million is A LOT. And I don’t think most kids really get how big it really is. Any minute spent on the tedious task of making tally marks in the (likely fruitless) attempt to make a million brings a student one minute closer to having a real sense of what this number means. It also can’t help but foster appreciation for our number system and how much more efficiently we can work now.

With that said, I can’t say enough times that this is 100% optional. If your child is not interested in the Million Marks March, please don’t force him or her to make tally marks! That sounds like torture. We have plenty of other torturous work to do this session that’s not optional (wink wink).