Second Grade Humanities: Humor Me

Today, we started a new session of second grade humanities enrichment.  Our new unit is about humor.  As many of you know, I have this quote up on my office wall:

tina fey quote

We are on a mission to prove that this is true!  And we’re also on a mission to understand word play, what makes things funny, parody, political cartoons, and satire.  I don’t know about your kids, but I cannot wait!

We started today’s class with a viewing of Abbott & Costello’s classic “Who’s on First?” routine.  (find it here)


A few kids were familiar with the routine, but most of them were not.  (Those who were definitely laughed the loudest).  Their faces were a show in and of themselves — confused, exasperated, amused, hysterical.  I wish I had recorded it for you.

While we watched, the kids filled out a diagram of a baseball diamond, labeling the name of the player for each position.  This was more challenging than it sounds.  If you’re hearing the routine for the first time, it takes awhile to catch on, and Lou and Bud talk so fast!  It is easy to miss parts.  We hit rewind several times to make sure we were getting everything.

We talked about what makes “Who’s on First?” funny, and this naturally led to a discussion of puns, homophones, and words with more than one meaning.  I distributed a list of homophone pairs, and we set to work on some truly punny cartoons.  Check out some of the student creations:










They did a fantastic job, and, I dare say, had quite a few laughs while doing so.

Stay tuned for more humorous entries as our unit continues!


First Grade Enrichment Reading: Invention Convention

No, this is not the way the floor to my cloffice usually looks.  These are the first graders’ inventions, ready and waiting for last Thursday’s Invention Convention.  The first grade readers came to school all abuzz and super excited to share what they had made!



Bothered by crying babies at night?  Headphones too uncomfortable to rest your head upon?  Never fear, Josie has the solution — the Cloud Band.  These puffy cloud headphones insulate your ears from bothersome noises but do so in a comfortable and attractive way.  Thanks, Josie!

Have you ever had a pencil that was just too small to write with comfortably?  Cyrus has, and he was determined to find a solution.  Cyrus invented the Penceraser, a device which converts even the tiniest pencil into a writing instrument that is comfortable to hold.  It even holds an eraser as well!

Does your head get hot at night?  Do you wish you had some way for your pillow to stay cool all night long?  Well then you, my friend, need a Chillow.  This pillow has an ice pack core surrounded by fluffy, comfortable cotton.  It’s like sleeping on clouds… cool, comfy clouds.  Contact Charlotte for more information.

Ethan demonstrated a model of his Hoop Hamper (real-life version pictured above left).  Ethan’s sister did not like to put her clothes in the hamper, and much of her clothing often wound up on the floor.  So Ethan invented the Hoop Hamper, and now his sister is much more motivated to get her clothes in the hamper.  Ethan demonstrated the hamper’s use with a small model he created to bring to class.  He reports that there hasn’t been so much as a sock on the floor since they introduced the Hoop Hamper.

Lauren’s problem was that her sister was always playing with their Barbie car, and Lauren never had a turn of her own.  So Lauren invented the Callie, a double decker car complete with a chandelier and sticky, bad guy-trapping window.  I don’t know about you, but it looked way more fun to me than a regular old Barbie car.

John once had the unfortunate experience of burning his mouth on a cup of hot chocolate that was too hot.  He never wants that to happen again, so he invented the Just Right.  The Just Right is a mug with an attached thermometer, which displays a different colored light to indicate if the liquid inside is too hot, too cold, or just right.  I think I need a Just Right for my morning coffee!


Azi’s problem is that she does not want to go to sleep and would prefer to read books in bed after bedtime.  She has to hide under the covers, though, and holding both the book and a flashlight is rather difficult.  So Azi came up with the Book Light Band — a headband with a flashlight attached.  Now Azi can read books under the covers and keep the light steady.


Bijan’s cat sometimes scratches him, and he needed a solution to this problem. Bijan invented Cat Gloves.  These adorably-decorated (and, of course, kitty-themed) gloves fit over his cat’s paws (and claws!) to protect human family members from cat scratches.  Great solution!


Elena suffered from the problem of always wanting to see in all directions, but unfortunately only having one pair of eyes.  The Seer is a helmet with attached cameras facing all directions, meaning that the wearer can now see not just forward but also behind and to the sides.  No more danger of anyone sneaking up on you!


Landon invented the School Time to solve the problem of his little brother not wanting to brush his teeth.  Landon’s little brother loves letters, numbers, and shapes, so Landon created this poster to attach to the bathroom mirror.  Now his little brother is entertained and tooth brushing time goes by in a flash.

Sanaa had the issue where she didn’t have enough space in her backpack on days when she had to return her library book.  She invented the Double Backpack, a backpack with a spare bag that clips on to give you that extra space you need.

Aileen discovered that sometimes she was out walking, she came upon some trash, and she was not near a wastebasket where she could toss the offending item.  So Aileen invented the Waiting For Trash Wastebasket.  She chose an origami envelope design which she folded herself and then attached to a carabiner that can be clipped to your waistband or beltloop.  You then have a convenient place to stash any trash you find until you come to a wastebasket.  Nice job, Aileen!

Ava’s problem was that her pony fought the bit when Ava tried to place it in the pony’s mouth.  Ava came up with the idea of coating the bit in something flavorful so that the pony would want to take the bit.  Ava created the Melt in Your Mouth Strip, which comes in two different options — a bit covered in mint-flavored strips, and a bit coated in apple-flavored strips and apple cookie crumbs.  Both looked and smelled quite tasty, and I think that if I were a horse I would be quite willing to accept either!

Yasmine came up with two related inventions.  The first is the Conester.  Have you ever had an ice cream cone drip onto your hand?  I know I have!  But I won’t any more, because I’ll attach a Conester to my cone and it will catch the drips before they fall on me.  When I eat a popsicle I sometimes find myself in need of a napkin as soon as I finish, but often there are none to be found.  I needn’t worry, though, because Yasmine’s second invention, the Wipeinside, hides a hand wipe inside the stick of a popsicle so that it’s ready as soon as you need it.

Have you ever been at a loss for what to do with your free time?  Fear not!  With Graham’s invention, the Decider Dice, the choice of what to do is only a roll away.  If you tire of the existing options, they are attached with velcro and can be changed out quickly and easily. Graham explained that using the Decider Dice is a fun activity in and of itself — sometimes they don’t tell you what to do but instead instruct you to “roll again!”

Stella has the issue where her hat just doesn’t stay on.  Her invention, the Keep Hat Oninator, solves this problem by attaching a chin strap to the hat.  A hat with a chin strap isn’t super fun, though, so Stella added colorful pipe cleaners to make the hat resemble a crazy spider.  Now it stays on and looks adorable, too!

Cutting a straight line can be a challenge, and Blake was well aware that this could be a problem.  Inspired by the pinewood derby car he was creating for Boy Scouts, Blake created the Cut Car.  The Cut Car contains a razor blade.  When the Car is rolled across a paper, it cuts a straight line right where you want it.  And you have so much fun while cutting your straight line!

Jocelynn had the problem that squirrels were always beating the birds to the birdseed in the feeder.  To solve this problem, she created the Bird Feeder Squirrel Keeper Outer.  The birdseed now dangles in cups with stands that are just right to support the weight of a bird but not nearly strong enough to support the weight of a squirrel.

Pauline  enjoys doing crafts at her desk, but keeping the trash and recycling separate and running them back and forth to the appropriate container can be a real pain.  To solve this problem, she invited the Disposer, a dual-level mini trash can that you can keep at  your desktop to help control your waste.

Have you ever noticed that some sounds are annoying, and you wish you could make them stop?  Mohan did!  So he invented the SoundStealer 2.0, a series of magnets that can be attached to a cacophonous bell to mitigate (or steal!) the sound.  Mohan demonstrated how attaching each magnet to the bell in turn had a slightly different affect on the sound, and how attaching a magnet to the clapper silenced the bell entirely.  Useful!

Perhaps, like Riley, you have noticed that most toys don’t hold a child’s interest for very long.  Riley invented the RV to solve this problem.  It has so many different parts and pieces that kids want to play with it for hours!

Thomas has a sensitive face, and he wished there were a way to easily and quickly clean food off of his cheeks and chin.  Then he stopped simply wishing and invented the Scroon and Scork (yes, those are portmanteaus of spoon + scraper and fork + scraper).  Each utensil has an attached scraper that can be used to easily remove food from a sensitive face.  No more interrupting a meal to go and wash, and no more itchy cheeks and chin!

Aila had a problem where items kept falling off her high countertop onto the hard floor and breaking.  She invented the SlipThrough Catcharoo to solve this problem.  The SlipThrough Catcharoo provides a soft surface for an item to fall on, ensuring that nothing breaks even if it falls from a high counter.

Wes set out to solve the problem of kids playing outside at night being difficult for motorists to spot.  Solving this safety issue would ensure more outdoor play time for young people.  Wes invented the SeeMe — a lighted belt for kids to wear when they play outside after dark.  Problem solved!

Lucie’s family is trying to clean out their house and consolidate the items they keep on hand.  To help with this effort, Lucie invented the Subtractable Shovel.  This special shovel is a standard length when you want to use it for shoveling.  When you are ready to store it away, you pull the pin and the handle retracts, making the shovel much smaller and easier to store away.

I don’t know about you, but I was blown away by the first graders and their creative ideas.  I think we have some products that are ready to hit the market here!  The Invention Convention marks the conclusion of our inventions unit, and we will begin our next unit the Thursday after spring break.

First Grade Math: Spatial Reasoning

The Rosada family has benefited so much from the first grade math students’ good advice that they have purchased a second restaurant location, which they’ve decided to call “La Fiesta Restaurant.”  Of course, now they have asked the first grade math students for help setting up the restaurant layout.

At the beginning of class, I gave each student a copy of the restaurant floor plan, and a bag full of pieces representing the kitchen, the bathroom, and the restaurant tables.  We discussed the size of the space and the layout.  We paid particular attention to the walls with windows, and most students agreed that those should be reserved for tables (and that the kitchen and/or bathroom should not be placed there).  Most students also felt that nothing should be placed too close to the entrance — the three gray blocks there were off limits, but even the squares immediately outside the gray were probably too close.


I distributed a copy of the City Building Codes, which specified where and how certain items could be placed.  We discussed the Codes and then the kids began to arrange the space.


The first graders quickly found that arranging all of the pieces was not as easy as they thought it would be.  The Rosadas wanted to fit as many tables (and customers) as possible, but they also wanted the restaurant to feel spacious and welcoming.  The kids worked hard to find the best arrangement.  It took quite awhile to fit all of the necessary pieces and still follow all of the Building Codes.





Many of the students had strong feelings about different aspects of the space.  Some felt the kitchen and bathroom needed to be close to one another, while others felt they should be far apart.  One student held fast to his belief that all of the small, red, two-person tables should be placed along a window wall for “honeymoon” tables or people on dates.  “But this is a PARTY restaurant!  La FIESTA!” another student argued.

Once the students found arrangements they liked, they colored empty floor plans to match their designs.  Next week, the students will present their floor plans to the class and argue why their design would be the best for the restaurant.

Second Grade Humanities: Wastebasket Dig

Today, the second grade humanities students embarked on an official archaeological dig.  Each group of 4 or 5 students was given a wastebasket from a TJ classroom.  Each student had a pair of gloves and a recording sheet.  Here are the supplies before the students arrived:



The students put on their gloves as soon as they arrived and immediately got to work, excavating the items from the wastebasket. They knew that to reconstruct the day of the class who had generated the trash, they needed to be careful to excavate the items in order.  They painstakingly recorded each item on their recording sheets.


The kids also analyzed the artifacts as they excavated, knowing that at the conclusion of the dig they needed to know:  What grade level generated the trash?  What is that class studying language arts, math, science, and social studies?  What did they do on the day they used this wastebasket?  In what order did the events occur?



Some of the papers provided interesting clues as to the origins of the trash.  Which grade level studies equivalent fractions?  Which class is known to work out their conflicts using Post-it notes?



In the end, this trash really was our treasure!  The kids aren’t finished yet — they will be drawing conclusions next week — so I won’t spoil the outcome by thanking my helpers.  Stay tuned next week to hear about how the kids classify their findings and what they conclude about what they uncovered.FullSizeRender_3 (2)

First Grade Reading: Rube Goldberg Inventions

This week in first grade reading, we began with a reminder that the inventions the kids will be making need to be simple.  Easy to make, easy to use.  Then we talked about inventions that are the exact opposite — Rube Goldberg machines.  I explained that Rube Goldberg designed complex machines to accomplish simple tasks.  We watched this clip of seven-year-old Audri’s monster catcher Rube Goldberg machine for inspiration, this OK Go video (which has a super-complicated machine that the kids adored), and some footage from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure of the Breakfast Machine.

We then tested out a new (at least to me) app called Rube Works, which asks the kids to use different items to create Rube Goldberg machines for specific purposes.  In each class, we successfully finished at least one machine, and the kids had so much fun.  If you’d like to try the app at home, you can find it here.


I can’t wait to see the simple, easy to use, problem-solving inventions the kids have created at our Invention Convention next week!  Inventions can be brought to school any time on or before next Thursday, March 10th.