This week in second grade math, we continued focusing on strategic thinking while learning to play Othello (also sometimes known as Reversi).

Othello is a game played with colored chips.  One player uses the white chips and one player uses the black chips.  To make a move, you need to flank at least one of your opponent’s chips with two of your own.  The chip(s) you have flanked then turn to your color.

We were focusing on a strategy we called “lose to win.”  At the beginning of the game, players are often tempted to flip as many pieces of possible.  They see that their color is dominating the board and feel assured that they will win.  In reality, the best strategy is to focus on making sure you have multiple moves available to you.  To do so, it usually makes the most sense to make small moves (where you flip only one or two pieces) rather than bigger moves (where you flip multiple pieces).  I could hear the kids muttering “small moves, small moves” as they played.

When playing Othello, the corners are crucial because they are stable (they cannot be flipped to another color).  We were also trying to pay attention to the corners and making sure not to make moves that allowed our opponents to capture the corners.

You can play Othello online here.  The kids loved playing against the computer on the Smart Board.  A group of kids came to my room to play Othello and Izzi at recess and they were so excited.  They were jumping up and down and cheering when they beat the computer.  It was a lovely way to spend a chilly afternoon.

There’s also an Othello app.  You can find it here.

# Second Grade Humanities: Song Parodies Continue

Second grade humanities students continued working on their song parodies this week.  To open class, we watched a couple quick clips just to refresh our memories.  We started with this clip of One Direction singing about What Makes U Useful, and used it as a jumping off point to discuss the elements that Sesame Street parody songs have in common (it’s usually the original artist(s) singing the parody song, the songs try to teach a concept of some kind).  We then watched this Chick-Fil-A parody song set to the tune of the Beatles’ Yesterday.  We discussed how delivery matters — sometimes the best way to sell a parody song is to emphasize the funny, and sometimes it’s best to play it straight [or overly sincere].

The kids then set to work on their own parodies.  We have several finished songs.  I’ve uploaded these videos to YouTube but they are set to unlisted, so you must have the link in order to view them (they won’t show up in a Google search).  Check out what we have so far:

Hannah & Katie T’s Take Me out to the Bookstore

Lili’s Feeling Sick

Mia, Gracie & Anna’s Cranky Doodle

Claire & Sylvia’s Take Me out of this Classroom

Katie R’s Cranky Doodle Lazy

Jack K & Alec’s Big Fat Wallet

Nick & Jack M’s Take Me out to the Movies

Many of the kids are still working, so if your child’s parody song isn’t included above, tune in next week   After that, we’ll be moving on to children’s book parodies.

# Kindergarten Enrichment Reading: Hink Pinks and Rhyme Time

We are working with words in kindergarten enrichment reading.  We’ve been spending some time on poetry and have been discussing syllables and rhymes.  Last week, we spent our class time figuring out some mind-bending hink pinks (pairs of one syllable words that rhyme) and hinky pinkys (pairs of two-syllable words that rhyme).  I gave the kids clues and they had to come up with the appropriate hink pink.  For example inexpensive vehicle (cheap jeep), large hog (big pig) or fresh paste (new glue).

Each group then worked together to write their own hink pinks or hinky pinkys.  Those creations came home as this week’s homework.  They are 100% student-written, and I don’t know about you, but I found them to be quite impressive.  And kind of hilarious.

Last week’s homework (the Silly Side-by-Side Poem) was challenging for some of the kindergarten readers.  In class, we read this poem:

The Folks Who Live in Backwards Town by Mary Ann Hoberman

The folks who live in Backwards Town

Are inside out and upside down.

They wear their hats inside their heads

And go to sleep beneath their beds.

They only eat apple peeling

And take their walks across the ceiling.

We talked about the poem in class, and discussed the ways in which Mary Ann Hoberman showed that the people were doing things backwards.  We brainstormed ideas of our own and practiced making these ideas fit the rhyme scheme of the poem.

The students then added their own verses to the poem at home, and the verses they created are adorable.  Here are just a few of their ideas:

They put pickle sauce on their bread

And sometimes eat the color red.

They eat so fast that they start to laugh

And their pizza slices are cut in half.

They grow dinosaurs at farms

And play soccer with their arms.

They eat breakfast at dinner

And the loser of the game is the winner.

They make dinner in the day

And their punishment is play.

Reading their poems made me giggle.  My favorite kind of homework to review!

We spent more time working with rhymes in class this week, playing a game called “Rhyme Around.”  Ask your child how the game worked.***

***Danny’s birthday celebration preempted my 9:00 group (Rooms 1, 4, and 9) today, but I will see them at 9:00 tomorrow.

# First Grade Enrichment Math: Shopping for Words

We had so much fun with our penguin activity that this week we embarked on an activity that was similarly challenging.  We went shopping for words.  I gave the kids a sheet listing the prices for each letter — A cost \$1, B cost \$2, all the way up to Z for \$26.

The kids had several tasks, and I let them choose which ones to work on in class (though I strongly encouraged them to choose tasks 3 and 4):

1. Calculate the value of their first and last names
2. Calculate the value difference between their first and last names
3. Find a word worth exactly \$50
4. Find a word worth exactly \$100
5. Find the most expensive word you can

The kids spent the entire class busily working to find solutions.  Everyone calculated the value of their first name.  I thought mine (Elizabeth) might be the most expensive (\$88), but I was beaten by first Sebastian (\$90) and then Charlotte (\$102).  Ella had the least expensive name (\$30).

Several students were able to find \$50 words.  Once a student found a \$50 word, it was considered “purchased” for that class and no one else in the group was allowed to write it down as their own.  No one came up with a \$100 word.

Finding words worth exactly \$50 and \$100 takes a lot of calculations.  The kids should keep trying at home.  If they enjoy it, let them run with it.  If they become frustrated, they should spend no more than 10 or 15 minutes on each problem, and then they should call it a day.

I gave specific requirements for the last problem, the most expensive word.  Onomatopoeia words don’t count, so no coming in with ZZZZZZZZZZZ or the like.  Proper names are also disqualified.  Words need to be real words that can be found in the dictionary.

I hope this assignment is fun and not stressful.  If it’s more the latter than the former, set it aside and move on!

# Second Grade Humanities Enrichment: Song Parodies

Second grade humanities students continue to work on their humor unit.  This week, we started talking about parodies.  In every group, someone was able to explain that a parody is a takeoff on an original and that a parody is designed to be funny.  One student asked how this could be legal — aren’t parodies actually copyright violations?  Do I have to tell you that this made my heart sing?  Yes, I had a discussion about fair use with second graders, who were delighted to learn that there are circumstances when the fact that you were trying to be funny can actually get you out of trouble.

We talked about song parodies, art parodies, book parodies, and movie parodies.  For the next few weeks, we’ll be concentrating on the former.  I then showed the kids some song parody examples.  We started with this “Let it Go” parody from a frustrated dad exhausted by this ubiquitous song. The kids listened to the lyrics and were able to explain that a parody song’s lyrics follow the original song lyrics’ syllable pattern and rhyme scheme.

A handful of kids knew of Weird Al Yankovic and mentioned him in the opening discussion.  We watched a tiny clip of  Michael Jackson’s Beat It and then compared the same piece from Weird Al Yankovic’s Eat It.

Next, we talked about how parody is frequently a part of Sesame Street.  I asked the kids who watches Sesame Street — babies and toddlers, they told me.  Would babies and toddlers recognize that Sesame Street’s My Triangle is actually a parody of James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful?  Most likely, they wouldn’t.  So why does Sesame Street go to all the trouble?  It didn’t take the kids long to respond that Sesame Street parodies are actually aimed at parents, not kids.  We took a look at Sesame Street’s Share it Maybe, a parody of Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe (warning: lingering close-ups of a shirtless guy; we only watched the opening ten or fifteen seconds), and Sesame Street’s Outdoors, a parody of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours.  With last weeks’ groups, we watched a bit of Bohemian Rhapsody and Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody.

I then gave the kids a collection of lyrics to standard, well known songs (Twinkle, Twinkle; Take Me Out to the Ball Game, etc.).  We practiced figuring out the rhyme scheme and finding the syllable pattern.  The kids then selected a song to parody and got to work creating their own.

Most students are still working.  Tune in (ha ha… see what I did there?) next week to find out what they’ve accomplished!

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

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.  Some were “fiddles” and some were “flops.”  It can take awhile for the game to be second nature.

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

# Second Grade Math: Working Backwards and Finding the Key Move

This week, 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.