First Grade Enrichment Reading: Crime Lab Testing

This week in first grade reading, we set out to do some tests to help determine exactly what happened to Danny, the pilfered hippopotamus.  The cloffice was divided into five stations, and the kids rotated among the stations to perform the tests.

The next station was the Juice Test station.  The juice found at the scene seemed a little suspicious.  Had something been added to it?  The children used Ph paper to test the acidity of the juice.  They dipped a strip of paper in the juice, knowing that if the paper turned green, it meant that some kind of powder had been put in the juice, but if it stayed yellow, nothing had been added to the juice.



At the Fingerprints station, the kids looked at a picture of the cup found at the scene.  Three fingerprints were found on the cup.  The kids matched the fingerprints to their owners, using a chart of the fingerprints of the five club members.


At the next station, we examined three types of thread — cotton thread, wool thread, and the mystery threads found at the scene of the crime.  Were the mystery threads smoother and tighter, like the cotton threads?  Or were they wiry and loose, like the wool thread?  Who was wearing cotton and who was wearing wool?


At the Footprints station, the kids examined the footprints left at the scene and compared them to the footprints of the five club members to determine who had made the tracks found at the scene.


Finally, there was the Smells station.  When Danny was found at the scene of the crime, he had a distinctive smell.  Brandon and Julia had both just washed their hair.  Did Danny smell like their shampoo?  And if so, which one?  The kids endeavored to find out.

First, the students smelled Danny.  Then, they smelled Brandon’s shampoo, and then Julia’s shampoo.  The kids decided which smell they thought matched Danny, and they recorded this information on their data sheets.



Ask your child about the results!  Do the clues point to a particular club member as the culprit?  Or does it seem like more than one person looks guilty?  After we finished the five stations, the kids met to discuss their results.


Next week, I will be out on Thursday, in Orlando and the National Association for Gifted Children Conference.  The following week, we will have Crime Lab Part Two, and thereafter we will solve the mystery.

There is no homework this week!

Second Grade Enrichment Language Arts: Stratigraphy Sandwiches

Today in second grade enrichment language arts, we discussed stratigraphy.  We talked about how looking at the layers of the Earth is really important to archaeologists.  We learned that the oldest layer is on the bottom and the newest layer is on the top.  To demonstrate the concept, we built our own Stratigraphy Sandwiches.

Here are the supplies, just waiting for the kids to arrive:


The first thing the students did was set one piece of bread on their plate.  The bread represented a field in Virginia.

Next, I told the kids that a flood (the field was near a river) had occurred, causing a layer of mud to settle over the the field.  The kids spread a layer of chocolate frosting on the bread to represent the mud.




A group of Archaic people came to camp at the site.  They left a circle of rocks from their fire pit and some charcoal from their fire.  The students placed a circle of chocolate chips on the site to represent the rocks, and sprinkled sprinkles in the middle to represent the charcoal.



After a time, the Archaic people moved on, and a layer of dirt and rock covered the site.  To represent the layer of dirt, the students placed another slice of bread on top of their “sandwich.”

Later, another group, this time the Powhatan, came to the site.  They built shelters.  The students used their knives to dig holes in the top slice of bread to represent the post holes the Powhatan dug in the Earth.

The Powhatan made pottery, some of which was broken or destroyed.  The Powhatan dug holes and threw the broken pottery in the holes.  To represent this, the students dug more holes in their bread and buried pieces of “pottery” (M&M’s) in the holes.



The Powhatan moved on.  The proximity of the site to the river resulted in another flood.  To represent the flood, the students spread a layer of blue frosting on top of their bread.  For many of the kids, this resulted in some redistribution of the “pottery.”  We talked about how this can happen at a real site, and how archaeologists need to account for this type of movement when they excavate and analyze artifacts.



Through time, I told the kids, other layers of dirt accumulated, until the present and final layer of dirt covered the site.  To represent this final layer, the kids placed one last piece of bread on top of their sandwich.

This led us to present day, when an archeologist, suspecting that the field had been a prehistoric habitation site, conducts random samples and surveys.  The kids took site samples of their own, randomly poking a straw through the three layers of the sandwich to see what they could find.  When they came across a sprinkle, a chocolate chip, or an M&M, they knew that they had found an area that could have been a habitation site.



The archaeologists decide to conduct a test excavation at the site.  To represent this, the kids cut a small square out of their sandwich and examined the stratigraphy of the square.  It was easy to tell the layers apart.  We talked about how it’s not always so easy in real life.



I asked the students what would happen if I put their sandwiches in a blender.  Would they be able to examine the layers then?  Could they tell which items were found where?  They agreed that it would then be impossible to tell.  We compared that to when a habitation site is bulldozed or looted.

What would happen to the sandwiches if we separated them, layer by layer, to excavate the contents within?  They certainly wouldn’t be sandwiches anymore.  This is true at excavation sites in real life — archaeology is a destructive process.  Procedures at a dig are precise because once a site is excavated, it is destroyed.  There are no second chances.

After all that working and talking, it was time to eat our stratigraphy sandwiches.  If you thought the kids would hesitate to dig in to a three-layer frosting sandwich, you thought wrong.



All in all, we learned a lot and may have had a bit of fun along the way.  A successful endeavor, if you ask me.



First Grade Enrichment Reading: The Case of the Pilfered Hippopotamus — Clue Boards

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 (DUN DUN DUN!) (<—- ask your child about this, unless they’re in room 9, 11, or 12, in which case, ask them Friday when they get home [room 12’s field trip prevented us from meeting today, but I’ll catch them tomorrow]).  The friends 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 the stuffed hippo 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.


Over the next few weeks, we will perform a series of tests to determine the culprit.  We’ll look closely at 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!

**NOTE:  If you’d like to make your kid giggle, just say “cookie, pie, pie, cookies, cookies.”  Perhaps they can even explain why that’s funny…

First Grade Enrichment Math: Collaborative Problem Solving

This week in first grade enrichment math, we did some collaborative problem solving. I divided the kids into groups of three or four.  Each group received a question and three clues that could be used to answer the question.  All clues were necessary to solve the problem.  After they read the information, the students worked together (or on their own, it was their choice) to find an answer.  These were multi-step problems and they proved tricky for the kids.  Some kids broke off from their groups to follow their own path to the answers.  Others felt better talking through strategies with one or two other people.



The rule was that a group could not move to the next problem until all members of the group agreed upon a common answer.  More than once, a group did not agree, and some students had not written any of their calculations down.  This was tricky, because there was no way to look for potential errors when none of the work was in writing.  We had to meticulously check the math of the other group members to determine if it was indeed correct.



This was, for me, one of those great classroom experiences that stick with you.  The kids worked hard.  They were, at times, frustrated, but they worked through their frustration.  They talked to each other about their thinking.  They defended their choice of strategy.  It was kind of magical.

It was also one of those experiences where there is not that much to show for it.  The kids brought their papers home on Wednesday, but many of them didn’t look overly impressive.  Now that you know what went into the assignment, though, ask your children about it.  See if they’ll explain what strategy they used and why, and if they’ll tell you how that worked out.  Were they right?  How did the other group members go about it?  What could they do differently next time?

Second Grade Enrichment Language Arts: Artifact Battleship

This week in second grade enrichment language arts, we talked about gridding. We discussed how an archaeological dig destroys a site, and how keeping records during a dig is so important.  I showed the kids a sample site grid and we talked about how grids help archaeologists remember exactly where items were found.  The kids remembered that context is super important, and that knowing which items were found together makes a huge difference.

To practice working with a grid, we played Artifact Battleship.  Each student “buried” a spear, pottery, jewels, coins, and bones.  They then played against a partner to try to excavate their opponent’s items, calling out coordinates to find out if that spot was a “hit” or a “miss.”


If you’re interested in playing at home (hey, it could happen!), you can find the board here:  Artifact Battleship.  And you can check out a quick clip of Edan and Valeria playing Artifact Battleship here.

First Grade Reading: Crime Scene Analysis

IMG_8127When I picked up the first graders yesterday 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.


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.


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 only one straw?  What did it all mean?
img_1851img_1853I 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.