First Grade Enrichment Reading: Invention Convention

Yesterday, the first grade reading groups held the first session of their Invention Convention.  The students have been working on their inventions for weeks.  We talked about numerous inventions and how they came to be.  The students brainstormed problems and possible solutions and then created their very own inventions at home.  Last week, we discussed alliterative, rhyming, pun-based, and many other naming techniques (as well as “scientific” suffixes with a number added at the end — you’ll see this was an attractive concept!).  And now, for your consideration, here are the first half of the first graders’ inventions (the rest will be showcased next week)!

First, Gabe presented his invention, the Clipsil.  The Clipsil was invented to solve the problem of being involved in your work when you suddenly run out of paper, break your pencil lead, or (blast!) can’t find an eraser.  Just hang the Clipsil where you are working and it holds paper, spare pencil lead, and erasers handy.  I think you might need one!

Next, Sylvie showed off her invention, the Found Not Lost.  The Found Not Lost is designed to help those of us who are always losing things.  Keep spares of the items you tend to misplace (such as hair bands (the elastic kind, not the long-haired head bangers from the 80’s kind), bookmarks, and other trinkets).  I need a pocket for my glasses, and, never fear, the Found Not Lost has empty compartments for just this kind of personalization!  (It’s also super cute, just like its creator).

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Then, it was Julian’s turn.  Julian explained that he actually has two problems — he can’t reach things on the high shelves in his room, and sometimes he really needs to sit down.  Wow, can I relate!  Julian invented the Stool Elevator to solve these problems.  The stool uses brackets that allow it to grow taller when necessary or shrink to a smaller height.  Julian even created his own logo for his product.

Jack asks — have you had problems with marble runs that break?  Do you know the frustration of a completed marble run that then shatters before you can begin to play?  Well, know this pain no longer, because the Unruinable Marble Run has arrived!  This device is put together with velcro and so is easy to mend in the event of calamity.

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I don’t think I’m acquainted with too many adults who share Phineas’ problem, but one never knows… you see, when Phineas is in the bathtub, his baby brother is often hitting or biting him while they are waiting for the tub to fill.  To combat this combat (ha ha!), Phineas invented the Bathtub Separator.  This handy device is like a limo privacy panel for the bathtub.  It is made of plastic and hooks onto the tub, with an opening at the bottom for the water to flow through so that the tub fills easily (although a piece of Phineas’ mom’s skin has been included in the prototype as the result of an unfortunate Gorilla Glue incident, this feature will not be a part of the product once it hits shelves).

Have you ever wanted to play catch, but there is no one available to play with you?  This situation will never trouble you again, if you purchase the All Star All Pro Football Player.  This device looks like a (severely malnourished) friend who is always available to play and who also provides you with handy point scores for each of your throws.  Zach demonstrated the invention for us, and his classmates were eager to take a turn!

Perhaps your problems are of a more cerebral nature.  Do you ever find yourself around town, waiting in line at the bank or sitting in the doctor’s office, and you think “I wish I had a book right now!”?  Well, Sasha is here to solve your problem with the Belt Bag. The Belt Bag has pockets of varying sizes, so you can have a book (or two or three) at the ready at all times.  It’s pretty fashionable, too!

Amos has a problem that is relatable to many — he is forgetful.  He needed a way to keep track of the things he was supposed to remember.  Enter The Mind Rememberer, a notepad and pencil that attach to a lanyard you can wear around your neck.  Now, whenever you think of something you need to do, just write it down in your Mind Rememberer!

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Kenton created an invention to solve a problem of his mom’s — she often has trouble deciding what to make for dinner.  Enter The Dinner Sheet.  Use the Sheet to record your dinner ideas for the week and Presto!, problem solved.

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Hana’s problem was that when she tried to play cards in the car, the cards would slip and fall off her lap.  She would then be unable to reach them to continue her game, and they would become dirty on the floor of the car.  Hana invented the Game Catcher in the Car to help with this problem.  You can see her prototype before (the actual invention was too large to bring to school).  The Game Catcher in the Car wraps around the front of the seat to prevent cards from sliding onto the floor.  It also looks pretty cozy!

Do you ever forget to bring (or use) a spoon and fork?  Like, have you been halfway through a big bowl of chili, scooping up that spicy liquid with your hands, when you think to yourself “There has to be a better way!”?  Well, has Simon got the solution for you!  Introducing the DinnerWear Shirt 5000 (Get it?  Dinnerware/DinnerWear?  Punny names are the best!).  The DinnerWear Shirt 5000 includes a spoon and fork on a rope.  They come with you everywhere, so you never forget to bring (or use) them.  Your friends, parents, and drycleaner will thank you!

Cleo has a problem that may become obsolete (though I hope not).  When she reads the newspaper, she is left with ink all over her hands.  No longer, now that she has invented the Inky 3000.  The Inky 3000 is a pair of gloves with pieces of felt attached to the gloves with velcro.  When the felt becomes dirty, it can be washed or replaced.  Now you can read the newspaper carefree (Well, except for the content.  The Inky 3000 can’t help you out with that.).

Do you wish you could be taller?  Perhaps you want to reach high things.  Maybe you just think it would be enjoyable to look down on other people as you stroll along.  No matter the reason, Cam has the solution — Boost Boots.  These boots are made from foam blocks covered with duct tape (note how the bottom section looks like fire coming out of rocket boosters).  The top of the blocks is covered with velcro.  To use the Boost Boots, put on the red boots (the bottoms of which are also covered with velcro), and step onto the blocks. The blocks and the boots stick together and you can now move about with a good two feet of extra height!

Does it bug you when you have to bend over to pick up your toys?  Your worries are over if you pick yourself up the Toy Grabber designed by Lucas.  The tongs at the end of the grabber easily grab your toys for you, while you stay completely upright.  Phew!

Do you hang out or trick or treat with friends or siblings who move faster than you?  Are others constantly leaving you behind?  Well, not anymore, thanks to Nathan’s Moon Shoes.  The soles of the shoes are covered with springs and the side of the shoes have a detachable flashlight to light up your path.  Strap on a pair of Moon Shoes, and you’ll never be left behind again!

When you put on your jacket, do you constantly fumble with your shirt sleeves after the jacket sleeves push the shirt back up to your elbows?  Lucas had this exact problem!  He doesn’t anymore, though, because he has the Fashion Sleeve Holder 2000.  This handy device consists of a rubber band and a button in a fancy box (Don’t discount your packaging, people.  Learn from the cosmetics industry!).  You apply the device to the outside of your shirt sleeve, and then everything stays in place when you put on your jacket.

Daniel has also been thwarted by objects placed on shelves out of his reach.  Not anymore, because now he has the Reacher 10,000.  The Reacher 10,000 consists of paper mache hands attached to the end of long sticks. Simply extend the sticks and use the hands to grab what you need (Daniel advises that you not grab anything breakable).

We had a visitor during the time that Megan presented her invention and I don’t have any photos (Megan, can you bring it back next week??).  I don’t want you to miss out on seeing the prototype of the Frollector.  The Frollector is a umbrella-shaped device that Megan places under her brother’s highchair.  A plastic lining covers the Frollector.  Megan’s baby brother can then make all the mess he desires.  When it comes time to clean up (which is Megan’s job), you can just take the lining out of the Frollector, shake it over the trash can, and replace it. Easy peasy!

Only half of the first grade enrichment reading students were able to present this week, so we will hear from the other half of the students next Thursday.  I can’t wait to see what they’ve dreamed up!  The students’ creativity, ingenuity, and hard work were evident in their inventions!

Second Grade Enrichment Language Arts Presents Storyville v. Jack Jones: A Mock Trial

At 9:15 AM, the mock trial of Storyville v. Jack Jones was called to order.  Judge Green gave brief instructions and then swore in the jury.  Miss Banko then made the opening statement for the prosecution.  Mr. Smith followed with the opening statement for the defense.

Next, the prosecution swore in their first witness, a subdued and obviously distraught Martha Giant.  Miss Balsano and Mr. Hinderks conducted direct examination of Mrs. Giant.  Then, Mr. Thomton cross-examined Mrs. Giant.  He asked some hard-hitting questions.  The defense seemed surprised when Mrs. Giant stated that she had never told Jack Jones he could take the goose.  The defense was equally taken aback by Mrs. Giant’s claim that her husband had not been threatening Jack, but that he had simply been singing his favorite song, “Fe Fi Fo Fum.”

When Mrs. Giant left the stand, the prosecution called their next witness, Inspector Albert Morse.  Mr. Manwaring conducted the direct examination of Inspector Morse, and Mr. Hjerstedt took care of the cross examination.  Somehow, Mr. Hjerstedt managed to elicit an admission from Inspector Morse that Morse had already made up his mind that Jack was guilty before even arresting him for this crime.  (Interestingly, this admission was not mentioned again during the trial).

The defense then called their witnesses.  Miss Storm asked direct examination questions of Mrs. Nora Jones.  Mrs. Jones was then cross-examined by Miss Secrist.  Many of the questions gave Mrs. Jones pause, and she took the time to carefully consider them before she responded.  She did admit on the stand that her son had been in trouble with the law in the past, but tried to explain that he had a difficult childhood after the death of his father.  Mrs. Jones’ belief in her son and his innate goodness was evident to all in the courtroom.

Finally, the defendant, Jack Jones, took the stand.  Miss Akil conducted the direct examination and Mr. Zoghi took care of the cross-examination.  Mr. Zoghi grilled Mr. Jones about his claim that he did not know that Arthur Giant was close behind him on the climb down the beanstalk, asking Jack “Wouldn’t you have heard the giant?  Or felt the beanstalk vibrating?”  Jack attempted to explain that he had been distracted at the time.

After closing arguments from Miss Bong for the prosecution and Mr. Hjerstedt for the defense, the jury retired to deliberate.  They quickly came back with a verdict (guilty on the burglary charge, not guilty on the murder charge), which they explained eloquently.  I don’t know about you, but I was super impressed with how well they listened and processed what they were supposed to do.  The jury stated that they believed Mrs. Giant when she testified that she had not given Jack permission to take the goose.  They did not find Jack’s claim to the contrary to be credible, and therefore found Jack guilty of burglary.  In contrast, the jury felt that Mrs. Giant’s testimony that her husband had merely been singing was immaterial.  The jury concluded that Jack had reason to fear for his life when he heard Mr. Giant’s words, no matter the intent behind those words, and they felt that Jack had acted in self defense and so could not be found guilty of murder.  (Just so you know, most of the members of the jury participated in this unit last year.  Other than that, they had no other warning or preparation.  They were told this morning by their classroom teachers that — surprise! — they had jury duty.)

The second graders did a fantastic job.  As most of you know, they weren’t just reading lines from scripts — they wrote each and every question they asked in the trial.  They learned the difference between direct and cross examination and can explain what types of questions you ask when and why. (Each and every time one of these kids said “it’s a yes or no question,” my heart grew two sizes.)  They came up with the theories that came out at the (mock) trial — the giant was just singing his favorite song!  It isn’t stealing if you have permission!  Inspector Morse had a grudge against Jack! — and they stood by them.

As with any trial, many of the witnesses were nervous, and things did not proceed exactly as planned or anticipated.  That is to be expected, and (at least to me) it made it seem even more like a real trial.

I hope these kids are proud of themselves and what they’ve accomplished.  They put on a mock trial that could rival any high school mock trial (and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn to say that they would do okay against law school students, too).

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement over the last several weeks.  At many times I’ve wondered if attempting this unit with second graders was a completely boneheaded thing to do, but they proved themselves more than capable, and we couldn’t have done it without your help.

If you have pictures from the trial that you would not mind sharing with me, please do!  I did not step out of my judicial role to take a single photo, and I would love to update this post with some shots of the kids in action.

First Grade Enrichment Reading: Invention Convention Update

It’s been a long few weeks at the Green household.  As of this Monday, all of us were back to school and work.  We may still have been blowing our noses or sucking on cough drops, but we were back!  And then came the snow day…

I anticipate seeing my First Grade Enrichment Readers this Thursday, but many of them approached me yesterday in the hall to 1) welcome me back (that’s what they meant when they demanded “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??” Right?) and 2) inform me that confusion about the Invention Unit abounds in their homes.

I’m linking the Invention Convention flyer that I will distribute this Thursday.  It tells you all about how the Invention Convention will be Thursday, March 30th.  Students are welcome to bring their inventions to school before that date and store them in my office.  The flyer mentions Inventor’s Notebooks.  The students do not have these yet.  I will be distributing the Notebooks on Thursday, we’ll work with them that day, and then I will send them home.  The only homework for the next two weeks is to work on those inventions.

Please know I mean it when I say that inventions should be simple.  The example I used with all of my classes is this one:  several years ago, I had a student named Riley.  Riley is a big kid now, but when she was a first grader, she had a problem with her younger sister, who did a lot of talking.  Sometimes, Riley tired of listening.  Riley knew that if her sister figured out that she wasn’t listening, though, she would just talk more (and louder!).  So Riley invented the Earplug Headband.  This clever headband had earplugs attached to it (with Velcro, so if they get worn or dirty, they could be replaced).  When you wear the headband, no one will know you have the earplugs in!  Problem solved!

I use this invention as an example because it was simple, easy to make, easy to demonstrate in class, didn’t require any fancy materials, and solved an existing problem.  Don’t let you child sell you on an elaborate idea that requires twenty-six trips to Home Depot and Michael’s!

Please let me know if you have any questions about this project.  I look forward to distributing Inventor’s Notebooks on Thursday!

Click here to see the Invention Convention flyer.

Update Plus Some At-Home Enrichment Activities for Kindergarten, First and Second Graders

Families of all of my students, this post is for you!  February and (at least so far) March have not been kind to the immune systems of the Green family.  At the beginning of February, my husband came down with Norovirus at the same time that I was home with the flu.  Last week, the flu took down my son, and as of today, it appears to have come for my daughter as well.  Parenting can be rough stuff!  I feel like being a parent has made me a better teacher in many ways (and the reverse is also true — teaching has made me a better parent).  But when safeguarding children’s growth is your mission both at home and at work, guilt is also everywhere you turn!  I feel terrible for missing so much time with your children.  This post has some updates on what all of my students have been up to the last few weeks (and how my absence will impact the way in which we proceed with our units), and it also has some at-home enrichment activities you can do to keep those brains fresh and engaged.

In kindergarten math, we started working with simple logic grid problems.  I hope you like these because (as those of you with first- and second-graders know all too well), I love them!  Logical thinking is so, so important. If early elementary students can learn to use process of elimination and to think systematically and logically, this will be helpful to them in so many areas.  The kindergarten math students did really well with the grid problems, although they found them intimidating at first.  I emphasized in class how, with these types of problems, we are never guessing.  We only make marks on the grid when we know definitively that something is true (or not true).  This is contrary to how we approach lots of math (when guess and check can be a great strategy).  I kept cutting students off when they said things like “I think probably…”  If you were listening in from outside, you would have heard me responding “I don’t care what you think!  I don’t care about probably!  What do you KNOW?”  And you would have heard lots of giggles (the kids think it’s hilariously outrageous when I tell them I don’t care what they think).

Today in kindergarten math, we were going to spend some time checking out bedtime math.  This website offers a different, leveled word problem every day.  The idea is that most families spend time reading together every day/night, but doing math together is much less prevalent.  The bedtime math problems are simple (the lower levels will be far too simple for your kindergarten students, but this means they will feel successful right away) and they only take a few minutes.  Why not make math a part of your nightly routine?  If you’re one of those people who says you hate or aren’t good at math (please stop doing that, by the way, even if you think it’s true), doing this with your child(ren) might help change your tune.

In first grade math, we need to finish our floor plans for the Rosadas restaurant.  I gave each group of students a gridded blueprint of the restaurant space and cut out pieces to represent the kitchen, the bathroom, and the tables that need to be placed in the restaurant.  I also gave them a copy of the City Building Codes, which require that the bathroom be adjacent to at least one wall, that the tables not have their long side against the wall, that nothing be placed in the entrance way, etc.  The students were working in groups to develop a plan for how to set up the restaurant.  Some created zones for two-person tables away from the big family or party tables.  One student was adamant that these two-person “romantic” tables needed to be placed on a window wall so people on dates could look at the view.

Your first grade math student can do something like this at home using a website like RoomStyler.  Maybe your child would like to design his/her ideal bedroom or game room.  What things would s/he want to include?  Where are the doors and windows and how would they affect the placement of the items in the room?

I did actually see my second grade math students yesterday.  Hooray!  We are still game testing to determine if Cheatum Swindle is doing a good job at Goodwin’s Game Factory or if he is creating and selling unfair games.  The game we tested this week was called “That’s Dicey!”  Each pair of students received a game board, two markers, and a pair of dice.  On your turn, you rolled the dice.  Then, you subtracted the smaller number from the bigger number to find the difference between the dice (doubles meant rolling again).  If you were Player A and the difference was even, you moved one space.  If you were Player B and the difference was odd, you moved one space.

As always, before we played, the students made predictions about whether the game was fair.  Most (but not all) predicted that it was.  They changed their minds after playing the game, when it became clear that the odds were stacked in Player B’s favor (see what I did there?).  The students then filled out a chart listing all of the possible difference outcomes (there were 30) and telling the probability for each player to be able to move (12 out of 30 for Player A, 18 out of 30 for Player B).  They then wrote letters to Gregory Goodwin, explaining that the game wasn’t fair, and outlining their plans for how to change the game to make it fair.

What can you do with your second grade enrichment math student at home?  Play a game.  Any game, really, but simple is probably better for this exercise.  As you play, ask your child: is this game fair?  Why do you say so?  (I still have students who say the game is unfair whenever they are losing… I think they are joking… I hope they are joking).  Beware:  your child may become angry if you ask too many questions.  In that case, drop it and just play the game.  It’s okay, however, if you happen to muse aloud about how unlikely or likely some move or outcome is.

In kindergarten reading, we’ve been working with words.  We discovered anagrams, including anagrams for all of the kindergarten enrichment reading students’ names.  Then, we began learning about parts of speech.  We talked about nouns (and, of course, we watched the Schoolhouse Rock song “A Noun in a Person, Place, or Thing”).  We briefly differentiated nouns from adjectives and verbs and then we took a shot at some online Mad Libs.  Does anyone do these on long car trips anymore?  No?  Just me?  Maybe you should, because the kindergarten students found them hilarious.  Try some at home (and maybe pick up a book of Mad Libs the next time you’re at Barnes and Noble).

In first grade reading, we have been working on our inventions unit.  In our last class, we talked about how different toys were invented (my favorite is still Play-Doh, which began its life as Wallpaper Cleaner. True story!)  We also watched some clips from Ellen with kid inventors.  We watched this one in class.  The kids loved it — you may want to check out this one, this one, or this one, too.   I hope to be at school tomorrow to distribute Inventor’s Notebooks and to work with the kids on designing their own inventions.  If I am not, expect a post from me about what we were planning to do and what you can do at home.

In second grade language arts, we are working so hard preparing for our trial.  The kids have been diligently writing questions to prepare for witness testimony.  My plan is to assign roles on Friday.  Students may have some work to do at home to prepare for the trial (writing/refining questions, drafting opening and closing statements).  This session of enrichment is supposed to end on Friday, March 24th, and my initial plan was to have the trial that day, but two second grade classes will be on a field trip, so that date won’t work.  This means we’re looking at a trial date of March 31st (probably at 10AM, but you will receive an official invitation once the details are finalized).  I hope to see the second grade enrichment language arts students on Friday to assign roles and distribute task lists.  If I am not, expect a post from me about next steps.

This concludes my (as usual) overly wordy explanation of what we’re up to in K-2 enrichment.  Any and all good health wishes, chants, dances, or rituals you would like to send my way are more than welcome.  I miss your kids and can’t wait to be back with them soon!