Second Grade Enrichment Language Arts: Song Parodies

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].

We then reviewed our discussion from last week about rhyme scheme and syllable patterns, and the kids 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:

Maddie, Ella & Yasmine’s “Take Me Out to the Movies”

Pauline and Charlotte’s “Work Work Work”

Pauline and Charlotte’s “Mrs. Green”

Stella, Amina & Lauren’s “Get Me Some Ice Cream”

Aila and Aileen’s “I’m a Little Kitten”

Edan’s “Dudley and Harry”

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.

Second Grade Enrichment Math: Blokus

This week in second grade strategic thinking, we played the game Blokus.

Blokus is a two- to- four- player game where each player is assigned a color and 21 game pieces in that color in different geometric shapes.  The goal of the game is to put as many of your pieces on the board as possible.  The trick is that all of your pieces need to touch one another, but only at the corners — none of the sides may touch sides of pieces of the same color, and none of the pieces may be free-floating.

True Blokus-devotees know the official names for the pieces, so I provided the kids with a cheat sheet to help them learn the names:

We then discussed strategy.  I gave the kids the following strategic tips:

  1. Play toward the center.  Since you want to cover as much of the board as possible, start by claiming as much of the board as you can by placing your pieces in a line angling toward the center.
  2. Play your biggest pieces first.  You should play a five-square piece if you can, unless you have a strategic reason why a smaller piece makes more sense (and usually you don’t have such a reason).
  3. Block your opponent from moving into your territory.
  4. Save your one-square piece for as long as you can, and use it to jump into another area if at all possible.

Then I set them loose to play.  One of the great things about Blokus is that it’s often easy to see who is winning just by glancing at the board from across the room.  It’s easy to tell who is working toward the center, and who is playing their biggest pieces first.  Kids who play Blokus with their pieces all in a pile clearly aren’t paying attention to what they have or thinking about their next move(s).

The kids were divided about the game.  Many of them loved it, but an almost equal number were frustrated and found it more difficult than they expected.  They forgot to try to anticipate their opponents’ moves and were upset when the moves they planned to make wound up blocked.  It was a good lesson in considering not just your strategic moves but the moves of your opponents as well.

I highly recommend Blokus for play at home.  You can buy it on Amazon here and the free app is available here.

First Grade Enrichment Reading: Print Ads and the Z Form

This week in first grade reading, we spent some time analyzing print advertisements.  I gave each student a full-page magazine advertisement.  Then, I explained the Z form to them.  The Z form theory posits that, if you learned to read left-to-right, your eyes will scan over the page from left to right in a Z form, like this:

Z Form

Marketing firms use this theory to place ad elements where they will catch your eyes.   At the top there will usually be something to lead your eyes in, then something catchy in the middle, and the logo will usually appear in the lower middle area, to the right.

I used the following ad as an example:

z form adAs you can see, when I placed this Macy’s ad in my Z-inator (a page protector with a Z drawn on it in Sharpie. So fancy!), the ad followed the format to a… well, Z.  At the top they draw your eye in by reminding you that Father’s Day is coming up and dad’s are awesome.  In the middle you see the clothing items you could buy for your dad, and a picture letting you know that hopefully they’ll make him as happy as the chipper dad in the ad.  At the bottom is the Macy’s logo.

The kids then examined their ads for the Z form and we discussed which ones followed the format (spoiler alert:  most did), and which ones didn’t.  We went over the homework sheet, which is to do the same thing at home — find a full-page advertisement and analyze it to see if it follows the Z form.

Apologies if for the rest of your life you only see Z’s when you look at ads!

Second Grade Enrichment Language Arts: Song Parodies

Second grade enrichment language arts 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.

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.

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!

Second Grade Enrichment Math: Strategic Thinking with Rush Hour

This week in second grade enrichment math, we continued working on strategic thinking and 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 (as much as I love the app, I always prefer actually manipulating the pieces, if possible)  here.

First Grade Enrichment Math: Cooperative Problem Solving (with Bears!)

New first grade enrichment math groups met this Wednesday.  We are working on some logic problems in cooperative groups.  We began with ten “Bear Line-Up” problems.  The kids are working in groups of three or four.  Each group receives a set of cards, with each card containing a clue.  The kids read the clues in turn and then attempt to arrange the bears according to the parameters given on the cards.

For example:

  1. Three grean bears are at the front of one line
  2. In one line, there are 3 blue bears and 4 yellow bears.  Each blue bear is just behind a yellow bear.
  3. There are 2 lines of bears.  There are 7 bears in each line.
  4. Four red bears are at the back of one line.

All of the clues are necessary to complete the task.  The students have to listen to each other read the clues and then agree on the appropriate course of action.  This isn’t always easy.  We have a lot of alpha children who are used to taking charge when they are in a group, and now here they are with a bunch of other alphas.  There was a lot of frustration, but they worked through it.

We finished the last Bear Line-Up today and moved on to Bear Street.  These are similar problems, but they involve placing the bears on a map.  This went much more smoothly.  I think the kids are really learning how to listen, take turns, etc.  Next week we’ll continue with some similar logic activities.  I expect this will go even better, but we’ll have to wait and see!


First Grade Enrichment Reading: Introduction to Advertising

Our new first grade enrichment reading groups met yesterday.  We started our new unit, which is about advertising.  We talked about ways companies convince people to buy products.  We spent the class time exploring the PBS web site “Don’t Buy It!”  First, we played “What’s in the Shopping Bag?”  This game shows an image of a product and asks the kids to predict what is in the actual box.  For example:

GI Joe Missile Launcher

Does this box contain:

a) a firing missile launcher

b) a firing missile lancher and a GI Joe figure

c) a non-firing missile launcher

d) a Barbie Dream House

If you said c), you are correct!  Although the photo shows the launcher firing the missle and GI Joe is pictured, GI Joe is not included and the launcher doesn’t actually fire.  The kids did a great job with this game, and were appropriately shocked at some of the ways advertisers deceive consumers.

Next, we talked about food advertising.  We went over the ingredient list for how to make “the perfect (looking!) burger” to photograph for an ad:

  • 3 lbs Ground beef
  • Vegetable oil
  • Brown food coloring or molasses
  • 100 hamburger buns
  • 2 cases of lettuce
  • a dozen tomatoes
  • paper towels
  • Superglue
  • tweezers
  • paintbrush
  • waterproof spray
  • glycerin and water (glycerin is a syrupy, sweet liquid made from oil)

Ask your child how each of these items is used to make a delicious (looking, not tasting!) hamburger.  They particularly enjoyed the part about the paper towel diaper.

If your child came home glowing about this week’s homework, my apologies.  But yes, I really did ask the kids to watch half an hour of television and pay particular attention to the commercials (I know it’s screen free week and we talked about how this homework can wait until this week is over, since it is not due until next Thursday).  Next week, we’ll be analyzing ads.  I can’t wait to hear what the kids have to say!