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 both Kaitlyn and Sylvie (both $92).

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.  Long medical names and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” are explicitly excluded.

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

Kindergarten Enrichment Reading: Researching Disgusting Critters

Yesterday in Kindergarten Enrichment Reading, we again met in the library, and we began our disgusting critter research in earnest.

I used The Worm, which we read together last week, to model how to fill out the Disgusting Critter Research form.  We worked together to hunt through the book for the information we needed to fill out the form.


Next, I talked to the kids about how to find the form in their Disgusting Critters packet.


After that, the kids chose a critter to research, and began the process of finding out all they could about their chosen critter.


Some students are working alone and some are working with a partner.  I left this up to them, and they all seemed happy with their choice (but do let me know if you hear otherwise).IMG_4295

The children worked diligently to fill out their forms.  They asked lots of (relevant) questions.IMG_4296

I don’t know about you, but a room full of kindergarten students using books to research makes me feel all gooey inside.*


*Given that we learned from The Worm that some worms’ habitat is the inside of a human’s or an animal’s body, I feel that I should note that this gooey feeling is not because I have a parasite.  Or at least I don’t think I do!


The two students in the photo below are researching the spider. Their Disgusting Critter book tells how many species of spiders there are but doesn’t list any examples of those species.  Mr. Spindle helped the students locate library books about specific types of spiders, and the students worked together to list the types that interested them on their form.IMG_4299

Waaaaait a minute… trapdoor spiders are a thing?  I find this information unsettling, but Ashlynn and Daylon don’t seem bothered.


When you undertake a project like this for the first time, it’s a bit of a gamble.  Mr. Spindle and I talked a lot while we prepared, but we still weren’t exactly sure how it would all work.  Yesterday, we breathed deep sighs of relief. The students are doing an amazing job with their research, and they seem super motivated to learn about their critters.

Stay tuned to see how they present their findings!

Kindergarten Enrichment Math: Subtraction with Borrowing

This week in kindergarten enrichment math, we tackled double digit subtraction with borrowing.

I taught the students the rhyme “More on top?  Don’t stop!  More on the floor? Go next door!”  Ask your child to explain what this means!

The kids did a great job and really seem to understand the concept of trading tens for ones.  (At least they did in class!)

Homework is a sheet of 25 (!) subtraction problems using borrowing.  Don’t save it all for one night!

Second Grade Enrichment Language Arts: Book Parodies

In second grade enrichment language arts, we’ve moved from song parodies to book parodies.  First, we read Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

goodnight moon

We followed that with Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd.

goodnight ipad

Goodnight iPad keeps the rhyme scheme and story structure of Goodnight Moon but changes the theme to illustrate how the beleaguered grandmother deals with her screen-addicted family.

We talked about how good parodies retain enough of the original so that the source for the parody is clear to the reader immediately.  A parody also usually centers around a unifying theme (and doesn’t just replace parts of the original with random words).

Now, it is the students’ job to select a theme and rewrite Goodnight Moon as a parody.  Some of them had an easy time choosing a theme and some of them are struggling with this.  Stay tuned to see how their parodies turn out!


Kindergarten Enrichment Reading: Research with Disgusting Critters and (Not at all Disgusting) Mr. Spindle

For the balance of this session of kindergarten enrichment reading, we will be undertaking a special research project.  I’ll be meeting with the two kindergarten enrichment reading groups as one.  Normally, this wouldn’t be possible because the cloffice just isn’t big enough to accommodate all of us — but for this project, it doesn’t need to be!

Luckily for us, Mr. Spindle, our amazing librarian, has agreed to team teach a research unit with me, and we’ll be meeting with kindergarten enrichment readers in the library.

Last Thursday, Mr. Spindle and I introduced the unit, which uses the Disgusting Critters series by Elise Gravel as a springboard to talk to the kids about nonfiction books (and other sources) and research.

To begin, we read one of the books in the Disgusting Critters series, The Worm.


All of the books in the series follow a similar format. They introduce the critter, and then tell facts about where it lives, what it eats, and how it reproduces.  The facts are delivered in a humorous tone and accompanied by Gravel’s engaging, funny drawings.

The students will be working in pairs or groups to use use one of the Disgusting Critters books as a source to create an infographic.  Tomorrow, the students will choose a book and begin filling out a graphic organizer with facts from that book.  We’ll work on the forms again next week, and then the students will begin work on their infographics.

I’m really excited about this and am thrilled to have the opportunity to work together with Mr. Spindle on this project.  I can’t wait to see what the kids create!

Kindergarten Enrichment Math: Regrouping

This week in kindergarten enrichment math, we started with another five minute challenge.  The kids have become very competitive with themselves!  Some asked for a copy of the challenge to take home so they can practice.  This is not homework (and neither is completing the five minute challenge problems they didn’t finish in class).  If they want to practice, that’s great!  If they don’t, that’s okay, too.

We then talked about regrouping.  We reviewed tens and ones and practiced a slew of addition problems with and without regrouping.  Homework is a short page with addition problems that require regrouping.   Next week, we’ll be talking about carrying and borrowing.  That’s a little more difficult, but I know they can do it!

Second Grade Enrichment Math: Strategic Thinking with Othello and Gobblet

Last week in second grade enrichment math, we played 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 surround at least one of your opponent’s chips with two of your own.  The chip(s) you have surrounded then turn to your color.

When playing Othello, the corners are crucial because they cannot be flipped to another color.  So the best strategy is to go for the corners as quickly as possible.  As we said in class, S/HE WHO CONTROLS THE CORNERS, CONTROLS THE GAME.

You can play Othello online here.  I definitely don’t do that in my free time.  There’s also an Othello app.  You can find it here.

This week, we played Gobblet.

The kids immediately compared Gobblet to Tic-Tac-Toe.  They definitely have similarities.  Gobblet is played as follows:

  • The object of the game is to get four in a row of your color.
  • Each player starts with 12 pieces: three large, three medium-large, three medium-small, and three small.
  • Each player’s pieces are initially arranged into three stacks off the board, and only visible pieces can be moved onto the board. The initial stacks prevent playing a smaller piece before a corresponding larger piece.
  • When a piece is moved from off-board onto the board, it must be moved to either (1) an empty space, or (2) a space to gobble an opponent’s piece that is part of three in a row (for the opponent). In other words, a new piece can gobble only an opponent’s piece, and only to prevent an immediate win on the opponent’s next turn. These restrictions do not apply when a piece that is already on the board is moved.

That’s it!  Simple to learn, challenging to master.  The kids had a great time challenging their classmates and gobbling their pieces.  Before we started, we discussed two primary strategies:

  1. Gobble a smaller piece if you can (unless, of course, it will cause you to lose)
  2. Look for 3-by-3’s, where you can place a piece to have two three-in-a-rows together.

The kids did a great job of using the strategies.  We had some tense games!  There is, of course, a Gobblet app.  You can find it here.