Mr. Kay's Blog

The day to day happenings of a 6th grade classroom teacher

  • In The Sixth Grade We Read

    Every week I take in how many pages each student has read. Below is the "Wall Of Fame", the top readers for the week, and "The 200+ Club", all the students who have read more than 200 pages in a week. Congratulations to all those mentioned!
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Archive for February, 2010

(party) Friday

Posted by willkay on February 27, 2010

The morning started with a staff meeting. A very interesting discussion about acceptance and tolerance, and celebrating the differences in students. Children should be free to follow their own interests without suffering peer pressure. They should be supported in their enthusiasms, and protected from verbal bullying. Also, it is important to treat all students equally, offer them the choice, chance. and opportunity to express themselves.

In the English lesson the students read out their biographies. Some very interesting research done on grandparents/parents, and some very interesting stories. The History lesson was followed by a spelling quiz: Homophones. Then we took in the new reading totals. Some really good totals were achieved this week. It was nice to hear that most of the students had read over 120 pages, well done! There was just time to correct the Englsh homework from last night before recess.

After recess the students had music and Spanish, and then it was home time. PARTY! And, if you were wondering, my dinner party was a success. I now have some new avocado seeds to plant in the classroom, and I still have my eyebrows:

Attendance: One absent. All present.

Signed Homework Notebooks: 22 out of 23

Memos signed and returned: 23 out of 23


  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

Posted in english, spelling, stories, youtube | 1 Comment »

(it’s not his birthday) Thursday

Posted by willkay on February 25, 2010

Eeeek! In a moment of madness, yesterday I forgot to mention it was Heriberto’s birthday. Sorry. Happy (belated) Birthday.

A misty/foggy start to the day. And no, it was nothing like England! I realise that Hollywood/television would have you believe that London is a city shrouded in fog, but in reality, it isn’t. At the beginning of the 20th Century London was “foggy” because of smog. It sits in a basin, and with every house having (several) fireplaces and chimneys (see Mary Poppins for an accurate portrayal of a the life of a Cockney chimney-sweep), London was shrouded in smog rather than fog. True, London probably has more foggy days than Tijuana – the River Thames is slightly fuller than the Rio Tijuana, the air is more humid – however, there are only about 10-15 foggy days a year. Either way, morning line up was long enough to sing Happy Birthday to Miss Irene, but short enough to get everyone into classrooms quickly.

The sixth grade went to computer class and I went to the fifth grade. The sixth grade continued work on their projects about leaders, while I spent time working through percentage increase and decrease. Spanish followed by maths. Homework checked and a quick reminder how to work out if a line is vertical or horizontal. Twenty four questions, answered quickly and successfully, meant that we moved straight on to an English lesson. The homework was checked quickly, and then we worked through pronouns and antecedents. Basically this means making sure that the pronoun you are using, agrees with the noun that preceded it. Checking that the pronoun is the correct singular/plural, male/female/it when compared with the noun. This, the students assured me, was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

Recess. Not sure exactly what was happening during recess, but I did notice that at one point the sixth grade managed to fit 18 students into the “small house” on the playground.

Science: what is the difference between a mixture and a compound? How to separate a mixture of sand, salt, and iron filings.

Geography: what is communism? What was The Cold War? And how Mikhail Gorbachev changed Russia, and world politics.

Attendance: All present.

Signed Homework Notebooks: 20 out of 23

Memos signed and returned: 15 out of 21


  • Maths: Practice 10-1
  • English: Grammar Workbook Pages: 67,68
  • Story: Biography (in tomorrow)
  • Reading Log: It would be nice to get all the reading logs in.
  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

Posted in computer class, english, geography, maths, morning line up, reading log, science | Leave a Comment »

(flag day) Wednesday

Posted by willkay on February 24, 2010

Today is Mexico’s Flag Day, the day that Mexicans honour their flag, and the history behind it. To celebrate the whole school lined up, saluted the flag, and sang the national anthem. The Honour Guard escorted the flag across the playground, up to the flagpole. Where the school’s flag was proudly displayed throughout the day.

Plotting points in four quadrants was the title of the maths lesson. However, it wasn’t just about plotting the points. it was also about naming the quadrants, and naming horizontal and vertical lines. And no, none of the lines were called “Brian”. The English lesson finished off the topics of Homonyms and Prepositional Phrases. We then started the new topic of Subject/Object Pronouns. This should be a fairly straight forward topic and, hopefully, the whole thing will be completed during homework tonight.

Recess, and there were new basketballs for the school to play with.

After recess and it was back into the classroom to continue with geography, except it turned into more of a history lesson. Although, in the end, the French invasion of Russia failed because Napoleon did not know his geography. The Russians hid behind the Ural mountain range, waiting for the winter to come. And when it came, the French retreated. Of the 100,000 men who marched back to France, only 30,000 made it. This bit of history was then followed up with an explanation of Marxism and Communism. It is very difficult to study Russia without discussing its history.

A shortened science lesson (because of an extended geography lesson and a lowering of the flag) meant that there was only time for a quick recap of the periodic table, and a mention of sodium in water. Jose Manuel mentioned that there are several videos on youtube of the effects of sodium and water – just type in “sodium water” into the search box – which are very dramatic. This is not an experiment that we will be doing in class!

The day ended with several heartfelt pleas: please get your homework notebooks signed; please get the memo about the MiniOlympics signed and returned; please do all your homework.

Attendance: Two absent.

Signed Homework Notebooks: 15 out of 21


  • Maths: Reteaching 10-1
  • English: Grammar Workbook Pages: 62 (1-8), 63, 64
  • Story: Biography (in on Friday)
  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

Posted in english, geography, honour guard, maths, science, spelling, youtube | 1 Comment »

(golden) Tuesday

Posted by willkay on February 23, 2010

Great Britain win a gold medal, at the Winter Olympics, in the women’s skeleton. Which is a great sentence. Admit it. You understand all the words in the sentence, it just doesn’t seem to make any sense. Mind you, neither does lying face forward on a thin metal tray, hurtling down a bobsled track at 85 miles per hour.

Morning line up. By now you’d think that the sixth grade could all march. By now you’d think that they could all stand still, listen carefully, not talk, and march. In fact, I’m fairly certain that they can march. However, whenever Professor Dandy sets about with all the marching, the sixth grade find it very difficult to actually march in time. Maybe they will have to practice in PE.

The maths lesson was hard. Even I will admit it was hard. Algebra is a huge part of the maths syllabus in USA and in England, not so much in Mexico. However, we are studying from American textbooks and I’m an English maths teacher. All this means that in the sixth grade we get to study algebra. The key to understanding algebra is logic. Everything follows a logical step-by-step process. Of course, when it involves numbers the process looks easy, when it has letters it looks slightly more complicated. Except, if you follow the steps, one at a time, it is quite easy. The hard part is getting your brain around doing maths with letters instead of numbers. At the end of the lesson, the students assured me that they now knew how to “change the subject” of an equation, and they could do the homework. Tomorrow we shall see how much of it actually stuck.

Last night’s homework was to write up the definitions of 20 homophones, this morning it appeared that I failed to add “and learn them”. The idea was to know the difference between two words that sound the same but have different meanings. Unfortunately some students didn’t know the meanings of some of the words and therefore failed to answer the classwork correctly. The rest of the English lesson was spent looking at prepositional phrases.

I’ve mentioned before that the concentration levels in the classroom have been low this year (2010). Some of the lack I put down to the pressure of the midterms. However, after the midterms there has still been a lack of settling to work quickly, completing tasks quietly, not disturbing others, and self-discipline in general. I have tried to overcome this by putting the students in groups, and encouraging them with a points system. This has not worked. Today, I found myself moving desks around the classroom in order to separate students, who were distracting each other. This reached a point where I had separated over half the class. Therefore I decided to move the students out of groups and back into rows, so that they can work individually.


Attendance: All present

Signed Homework Notebooks: 19 out of 23


  • Maths: Practice 9-9 Nos: 1,2,3,5,6,7
  • English: Spelling Workbook Pages: 59, 60
  • Story: Biography (in on Friday)
  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

Posted in english, maths, morning line up, PE, spelling | Leave a Comment »

(clean shaven) Monday

Posted by willkay on February 22, 2010

Maths today was story telling. Looking at a graph, reading the axes, seeing the shape of a graph, it should be possible to tell a story about what the graph tells us.

In English we discussed the autobiographies we read last week. We talked about the things we remembered, what points were interesting enough to remember. I then set the new writing assignment, to write a biography. This is to be the biography of someone the students know. The idea is that the students have to interview a relative, discover an interesting story, and then write it up. We then corrected the homework from Thursday. The final part of the lesson was taken up with Homophones. Ten pairs of words that sound the same but have totally different meanings.

Attendance: One absent.


  • Maths: Reteaching 9-6 Nos: 1-3 & Practice 9-6 Nos: 1-6
  • English: Define 20 words
  • Story: Biography (in on Friday)
  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

Posted in english, maths, spelling, stories | Leave a Comment »

(made it to) Friday

Posted by willkay on February 20, 2010

That week went quickly!  Or is it just me?

Fifteen, FIFTEEN homework notebooks on my desk, signed this morning. Fifteen out of twenty one. Yesterday I had twenty out of twenty two. Straight into the PE lesson and it was time to practise for The Mini-Olympics. Yes, while the rest of the world is looking towards Canada and the Winter Olympics (have you seen any of the Snowboard Cross competition? It’s brilliant! It is the closest real life game to a video game. Curling used to be my favourite Winter Olympic sport, but not any more!), the students were looking to their own Spring/Summer Olympics. There are pictures up at the Flickr page. Apologies if some are blurry – they were very blurry, but Maria has worked really hard on them. The blurriness is the camera’s fault – the students were running too fast!

After PE the students read out their autobiographies. There were some very insightful moments in some of their work, and it was very interesting lesson, listening to their thoughts about what they felt was important in their lives.

Hurray! The maths has turned out to be “easy“. One of the joys of teaching is moving from a position of “can’t do/don’t understand” to “what was all the fuss about?” In some subjects it is difficult to discover where, on this understanding-line the students are. In maths it is quite simple. They can either do it, or not. Of course, the proof will come on March 16th, when they sit their maths exams. However, for the moment I can put a big tick (check mark) in my lesson planner. Spelling quiz included no story about any secret agent at all. Boo! Instead there was some story about an exploding roller coaster. (Please note how I used two words to write roller coaster.) And then it was time to take in the reading log numbers:

  1. Scarlatte 4325
  2. Valerio 3906
  3. Ana Elena 3802
  4. Paulina A. 2323
  5. Monica 2276
  6. Andrea 2205
  7. Shai 2048

Well done to those students. Keep reading! A visit from Maria Fernanda (The Pirate) in the afternoon, and a trip to the library to see the end of a film with Miss Claudia, brought the day to an end. It’s the weekend! Relax, have fun, make eggs! Eggs filled with confetti!

Attendance: Two absent


  • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

[Apology: Some of you may have noticed that this post did not go up on Friday afternoon, but instead appeared on Saturday morning. This is because of the theft of the water meter outside the flat. Yesterday afternoon, we went round to a friend’s house to shower, and didn’t get back home until very late. However, this morning, the wonderful people from CESPT turned up and reconnected our water! Yes! I have water again!!]

    Posted in english, maths, PE, reading log, spelling, stories | 4 Comments »

    It’s ermmm, Thursday.

    Posted by willkay on February 18, 2010

    It’s Thursday, which means that the day starts with computer class. The class are now looking at leaders. Some interesting choices have been made: Shakira and Rosa Parks, to name two. Spanish was followed by maths. Last night’s homework was a lot more successfully done than the previous night’s. However, that success was not carried on into the lesson. For some reason, logic seemed to escape the students. Trying to follow a simple step-by-step path to arrive at a solution, became: too hard, it’s too hard Mr. Kay. Except it appeared that the difficulty was not in the understanding of the topic, more with a failure to understand the 0.5 times table. By the end of the lesson the work was: easy, it’s so easy Mr. Kay. Tomorrow we shall see how well the homework was done.

    The English lesson crossed over recess. Before recess we finished with the spelling workbook, and this week’s spelling list. Tomorrow there will be a spelling quiz and we’ll discover if everyone remembers which words are compound words and which are two word expressions. The second half of the lesson was taken up with Troublesome Verbs. Verbs that have almost the same meaning but are, in fact different. Borrow and lend are two verbs that can often be used the wrong way round, and lie and lay are equally confusing. Do I lie on the couch or do I lay on the couch?

    During recess the majority of the sixth grade have taken to sitting together around one table. It can be very crowded, and can get a bit messy. However, the table is normally left in a good condition, clean and tidy. And, let’s not forget that the value of the month is: Neatness. So it was a bit disappointing today when everyone got up from the table and walked away, leaving it in a very messy state. A little bit more care please. When you leave the table, look at it.If there is rubbish on it, deal with it. Even if it isn’t yours, it is your classmates’.

    Geography continued our look at Russia. We are still looking at the physical features of Russia. So today we found out about the tundra, taiga, and the Russian steppes. There was just enough time left in the day to have a quick look at the periodic table in science. We are mainly concentrating on the first 20 elements. Which is still a lot to learn.

    Quick note: EGGS. We have recently, as a group, done really well in the Punctuality competition and (until recess today) the Neatness competition. Quick reminder to keep making those eggs filled with confetti please. In the long run, I get the feeling that you are going to get most of the fun out of these things – and the more of them you have, the more fun you will probably have! So, don’t forget to keep filling and painting those eggs, please. Thank you.

    Attendance: One absent (thanks Monica)


    • Maths: Reteaching 9-4 Nos: 1,2,3 & Practice 9-4 Nos: 13 -> 18
    • English: Grammar Workbook pages: 53 and 54 (1-8)
    • Story: An Autobiography (in tomorrow)
    • Reading Log: It would be brilliant if everyone (everyone) brought them in tomorrow.
    • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

    Posted in computer class, english, geography, maths, reading log, science, spelling, team work, values | 1 Comment »

    The Honour Guard

    Posted by willkay on February 17, 2010

    Maria has just received some pictures from Monica’s mum. These were taken at the competition. They have now been uploaded to my Flickr page and can be seen there, or as a set here.

    Thanks Monica’s mum.

    Posted in honour guard | 5 Comments »

    Ash Wednesday

    Posted by willkay on February 17, 2010

    Morning line up, and The Honour Guard put on a final demonstration before they leave for competition. Plus, good news! Thanks to keeping a clean and tidy classroom, the sixth grade win an extra five minutes of recess on Friday.

    Yesterday’s maths lesson wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. When we got went through the homework it turned out that working out the formula might be a little harder than it seemed. Time to track back with the return of the Maths Factory machines. Yes, Mr. Kay’s supply of “dodgy” input/output machines that all have either no input tray or no label on the machine! Suddenly it all seemed a lot easier. Hurray for input/output machines!

    Yesterday’s English lesson was a great success. This morning I was inundated with some fantastic pictures of amazing creatures (and plant life). Also I was introduced to many new words. Some sounded very intriguing, some scary, some weird and wonderful, and some sounded downright horrifying. With seven girls away, competing in The Honour Guard, I divided the class into two groups of eight, and set them the task of casting (and reading through) a play. It was good to see how some of the groups interacted. Fortunately, there were many people who could work as a team, taking it in turns and thinking of others. Although there were a couple of moments when voices were raised, as some people got “demandy” , these were few and far between. On the whole the two groups worked well casting the play, and then read through it very successfully. I was impressed with one group, who realising that they had cast some students with very minor roles, switched all the characters at the halfway point.

    Recess and The Honour Guard returned. An excellent performance, under a great amount of pressure, did not win one of the top three places. However, it was a good experience and all the girls enjoyed the event. They were happy with their performance, felt that they did their best, and made few mistakes. As one competitor was heard to remark, “We weren’t last. I’d say we were fifth or sixth.”  Although Miss Lilian felt, “The girls performed extremely well, and according to my humble opinion, they should have gotten 2nd. place. But, alas, I was not a judge.”  [I suddenly feel like a journalist with all these quotes.] Congratulations to all those who took part.

    Geography and the return of the midterm exam. There were some very good results, but overall the average mark was less than for all the other subjects. One ten and one 9.95. Yes, a 9.95 because I feel that a 10 is perfection and there was one slight blemish on the exam. Then onto Russia. Onto studying the country obviously, not actually going to Russia. Although, in Paulina A.’s case, Russia came to her. After pinning the map to the noticeboard at the back of the classroom, it managed to fall off and cover her. Science was an introduction to Elements and the Periodic Table.

    [Sorry for the lateness in posting but I’ve had a shower!]

    Attendance: All Present


    • Maths: Reteaching 9-4 Nos: 4,5,6,7 & Practice 9-4 Nos: 1-12
    • English: Spelling Workbook pages: 55, 56
    • Story: An Autobiography (in Friday)
    • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

    Posted in english, exams, geography, honour guard, maths, morning line up, science, team work | 2 Comments »

    Fat Tuesday – Mardi Gras

    Posted by willkay on February 16, 2010

    Change in direction today. A more formal approach to the classroom. Recently the sixth grade have become a little relaxed in the classroom, forgetting some of the rules, the proper way to behave. I’ve put this down to the stress of midterm exams and accepted the slide. However, exams are over and it is time to return to proper classroom behaviour.

    Maths lesson was Patterns and Rules. While Ana Andrea sat her geography exam, the rest of the class struggled with recognising patterns in numbers. Then, once they had discovered the pattern, how to calculate the 100th term and the nth term. Yes, the nth term. It is Algebra sneakily disguised as Patterns and Rules.

    Yesterday, during the geography exam, several students got stuck on two questions because they didn’t understand one of the words in the question. My complaint with this is that the words they were stuck on had no relevance to the question. If they had read the whole sentence then they could have answered the question without asking for an explanation. I know this to be true because I read them the whole question, in each case, and they understood. So, to prove that they have reading comprehension skills, we studied the poem Jabberwocky. This is a nonsense poem. A poem where every second (and sometimes third, fourth and fifth) word is not a real word. Lewis Carroll (the author of the poem) made the words up. However, by reading the poem (the whole poem) it is possible to come up with explanations about what the words mean. After a slow start, imaginations started to work, and there were even arguments over what colour was the Jubjub bird, and was the fruit of the Tumtum tree oranges or pancakes? A really good lesson, one that I enjoyed a lot.


    After recess it was time for the final practice for The Honour Guard. Tomorrow is the competition and the girls will be competing against 19 other schools. They have worked very hard on their marching, and Professor Dandy has been a very caring and considerate teacher. I really enjoy watching other teachers work, trying to improve. Professor Dandy is a very good teacher. He understands his students, he has set goals, and he achieves them. Hopefully, he will achieve success with his pupils. As I have said, the girls have worked hard and should be proud of what they have accomplished. I took some video of their final practices and I will upload it through out the afternoon/evening to the usual place.

    On a personal note: I realise that the value of the month is neatness. However, I have chosen this week not to shave. There is a reason for this. Unfortunately, last night someone stole our water meter and all the pipes that connect the mains water to our flat. This means we have no running water. Obviously I will still wash, brush my teeth, wear clean clothes, smell nice. Unfortunately I will not be shaving. I say unfortunately because I have gone without shaving before and I find it very itchy and annoying. However, there is one person in my life who is desperate for me to grow a beard. Therefore she will be quite happy for me not to shave. I am hoping that my lack of hot, running water will be solved within a couple of days. [She is hoping that it takes weeks and weeks.]

    Attendance: All Present


    • Maths: Reteaching 9-3 Nos: 8,9,10 & Practice 9-3 Nos: 3,4,5,9,10,11
    • English: Invent six words and use them in sentences. Sentences that should give a clue to their meaning.
    • Art: Draw a slithy tove, a Jubjub bird, and a Tumtum tree.
    • Story: An Autobiography (in Friday)
    • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

    Posted in english, exams, honour guard, maths, PE, youtube | 3 Comments »

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