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 March, 2010

(april first) Thursday

Posted by willkay on March 31, 2010

Do not go here.

Do not press the red button.

Seriously, do not go to this site and do not press the red button.

I warned you.

Posted in link | 1 Comment »

(saw an alien) Tuesday

Posted by willkay on March 31, 2010

After Sunday’s trip to the zoo and the (over) 10km that was walked, we had a restful Monday – or at least a day without leaving the flat. For Maria it was a day of work, spending seven hours sat at the computer fixing photos, making students look beautiful by getting rid of the odd blemish/spot or orange tinge at the corners of mouths (mmmmm, Cheetos). This meant that I was free to surf the internet and read. Yes, read! With no interruptions. Sheer bliss.

Tuesday morning was slightly clouded over. A quick check of the weather forecast revealed that it was going to get colder, with a chance of rain, as the week progressed. If we were going to be locked into the house later in the week, we decided to cross the border and use up a gift from Miss Lilian, tickets to the Aliens exhibition at the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

Before you enter the Aliens exhibit, in fact before you enter the main museum, there is a chance to see the capsule from Apollo 9. If you are in Balboa Park near the Air and Space Museum, go into the museum. You can look at the capsule without paying an entrance fee. It is amazing to see how cramped (small) the actual capsule is. Three astronauts, trapped inside such a small space. It would freak me out. Also you can see underneath the capsule, and how on re-entry the bottom of the capsule was affected by the heat. Fascinating.

The actual Aliens exhibit is fairly interesting. It starts with a look at aliens in popular culture, how we have envisaged them in television and films. This meant that Maria got to see some Clangers! This was a television programme from my childhood, that obviously did not make it across the Atlantic Ocean. Thus few Mexicans would recognise a Clanger, even if they were offering them soup from the Soup Dragon. Other exhibits were more familiar, from E.T. to Predator. The display showed how to make/draw aliens so that they are more appealing. As humans we like creatures with big heads and large eyes. This is because babies have big heads and big eyes. If you give an alien these attributes then we see them as “friendly”. Oddly, the exhibit also had some information about how vampires and Dr. Frankenstein’s monster have been portrayed in movies. (Note: I have called it Frankenstein’s monster because Frankenstein is the name of the doctor that created the monster. The monster, in the book, has no name.) This was slightly confusing at first, as I didn’t understand what vampires/monsters had to do with aliens. However, the next exhibit took the strangeness even further, an octopus. Think how strange an octopus is: eight legs; huge head (that contains all of its organs); three hearts; a parrot’s beak. In fact many creatures, on Earth or under the sea, are completely alien when compared to what we accept as normal: two legs, two arms, a head, a face, etc. In the final exhibit room, there was a chance to look at the inhabitants of two other worlds. These were computer generated, but the research had been done into two planets that might sustain life, and what that life might look like. All in all, it was a very interesting exhibit, that included many ideas that we will cover in science, and some that we have covered in English – does anyone remember the story of the travelling zoo? Or even the aliens that the sixth grade wrote about?

The Aliens exhibit empties out into the main museum. Here there are plenty of exhibits from the history of flying. It was interesting for me to note how many names I recognised from the display of German World War One Fighter Pilots. Of course, I also recognised Snoopy. It was also fascinating for me to discover how much I knew about the Second World War, as fought in Europe.

All in all, it was a highly enjoyable time. Before we knew it, they were shutting the museum down, around us. We had become so involved in the whole thing, that  we hadn’t noticed what the time was.

So, that was how I spent my Tuesday. I know that Professor Humberto has spent most of this week working on the school’s website. You have been and seen the website haven’t you? It looks very nice. I know that Miss Lilian went into hospital yesterday for surgery on her knee. You do read her blog don’t you? I know what Maria has been doing, and soon you’ll be able to see her pictures up on her Flickr page. I know that Ana Karen hasn’t done much this holiday. However, I haven’t heard from anyone else. What have you done this holiday? What are you looking forward to doing? Do drop me a comment or an email.

Posted in holiday post, science | 1 Comment »

(saw a panda) Sunday

Posted by willkay on March 28, 2010

Sunday, second day of the holidays. Yesterday we went to bed early, so that we could be up early. Fully sunblocked, hats firmly on heads, we set off for the border. The early hour was a good plan, I had to renew my I94, and there was no queue. The UK and the USA have a “visa waiver” policy, which means that I don’t actually need a visa to get into the USA, I pick up a 90 day pass. This still means I have to queue to cross the border, and then queue to get my I94. Today it took a whole 9 minutes. Nine minutes. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and legal (to cross the border).

The San Diego Zoo is one of our favourite places, we have annual passes. I have been to zoos in three continents and San Diego Zoo is, by far, the best zoo I have ever visited. Yesterday, Saturday, they opened a new Polar Bear Plunge. This was our target. However, wisely, the Polar Bear Plunge is at the furthest point in the zoo from the entrance. This was not a problem. Due to the early hour of our arrival it was still not too hot and the animals were active. There was also no queue at the panda exhibit. No queue, active animals, happiness all round:

From the pandas we set up to the top part of the zoo. Although we were supposed to heading to the polar bears, we were distracted by the Elephant Odyssey. The elephants were their usual fun selves, many playing with the keepers, who were armed with water hoses. However, the lions were not “in the jungle, the mighty jungle…sleeping”. In fact, the lioness was actually chewing away on a bone. More like a dog than a (big) cat:

There is also a black jaguar in Elephant Odyssey, who was pacing back and forth, close to where we were standing:

Grabbing a frozen lemonade, we then walked over to the new exhibit. The polar bears did not disappoint. I assume that the polar bears have been in the exhibit for some time, so that they can become acclimatised before letting the public in. However, they were both wandering around the exhibit, dragging their blankets with them. Again, what I love about San Diego Zoo, is that the living areas for the animals are huge, however the design of the cages still makes you feel that you are close to the animals – without them being restricted. The rest of the exhibit has many activities for younger children: caves to crawl through; stepping stones to jump on/from; holes in the ice to pop up through. Another wonderful exhibit, which is well worth the walk. (You could cheat and take the skyride that gets you straight there from the entrance, but you’d miss out on everything else.)

By the time we left the polar bears, we’d been in the zoo over four hours. The sun had passed its highest point, the temperature had risen, and the zoo was full. We decided to head to the exit and leave. We have a whole two weeks of holiday ahead of us, we can come back another day. However, there was still one more magic moment for us. The last time we had been to the zoo, the two bears were arguing. Maria has a picture of the moment on her blog here. This time they were best of friends. Playing in the water and coming to check out the visitors:

A quick trip through the gift shop for Nikos to buy some sticky/stretchy animals, Danny to pick up a pair of animal-scissors, and Maria to add to her collection of animal cups (she reckons they are the best to drink milk out of), and by the time we got back to the car we had walked 8.9km according to the pedometer on my mobile phone. Not bad for a Sunday! There was time to stop off at Souplantation (so that Maria could pick up a packet of biscuits [cookies to you] to have something to go with her glass of milk) before heading back home, and into the welcoming cushions of the sofa.

So, that’s what I did. What did you do this weekend?

Posted in holiday diary, stuff | 3 Comments »


Posted by willkay on March 27, 2010

[This is a sticky post. This means it will stay at the top always. If you’ve read this post, scroll down and check if the blog has been updated.]

A challenge for my students. Why don’t you write a post for this blog? During the holidays I am sure that many of you will be doing fun, interesting things. Why don’t you write a quick blog post that tells your classmates what you did? You can email the post to me, and I will put it up here, on the blog. You can also include pictures. Just attach the pictures to the email. I’ll do all the hard work. I’ll check your spelling and grammar, then post. You can email me at:


you just need to remove the [ ] (square brackets). Tell me if you’ve been somewhere, tell me if you’ve read a book, tell me if you’ve just got a new high score on your video game. Feel free to write to me, and I will post your updates. Or, you could just use the comment box on this post.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted in holiday post | 2 Comments »

(full of great moments) Friday

Posted by willkay on March 27, 2010

The day started with a staff meeting. We discussed the activities that would be happening through the rest of the academic year, and then we looked forward to the next academic year. The school wants to become renowned for its ecological awareness. At the moment we are working towards a paperless environment (as as paperless as a school can get), but next year we want to work harder at leaving a smaller carbon footprint. This is something that excites me – going green. I think that it is very important that children are educated about (and are aware of) what is around them, and what the future holds. This is something that I will gladly get behind, especially as it means that I might get a garden! Yes, those of you who know me, know that I like to grow things. I think it would be wonderful if the sixth grade could have a garden, grow their own tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. The discussion then went on to another subject close to my heart, diet. The word diet does not mean “starving yourself thinner”, it means eating healthily. Children’s behaviour, the way the concentrate, they way they learn, can all be traced back to the food that they eat. As a teacher you can tell who had what for breakfast. Those who had a good, nutritious meal which will slowly fuel the student throughout the morning, until recess. As opposed to those who had a sugar-fueled breakfast, they tend to crash-and-burn one hour in to the school morning. And then there is lunch time. Again it is possible to see which child had a lunch that will equip them with the right fuel to work until home time, as opposed to the child who cannot concentrate in the afternoon. Realising that these were things the school was going to treat seriously was very encouraging.

At morning line up a teacher normally talks about the value of the month. This morning there was no teacher prepared to speak, so Miss Lilian asked for volunteers. A third grade boy, Jose Antonio, spoke for five minutes about Honesty. It was a wonderful moment. He spoke clearly and precisely, and showed great maturity in his choice of concepts and examples. He demonstrated a great understanding of what has been discussed, and he explained his understanding wonderfully. It is moments like this that make being a teacher worth while. Jose Antonio demonstrated that he has learnt and understood all that has been taught to him. Well done Miss Miriam! Well done Jose Antonio.

Into the classroom for a very reduced maths lesson. This was a practical lesson, an origami lesson. We made boxes out of construction paper.

And then there was the football match, the teachers played the sixth grade boys. An excellent start for the boys, scoring two early goals. However, experience and size helped the teachers pull back. Yes, size. When you are the size of someone of the sixth grade boys, it is a long way round some of the teachers! This is the bit where I mention my two goals: one a dipping volley that was glorious in its execution; the other bounced off my foot. I will still argue that my header was a goal…but that is me just arguing. An excellent game that was very close, finishing 10-9. Throughout the game the girls kept up a chant for the boys, cheering them on, and supporting their efforts. It was a wonderful moment.

Fridays are the day I take in the reading totals. If there was any doubt that the day couldn’t get any better, that doubt was about to be dispelled. Four pupils had read between two and three hundred pages. This is a fantastic amount, and they should all be proud. However, seven pupils had read between three and four hundred pages. Think about those numbers. This means that they read a book in a week (some of them read a book and a bit). One girl, Andrea, read three books in the last week. Three books. She read 949 pages in one week. This is an exceptional amount, and in any normal circumstances this would be the largest total. Except these are normal circumstances. Scarlatte read 1371 pages this week. This means that in the last two weeks she has read 2500 pages. Two and a half thousand pages! She has now, since the beginning of the year (and that is January – so in three months), read 32 books. Congratulations.


After recess it was the music lesson, and it was supposed to be the talent show. However, as the boys had played football in the morning, it was the turn of the girls. Yes, the sixth grade girls played the teachers. Before the match, in an effort to give the girls some encouragement, the boys dedicated a song to them. Altogether, as a group, the boys sang “Hotel California”. A very moving moment. This was followed by an excellent game of football with some wonderful performances. Alejandra saved several shots on goal; Miroslava and Larizza ran until they were red in the face; and Scarlatte scored as many goals as Miss Irene and Mr. Kay, she got two as well. The girls drew with the teachers, 3-3. And through this event the boys cheered on, and supported the girls, in the same way that the girls had supported the boys earlier. It was a fantastic sight, and wonderful to hear.

A fantastic day to finish off the term*. The reading scores were (and have been now for three weeks) excellent. It was brilliant to see the students so united, thinking of each other, supporting each other. It was fantastic to hear about the direction the school is taking.

Something New: Tidy your cubbies before you leave.

Favourite Moment Of The Day (FMOTD): Professor Israel’s assist.

The football match, against the boys, was full of wonderful moments: Señor Francisco’s goalkeeping; Miss Rosi’s heading prowess; Professor Humberto’s total commitment. But for me the highlight of the game was Martin’s goal. Not the actual goal, because that was a simple “my mum could have scored that” goal. It was the build up to the goal, it was he move that made the goal so easy to score. Professor Israel had the ball and was surrounded by three opposing players. Using his left foot, he rolled the ball up the back of his right leg, flicked the ball into the air, hit it of the back of his left heel. The ball sailed up into the air, over the heads of the defenders, and dropped perfectly at Martin’s feet. All Martin had to do was move his foot to score. It was played perfectly, with great precision. I have just read an article titled: Man…Superman…Leo Messi, maybe it should be retitled: Man…Superman…Leo Messi…and then there is Professor Israel.

Attendance: One absent (and one popped in for ten minutes to say goodbye)


  • Relax
  • Have fun
  • Read

*In England the school year is divided into three terms, semesters.

    Posted in maths, reading log, stuff, team work, values | 1 Comment »

    Miss Lilian writes

    Posted by willkay on March 27, 2010

    Those of you who look through the links, on the sidebars, will have already noticed a new addition: The Head Mistress Blogs. This is Miss Lilian’s blog. Now, as well as being able to read about the sixth grade, what they have done, and what I have done, you can also follow the day-to-day story of the life of the school’s Head Mistress*. Do click on the link and go and read, you will find it very informative. Oh, and it is reading, which is a good thing to do.

    *In England the Principal is called a Head Mistress or a Head Master. As this is the blog of an Englishman, and I am desperately trying to retain as much Englishness as possible, I shall refer to Miss Lilian as the Head Mistress here.

    Posted in link | 3 Comments »

    (on holiday) Friday

    Posted by willkay on March 26, 2010

    There’s much to write about, there are stories to tell. About Scarlatte’s two goals. Or the number of pages Andrea read. How about the staff meeting in the morning?

    However, I’m on holiday. This means that I am celebrating – actually, I’m eating tacos in front of the television. The stories will be told, the events of the day recounted, and the blog will be updated, tomorrow.

    Until then, enjoy your first night of the holidays.

      Posted in stuff | 3 Comments »

      (sugar high) Thursday

      Posted by willkay on March 25, 2010

      Did anyone else think that today went really quickly up until recess? And then, did anyone else think that today went really slowly up until home time? Or was it just me?

      Everyone in through the front gate and onto morning line up. My first thoughts, that today was going to be difficult from a teacher’s point of view, were confirmed in morning line up. Normally the sixth grade are quiet, settled, and attentive. However, today they were all over the place. It was Jose Manuel’s last day and the students were planning…

      In computer class, Erika and Scarlatte designed a PowerPoint show. They managed to get everyone in the classroom to write something, and then produced this: A goodbye message to Jose Manuel. (Hopefully this will run when you click on it. I should remind you: It’s powerpoint.) The maths lesson suffered slightly from people having to leave the classroom to go write on a giant card that was signed by everyone. This made the maths lesson a lot more complicated than it needed to be. We were doing a calculator crossword – you know, where you do a calculation, turn the calculator upside down, and read the word – or that was the plan. It became very difficult to a draw the actual crossword, difficult from a teaching point. Did I mention that the kids were all over the place?

      English and diagramming sentences. This sounds more fun than it actually is. You don’t really get to diagram anything, you have to decide what part of speech each word is. Whether it is a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition, conjunction, pronoun, or interjection. Again I found myself repeating myself, time and time again. Students really weren’t listening to what was being said. At the end of the lesson, as we were going through the answers, the students became even more excited as they spotted Maria outside the classroom. We finished up, put away our books, and then posed for pictures. And that’s when the pizza arrived. The pizza, and the spaghetti, and the crisps, and the Takis, and the soda, and the lollies, and the thirty tons of sugar that was pumped into each and every students’ bloodstream.

      Recess – which wasn’t long enough to run off the excess sugar. It would never have been long enough.

      After recess we went to the library to fall asleep push the chair of the person in front of us fidget watch a BBC documentary called Wonders of the Solar System. This is the most fantastic series, the episode that we watched was about the sun. It included a total eclipse and shots of the Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights). We needed a break half way through, to run round the playground. Then settled in to watch the second half. I don’t know about the students but I learnt a lot!

      The final lesson of the day was geography. Time to name and place some of the countries of Africa. Then it was time to say goodbye to Jose Manuel – although there might be another chance to say goodbye again tomorrow when he pops in to pick up his books.

      Something New: The best excuse since “the dog ate my homework”. You may have read Heriberto’s comment yesterday (if not you can read it here), in which case you already know that he and Jose Manuel had their backpacks stolen yesterday. Of course, not just the backpacks were stolen, everything in them was also stolen. Which means that their homework, workbooks, homework notebooks were also stolen. This led to the reply to a request for homework: some hobo has got it.

      Favourite Moment Of The Day (FMOTD): Best. Lunch. Ever.

      It was a day full of wonderful moments. Oh, I know that I’ve mentioned it was hard work, but no one ever said teaching was going to be easy. Within all of the excess-sugar moments there was still a really feeling of friendship and bonding between the students. As some of them mentioned in the PowerPoint file, they might not have known Jose Manuel well, but they recognised him as a wonderful person. There was a feeling of unity, a feeling of friendship, and a genuine sadness to losing one of their classmates – a classmate who had only been in school for eight months! So there were plenty of FMOTDs for me. The one that I’ll write down here was the quandary that Camila faced. Today she brought lunch (as we all did), but it wasn’t any old lunch. According to Camila it was the best lunch I have ever brought to school. Unfortunately (for Camila) Jose Manuel’s dad also bought lunch…for the whole class. What should Camila do? It would be rude to turn down the party food, but she had the Best. Lunch. Ever. in her lunchbox. Isn’t that always the way?

      Attendance: All present

      Signed Homework Notebooks: 21 out of 21. (That means there were 2 homework notebooks missing – the hobo’s got them.)


      • Reading Log
      • Eggs
      • Construction Paper
      • Talent Show in Music
      • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

      Posted in computer class, english, geography, link, maths, morning line up, reading log, science, team work | 2 Comments »

      (sad news) Wednesday

      Posted by willkay on March 24, 2010

      Every year is different, that’s one of the joys of teaching. No lesson is the same, no group is the same, no year is the same. This is good news because it means that every challenge is new and different. There is no chance to become stuck in a rut. Every day is a new day. Of course, the down side to this is that, those students you have come to know, move on. And each year those students will ask me: will you miss us? I do. No matter how grumpy I get, no matter how annoying they get, no matter how many times we bang heads (metaphorically), I miss them. I miss them all. All 700+ students that have sat, at one point or another, in my classroom. And so, when the time comes for me to say goodbye, there is a certain amount of sadness. We’ve spent a year together. We’ve shared highs and lows. We’ve laughed and cried (mainly me). However, there is a time to say goodbye, it is in July. I’m not really geared to say goodbye in March. Unfortunately, Jose Manuel is leaving. He is returning to Florida, from whence he came, and tomorrow will be his last day. The news broke this morning, just before morning line up. Which meant that the first hour or two of the day was very subdued. We shall miss him. However, thanks to living in the 21st century, we now have the opportunity for constant communication. Hopefully we shall stay in contact, and there is always an open invitation to him to write an entry on here as a visiting guest writer.

      After the shock of the news about Jose Manuel, this was followed up with the shock of the History exam results. It sounds obvious, and it sounds like something that every teacher says (at least twenty seven times), but you really should read the question. Too often students don’t – I know, it is surprising isn’t it? I stood and listened to Miss Claudia explained her sadness, her disappointment, to the class, and I might not understand much Spanish, but I recognised what she was saying. As teachers, educators, we want our students to do well. We provide them with the correct tools to conquer the challenges they meet. However, it is soul destroying when students don’t use the tools correctly. They don’t read the question.

      Maths and compound interest. Ha! And you thought that being able to use a calculator in maths would make it all so much easier. No such luck! After maths, half of the class disappeared to perform in the fifth grade’s presentation. Congratulations to those who volunteered. It appears that the best presentation was the one in which the sixth grade appeared. I know that Brian finally chose his bride. I heard how neglectful, as parents, Ivan and Larizza were, letting their sons (Carlo Ivan and Shai) die through neglect. And Ana Andrea spent the morning shearing sheep. If you want more information you need to go to Professor Rene’s FaceBook page, where he has uploaded videos of the performances. The English lesson was about parts of speech and tomorrow we start with sentence diagraming.


      In science we started a new topic: Earth, The Solar System, The Universe. Today we mention the fact that the sun was a star, and spent time discussing phases of the moon, to much excitement.Although it is important to point out that I was talking about a new moon not New Moon the film! I was surprised stunned flabbergasted gob smacked mortified to discover that some of my students do not believe that man has walked on the moon. For some reason, and I don’t understand it, some of my students are convinced that manned moon landings never happened. They were staged. I find this unbelievable.Unbelievable that anyone doesn’t accept the fact that man has walked on the moon. Unbelievable that children, 11/12 year old children could be so cynical. Fortunately we have studied the Cold War in geography. The struggle between Russia and the USA to gain one-up-manship over the other. To steal an idea from Eddie Izzard (and there are fewer better places to steal ideas from), if the USA had faked the moon landings there was one country who had the technology to disprove their claims. That country was Russia, and they hated (hated with a passion) America and all it stood for. If they could prove that the Americans were lying, they would have shouted it loudly and proudly, and made sure that everyone heard the. They didn’t. QED: man has walked on the moon.

      In geography I returned the exams. They were a very impressive set of exams. I had managed to catch sight of the 5th grade exam, and there was no comparison to the 6th grade exam. Answering questions about the Napoleonic wars, the Russian revolution, Communism/Marxism, Glasnost, and Perestroika showed a wonderful understanding of the subject covered. Well done everyone. A good end to the day, after the results of the history exam.

      Something New: March 24th 1965, Ranger 9 crashes into the moon, sending back pictures of the surface. (I presented this as the first unmanned probe to the moon, I was wrong. Later in the day we read how the Russians had sent a probe to the moon in 1957. It appears this was the first televised event.)

      Favourite Moment Of The Day (FMOTD): Green is black.

      I’ve been teaching for over 30  years. At the age of 18, in my gap year, I was teaching in a school. This means that I have seen many changes in my profession. When I started it was all blackboards and chalk. No whiteboards, overhead projectors, smart boards, marker pens. I worked at the chalkface, and I worked on a blackboard. Black was the colour of my board, not green. Which was perfect for doing phases of the moon. You just draw circles and then (using white chalk) show where the sun is reflected. The area not touched by the sun is black. And that is exactly how I taught it today! The area not touched by the sun is black green! Oops. Ok, for the purposes of this lesson, try to pretend green is black. So, it might not be funny to you, but I got a fit of the giggles. It was funny to me. So that was my FMOTD. What was yours?

      Attendance: All present

      Signed Homework Notebooks: 21 out of 22. (We are 6th grade. We should be able to get all the homework notebooks signed.)


      • Maths: Practice 9-7 Nos: 4-8
      • English: Parts of Speech worksheet
      • Reading: This is not an option. You should be reading 20 minutes every night.

      Posted in english, geography, maths, morning line up, science, spanish, stuff | 4 Comments »

      Ivanna Maria Torres Castro

      Posted by willkay on March 24, 2010

      Valerio has a baby sister.

      Posted in stuff | 4 Comments »

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