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 September, 2010

(they call me Mister Kay) Thursday

Posted by willkay on September 30, 2010

I didn’t spend much time in school time. This was not planned. In my mind I wanted to go to the computer class and see the presentations. I’d also agreed with Miss Claudia to swap a lesson from Friday, so that she could give the History exam. No, the plan was to nip out of school for under an hour, pick up some documentation, back into school, carry on. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men, as the poet Robert Burns was wont to say, gang aft agley, an’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, for promis’d joy!

Rain fell as the bell rang, so there was no car-door-opening for me. Instead, it was straight to the classroom with no morning line up. This meant that there was a chance to do an extra ten minutes of studying before the Science exam. After the exam it was turn to return the English exams. Only one 10 but fourteen students managed to get a 9.0 or above. Hurray! Maths was all about the solution to equations. We went through the work that we had done yesterday, using another method to solve equations. And it was at that point the school and I parted our ways.

Every year I have to renew my work permit. In theory this should just mean all the paperwork goes in, I wait a certain amount of time, I go to pick up the papers. Unfortunately, that is all in theory. In practice it all went incredibly wrong. You see, I’m English. This means that I only have one surname. I have a first name, a middle name and a surname. I’m William Alexander Kay. However, according to the papers I received today, my name is now Kay William Alexander. And before you say, “it doesn’t matter”, can I say, “it really, really matters”. I came to Mexico because I fell in love, and it has always been my intention to marry my girlfriend. After almost five years (five years on November 17th) everything has happened correctly, and now we can get married. Well, we could if we had just one single piece of paperwork in place: my FM3. And, more importantly, an FM3 that identifies me correctly. Five hours spent filling in forms, queueing to hand over said forms, receiving more forms, more filling in, more queueing, rinse and repeat.

So, I never got back to school. Worse, this means that the Science exams are still on my desk, unmarked. I might not be able to return them tomorrow. Sorry.

Here’s hoping that everyone remembers their reading logs for tomorrow!

Homework:

  • History: exam tomorrow.
  • Reading Log: in tomorrow.
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.
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Posted in english, exams, reading log, science, stuff | 3 Comments »

(I’ll never get the hang of) Wednesday

Posted by willkay on September 29, 2010

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, one of my favourite books, Arthur Dent, after having discovered that his best friend is an alien, learnt that humans were only the third most intelligent life-form on Earth, and then finding out that Earth is just about to be destroyed to make way for a new galactic freeway, announces:

It must be a Thursday, I’ve never really got the hang of Thursdays.

I know how he feels. Oh, not about Thursdays because in my case it is Wednesdays, I’ve not really got the hang of Wednesdays. This might have something to do with my upbringing. In Sheffield, where I was born, Wednesday was a half-day-closing day. This meant that everything (and when I say everything I mean shops/banks/anything important except schools) shut at noon. Wednesday afternoon was a bit like a Sunday – because when I was a child, everything (and I mean everything) was shut on a Sunday. This gave Sheffield a really weird, eerie feeling on a Wednesday afternoon, and I don’t think I’ve ever really got over it. What I definitely haven’t got over is the football team Sheffield Wednesday. In my town there are two football teams: Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday. I was brought up a Sheffield United supporter as both my parents were ardent fans. Of course, this meant that my arch rivals were the hated Sheffield Wednesday. So much did I dislike this team, that for many years I would always write Wednesday as W*dn*sd*y. In fact it was only after meeting maria, and sharing the most perfect day with her (Covent Garden, Pachelbel’s Cannon in D), that I reinserted a vowel: W*dnesd*y. Of course, two months later I was to move to Mexico and start teaching at BAI, which led to the end of that. (Although I will quite gladly restart writing W*dnesd*y). Anyway, the long and the short of it all is: I’ve never really got the hang of W*dnesd*ys.

And yet, it started so well. Miss Claudia was back! But the week of exams is always a strange week. The children put themselves under a lot of stress, or parents put their children under a lot of stress, or maybe teachers put the children under a lot of stress by just giving them exams. Whoever is the culprit, the result is always the same: placed under a certain amount of pressure, children will explode. This is the norm and, being a teacher. one of the skills is recognising when students need you to ease-off-a-bit. To accept that, after a morning of exams and studying for future exams, there is little chance of getting much done in the afternoon. However, the temperature rise on Monday plus the fact that Miss Claudia was missing (so the students were with me all day), led to a situation over the last two days where the students have been a bit relaxed over the basic rules of the classroom. Therefore, with normality achieved on the thermometer and the return of Miss Claudia, it was time to tighten the rules – just a lit bit, I accept that we are still in exam-mode, but a little tightening was needed. Unfortunately not everyone was in total agreement, and I never really got the hang of today. When an exam is finished, and the whole class has finished, it is time to move on to another subject. Everything we study today, will be in next month’s exam. So, students need to listen, be attentive, and take on board new facts. Not be content with having sat an exam and assuming that is it for the day.

The morning started with PE. We had maths, followed by music. (Perhaps someone would like to tell the story of “the bird in the library” in the comments, because I couldn’t make much sense out of everything.) The English exam was followed by recess. After that it was Spanish, and then a review lesson for science. The day finished with the conquest of Troy and a bit of Odysseus’s journey home – he’s trapped in the cave of a cyclops at the moment.

Homework:

  • Science: exam tomorrow.
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in english, exams, science, spanish, stuff | 3 Comments »

(walking on sunshine) Tuesday

Posted by willkay on September 28, 2010

…and don’t it feel good!

Two o’clock. At 2pm it would be the sixth grade’s turn to go in the pool. We learnt this piece of information at 7:55am, six hours and five minutes, or 365 minutes, or 21,900 seconds before the event. If today was going to be anything like yesterday, each of those minutes would feel like a day – a whole year of waiting! Good news! Today was hot but bearable. It was hard to sit in the classroom, occasionally hearing the shout of joy, knowing that some other grade was having a great time in the pool, but it wasn’t impossible. The thermometer stayed at a liveable 30°C (Ha! did you read that? I said “liveable 30°C“!) and we managed to get some work done.

Miss Claudia was still away, so I had to invigilate the Spanish exam. I impressed the class with my ability to answer all their questions en Español. Unfortunately for them, all my answers were the same: no se nada. Oh, and when I say “I impressed the class”, I really meant to say “I confused the class”. That’ll teach Miss Claudia to be off sick and leave me in charge of the Spanish exam!

After that it was time to return the maths exams. I always do this exactly the same way, except this was the first time I have ever returned a set of exams to this group of students, so they weren’t to know the procedure. Before I give them back, I always go through the whole exam, explaining what was needed at each step. I find that it is better to do this before handing over the exams and losing all the students attention in a “whatdidyouget?” moment. So, the exam was gone through (with much “yesssss” -ing), the statistics were announced (two grade 10, eight grades between 9.0-9.9), and the exams were delivered. Much cheering and happiness, very few tears and sadness.

The art lesson seemed to be over fairly quickly. By the time I got there, to take pictures, most students had finished painting, washed everything up, and were cheering on a game of footbase that was happening in PE. And no, I don’t know what exactly led up to Daniela being hit in the face by a football, but it meant that she got to hold a frozen ice pack to her face while the rest of the class dreamt of a cooling swim – three hours and 25 minutes to go.

English exam tomorrow, so time for a quick review today.

After recess we finished the review and then watched a BBC documentary about “How Earth Made us”. At one point in the programme the presenter visited the Crystal Caves in Mexico. Every time I see this sight I find it totally awe inspiring.

Awe inspiring enough to suddenly speed the clock up, and move us nearer and nearer the time when we could go in the pool. Eventually there was just ten minutes left before it was our turn. Ten minutes was enough time to recount the death of Achilles, and mention that the Greeks had run away, leaving behind a giant wooden horse, but it wasn’t enough time to explain what happened next.

And then it was time for the pool…happy, happy, joy, joy.

Homework:

  • English: exam tomorrow.
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in english, exams, maths, spanish, special event | 5 Comments »

En Español

Posted by willkay on September 27, 2010

Si, de veras, este blog, pero en Español.

Haz click aquí.

Posted in blog, spanish | 2 Comments »

(I’m English, donchuno) Monday

Posted by willkay on September 27, 2010

My mum phoned me yesterday (thanks Mr. Martinez). She wanted to discuss the Pope’s visit to England. At one point in his visit, the Pope had gone to the university I attended as a student, to hold a conference about education. He had celebrated mass in the church there, and had held his conference in the college’s private drawing rooms. My mum was very excited about all this, mainly because she had been to all these places, thanks to me, and she felt that the Pope was visiting my university. In her opinion this was because when I met the Pope, I had made such an impression on him, he had decided to visit my old stomping grounds. The fact that I met the a totally different Pope, John Paul II, wasn’t the point in my mum’s mind. Anyway, after discussing the Pope we then went on to talk about the cricket, how Sheffield United were doing, and finally arrived at the weather. This always makes maria laugh. At some point, in every conversation with my mum, we have to talk about the weather. English people love (love) to talk about the weather because it is constantly changing. I have lived through days where I have worn a T-shirt because it is hot, a raincoat because it is raining, into hat and gloves because it has started to snow, and finished the day BBQing outside with a snowman for company and the weather is fine. All this can happen in a day, the weather is a constant source of discussion. So we talked about the weather. My mum has had the heating in her house on for nearly a month now. Yesterday, when she phoned, it was 10 °C and getting colder as the sun set. I, as the polite son that I am, sympathised along with her accepting and understanding how terrible the weather was. It would have been wrong of me to mention that I was about to go through the hottest day of the year, so I bit my tongue and agreed with everything she said, because it couldn’t get any hotter could it? I mean, it’s the end of September, there is no way, no way it could get hotter.

It’s my week for opening car doors in the morning. It was there that I heard the news Miss Claudia will not be in today (and maybe tomorrow). The good news/bad news (you decide) part of this meant that I would be teaching all day, I would get to spend the whole day in the classroom with my students.This morning’s assembly was presented by the fifth grade. They talked about/recited a poem about the value of the month, Bravery. And then it was into the classroom for the maths’ exam. Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately my exam folder hadn’t been cleared out since the end of last year. Faced with a choice of two exams to print out and photocopy, the wrong one was selected, and the students faced the task of sitting an exam from May 2010 rather than from September. Eek! This was eventually rectified, the correct exam made an appearance, and everyone was (pretending to be) happy!

It was at this point that I realised it was not going to be my day. No Miss Claudia, the SMARTboard was refusing to work, the exam was the wrong exam, and the temperature was rising. In England they are trying to agree on shutting schools when the temperature rises above 30 °C in the classroom. There is some argument about whether it should be 30 °C or 32 °C, but no argument about if it gets higher because, as everyone knows, an Englishman can’t work in temperatures above that, it makes no sense! By recess the thermometer had already hit 36 °C, by the end of the day it would pass the 40 °C mark. (In Professor Rene’s room it would pass the 47 °C point). It was going to be a very long day!

Maths exam, English lesson on Independent/Dependent clauses, recess, reading from the English book, values, my story. Day done. Now I just need to mark the maths exams.

And now I need to go sit in the freezer for a bit.

Tomorrow is the Spanish exam. As hard as it may be, please study for the exam because I will be giving it to you – which means if you have any questions, it will be a struggle. PLUS, don’t forget your swimsuits and a towel.

Homework:

  • Spanish: exam tomorrow.
  • Swimsuit: there will be some swimming tomorrow.
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in assembly, english, exams, maths, smartboard, values | 2 Comments »

(great day) Friday

Posted by willkay on September 25, 2010

What a brilliant day! I am fortunate that I have a job I really like. Some days are hard, some days are unsuccessful. But one of the joys of my job is that each day is totally different, which means that no matter how bad a day is, the next day I start all over again. And then there are days like today. A really good day!

We reviewed the maths for Monday’s exam. The students had PE. They read their stories about what “scared” them. In between, we had fun, we learnt, and (above all) we were disciplined. It was a great day!

I also took in the week’s reading:

THE WALL OF FAME

  • 459 pages: Ana Paola
  • 280 pages: Octavio
  • 215 pages: Ninotchka
  • 204 pages: Gerardo
  • 202 pages: Polette

  • Really good to see that the top five have all read more than 200 pages! Many students were over the 140 page mark, which is my happy point – 20 pages a night for seven days is 140 pages.

    Have a good weekend, study some maths, read a book.

    Homework:

    • Maths: exam on Monday
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in exams, maths, PE, stories, wall of fame | 3 Comments »

    (you can’t touch this) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on September 23, 2010

    I spoke at morning line up about bravery. I talked about someone’s actions that, at the time, I think were very brave.

    In 1939, Britain and Germany went to war. It was expected that the Germans would bomb England, specifically the industrial towns of England. Seventy years ago there was no GPS, there were no satellites. In order to avoid the RAF (the Royal Air Force), German planes flew at night. This meant that they dropped their bombs when they flew over lit targets. In England it was decided to operate a Blackout Policy. All street lights were turned off, and people were encouraged to use heavy curtains to block the light from their houses. An Air Raid Patrol was organised. ARP wardens would move around cities at night, enforcing the blackout, making sure that no lights could be seen from above. However, as there was a war on, the men were fighting, the women were working in the factories. So, the job of filling the ARP fell to the very young or the very old. One member of the ARP was a fourteen year old girl. Every night she would ride her bicycle around Sheffield, ensuring that no lights could be seen by bombers. She was only 14 years old, and while the rest of the city hid (because people slept in bomb shelters), she would ride around the city, her way lit only by the stars and the moon. Nowadays, it is difficult to contemplate a 14 year old girl cycling round a huge industrial town in the day, never mind the middle of the night. Even harder to grasp is the thought of a young child doing that job in the middle of a war. However, that is what happened. Personally, I think that girl was very brave. She left school to do that job, because she was up all night, she slept all day. And it was only after the war she went back to school to finish her studies. That girl went on to get married to a naval officer, and they had four children. I am the third of their children. That girl is my mum.

    Wow! One of those days when you manage to pack so much into a day, that you wonder why school doesn’t have longer holidays! Of course, it is all swings and roundabouts. Fairly certain that soon we will have one of those days when nothing gets done, but that is one of the (many) joys of teaching. Last night’s maths homework was done very well (although one student had managed to do tonight’s homework instead – how about that for planning ahead?). And then it was into solving equations. Woo-hoo. I love algebra. It might be the maths geek inside me, but there is nothing better than algebra. And, at its most basic, what is there not to love about algebra? It has everything the enquiring mind enjoys – a puzzle and a solution. Basically, the algebra we were doing today was “find the number” – although it was presented as “find what number the letter represents“. And as Mariana pointed out, when asked to explain what she did to solve it, “I just did it.” Which describes the lesson totally – we just did it!

    The geography lesson was supposed to be about Mexico. Somehow we ended up discussing global warming and (obviously) global freezing. What did cause the ice age? What did kill all the dinosaurs? All fascinating stuff, which was made even more fascinating by the SMARTboard. I don’t know if I have given the SMARTboard enough love in this blog, so I’d like to big-it-up now. The SMARTboard is the best thing to have entered my teaching world since I got my first squared whiteboard in 1986. At one point, in the geography lesson, I was able to pull up a physical map and a population map of Mexico. Not just to display them in a large enough size that everyone could see, but to be able to label and colour on the maps was fantastic. I am convinced that my students have a much better understanding of Mexico’s geography thanks to the SMARTboard. And to those previous students reading this, remember how I would colour in a small photocopy and you could really see what I was doing? No more! Plus, thanks to the “recognise text” button, my handwriting is now turned into typeface, so everyone can read it, and my drawings are brilliant still awful. However, I can now cheat by pulling up preprepared images. Whoot!

    The computer lesson was the final lesson before next week’s lesson. Which is important because next week they will be doing their presentations. Professor Mauricio has set each group the task of telling the life stories of different computer icons. How the students will explain the connection from Charles Babbage to the founder of Google will be very interesting. I think that next week, if you want to find me, I’ll be in the computer room listening to the presentations.

    Tomorrow is Friday, which means that the Reading Log numbers must be in! Also, don’t forget, tomorrow is an 8:45am entrance. I will be there at the usual time, but I have to attend a meeting. Don’t forget the Reading Log!!

    Homework:

    • Maths: Reteaching 2-2 Nos: 1-8  Practice 2-2 Nos: 5-17
    • Writing Assignment: Scared (due tomorrow)
    • Reading Log Numbers
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    (There is a reason this post is called “You can’t touch this“. Don’t ask why though, because “if I tell you, I have to kill you“. What happens in the sixth grade, stays in the sixth grade.)

    Posted in computer class, geography, maths, morning line up, reading log, smartboard | 2 Comments »

    (dentist) Wednesday

    Posted by willkay on September 22, 2010

    I’ve just been to the dentist. I know, I know. For you, visiting the dentist is no big deal but for me it is a huge ordeal. Yes, I live up to my national stereotype. I’m English and I have bad teeth. This means that I am really, really scared of dentists and will avoid going to see one at all costs. However, a friend had recommended Dr. Francisco Del Villar Luna on Alba Roja. So I went to see him. Can I just take this opportunity to say, he’s a very nice man. He speaks perfect English, tells some interesting stories, and is a wonderfully caring dentist. I didn’t feel a thing. More to the point, I am planning to go back to see him very soon. With that hurdle surmounted, onwards and upwards with my (second) blog post for the day.

    The day started with me not talking to the morning line-up. Yes, I know that most mornings start that way, however I was convinced that I was supposed to talk this morning…and I didn’t. Ho hum. For a year I have followed Professor Rene, I talk the day after him. But now there are two fifth grades, I talk after Miss Irene. So, that means it is me tomorrow.

    Most of today’s activities can be found somewhere around the internet. On youtube there are videos of the PE lesson where there was some basketball being practised.

    There are also a couple of videos from the music lesson – one more successful than the other.

    On Flickr there are pictures from the Spanish lesson, where Miss Claudia got to use the SMARTboard for the first time. And, in a much more exciting way than Mr. Kay, she also let the students write on the board too. If you click on the links, you should be able to see the busy day we’ve had.

    Homework:

    • Maths: Reteaching 2-1 Nos: (I can’t remember)  Practice 2-1 Nos: (can’t remember either but I know they are the substitution questions. Maybe someone could write the question numbers in the comments, please)
    • Writing Assignment: Scared (due Friday )
    • Grammar: Workbook pages: 10 and 11
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in grammar, morning line up, music, PE, photos, smartboard, spanish, stuff, youtube | 1 Comment »

    (it’s late but it’s here) The Wall Of Fame

    Posted by willkay on September 22, 2010

    I apologised yesterday, and promised it would be up today. It is, at the moment a music lesson, and I am sat at the back of the classroom watching Miss Maria using the SMARTboard. Which means that I have time to quickly post the reading figures for last week:

    THE WALL OF FAME

  • 421 pages: Octavio
  • 327 pages: Ana Paola
  • 210 pages: Miguel
  • 178 pages: Daniela
  • 168 pages: Rodrigo

  • Fantastic effort from the top five. All of them are reading a good amount of pages. At the moment, most students are over the 100+ page mark but they still haven’t settled into a good reading pattern. Minimum of 20 minutes a day, should lead to over 140 pages a week. And there has to be some nights when you can read for more than 20 minutes!

    Posted in wall of fame | 5 Comments »

    (not so smart) Tuesday

    Posted by willkay on September 21, 2010

    Five extra minutes of recess!!! The whole school got five extra minutes of recess today! “Why?” you may ask. “Because the whole school is brilliant!” I would answer. In last year’s ENLACE exams, BAI came in sixth in our district. Hurrah! And if there are any old students (when I say old I mean students who left last year) reading, take this opportunity to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself. Also, feel free to go see your new principal and ask for an extra five minutes of recess. You never know.

    A great start to the day which, as is the way with these things, was followed by a bad start to the day. The SMARTboard wouldn’t boot up. Boo! Instead I had to use chalk and a green board. It was like I was working way, way back in time, almost as far back as…last week? However, we didn’t need a SMARTboard for the first lesson because it was Science, and we were doing an experiment! Before we started, like good scientists, we had to learnt the five steps that every scientist must take, in order to complete a successful experiment. Once we had worked that out, it was on to the actual experiment. Do vascular plants have “tubes”? This involved a certain amount of celery, fresh water, food colouring, and (of course) one control celery. By the end of the lesson, with the experiment totally set up we were ready to move on to maths. It would take a certain amount of time before we would see if our experiment was successful.

    Maths was successful. The homework was done well and everyone had a good understanding of Mean, Median, and Mode. Some need to take care when adding up the totals before dividing, and some need to remember to put the numbers in order before finding the median. Although, I’m not convinced that anyone understood Alejandro’s method of: front, back, back, front, front, front, back, back, back, front, back, top, top, bottom, bottom, bottom, top, top, something. I might have got that wrong. You should probably ask him to explain.

    Art (some pictures in the usual place) was followed by English, and the new spelling list. Unfortunately, I don’t continue the story of Secret Agent 003½ during the introduction of the spelling list. Which means that some students were desperate for the spelling quiz now! But it was not to be, and instead we went out for recess.

    Another science lesson after recess. First we had to finish off last week’s (actually two week’s ago) work on cells. This led to a discussion about “cracking bones”, which occurred just as Miss Lilian joined the lesson. Hopefully the talk of knees wearing out didn’t upset her too much – as she now has bionic knees! And then we were joined by Mr. Apac, carrying a computer under his arm. As the lesson turned to a discussion about diffusion and osmosis, he worked away on the SMARTboard. With 30 minutes of the day left, and as the lesson arrived at the point where we could check out the results of the experiment, Mr. Apac fixed the SMARTboard – Houston we have NO problem! The experiment was a total success. All the celery (except for the control) had changed colour. And it was possible, after cracking the celery, to see the lines of colour running up the “tubes”. Yes, vascular plants transfer water via tubes!

    Today I will end on an apology. Sorry. I took in the Reading Log numbers, I recorded the numbers on my chart in school, but I failed to make a note of them for when I come home. I will not be able to publish The Wall of Fame today. Sorry. Oh, and while I’m at it (apologising that is), I’d like to say sorry to Miss Marcela (Miss Tere B) for forgetting her yesterday. Miss Marcela reads every day, and comments often. Thank you.

    Homework:

    • Maths: Practice 1-10 Nos: 9, 10
    • Spelling: pages: 10, 11
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in art, maths, reading log, recess, science, smartboard, spelling, wall of fame | 6 Comments »

     
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