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 October, 2010

(halloween) Friday

Posted by willkay on October 29, 2010

Four days off from school. Four and a half days if I start now.

In at 7:30am but there were no students, it was all teachers and admin. The theme was British American Zoo and so we all came as animals (except for the couple who cheated and came as zoo keepers!). The first half an hour was spent admiring each others’ costumes – or in my case, struggling to see anything through the holes in my mask. I had a brilliant penguin costume made by maria, and had hoped to be the only penguin in the zoo. Unfortunately, Miss Dulce turned up as a penguin too, but I think my costume was better! We were then divided into teams and were quizzed on our knowledge of horror films. Oddly enough, or maybe not oddly, I don’t like horror films, they aren’t my favourite genre. However, thanks to a bucket load of useless information in my head and the fact that Miss Monica does like horror films, the team I was in won! Yay! So, I now have a free ticket to the cinema to see any horror film of my choice…oh. Then it was time for breakfast and gifts.

At nine o’clock the students arrived in costume. I got my first treat: a box of Lucky Charms (hmmmm, must remember to mention my love of Walmart cherry pies, bags of marshmallows, and flat screen televisions next time). Thanks Francisco! Then it was on to the costume parade. maria was there and she took loads of pictures. She has uploaded some of them to my Flickr page and they can all be found in the set: Halloween. After a quick dance around the playground, it was into the classroom for more treats. Yes, we quickly filled up with sweets (candy) and some wonderful biscuits (cookies) baked by maria! We then attempted to sit and watch A Nightmare Before Christmas. However, after an hour of sitting still it appeared to be impossible to sit for any longer, we went outside. The boys played American football, the girls danced, talked, and wandered around the school.

At recess time we shared the food that had been brought in. There were burritos, sandwiches, tuna pasta, crisps, jelly (jello to you), a chocolate Oreo cake, and soda. A wonderful spread and very tasty. After eating all that there was a certain need to run a bit, sit a bit, do something. However, we were confined to the classroom until, an hour later, it was our turn on the bouncy castles. Twenty minutes of high-powered bouncing later and everyone was exhausted. Back in the classroom the internet was up and running. Time to hit youtube. We sang, we danced, it was time to go Trick or Treat. Sensibly the school decided to give out gifts this year, rather than something packed with sugar and artificial colours. The bubbles were fun, the hand-clapping things were suitably annoying, but the stretchy-sticky eyeballs were disgusting! Also, they were waaaaaay too sticky, especially to ceiling tiles. Ten minutes is all it took for every single student to get their eyeballs stuck to the ceiling! Once one of them had done so, they all managed to do so. Grrrr kids!!

Home time. Four days off. Which is nice.


  • Geography: exam on Wednesday
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in photos, special event | 16 Comments »

(great day) Thursday

Posted by willkay on October 28, 2010

One of those days when I don’t seemed to have stopped until I’ve arrived home. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to bullet-point the day, and then put my feet up and play some Lego Harry Potter mark the Science exams.

  • Happy Birthday Miguel!
  • Miss Lilian tells me that I will be getting a new computer soon, to run the SMARTboard. Fantastic!
  • Science exam.
  • English exam results. Eighteen students scored 8.2 or more!
  • Spanish exam results.Sixteen children scored 9.0 or more!
  • Computer lesson.
  • Geography review.
  • Recess.
  • Continued Geography review.
  • Reading Log numbers:


  • 842 pages: Ana Paola
  • 344 pages: Octavio
  • 338 pages: Mariana
  • 335 pages: Diego
  • 302 pages: Roberto
    • Life in the 1800s.
    • Finished the story about Odysseus.
    • No school on Monday.
    • Home time.

    Tomorrow is a late entry for the students. They were all told to be at school at 9am (although it says 8:45am on the website). They do not need to bring backpacks. There will be a sharing moment – the wonderful maria has baked biscuits (they are biscuits because I am English) which I will be sharing. There is no school on Monday or Tuesday, which means that the Geography exam is now on Wednesday!


    • Geography: exam on Wednesday
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, exams, geography, reading log, wall of fame | 2 Comments »

    (windy) W*dnesd*y

    Posted by willkay on October 27, 2010

    Wind and children, not a great recipe for a calm, quiet, passive day. Don’t know why, there is probably some recessive gene that is as much use as an appendix, but when the wind picks up, so children’s attention span drops. As the weather gets more rowdy, so the volume of noise increases in the classroom. Not convinced? Just start to watch other drivers on the road. It is amazing how badly people drive on windy days. So, it isn’t just kids, it is everyone. However, I don’t have everyone in my classroom, just twenty-one children who are ready to bounce off walls, and have difficulty finding their “calling-out-in-class-off-switch“.

    Good news: the first lesson of the day was PE. A chance to run around the playground and burn off the excess sugar picked up from the bowl of Lucky Charms that was breakfast.

    Bad News: second lesson of the day was an English exam. Fourth lesson of the day was a History exam.

    The day started with, as usual, morning line up. What was unusual was that it was my turn to speak about the value of the month: Creativity. This month we have heard a lot about famous artists, which is all well and good, if you can draw. Unfortunately, I cannot draw to save my life. [Which is why the SMARTboard could be a fantastic tool for my classroom. No longer do the students have to struggle to work out what I’m drawing, now I can pull up a picture!] However, I love reading. I love the images/pictures that words can paint in my mind. I am also a huge comicbook fan. I love comics. So, today I chose to talk about Stan Lee, the creator of Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and 280 other comicbook characters. Now, in my book, that is Creativity!

    Tomorrow is the science exam, so we spent some time reviewing all the topics for that. There was just enough time at the end of the day to tell a little more of the Odysseus story, and then home.

    Don’t forget: tomorrow Reading Log and no bracelets.


    • Science: exam on Thursday
    • Reading Log
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, exams, history, morning line up, PE, science, smartboard | 4 Comments »

    (in the groove) Tuesday

    Posted by willkay on October 26, 2010

    I like teaching sixth grade. They are still excited about learning, and they are old enough to make intuitive leaps. They can think for themselves, they have the ability to answer their own questions, they desire knowledge. School is still exciting for them, it hasn’t yet become a chore, and they still want to learn. Of course, there are still some things that make no sense – I challenge anyone to convince me that knowing the difference between a complex sentence, a compound sentence, or a compound-complex sentence is of any particular use outside of “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?“. However, being able to come up with a way to clean your body, without using water (could you use a balloon?) just shows brilliance.

    Exam week is difficult. The students’ attention is focused totally on one hour a day – the exam. The rest of the day suffers from an inability to focus (or self motivate). Also, it is a bad idea to try to teach anything new. With focus gone, targets set with the exams, new information is just confusing, and the kids are unreceptive. However, we soldier on.

    Half an hour in the morning to study for the Spanish and Civics exam, followed by maths and the return of the exams. Eight students got a 10, five got 9.0 or better. Excellent results.

    Review for the English exam. Art lesson, and making spiders? Pacman ghosts? Wooly-scary-thingies? English – reading story. After recess (and cleaning up after recess) it was time for the Spanish and Civics exam. Then a review for tomorrow’s History exam (English and History exams tomorrow). The day was rounded off with finishing the story we are reading, and a bit more of the story of Odysseus.

    Onwards and upwards.


    • English: exam on Wednesday
    • History: exam on Wednesday
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in art, english, exams, grammar, history, maths, recess, spanish | Leave a Comment »

    (all change) Monday

    Posted by willkay on October 25, 2010

    The rain fell and there was no assembly. By ten past eight the last student had arrived in class, and it was time for the maths exam. It is always a tough day in the classroom when we have exams, however it becomes a lot harder when it is raining. Children need that moment of release, they need to run around and use up some of the pent-up energy they accumulate through the day. Sitting an exam just increases the tension. Once the exam is finished, it is incredibly difficult to stay on track for the rest of the day. However, we managed.

    The maths exam was followed by an English lesson about Possession. I know, I know, it sounds a perfect lesson for Halloween – except it wasn’t that sort of Possession. It was a lesson on the use of the apostrophe s or just an apostrophe. I can now expect all written work to be littered with ‘s instead of just a plural s. Ah, the bane of an English teacher’s life (did you see what I did there?). This was followed up by a Spelling Quiz. Secret Agent 003½ has now found the evil Dr. Evil’s hideout. However, he has been captured, tied to a table, and a swinging knife is about to turn him into a human fraction! What will happen next?

    The final lesson of the day was taken up with reading. I enjoy the story Goodbye to the Moon because it makes the reader look at the Earth in a totally different way. In this case, a citizen of the moon visits Earth for the first time, and everything we take for granted (rain) is a complete shock to him.

    There were some important changes to the calendar made today. Because of Halloween it was decided that it would be a daft idea to try and do the History exam on the Friday. However, because of The Day of The Dead on Tuesday November 2nd and grades having to be in on Wednesday 3rd, that would mean History and Geography on the same day! It was decided that this would be too top heavy in the studying stakes. Therefore, the History exam for the 6th, 5th, and 4th grade will now be on Wednesday 27th October. This is the same day as the English exam, but the teachers feel that there is less studying involved for English than for Geography.

    Plus, Reading Logs will now be in on Thursday!

    If you don’t understand what is happening, ask.


    • Spanish / Civics: exam on Tuesday
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, exams, history, maths | Leave a Comment »

    (grey) Friday

    Posted by willkay on October 23, 2010

    One day, we might be the sixth grade Honour Guard.

    Thursday was a long, long day – a thirteen hour day, which is a long time to be perpetually “on”. So this morning, when the alarm went off, it was a difficult task to get out of bed and into school, even though there was an extra hour in bed!

    The first ten minutes of the day were spent recounting tales of our adventures to the rest of the class, and then it was on with the business of reviewing the maths for Monday’s exam. As usual, it is fairly amazing (to me) how much the children forget from less than a month ago. So there were several “ooooh yeah” moments as they suddenly remembered what Scientific Notation was, what was meant by standard form, and how to change a denominator of 20 into one of 100.

    The topic for today’s science lesson was “Bones and Joints”. However, for the first 40 minutes of the lesson we failed to actually discuss what was in the book. Instead we ended up in a conversation that started with the ear, went on to dolphins, moved through metals that are liquids at room temperature, and ended up at “walking on a liquid”. These are the moments I enjoy as a form teacher, rather than being just a maths teacher. The freedom to spend time in the classroom discussing questions that the children raise, being able to move off the topic and on to other learning situations. The SMARTboard is fantastic in these situations. It gives the teacher the ability to pull up pictures, videos, and facts. True, a better computer would aid these moments, but we managed to struggle along with the machine we have. We ended up at this video:

    After a shortened recess, it was PE, and then there was a chance to get back to the science lesson and discuss bones and joints. This is not my favourite lesson because I have to draw a three-dimensional representation of the inside of a bone. Drawing is not my strong point. In fact, to be more exact, drawing is my weak point. I struggle. However, after finishing my drawing, and wandering to the back of the classroom, it didn’t look too bad. Not as good as some of the students’ drawings, but for the first time, it wasn’t the worst!

    It’s time for this week’s The Wall Of Fame:


  • 749 pages: Ana Paola
  • 400+ pages: Ninotchka
  • 324 pages: Octavio
  • 299 pages: Francisco
  • 254 pages: Roberto 

  • Congratulations to the top five students. You might notice that Ninotchka’s page count looks a bit not-very-accurate. This is my fault. I am writing this on Saturday afternoon and I failed to bring her total home with me. I will update this on Monday.

    The day finished with reading “Goodbye to the Moon”.


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

    Posted in exams, honour guard, maths, science, smartboard, wall of fame | Leave a Comment »

    (trip) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on October 21, 2010

    I’ve just got back from the trip to the Natural History Museum. I need a shower and something to eat. Plus, I’ve just worked a 13 hour day – I’m a bit tired. I will load up as many pictures as I can (in the usual place – Flickr). Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of “red eye” and, again, I am a little too tired to do anything about it at the moment.

    However, I would like to say “Thank You” to the sixth grade. They were excellently behaved and were enjoyable to be with. There were moments of “no fun” (anything that includes eight hours in a coach is going to have a lot of “no fun” moments), but they made the best of it. And, once we were in the museum, they behaved impeccably. They listened attentively, asked very important questions, and were a credit to their school. Congratulations and well done. Oh, and Thank You for making my job a little bit easier.

    And just for you, a picture. You might know the name of these birds but you will never say it in class!

    Don’t forget Reading Log Numbers tomorrow. See you at 8:30am.

    Posted in trip | 3 Comments »

    (ohhhhh, I get it) W*dnesd*y

    Posted by willkay on October 20, 2010

    Teaching can be the best job ever. There are moments when you can stand at the front of the class and actually see teaching-in-action. Today I had one of those moments. One of those moments when, I finished teaching, turned from the board and just looked at the class. It wasn’t that you could see the light bulbs above their heads come on (because there aren’t actually light bulbs above their heads), but you could see the spark of recognition in their eyes. The best thing about the whole moment though is the sound. When you present something to a class, something that is difficult, there is a silence. No one wants to make a noise because it just draws attention to them, and if the subject is difficult, they don’t want attention coming their way. So students will sit in silence, hoping that they get it. And, when they do get it, they make a noise – no matter what their mother-tongue, they say: Ohhhhh. Probably the hardest thing I teach is subtraction of mixed numbers that include a decomposition (that’s subtraction-of-fractions-with-whole-numbers-that-includes-a-negative-fraction-that is bigger-than-the-positive-fraction). To actually do this operation involves two weeks of work, building each and every step along the way. It is a very logical step-by-step process, but if you fail to get one of the steps it is impossible. And, as far as I am concerned, it is the most complicated thing I will teach to the sixth grade this academic year. In fact, it wasn’t my intention to teach it today. With the exams looming, I was going to leave it to the other side of the exams, have a go, and then leave it until January, when a return to the subject might have meant a better understanding (two-times taught is more successful than first-time). But I had 15 minutes before the music lesson with nothing to do – it wasn’t worth starting a new topic – so I gave it a go.

    And it was a total success.

    No, seriously. Twenty out of twenty one students got the questions correct. They were so good at the topic before the music lesson that I decided to make myself a liar, and after promising them that I wouldn’t ask them any questions until next week, I hit them up with several questions today. And, BINGO. We have a bunch of mathematical wizards.

    PE was spent in the classroom because of the weather. Music had some recorder playing that sounded excellent as I walked down the corridor. Maths was a total triumph. Recess was a disaster with Octavio managing to get his finger stuck in Daniel’s mouth (yes, I don’t get it either), and Gerry trying to stop Daniel from running across the playground, without realising basic physics: the force required to stop a body in motion needs to be greater if the mass of the opposing force is less. In other words: don’t get in the way of a person running at full speed if you are a lot smaller than them! Spanish was a preparation lesson for the radio broadcasts that they will be giving later. English was half a disaster as my workbook is totally different to everyone else’s workbook, and half a success as we finished the story…eventually, after Rodrigo managed to read four lines in ten minutes!

    A good day over all.

    And tomorrow is going to be even better! I am really looking forward to the trip, I love museums. I have been on the website and it all looks very exciting. Not too sure about the spider pavilion. I’m not very good about spiders, so I’ll probably have to stand behind some of the students and pretend to be brave. However, I’m hoping to get let loose to roam the rest of the museum. There will probably be lots of pictures, and I will try to write something. Maybe not tomorrow, because it is a long day, but over the weekend.

    That said, don’t forget Reading Log numbers in on Friday!


    • Maths: Reteaching 4-3 Nos: 4,8,11,13,21  Practice 4-3 Nos: 1-7,9,11,18
    • Reading Log: Numbers
    • Homework Diary: Please get it signed.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, maths, music, PE, rain, recess, spanish, stuff | 2 Comments »

    (rain) Tuesday

    Posted by willkay on October 19, 2010

    It’s raining and I have exams to write:

    • 20 out of 21 homework notebooks signed
    • everyone’s homework done
    • addition and subtraction of fractions
    • art
    • geography
    • Spanish
    • 5th grade reading total was half of the 6th grade’s
    • more geography
    • what do Scotsmen wear under their kilts?
    • how did Mr. Kay’s dad spend a week one summer?
    • why are Sheffield United called “The Blades”?
    • and it rained

    Do not forget your Computer Homework. No excuses will be permitted. It must be done, it must be in school.


    • Maths: Reteaching 4-2 Nos: 10-21
    • Computing: Tips for Social Networking (in on Wednesday)
    • Homework Diary: Please get it signed.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in art, geography, maths, rain | 8 Comments »

    (legal) Monday

    Posted by willkay on October 18, 2010

    I spent three hours in a government office today, and for half of the time I was locked in the room with 30 other people. At one point, one of my fellow captives turned and asked maria where we were from. She explained that she was Mexican and I was English. He inquired how we had ended up together, how we had arrived here, applying for an FM3. She recounted, very quickly, the story of my move to Mexico, and then asked him how he had arrived here. It appeared that he had left China with a partner. The plan was to come to Mexico and have children, as they both wanted children but weren’t allowed to have them in China. Once he had arrived here he started working and earning more money than they had ever seen before. His partner became entranced with spending, with the ability to buy more and more. She quickly gave up the dream of having children and replaced it with a need for more and more possessions. She left him. He is now stuck in Mexico alone, unable to save enough money to move back home. He lives an hour out of the city, and travels in every day to work. He works past midnight every day, then travels home to his empty house. In many ways his life here in Mexico is better than the life he left behind in China. However, in one way it is a lot worse, he’s alone. I know that there should be a moral to this story, I’m a teacher and there should be a point to every story I tell. Except, in this case there isn’t, it is just a story. But it is a story that probably makes you want to hug the person next to you just a little harder, to thank them for being next to you, because you aren’t alone. Or maybe it is just me.

    It was nice to see Marianna at yesterday’s “Icebreaker“, and it was a shame that I didn’t see more sixth grade faces. However, those of us who braved the weather and spent our time on Sunday being part of the school, all spent the day whispering…it’s a sore throat kind of thing. The badge of honour we all wear for braving the elements. As many school members are now suffering from some form of illness, it was timely advice from the fourth grade to give an assembly about: Hand Washing. After hitting us up with many facts about how hand washing can stop the spread of illness and disease, they finished on a very catchy song. Catchy enough that I was humming it most of the morning.

    Yes, I believe in understanding what you you are doing. Yes, I believe that you shouldn’t just-learn-stuff-cos-the-teacher-says-so. But, honestly, when you are in the sixth grade you should know certain facts without even thinking about it. One quarter is 25% is 0.25. One half is 50% is 0.5. Three quarters is 75% is 0.75. These are facts that you should know. End of conversation. You cannot be a mathematician unless you are first an arithmetician. Unless you know numbers well, you cannot study maths. Waaaay back in grade 2 when you were told to learn your multiplication tables, your teachers were being serious. Four years later, these are simple tools that you should have mastered by now. Mental arithmetic? Really should be conquered. Welcome to sixth grade.

    The spelling quiz involved a conversation with a tarantula. For some reason I am now involved in a story where the evil Dr. Evil is trying to take over the world with an army of kittens. There are moments that I really wonder why I do these things.

    It was at this point that the rest of the day took a whole different direction. My papers were ready. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not be getting married this year – new target is November 2011. It will be a November wedding, just not this November. However, I am now allowed to work for another year, and am officially know as William Alexander Kay. Which is nice. The bad news is/was, that the plan to leave school later in the day did not mean that I had to wait less time. I had to wait the same amount of time of my papers, which means that I did not return to school today.


    • Maths: Reteaching 3-9 and Practice 3-9. The questions were circled in the workbook
    • Spelling: Workbook pages: 27, 28
    • Spelling: Spelling List x 3
    • Computing: Tips for Social Networking (in on Wednesday)
    • Homework Diary: Please get it signed.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.


    Posted in assembly, maths, spelling, stories, stuff | 1 Comment »

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