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 November, 2010

(it’s not monday) Thursday

Posted by willkay on November 11, 2010

We had assembly this morning. Yes, I know, it’s not Monday, it’s Thursday – what is happening? Well, due to rain and The Day of The Dead and more rain and The Revolution, the 3rd grade were going to do their pre-Halloween assembly on November 22nd, a whole month late. So, rather than wait any longer, it was decoded to have the assembly this morning. This, of course, should have caused no confusion at all. Nope, no confusion at all. I was fully prepared for Thursday. I knew exactly what I had to teach, knew exactly what I was doing, had everything planned and organised. So, there was no chance that anything could possibly go wrong. Except…some how I managed to teach Monday’s English lesson instead of Thursday’s science lesson. Oops.

Nineteen out of twenty homework notebooks signed. I suppose that I should be really happy that I am close to perfection, but in reality that one notebook missing still irritates me. One more chance tomorrow to get 100% success. (Obviously there is the rest of the academic year, but I’d like it to happen this week, rather than waiting until May.)

Still problems with areas of triangles. The homework was not a total success, with only three students scoring 10. There were too many scores of less than 7 for my liking. When finding the area of a triangle you must divide by 2 (or half something) at some point in the calculation. Once we had covered that, we moved on to the areas of trapeziums (that’s trapezoids to you). The area of a trapezium is calculated by: the average of the parallel sides multiplied by their perpendicular distance apart. Which is a bit of a mouthful, however it is fairly straight forward in the actual execution.Of course, you need to understand exactly what is needed. Once you understand then it should be straight forward. Should be. We also spent some time on calculating the areas of irregular shapes.

As mentioned before, the science lesson turned into an English lesson: Schwa. No, that isn’t a typo, that is the title of the next spelling list. A Schwa word is one in which the vowel sounds like another vowel. Still confused? Take the word onion. In onion the letter o (both of them) are pronounced as though they are uuniun. In the middle of the English lesson we also managed to squeeze in a computer lesson. It was while the students were in the computer lesson that the sound system in my classroom went “funny”. Of course, just as everything was running smoothly, the system still decided to check that we all still cared. I now have no sound with my SMARTboard. It is starting to feel like the “getting-the-homework-diaries-signed” problem. It just isn’t going to happen that everything is working perfectly.

Eventually, for the last half hour of the day, we managed to squeeze in some science. Tomorrow we will be reading our writing assignments: A Day in The Life. I am hoping to get all the class to give points to each student for: clarity of reading; understandability of story; enjoyment. So, it might be an idea to practice reading your story tonight.


  • Maths: Worksheet
  • Spelling: Workbook page: 34 and 36 (not 35)
  • Writing Assignment: A Day in the Life. (for tomorrow)
  • Reading Log
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in assembly, english, maths, reading log, science, smartboard, spelling | 2 Comments »

(math-tastically) W*dnesd*y

Posted by willkay on November 10, 2010

Brilliant start to the day! After yesterday’s worry that I was entering a world record all-time-low for getting homework diaries signed – success! All the homework notebooks that went home were returned signed and on my desk. Twenty out of twenty one! Slowly but surely, step by step, we’re getting there.

During the PE lesson I got to be in my classroom, on my own. This is a rare occasion and I made the most of it – non-contact time and a chance to play with the SMARTboard. Now that everything is up and running (did I mention that I have a new computer?), I really need to get to grips with using all of the functions of the SMARTboard. This will take a little time (and a lot of hard work) but once I get really used to using it, it is going to be a brilliant teaching aid. Not that it isn’t already – today it got a full and total workout.

Before the music lesson there was a chance to squeeze in a quick spelling test. For those loyal readers who are worried about how secret agent 003½ was going to escape the swinging-pendulum-of-doom, worry no more! He managed to dislocate his own shoulder, leap from the table, and escape! Only to discover that the evil Dr. Evil has sponsored the new Governor…dun, dun, der!!!!!! After sending the class to music I got five minutes before they returned. Miss Maria wanted to use the SMARTboard to show videos of harmonising using recorders (that’s flutes to you).

Then it was time for maths. Much to Ariadne’s disappointment we weren’t ready to actually do areas of triangles as I still wanted to cover names of polygons – especially quadrilaterals. Again the SMARTboard came into its own, the shape-drawing function is brilliant. If there are any “old” students reading this, they will remember how I would struggle to draw…well, just about anything. Ha! Well, the times they are-a-changin’. I can now draw simple shapes, and straight lines, and perfect circles, and can drag pictures from the gallery and pretend they are mine!

After recess, after Spanish, we did [wait for it, wait for it] maths. Hey, if Ariadne wants to do areas of triangles, who am I to stand in her way? And so she got her wish and we studied areas of triangles. I’d love to say that it was a total and complete success. I’d love to say it but no one (no one) got all ten questions correct. Only three students go nine out of ten. Humph! Let’s see how well they do with their homework.

Anyway, it is Grades night tonight. The grades have been released on the school’s website, so there will be much rejoicing in some households, and some sadness in others – although there should be more happy homes than sad ones in the sixth grade!


  • Maths: Reteaching 8-2 Nos: 4,5,6 and Practice: 8-2 Nos: 5,6,7,8,10,13 
  • Grammar: Workbook page: 36
  • Writing Assignment: A Day in the Life. (for Friday)
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in maths, smartboard, spelling | 4 Comments »

(the eagle has landed – actually, it’s just a computer) Tuesday

Posted by willkay on November 9, 2010

We’ve got the kids staying with us this week. This means that the day starts a whole half an hour earlier, as we have to juggle the use of the bathroom, organise breakfasts, and make sandwiches for lunch. Also there are different times for school drop-off: Danny is 7am, I’m 7:30am, Nikos is 7:45am. It all means a lot more hard work for someone. The good news (for me) is that I drift through all this. In my world the bathroom is always empty (everyone clears out when I open the bedroom door), my lunch box is ready for me to pick up (maria makes my sandwiches), and I arrive at school on time (hey, I’m the one who earns the money, so I can’t be late). All this means though that I was ready to put the disaster of yesterday behind me, and move onwards and upwards to better things.

There were only 14 homework diaries on my desk this morning. Actually, there were 16, but two weren’t signed. That’s 14 out of 21, not a good result – basically a 6.7 if it was a grade. So we had a talk about empathy. Although the day might look wonderful and fun and brilliant and amazing and just super-smashing-lovely, it might help to look at the day through someone else’s eyes, from their point of view. And, from my point of view, when I finished the day off asking all the students to get their homework notebooks signed, but only 14 did as asked – it is a bit of a downer. I’d like to say that all the students took this on board and today was wonderful, the rest of the week will be fantastic, the year will be a stunning success. I’d like to say it but I already know that there is one homework notebook left on a desk in the classroom, so my dream of all the notebooks signed is still that, a dream. Hey ho.

Mathematically we seemed to have totally grasped how to do areas of parallelograms (including the person who did the wrong homework). However, before we moved on to areas of triangles we had one little problem to overcome – naming polygons. Some days it feels like: one step forward, three steps back. I know that the students have been taught this stuff, not just last year but also previous years. It just doesn’t seem to have stuck. Eek!

As I was sat, marking books during the art lesson, Professor Humberto suddenly made an appearance in my room. He was not empty-handed. Under his arm was a computer. A computer with an Intel Core processor. Yes, a processor that can keep up with the SMARTboard. Now we can rock’n’roll. Fifteen minutes later, thanks to Google Earth, I am walking the students up Champs Élysées, under L’Arc de Triomphe, and hovering beside Le Tour Eiffel. Mais oui, mon petites, nous sommes en Paris, d’accord? Don’t you just love technology?

The English lesson was all about the agreement between subject and verb. Weirdly, if the noun is singular you tend to add an -s or -es to the verb. Of course, this is the total opposite if it is a noun!

Geography in the afternoon. The lesson was supposed to be about Germany, Spain, and Italy. However, we never got past Germany. Unfortunately my favourite subject is History. I love History and I wish I could teach it. However, in the sixth grade History has to be done in Spanish and my Spanish just isn’t up to doing History. But, it does mean that when I am presented with any opportunity to go off on a one hour story that involves history, I will be totally distracted! It only took an hour but I managed to cram the whole of The Great War, World War II, and The Fall of The Berlin Wall into one lesson (with a side reference to the Polish/Czech/Romanian Revolutions). Talk about abuse of power!

Right! I need a haircut and the Wii is free (because everyone is doing their homework), so that is me sorted for the next couple of hours.


  • Maths: Reteaching 7-4 and Practice: 7-4 (all of both)
  • Grammar: Workbook page: 35
  • Writing Assignment: A Day in the Life. (for Friday)
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in english, geography, history, maths, smartboard | 6 Comments »

(not the best of days) Monday

Posted by willkay on November 8, 2010

It wasn’t windy. I’m sure it wasn’t windy. The students should have been well rested – a three day week, followed by the clocks going back an hour, which means that everyone’s body clock should have woken them up an hour early this morning. No, it should have been a good day. A day when lots gets done, and lots gets done successfully. However, it was as though it were a windy day. When it is windy the kids are awful. It isn’t their fault, it just happens. Their behaviour deteriorates, their attention wavers, and they become easily distracted. It wasn’t windy today, so there must be some other excuse?

I wet start to the day meant that there was no assembly. I don’t know how often they can keep cancelling 3A’s assembly, but at this rate we will still be celebrating Halloween in December. It took some time for all the kids to get into the classroom and settle down (that might have been where the rot set in). Then, after tales of popcorn throwing in the cinema (I’m glad I wasn’t invited), we set about square roots. Except, we never got past the first three minutes of the introduction to square roots. It appears that everyone had forgotten how to find the area of a square. This led to the discovery that no one knew how to calculate the area of a parallelogram, not the area of a triangle. I didn’t even toy with raising the area of a circle. This was a disaster. At the back of my mind, I have to always work towards the entrance exams for Junior High, which happen in January. This means that my teaching year becomes a little lop-sided. I tend to teach a lot of maths this side of January, pushing the English/Science/Geography to the second half of the year. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we cover everything we need to cover. I just make sure that we do as much maths as possible before January, so it is fresh in the students’ minds. In my lesson plans I hadn’t intended to actually cover basic areas until after January. However, thanks to trying to cover one topic, we have discovered a huge hole in the students’ learning. This meant that this month’s lesson plans are now thrown out of the window and we are studying geometry instead of percentage.

The English lesson also did not go the way I expected. The introduction went ok – we discussed this week’s writing assignment – but after that, he lesson just fizzled out. We discussed adjectives and adverbs, and how to use them. They then had three example sentences to work on, followed by the task of describing a dog, using as many adjectives as possible. It did not go well. Nor did the second part of the lesson where we were looking for definitions of words.

Recess. The new computer for the SMARTboard is in the school! It is out of its box and being loaded up with software. Not sure when it will make an appearance in the classroom yet, but it is in the school! Excited yet?

After recess I marked the geography homework. This was not a happy moment. Four students had managed not to do the homework/leave it at home. Also, the presentation of some students’ work was not acceptable for sixth graders. They have to come to terms with working on their own. When they are set a task, to produce the best work, that shows them in the best light. This was not a good example of their best work. While I was out of the room making books, Miss Claudia was moving students around the classroom. She too was suffering from a lack of application from the students, or as she more succinctly put it, “too much talking”.

The day finished with a geography lesson. Again the students do not listen carefully to questions. They think they know what a question is, but they don’t listen fully and will leap in with any statement they care to make. This is not a good idea.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.


  • Maths: Reteaching 8-2 Nos: 1,2,3,7,8,9 and Practice: 8-2 Nos: 1,2,3,4,9,11,14
  • English: Nine Sentences using the words discussed in the lesson
  • Writing Assignment: A Day in the Life. (for Friday)
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in assembly, english, geography, maths, rain, smartboard | 4 Comments »

(fry day) Friday

Posted by willkay on November 6, 2010

You know it is too hot to think when the computer controlling the SMARTboard decides that it can’t be bothered to keep up, There was a moment when I was using the eraser and the “erasing-circle” was following along, 15cm behind. The drop downs took an age to drop down, and the “ink” was actually three letters behind the “pen“. Good times. Of course, it really didn’t help that my brain was slightly boiled as well. So boiled, that at one point I actually continued doing a division of mixed numbers question completely incorrectly after I had seen a mistake in the third line – unfortunately I missed the mistake in the second line of calculation. To make matters worse, once I got home I had to go round to my step-daughter’s house to get her bike. Without a bike rack for the car, the only way to get home was for her to ride her bike, and me to jog alongside. This is my excuse for not blogging yesterday! It is now 4pm on a Saturday afternoon. I have spent the day at Balboa Park visiting the rose garden, seeing the Tropical Fish Annual Show, watching Nikos partake in a magic show, and supervising Danny riding her bike. The sun is behind clouds, the temperature is normal, and I am able to sit and type at the keyboard without melting into a huge puddle.

So, it was hot. Very hot. Brain-meltingly hot. From yoga, through maths, onto science, recess, running around in PE, some more science, reading log numbers, and English – all of it was hot work. The students managed admirably though, especially considering it was a Friday in a three day week.

Reading Log numbers:


  • 944 pages: Ana Paola
  • 658 pages: Diego
  • 525 pages: Ninotchka
  • 312 pages: Octavio
  • 296 pages: Ariadne
  • Just go back and look at those numbers would you, please. 944, 658, 525, 312, 296. I don’t want to sound too proud of the reading being done in the sixth grade at the moment but…the top five readers have a total of over 2700 pages, this is fast approaching the total of 25 students in 5A. There are also another six names (Marianna, Polette, Marco, Rodrigo, Jose Luis, Francisco) who also read over 200 pages this week. Congratulations to all eleven students, and keep it up!

    I wonder if anyone made a pinhole camera today? On Friday we discussed the fact that everything we see, we see upside-down. Our brains then turn it the correct way up. This can be demonstrated with a pinhole camera. If anyone made one over the weekend, please bring it into school on Monday.

    Right, I have to go help Danny with her grade 10 maths homework. Actually, to tell the truth, I have to sit next to Danny and pretend that I understand what she is doing, as she explains it to me. Can’t wait for Monday and grade 6 maths!


    • Geography: 5 Facts about each: France, Germany, Spain, Italy.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, maths, PE, science, wall of fame | 2 Comments »

    (radio, radio) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on November 4, 2010

    I moved to Mexico because of a radio programme. No, seriously, let me explain. When I was a 13 years old I was sent away to Boarding School – yes, just like Harry Potter, I went to a school where you had to stay overnight, for months at a time. We were all sent to bed at 9:15 and the lights were switched out in the dormitory at 9:45. This meant that there was nothing to do except sleep or listen to your radio. Listening to the radio was strictly forbidden, we were supposed to sleep. However, I was not always the honest, truthful, law-abiding person you know now. Once upon a time I was a rule breaker, and I broke rules! As soon as the lights were out, I would slip an ear phone into my radio and tune in to BBC Radio One for the John Peel Show at 10pm. It was listening this way that, in 1976, I heard my first punk rock songs: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned. I formed my own punk band, we played three gigs, and we disbanded. John Peel, however became a constant in my life. The man who introduced me to all my musical likes, affected my political beliefs, and helped me grow old youthfully. I cannot tell you how proud I felt, twenty four years after my punk band split, standing in a bar watching my own son’s punk band perform. Unfortunately, John Peel died October 25th, 2004. I wrote a tribute to him, and my tribute was published on the internet. The same day The New York Times published a list of the most influential, female bloggers in the world. Here in Mexico, maria read this list and followed a link to a blog in Scotland. That blog mentioned a blog in Wales that was wonderfully designed. On that blog visitors were told to go read a tribute to John Peel, the tribute that was on my blog. Through a circuitous route, maria found herself at my blog…and the rest is, as they say, history. A year and a bit later I packed a single suitcase and moved here to Mexico. And yet, we would never have met if I hadn’t written that tribute to a radio DJ.

    I mention all this because today I attended the Spanish lesson. I enjoy watching my class in different lessons, it gives them the chance to shine in subjects that I don’t teach, so when ever Miss Claudia offers me the chance to go to a Spanish lesson I jump at the chance. Today the pupils were presenting a”Radio Show”. It was good to see the effort that was put into the presentations. Some groups had spent hours preparing sound effects and edited music-bites. Other groups had commercials and comedy items. All the groups seemed to have prepared well for the event, and it was all very enjoyable. Pictures in the usual place.

    In the morning I returned the geography exams. Again there were some fantastic results, but the annoying thing (for me) was that there could have been so many more. If only people read the question! If only people answered the question! However, this is a school and it is all about learning. I am sure that this is the first time anyone has ever told the students to read the question, but now I’ve mentioned it, I’m sure that it will not happen again. After that we did multiplication of fractions in maths. This was followed by science, which was all about muscles. Oh, and tonight, if your child comes home and tells you to press your arm up against the wall for 30 seconds, try it. You will be amazed at the results!

    During the last lesson of the day we had visitors to our classroom from 2A. Miss Alexandra also takes in the Reading Log numbers, and then picks a star reader! This week I invited the top 5 readers to come to our classroom and tell the sixth grade how many pages they had read. There were some very impressive totals (722, 711, 466, 406, 180) and it was nice to be able to hear that 2A wouldn’t just have a 200+ Club but could probably have a 400+ Club!


    • Maths: Reteaching 4-4
    • Geography: 5 Facts about each: France, Germany, Spain, Italy.
    • Reading Log Numbers.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in blog, maths, photos, science, spanish, stuff | 10 Comments »

    (it’s already) W*dnesd*y

    Posted by willkay on November 3, 2010

    Monday mornings are hard. For some reason, two days out of school means that kids normally forget everything – academic work and classroom behaviour. Throw in a Friday like last Friday, and Monday was going to be difficult. Except, there was no Monday. Nor a Tuesday. This week starts on a W*dnesd*y, which makes everything really difficult. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about the two days off school, I’m just telling you how it is. To make matters worse, the day started with PE and then (thirty minutes after that) into music. Add in the fact that the thermometer kept climbing all day, and there was a geography exam to sit.

    Morning Line Up – new value of the month. This is going to interesting as I will spell it Honour!

    PE – Look carefully at the picture, very carefully. Can you see who forgot it was a W*dnesd*y and was wearing the wrong uniform?

    Science – returned the science exams. Over 17 students got 9.0 or above, which is good news.

    Music – take everything!

    Geography – time for the exam. Of course, the exam started with two trick questions! I say “trick” but what I actually mean is “youhavetoreadthequestion”. Although I explained (three times) what the questions required, I still had to send back nine students who hadn’t read the question and failed to answer it fully.

    Spelling – final syllables. Outspoken – some students are outspoken, some are not. Oddly, the ones that I would think are outspoken all announced, loudly, that they were the quiet, shy, retiring students in the classroom.

    Spanish – final lesson before tomorrow’s Radio Show presentation.

    Grammar – Action and Linking verbs. The cheese does not actually smell, it just smells. And, did you know that Mr. Kay could fit a whole drumstick in his ear?


    • Spelling: Workbook page: 31, 32
    • Grammar: Workbook page: 31, 32
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.


    Posted in english, exams, geography, grammar, morning line up, PE, spanish, spelling, values | 3 Comments »

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