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 December, 2010

(urban legend) Monday

Posted by willkay on December 13, 2010

Did you hear about why Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC? Or how about the person who bought a yucca plant and when they watered it, it hissed? There’s always the one about the hitchhiker who leaves an attaché case in the car that is full of duct tape and knives. Or even the story about leaving a tooth in a glass of coke overnight. My favourite is always the one about how tourists befriended a long-tailed, short-haired, short-legged dog that turned out to be a giant rat.

A long, long time ago, before even my mum was born, people would sit around village fires and tell stories that “happened to a friend of my friend who lives in the other village“. Then the telephone was invented and people could sit around and tell stories about what happened to “a friend of my cousin (on my mother’s side)“. Now, thanks to the internet, and the Forward button, we can pass on stories that happened to “a close family friend of my local butcher“. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. I love the fact that within 0.32 seconds Google can find me 47,526 hits to the question I just asked. I love the fact that the facts are instantly available. But sometimes the internet is just full of stories that “happened to my hairdresser’s best friend“. Sometimes the internet can be like a village fire, everyone sits around and tells a scary story, and the best told story (the scariest story) gets retold, and retold, and forwarded, and forwarded.

Today, I was informed by the girls in my class that drinking water from a plastic bottle that had been left in a car to heat up, causes cancer. Now, far be it from me to argue with the persuasive facts (I got an email about it) or the poof (a friend of my mum told her that she had heard about a woman who had got cancer this way), but as a teacher I feel that it is my job to calm nerves rather than set all my students into a fully-fledged panic. It doesn’t take too much thought to realise that if this was really the case, by now bottles would have been taken off the market – the ability to sue for damages is a fantastic way of making sure that companies aren’t killing/poisoning/maiming me. However, if all else fails, I turn to I type in the relevant facts of the story into the search engine: plastic water bottle cancer and hit return. I am then told that plastic water bottles do not contain the toxins that cause cancer. I am informed that some baby bottles/hard plastic bottles might have caused cancer in some animals, and some governments have banned then. But, will tell me if something is true or an urban legend. Try it, it’s fun. However, don’t blame me if you lose three hours of your life just reading through all the urban legends about Disney!

Oh, and in passing: I do believe in aliens; I don’t believe in UFO sightings; I have no opinion on Area 51; I believe that JFK was assassinated by one man – there was no one on the grassy knoll; man has walked on the moon; there was no curse on Tutankhamen’s burial site; and gang members don’t drive around with their lights switched off.

Secret Santa started today! Well, it sort of started for most people. For some people their secret friend either didn’t make it into school today, or forgot that it was starting today! However, the upside of that is: double pressies tomorrow! In the maths lesson we moved on to “logical reasoning“. This turned out to be a lot easier that it sounded, as it appeared that logical reasoning just meant a series of crosses and ticks in different boxes. I say “easy peasy“, you say, “lemon squeezy“.

The English lesson saw the end of the battle between Secret Agent 003½ and the evil Dr. Evil. Will they return now that oo3½ foiled evil Dr. Evil’s plan to assassinate the President and place his accomplice (the Vice President) in the White House? Who knows? We shall have to wait for ages to find out – well, at least until 2011!

Recess was made all the nicer thanks to brownies supplied by Polette. Oh, and have I mentioned? Today is Roberto’s birthday?

The geography lesson turned into a history lesson. However, you cannot study Russia without talking about its history. And somewhere in the history of Russia is the story of Napoleon’s invasion, the retreat from Moscow, and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture (which would could all hum). This lead to the fact that Napoleon might of died from arsenic poisoning. Which led to the fact that arsenic was found in old wallpapers. And then to water pipes that were made from lead. And then to schools that were made with asbestos. And, finally, to the fact that plastic drinking bottles might give you cancer…which they don’t!

English Word of the Day. Basketball. It is not, and never will be, referred to as “basket“. Sometimes “B-Ball“, most times basketball, never basket. Oh, and no Englishman would ever use the term soccer. It is football! And the game they play in the USofA is American Football. Right. Off to play on my bouncy castle


  • Maths: Reteaching something-something   Practice something-something no:1      
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in english, geography, history, maths, spelling, stuff | 7 Comments »

(is it waterproof) Friday

Posted by willkay on December 12, 2010

Once again I find myself writing about Friday on a Sunday. Friday night was the staff Christmas party in school, which meant that I was out par-tay-ing the night through. In a total fit of laziness, I decided not to get up at all yesterday. I spent the day in bed, watching films and television on the laptop. All that meant that I couldn’t write a blog. However, it is now Sunday afternoon. I have been up and about since eight this morning. We have had our Christmas photos taken for relatives, I have cooked a huuuuuuuge breakfast, that included chocolate chip pancakes, and we are now settling down for our usual Sunday afternoon pastime of falling asleep in front of the NFL game. But, before I start snoring I thought I’d quickly bang out a quick update.

A peaceful, relaxing start to the day, with a yoga lesson. This allowed me time to catch up with all my marking! The maths lesson was more time spent on problem solving. This is turning out to be a lot harder than it seems. At first the questions seem fairly straight forward. However, you have to read the questions carefully and make sure that you understand exactly what it is really asking. For example: A man wants to fence off a square vegetable garden. He decides to use exactly 12 fence posts on each side of of the garden. How many fence posts does he need? The answer is not 48. Yes, I know that 4 multiplied by 12 is 48 but he doesn’t need 4 lots of 12. He only needs 2 lots of 12 (for the top and the bottom) and 2 lots of 10 (for the sides). He needs 44 posts. Try it. Draw it. You’ll see that I’m correct. To finish the lesson off we tried to play Sudoku. I say tried because by the end, with so many students surrounding the board and demanding that “the 6 goes here”, it all got very confusing.

The science lesson was supposed to be about tectonic plates and the theory of continental drift. And, to be honest, we did cover those points (plus the idea of the ocean’s spreading bottom). However, I get the feeling that the students might well remember the lesson more for the water experiment, rather than for Wegener’s arguments for the proof of continental drift. It appears (and I did demonstrate it) that you can place a piece of card over the top of a glass of water, turn the glass upside down, and the water will not fall out of the glass. How is this possible? Is it magic? No, it is science. Water pressure plus gravity is still less than the force of air pressure. Not convinced? Ask a sixth grader to demonstrate.

After recess it was PE. Then it was time for this week’s The Wall Of Fame:


  • 1560 pages: Ana Paola
  • 532 pages: Ninotchka
  • 360 pages: Ariadne
  • 323 pages: David
  • It was a really good week for reading. I know that there are just four students on The Wall Of Fame and only three students in The 200+ Club. However, over 17 students read more than 140 pages, and that is the more important statistic. It was then time to present this week’s writing assignment. The task was to design an alien, a creature that lived on another planet (or, as it turned out to be in Alejandro’s case, a whole planet). There were some very imaginative designs. Some students had really thought long and hard about why Aliens might look different and had made adaptations that would help them to survive in a different environment. Amusingly (the first three times) the question, “is it waterproof?” made its reappearance. Ah, “in jokes” are always the best. Then there was just enough time, at the end of the day, to squeeze in Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers. Which was crackin’.

    English Colours of the Day. Lime Green and Lemon Yellow. In England, lemons are yellow, and limes are green. Yes, the direct translation of the word limón is actually lime.


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

    Posted in maths, science, stories, wall of fame | 1 Comment »

    (time line) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on December 9, 2010

    At some point last week (actually, probably for the whole of last week) I was complaining that it had been a long, long week. At this moment in time I really should say that I cannot believe that it is already Thursday. I make it late Tuesday afternoon, maybe early on a W*dnesd*y morning. But there is no way that it is already the end of Thursday and there is only Friday to go. Oh, it is? Wow! There’s a week nearly over and done with, and with just one week to go before the Christmas holiday maybe it is time to start thinking about writing that letter to Father Christmas. Hmmm, one thing I can be certain about – I don’t need a new mug.

    That’s it with surface areas of cylinders. I think that I actually saw brain cells start to die in class this morning as we went through last night’s homework. Some students have understood it, some students have an idea about what is going on, and the rest all understand how to find the area and the circumference of a circle. Job done, time to relax. Take it easy. I know, let’s do some problem solving! The class easily (and quickly, with no complaining nor arguing) divided up into five teams of four, and took on the challenge of problem solving. This turned out to be a lot harder than it seemed it would be. Surely four minds would be able to solve the questions as they arose? And yet, it appeared that instead of many hands making light work it was more a case of too many cooks spoil the broth! Of course, once everyone knew the answers it was a lot easier! You know, tomorrow, I might have a go at Sudoku.

    In Science we have moved on to a brand new topic: Earth Science. Today we looked at the different layers that make up the planet (not forgetting the atmosphere which is also a layer). We discovered that the Mariana Trench is actually deeper than Mount Everest is tall. In fact, if you dropped Mount Everest into the Mariana Trench there would still be nearly two kilometres of water above it. What creatures live in this trench? We don’t know. There might still be many different animals that are undiscovered down there. One thing is certain though: we have mapped and know the surface of the moon better than we have mapped and know the oceans of the Earth.

    In History the students are building a timeline (there is a picture of part of it at the top of the page). This timeline covers Mexico’s history. Oddly enough, the exam into Junior High asks for a certain amount of knowledge of Mexican history but the SEP syllabus for the sixth grade doesn’t actually cover Mexican history. In order to help the students, Miss Claudia has got them to make a timeline, which is slowly materialising above the SMARTboard.

    In English we finished off the story: When Marian Sang.The students impressed me with a knowledge of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, but then unimpressed me with their knowledge of racism in early twentieth century United States.

    English Word of the Day. Vapour. Again, it’s one of those words that has a random ‘u’ in it!


    • Maths: Reteaching 5-3
    • Writing Assignment: An Alien (for tomorrow)
    • Reading Log: in tomorrow
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, history, maths, science | 4 Comments »

    (it’s her birthday) W*dnesd*y

    Posted by willkay on December 8, 2010

    I was woken up this morning by an announcement that: the Avast database has been updated. Nice to know that overnight my virus checker has been working hard on the computer, and had updated the database. Not so nice to know it at 3:20am. However, there is something about 3:20am on December 8th…oh yes, I remember, it was exactly that time, that date, that maria was born. So, my failure to remember to turn off the speakers on the computer did mean that I was able to wish her a “happy birthday” at the exact time of her birth! Which was cool. This afternoon we put up the tree and we’re cooking a favourite meal later. However, I don’t have too much time to bang out this. So, onwards and upwards:

    • PE and the beginning of Volleyball.
    • Maths homework and a new method of finding surface area of a rectangular prism.
    • Music lesson.
    • more maths. Surface area of a cylinder.
    • more maths. More surface area of cylinders.
    • I tried to sing through two octaves – and failed.
    • ‘Secret Santa” gift list went up.

    English Expression of the Day. I’m terribly sorry but I’m not actually American, I’m English. Needs to be said in a very “posh” accent – very usuful for getting yourself out of trouble when you’ve been confused for an American.


    • Maths: Practice 8-8 Nos: 7,9,11
    • Writing Assignment: An Alien (for Friday)
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, maths, special event | 2 Comments »

    (white light) Tuesday

    Posted by willkay on December 7, 2010

    In her blog, Miss Lilian wrote about birthdays and how she celebrated them when she was a little girl. When I was a younger person (many, many years ago) I didn’t particularly celebrate my birthday. This was mainly because I was away at boarding school. So, I would get a birthday card from my parents, sometimes with money in it. And that was that. As I got older I still didn’t celebrate my birthday, it just wasn’t the done thing. At work you would have to take in a cake for all your colleagues, which always seemed weird to me – shouldn’t they be getting me a cake? Anyway, birthdays, not a major moment for celebration in my life. And then I move to Mexico. I guess birthdays actually mean something here?

    Tomorrow is maria’s birthday, which of course (as part of my becoming Mexican) I will be celebrating. How will I be celebrating? Well, as a lead up to tomorrow, to make sure that there is no washing up left over from tonight’s meal, I am taking maria out for a meal. Now! In other words: you get a reduced blog post. Make of it what you will.

    • my cup, a gift from Shai, was broken
    • yesterday was awful. It was necessary to underline the classroom rules.
    • in underlining the rules some students thought my classroom was a democracy. It isn’t. It’s a dictatorship. I might be a benevolent dictator, but I have learnt that classrooms tend to operate better if one person is in control and his/her word is law.
    • white light isn’t white, it is made up of 7 different colours.
    • Roy G. Biv
    • Geography exams returned. Several scores of 10. Two scores of 9.9 – people actually chose not to do the question?
    • surface area of rectangular prisms. A lot easier than it looked.
    • homework checked. How bad was yesterday? Two people didn’t do the homework. Most people didn’t do the homework correctly.
    • Spanish lesson – students got moved because they are talking too much.
    • Geography was all about the Physical Map of Russia.
    • Secret Friends.
    • home time. It is important to note that the half hour between 2:30 and 3:00 is still school time and the rules are still in place.

    Russian Word of the Day. Taiga. It means “land of little sticks“. 


    • Maths: Reteaching 8-8 No:4  and Practice 8-8 Nos: 1-4
    • Writing Assignment: An Alien (for Friday)
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.


    Posted in english, geography, maths, mexico, stuff | 1 Comment »

    (who is that fat man?) Monday

    Posted by willkay on December 6, 2010

    Can you tell that today was the last exam of the year? Can you tell that we are solidly into December and already the students can smell Christmas? Can you tell that the next two weeks are going to be very long for teachers? If you have ever wonder about what you’d most like to be empathetic about can I give you a nudge in my direction? Just think how hard the next two weeks are going to be with a classroom full of children who are already on holiday, looking at presents under the tree. Good times.

    The Honour Guard was in action this morning. Well, The Honour Guard plus one extra. It appears that the second grade couldn’t muster enough individuals to make an Honour Guard, so the sixth grade were called on to do their duty. Unfortunately, Alejandro was off sick, which meant there was no “shouty-person”. What we needed was someone with a loud voice, who knew what they were doing, and could lead the Honour Guard around the playground. Step forward Polette! Thank you.

    Geography exam. Oddly enough, this seemed to be the toughest of the exams as it definitely took the longest. With that over and done with, it was time to settle back down to the real business of being at school: work. However, for some students this was not to be. It was very chatty in the classroom and the students were hard to settle. This is only to be expected as they have just come through a tough set of exams and, on the whole, done very well in them. So, the rest of the day was spent doing spellings, reading, and singing.

    This week’s writing assignment is to describe an inhabitant of another planet. There was a certain amount of time spent discussing my “alien” and the world of jelly (that’s jello to you) that he lived in. After that, we had a spelling quiz where the evil Dr. Evil revealed his plan to rule the world via a talking, parachuting penguin. It’s alright, the penguin didn’t speak English/Spanish, he spoke rhinoceros. And he kept all of his plans written ina brochure that he kept in antique bureau that was a family heirloom. [True story.] As you can tell, it was a morning filled with serious and contemplative thought.

    After a recess where some people had waaaaaay too much sugar – in the form of peanut butter and Oreos – the students started to build a timeline for their history class. Then it was back to the world of Ancient Egypt, and the genius of The Rosetta Stone (which was found in Rosetta). To finish the day off, we learnt a song. And did a little dance. Tomorrow is another day.

    English Word of the Day. Honorary. Yes, it appears that in English it is honour, with a u, but it is also honorary, without a u. 


    • Spelling Workbook
    • Writing Assignment: An Alien (for Friday)
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in exams, geography, history, honour guard, spelling, stuff, youtube | Leave a Comment »

    (clausura) Sunday

    Posted by willkay on December 5, 2010

    I may (or may not) have mentioned this before, but maria is from Torreón. Every second Sunday, just as my dad took me to Bramall Lane to watch Sheffield United, her dad took her to the Corona Stadium to watch Santos Laguna. Now, cut me and I bleed red and white stripes. I am a Sheffield United supporter through and through. Get in an argument with me about football, and (of course) I will argue that the mighty Blades are the best team in the world. However, they aren’t – just in case you didn’t know. The key thing about Sheffield United is that they promise so much (they were going to win the league this season), and yet fail to produce (they are close to the bottom of the league). When I arrived in Mexico I looked for a team to support. This is because I love sport, all kinds of sport, and I need [NEED] a team to follow. maria told me not to follow Santos Laguna because it would just lead to disappointment after disappointment. Well, with that recommendation they sounded exactly like Sheffield United, except I’d have to get used to following green and white hoops.

    Since I’ve been in Mexico, the mighty Santos haven’t disappointed. They have won more games than Sheffield United. They have even won a championship! And today they were in the final of Clausura 2010. Even better, hey went into the final match with a one goal advantage, having won the first leg 3-2. Today they performed like Sheffield United. I would like to say that they were robbed. That the first goal was a fluke, that the second goal should have been disallowed because the corner was illegally taken. However, Monterrey were the better side – and the third goal was beautiful. Santos lost. Monterrey won.

    Sometimes following a team can be painful.

    Posted in stuff | 3 Comments »

    (end of a long week) Friday

    Posted by willkay on December 4, 2010

    One of the single worst things you can ever do is: wake up on a Tuesday and think that it is Friday. I have spent most of the week thinking it was Friday, and so it seems to have taken ages to finally get here (or there, as I am writing this on Saturday morning). When I did finally arrive at Friday afternoon, I must admit that I came home and fell asleep for two hours. Yes, it was a long week!

    Friday started with yoga (for the students) and then moved on to the returning of the science exam. Two students scored 10. Fourteen students scored over 9. So, it was a fairly successful science exam. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the geography exam or, as one student called it, “a tourist guide to Europe“. There was a long discussion about Le Tour de France, which is something that I really love. Maybe we should try to get Miss Lilian to enter? As for the rest of the day, there was one interruption for the history exam, one interruption for a PE lesson, and then the day was finished with a BBC documentary about the solar system.

    It is Friday and as everyone knows, Friday is the day I take in the reading log numbers. Except, when I say everyone, I actually mean “only 14 students“. Unfortunately only 14 out of 21 students brought in their reading log numbers. There is still The Wall Of Fame:


  • 1150 pages: Ana Paola
  • 366 pages: Octavio
  • 337 pages: Francisco
  • 326 pages: Daniel
  • 306 pages: Jose Luis
  • However, there is no 200+ Club this week. After those five students no one scored over 200 pages. There were still some good results, don’t get me wrong. anything over 140 pages in a week is a good score.

    English Expression of the Day. Golden Duck. If you are out after scoring zero runs in a cricket match it is called “scoring a duck“. Yesterday the captin of the Australian cricket team was out on the first ball he faced. He was out for a Golden Duck.


    • Geography exam
    • Circular signed (yes I know that most of you don’t do extra lessons but it would be nice to have them all back signed).
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in exams, geography, history, PE, science, wall of fame | Leave a Comment »

    (dodecahedron, icosahedron, marmite) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on December 2, 2010

    I really can recommend the HP7pt1 if you haven’t seen it. Go now. The cinema was basically empty last night (just ten people), and it was a very enjoyable experience. The film is very good too, worth a second viewing. And, let’s face it, I am not a big Harry Potter fan, so I wouldn’t normally recommend an HP film. But I have, So there.

    This morning I was met with students bearing constructions/gifts. One had made an icosahedron and a dodecahedron. The other had bought a jar of Marmite that he no longer wanted. Result! I mean, the constructions were brilliant, and took a load of hard work, but…a half eaten jar of Marmite is fantastic!

    The intention was to start the day off straight away with the science exam. Which we did, although not quite straight away. Sometimes, the questions that students ask in exams astound me. I don’t normally allow questions in exams. My feelings are, if you don’t understand the question then you don’t know the answer. I realise this might sound harsh but I have, the previous day, gone through the whole exam as a review. The students should have studied the night before. Therefore they should know what to do in the exam. If they don’t know, then they don’t know! However, there is still the odd question – which normally turns out to be strange. For example: do we need to colour the picture? Now I find this strange because they were asked to draw and label a picture of the eye. One of the things they had to label was the iris – the coloured part of the eye. Also it was the timing of the question. The (first) person to ask me, asked as they handed in the exam, after 30 minutes. There was no rush to hand it in, they had (at least) another 30 minutes. How long does it take to colour a circle smaller than a one peso coin? How much extra hard work is it? How much would it improve the presentation of the exam? And yet, it was a question. Even stranger, when I pointed out that it might be a good idea, the student took the option to just hand the exam in. It is at moments like this that I wish I did actually give marks for colouring! Oh, hang on, I do. In the geography exam!

    After the science exam, we went through the English exam. This took a lot longer than it took for some people to do the exam the first time. No matter how many times, as a teacher, you tell students to read the question carefully, many of them still choose to charge through the exam quickly. Don’t believe me? Go back and read the picture at the top of this post. What does it say? Or does it say: A walk in the the park. Anyway, considering that 25% of the English exam is a reading comprehension, some of the students do not read carefully enough (Q:Describe the four cats. A: There weren’t four cats.), nor with enough understanding (Q: What does it mean by lost when it says, “She had lost her cat after 20 years”? A: It had run away.). There was just enough time at the end of the lesson to have a quick study for the computer exam. Mind you, I’m not sure how effective that was once the students talked about the questions. Again, time will tell…actually, the results will!

    The rest of the day was spent in Egypt. Well, not literally Egypt, but discussing Egypt and all things Egyptian. [True story: I spent 20+ years living next door to a village called Egypt. But, there again, my sister lives in a village called Hope.] We went through Canopic Jars, mummification, and the weighing of the heart ceremony. Still not sure how Horus had four children: one human; one jackal; one falcon; one monkey. But I am still glad that he named his monkey-son Hapi!

    English Expression of the Day. Baker’s Dozen. How many are there in a Baker’s Dozen? Thirteen. Want to know why? Ask a sixth grader.


    • History exam
    • Circular signed (yes I know that most of you don’t do extra lessons but it would be nice to have them all back signed).
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, exams, history, science | 6 Comments »

    (no time) W*dnesd*y

    Posted by willkay on December 1, 2010

    A week and a half ago, on a Friday night, I took maria to see the Harry Potter film. The film was great, the audience were awful. I’m taking her again tonight. Yes, I know that it is 2×1 night at the cinema, but that means she can have a large bucket of caramel popcorn! Unfortunately (for me) I also have a set of English exams to mark. Plus, as it is the beginning of the month, there is no food in the house, we needed to do the shopping! It is now 4:30pm. The film starts at 5:50pm. I’ve got an hour to do some marking, then can go watch a two and a half hour film, then come back home to cook/eat, then finish the marking. So, not a lot of time to blog.

    • start the day with PE
    • practice “The Sunshine Medley”. I should say, at this point, the rehearsals were fantastic!
    • music lesson
    • English exam
    • review for science
    • recess
    • Miss Lilian’s birthday celebration
    • Spanish
    • review for science
    • home

    English Word of the Day. Marmite. Yes, I know we have been here before but Marmite is wonderful. I do need to mention that it is not sweet! Roberto found out that Whole Foods sells Marmite (yipee!), convinced his mum to buy some, and doesn’t like it. I did warn you. You either love Marmite or hate it. However, it is not sweet. It is salty. It is luvverly!!


    • Science exam
    • Computer exam
    • Circular signed (yes I know that most of you don’t do extra lessons but it would be nice to have them all back signed).
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.


    Posted in english, science, special event, youtube | 4 Comments »

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