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 January, 2011

so long and thanks for all the fish

Posted by willkay on January 25, 2011

A year ago I had an idea, I’d write a blog. I wasn’t new to blogging, truth be told it was writing a blog that had resulted in me moving to Mexico. However, instead of just writing for writing’s sake, this time I had a purpose.

I don’t speak Spanish.

On the whole, this isn’t a problem in my job when it comes to the teaching part, however it was a problem when it came to the “communicating with parents” part. I therefore decided that it would be a help to both parents and students if I wrote a day-to-day diary of what happened in the classroom. This would give some point of reference to both the parents and the students, so that they would be able to discuss the days events. As a parent I know that often, when a sixth grader is asked what they did at school, there answer is “Dunno”. I also thought it would be useful in explaining some of my teaching methods, some of my thoughts.

So, on 18th January, 2010 I published my first blog post on Mr. Kay’s Blog. And it worked. The students would read, comment, join in. In fact, at one point, the whole class kept individual blogs for a month. Parents were constant visitors. The pictures gave them some idea what was happening, the videos covered events that they might have missed, and the actual posts themselves gave conversation starting points.

The blog was a success. It was hard work, having to come home every night and immediately settling down to write about the days events, but I felt that the hard work was useful. The students were getting something out of it, the parents were getting something out of it. There was a point.

Then came August and a new group of students and parents.

As expected, the numbers of readers dropped off considerably. I assumed that as the year got going, students and parents would start to read regularly, and the stats would start to improve. However, they didn’t. maria kindly offered to translate the blog into Spanish, as it was pointed out to me that some parents might appreciate it in Spanish. However, the visits to the Spanish blog could be counted on one hand. It was a lot of hard work for little return and, after thanking her for all her hard work, I shut down the Spanish version at Christmas.

I have given this blog two weeks into the New Year. I have mentioned it regularly in class and encouraged the children to visit, but the numbers haven’t risen. Yesterday I asked all the students who read the blog to say hello, two students did so. Yesterday I had more visits to the blog from Google searches looking for “Santos Laguna” than I did from students. This academic year has also seen an increase in my working hours, the school now goes on until 3pm. This means that I am often finishing the blog after 5pm, and that is before I can start my other school work. Added to this fact is that, unfortunately, I have had to cover colleagues who are absent, every day this calendar year. Time is at a premium. If this blog still had a point I would gladly sacrifice my time, however at the moment it has no real point.

My Flickr account is also up for renewal, and again the amount of visits that the pictures receive do not justify the expense of maintaining the account.

Obviously I still believe that a blog can be a useful tool, as a method for communicating between my classroom and the students’ homes. However, in this case it is not effective, it just isn’t working. Therefore it is time to close this down.

Thank you to those who have read and enjoyed the blog. Thank you for the compliments when we’ve met. Thank you for the comments.

Shall we try this again next August?

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Posted in blog | 31 Comments »

(international pie day) Monday

Posted by willkay on January 24, 2011

There are some days that it really is better not to dwell on. Here’s some random information with which you can make your own blog post:

  • 1B Assembly on the months of the year and a rap about the seasons
  • three students were absent
  • only 11 people handed in their Endurance homework
  • two students scored 10 in the exam test
  • five students scored less than 6.0 in the exam test
  • one person remembered it was International Pie Day and brought in pie
  • Miss Claudia wasn’t feeling well and I covered her lesson
  • only five students read this – go on, prove me wrong, leave a comment, even if it is “hello”

English Food: Peas. English people love peas. They have peas as often as Mexicans have corn. In fact, maybe more often. Peas and potatoes are a staple in most meals. I say that because I am just off to cook the evening meal (which an Englishman would call dinner), and I will be serving peas and potatoes.

Homework:

  • Endurance: find an example of an individual (or group of individuals) who have endured through hardship to achieve success.
  • Writing Assignment: 15-20 sentences describing a race/chase.
  • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

Posted in exams, maths, stuff | 7 Comments »

(and how long was that week?) Friday

Posted by willkay on January 22, 2011

The thing about routine is, it’s routine. Once you are back into a routine, one day just drifts into another. It seems ages since we were all on holiday, and yet it was only two weeks ago. This morning, even though all the alarm clocks were turned off and I went to bed slightly later than I normally do on a school night, I woke up at 6:14am and watched the alarm clock tick over. Yes, my body clock is now retuned to school time, and even though I can sleep in – and weirdly enough, every week day I really could sleep in – by 7 o’clock I’m staring at the ceiling, thinking about work. Yes, I can be that dull.

Friday started with the good news: all class teachers present and correct! The music teacher is still AWOL, but that won’t be a problem for me until next W*dnesd*y. It’s been a long week having to teach my normal time table with the added pressure of the Instituto México exams, added into the equation there have been lessons to teach in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Plus there have been exams tests to write, lessons to plan, parental meetings to prepare/debrief, and then there has been the assembly to think about. So, it was a relief to know that Friday would just be spent with the sixth grade, and my non-contact time would be available for all the administrative work that goes with the job of a teacher.

Monday sees the start of this month’s exams tests – I refuse to call them exams. We’ve only been back for two weeks, and in the case of the sixth grade, we’ve spent most of the time working on revision of older topics. So, the maths exam test will consist of 5 questions. Of course the danger with so few questions is that one mistake can destroy a good grade. In this case, get question 5 wrong (it’s about sales tax) and you lose three marks, three out of a possible twenty-five. So, even if you get the rest of the exam test correct, that still means your best possible score is: 25-3 = 22; 22 out of 25 = 88%; 88% => grade of 8.8. In other words (or numbers), the exam test might be easy but care has to be taken.

After making sure that we all knew what we were doing in the maths, it was time for some science! A lesson with a lot of drawing today and, it should be said, successful drawing! Yes, the thing I put on the board was instantly recognised as a bird – yay me!

As usual – although it still seems a surprise to some students – Friday is the day I take in the Reading Logs, take in the numbers and publish The Wall Of Fame:

THE WALL OF FAME

  • 857 pages: Ana Paola
  • 444 pages: Ninotchka
  • 338 pages: Miguel
  • 325 pages: Polette
  • Just a top four this week, and there are three people in The 200+ Club. Slightly reduced numbers this week. I’m hoping that this is just a settling in period, what with “back to school” and “Junior High exams”. However, they were also set the task of writing a book review, and some of the students took the easy way out. The book report is supposed to be about a book that you have read recently, not one you read back in the fourth grade!

    There were some interesting examples chosen for Endurance. Nice to note that four students chose their mum as someone who has endured. Hopefully we will be able to put those examples together into a coherent assembly in ten days time. If not, we’ll still be able to sing the song “Sing”.

    It was Daniela’s birthday, and everyone went to her party, which was a great way to celebrate the end of a long week. Well, I say everyone but I wouldn’t know for definite…I wasn’t invited. Have a good weekend, and don’t forget, 23rd January is International Pie Day!

    English Word of the Day. Trainers. You call them tennis shoes or sneakers, I call them trainers.

    Homework:

    • Endurance: find an example of an individual (or group of individuals) who have endured through hardship to achieve success.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in assembly, exams, maths, reading log, science, values, wall of fame | 4 Comments »

    (sing) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on January 20, 2011

    So, no blog post yesterday. Did you notice? I know that one person did, thanks for asking. There was no post yesterday because yesterday turned into “one of those days“. As you know (if you read Tuesday’s post) the students took their entrance exam to Instituto México. Obviously, the main aim of the sixth grade is to graduate in July, however that all becomes fairly superfluous if there is no school to graduate into. Thus the entrance exam looms very heavily of all of the work done in the first half of the academic year. We have worked very hard. If you were to check the books, you would see that we are already more than halfway through the English book and over halfway through the maths book. This is done on purpose. I am a great believer in setting big targets, but targets that are achievable. It is never my intention to just cover the work necessary for the exam, I quite happily aim to cover grade 7 and grade 8 work. If the students can work to that sort of high standard, then the actual entrance exam should present no difficulties. And it didn’t. Yesterday was full of stories about how easy the exam was, and how they never asked any of the stuff that we had covered, and how silly the students felt being all nervous “for that“. However, that was the idea, my cunning plan: prepare the students for an extremely difficult exam; get them into a certain mind frame for the exam; sit the exam. Of course, the results have yet to be released, but after four years of doing this I feel fairly confident. Plus, I know that the students have a good background now to go on and do well for the first couple of years, mathematically and in English.

    All of this means that yesterday was a moment to slightly relax. For all of this year, so far, the students have been sat in rows with my desk at the back of the classroom. Now, for the first time I have grouped the desks, and put my desk at the front. This, of course, caused a certain amount of excitement. The pressure was off in the classroom, and look – I can talk to the person next to me, and can see the person opposite me. Yesterday was a very long day for me. As I hope I have implied, I am very pleased with the work the sixth grade have done, and am impressed with the attitude they have shown to hard work. Yesterday was my way of saying thank you and here’s your reward, you can sit in groups. It did mean though, that a lot of the day was spent on “crowd control” and “re-focusing”, which can be tiring, believe me. Plus, due to teacher absences, I ended up teaching an extra two hours on Wednesday. And there were exams to write, lessons planners to update. The long and the short of it is, when I got home last night I still had several hours of work to do, and by the time I finished I really didn’t fancy writing a blog (had to catch up with some Donkey Kong Country – I need some break from school work occasionally).

    Wednesday, although tiring, was still a good day. We had a classroom discussing on bullying, and came up with some very interesting ideas. Sometimes it is easy to feel that we are bullied, but it becomes harder to see ourselves as bullies. However, once you define what bullying actually is, and then start to look at your own actions from the point of view of another, quite often it is possible to be a bully without realising it. It isn’t so much as “treat others as you would wish to be treated“, probably more of “if I was that person, is that how I would wish to be treated?

    Today, we continued with our new “fun” regime. I don’t get it – I’m pretty sure that school isn’t supposed to be fun! The morning was spent discussing homophones. This got slightly more confusing when one student chose to explain a word using another word that was also a homophone? Confused yet, I was. However, we did manage to get on to one of my favourite things: collective nouns. That gave me the chance to mention that the collection noun for a group of crows is a murder of crows – which is a fantastic expression. We also spent sometime practising “Sing” by My Chemical Romance. On Monday 31st January the sixth grade are presenting an assembly. As part of this we will sing “Sing”. I picked this song because I think it has a really good message, it is a very powerful song, and above all else it is fun. However, we are singing an edited version, I have decided to cut out the middle-rap-bit. Weirdly, this is the bit that the sixth grade sing the loudest! Grrr! I get the feeling that we are going to end up with twenty-one students stood on the playground, mumbling along to a song.

    English Word of the Day. Mobile. In England a cell phone is called a mobile, mainly because it is mobile – you can take it wherever you want. The good news about England being so small is that it does have fantastic coverage, wherever you are.

    Homework:

    • Writing Assignment: Book Report.
    • Endurance: find an example of an individual (or group of individuals) who have endured through hardship to achieve success.
    • Reading Log: please get it signed so that it shows your parents have seen the Reading Log.
    • Homework Diary: please get it signed.
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, exams, geography, grammar, maths, music, special event | 4 Comments »

    (don’t panic) Tuesday

    Posted by willkay on January 18, 2011

    Exam for entry to Instituto México today, at 4pm.

    So we studied.

    Good luck to all.

    Posted in stuff | Leave a Comment »

    (orange fanta) Monday

    Posted by willkay on January 17, 2011

    Quick post because I’m not really sure that anyone is reading this – and if you are, why aren’t you studying for tomorrow’s exam? But a set of bullet points that go like this:

    • First grade presented assembly.
    • Watched Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech.
    • What is tax, and why do we pay it?
    • How to calculate sales tax.
    • Direct/indirect object and subject compliment.
    • Countries in Africa.
    • Did you know that I’d been to Tunisia?

    Please get your homework diaries signed tonight.

    English Word of the Day. Sandwich. It’s not a torta, it’s a sandwich. But, there again, it doesn’t have all the added extras in it. So, it probably isn’t as nice.

    Homework:

    • Writing Assignment: Book Report (by Friday)
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

     

    Posted in assembly, english, geography, maths | 2 Comments »

    (cooking curry) Saturday

    Posted by willkay on January 15, 2011

    Hummph! Maybe I shouldn’t have watched the cricket yesterday. England lost on the last ball of the game. I suppose, in all fairness, it makes up for England winning on the last ball of the game in the previous match. But I don’t really want fairness in my sporting results, I want victory! I didn’t get to play on the Wii either! However, I did get to talk to mum, and wish her a happy birthday. It was still her birthday, here in Mexico, when we spoke, although it was already the morning after for her.

    Friday started with the sad news that there will be no The Little Mermaid this year. It  appears that Miss Monica did offer the sixth grade the chance to come back next year and join in with the fun, but not many of them seemed that keen. At this moment, when all their energy and effort is directed towards graduating, the idea of coming back is not one that they readily accept.

    In maths we are still studying percents, as I desperately try to cover every single possibility that might occur in the Junior High exam on Tuesday. However, the actual maths needed to work out percents (or turn numbers into percents) is good mental exercise. It’s always interesting when you spend ten minutes staring at two number and don’t recognise them as having a common factor of 7. (In case you are wondering, it isn’t interesting it is very worrying!)

    When I arrived here, in Mexico, I had never experienced an earthquake drill. I had no idea, no knowledge of earthquakes. The whole concept made very little sense to me. I lived for 40 odd years in a country that just didn’t experience such things. I’m fairly certain that I’ve told the story of my first earthquake drill at BAI, way back in 2005 (and I’ve definitely written about going through the last year’s earthquake), so the section in the science book, about earthquakes, fascinated me the first time. Of course, to students who live with the constant threat of earthquakes, have lived through earthquakes, and were born knowing the drill, today’s lesson was mainly things that they already knew.

    We have only been back four days, however that is still four days of homework, where reading is an integral part. I expected that there would be some very low numbers, panic is setting in with some students about Tuesday’s exam, and some parents are enforcing strict study time. Yet I was pleasantly surprised. Every single student read more than 80 pages in the four days – which means that they all read over 20 pages a day. Congratulations to them all. All I ask is that they read a certain amount a week. Of course, there are those who really go to town with their reading and for them, there is The Wall Of Fame:

    THE WALL OF FAME

  • 950 pages: Ana Paola
  • 435 pages: Diego
  • 214 pages: Octavio
  • 204 pages: Ariadne
  • 199 pages: Ninotchka
  • 172 pages: Jose Luis
  • There is no 200+ Club this week. In a short week it is a bit difficult to get that many students above 200.

    The writing assignment for this week was to write “the middle bit of a story”. At the moment, the students are getting to the point when some of them can write very long, complex stories. Unfortunately, students being students, when set a writing assignment some of them take the easiest way out. They write a beginning/middle/end story in twenty lines, missing out a lot of detail. This was a chance to pick a single moment in a story and write about it. The best example of this was done by Rodrigo, who’s story was all about the difficulty of catching a fish. It was one instance in the middle of a much more complex story, but he got the idea of the assignment and executed it perfectly.

    Right, I have friends coming over for a meal – they want to watch me cook a curry – so I should go and start preparing spices. Have a good weekend.

    English Word of the Day. Curry. If you were to try to name a quintessential English meal, you would probably have to go for either Fish and Chips or Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings. However, the most popular dish in England is a curry, a meal that has its origins in India. Ask any Englishman what he misses most about his country, and in his top five will be a curry.

    Homework:

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

    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.

    Homework:

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

    (made it to) Friday

    Posted by willkay on January 14, 2011

    I will blog about today, I promise. I have a new list of names to go on The Wall Of Fame, I have stories to tell, and….stuff. However, I have just got home to discover that I have a copy of the England v Australia Twenty20 match that was played this morning in Australia. So, I want to sit down and watch that first. Then there is some Donkey Kong Country to play – I haven’t picked up a Wii controller for over seven days! I’ll get back online tomorrow. I promise. And that is not a pie-crust promise.

    Posted in stuff | Leave a Comment »

    (yes, what’s the title) Thursday

    Posted by willkay on January 13, 2011

    Nineteen out of twenty one homework notebooks signed.

    We continued down the wonderful winding road that is percents. However, along the way we discovered that some of us have totally forgotten how to simplify fractions – eek! Onto science and a discussion of plate boundaries. It appears that soon Baja California will be somewhere up near Alaska, so start buying those winter coats. Oh, hang on, when I say soon I actually mean, soon in relation to the planet Earth. As far as you and I are concerned, it will be another 50 million years!

    After recess I discovered that the sixth grade will be doing an assembly on January 31st. This will be a tragedy for Octavio, as he was hoping it would be on National Pie Day! It isn’t. After recess I also got to take the 2nd for a lesson. They now know that the moon is made of cheese! There I go again, pushing forward the boundaries of learning. To finish the day, we continued to read “Learning to Swim”. We also arrived at my all time favourite fact: every time you type in “Dead Sea” to Google, no matter where you go, you always end up with a picture of someone floating on their back, reading a newspaper. Genius!

    English Word of the Day. Exqueetingly. Actually, this isn’t an English word at all. I might have been talking so fast that I mixed up exceedingly and exciting in my mouth and came out with exqueetingly. However, I don’t think anyone noticed, and I’m not sure that anyone reads this bit as it is not exqueetingly. [Can you see what I did there?]

    Homework:

    • Maths: The questions in your homework diary. Let’s hope you took it home!
    • Writing Assignment: the middle bit of a story (by Friday)
    • Reading Log Numbers
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, maths, science, stuff | 2 Comments »

    (is it) W*dnesd*y (already?)

    Posted by willkay on January 12, 2011

    Assuming that there would be some difficulty in waking up this week, what with it being the first week back and all, I had my three alarm clocks set for an early time. Last night, after two easy wake-up moments, I decided to shift the times. Unfortunately I changed the time on the CD alarm and then forgot to switch it back on. This morning was a disaster. Well, not a huge disaster, but one of those moments when you seem to be playing catch up all over the place. Fortunately, I do have a spare ten minutes built into my “before I arrive at school” schedule. One of the joys of being English is that when I know I have to be at work at 7:30am I aim to arrive at 7:20am. So, I was late by my standards, but was still in school well before I had to be. Thus, the only panic was self-induced. And considering that the clock-setting-malfunction was also totally self-induced, I have no one to blame except…..oh. Me!

    Twenty one out of twenty one homework diaries signed and on my desk. Long may this continue!

    W*dnesd*y is a strange day for me. I have very little contact time with the sixth grade, and what bits I do have get broken up with a music lesson. However, after PE we immediately continued to try and solve percents mentally. After the music lesson we moved to calculating them via decimals. Amazingly, once students were introduced to a new method, they immediately abandoned the old method. This led to some very basic mistakes. Thus the maths lesson was extended into the afternoon. We finished the day off reading a story. I say reading a story, but in the end we made our own story. It involved a rich cowherd boy, a poor weaver lady, and a certain amount of shenanigans! The real story can be read here.

    Three sixth graders were selected to represent the school in a chess tournament. However, the tournament occurs on the same day as their exam into Instituto México. In theory they could go to the tournament and still take the exam. And, I am fairly convinced that the students are all capable of passing the exam and achieving impressive results. However, I am very much a believer in what has worked well once, will work well twice. Miss Claudia and I have a routine on the day of exams. We study our respective subjects, going through as many topics as possible, reminding the students of what is needed. And, quite often, pointing out that they do actually know the answers. A day in school seems to work well in preparing the students for their exams, and as I am a creature of habit, I made the decision that the students should not play. It seems unfair now, but I am looking at it with a view to the long term. I am not naturally a gambler, and I will always take the safer bet. The one I know will win. [And yes, I realise that I am the man who packed one suitcase, and journed 5000 miles to start a new life.]

    English Word of the Day. Cardigan. What you call a sweater, the English call a cardigan. A sweater would have no buttons, only a cardigan has buttons. 

    Homework:

    • Maths: Reteaching 6-4 Nos: 1-8, 11. Practice 6-4  Nos: 1, 2, 4-9, 14, 17, 20
    • Writing Assignment: the middle bit of a story (by Friday)
    • Reading: you should be reading for 20 mins every night.

    Posted in english, maths, stories | Leave a Comment »

     
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