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!
  • Wall of Fame

  • The 200+ Club

  • Stat Counter

    wordpress visitor
  • Who has visited

  • Flags of Visitors

    free counters

Archive for August, 2011

the eagle has landed

Posted by willkay on August 31, 2011

Tee hee. It took six homeworks. Six. Most years it happens a lot faster, but this year it took six. The maths workbook is brilliant, I really like it. It has two pages for each lesson I teach: one is called Reteaching, one is called Practice. At the beginning of every year I spend time explaining that the students need to take care when I set the homework, they need to check whether I say Reteaching or Practice. I said it this year, and (as usual) they all nodded that they understood, and I sat back and waited for the moment. The moment arrived today. Everyone had done a homework last night, it just so happened that seven of the class had done the wrong homework. So, I laugh. Tee hee. I’ve found that exploding doesn’t really help the problem.

It has been really odd having another sixth grade next door. Up until now I’ve always been teaching at my own pace, doing my own thing. Now, suddenly, I feel under pressure. This is all self-induced. Miss Esther is very nice and great to work with. We’ve agreed about what we are going to teach this month. We know exactly where we are starting, and we know where we are finishing. We have agreed that we won’t worry about how we get there – basically, we can do our own thing. However, it has been freaking me out. I have a tendency to enjoy myself in the classroom, driving up wrong streets, flying off to discover something else. But this year I occasionally find myself holding back, worrying what they might be doing next door. Today I discovered that this is the totally wrong way to go about it. I can’t teach without the odd flights of fantasy. Yesterday we covered addition/subtraction of integers. True, I used the goody/baddy story I always use but there was something wrong. It didn’t quite work. Today, instead of worrying what they were doing next door, I decided to spend time talking about the lift (that’s elevator to you) in the Mathematics Institute Skyscraper which has been having problems with its buttons. Suddenly, everyone understands addition/subtraction a little better. Lesson learnt! I need to stop worrying about what is happening next door and just concentrate on what is happening in my classroom.

The English lesson was devoted to My Least Favourite Words: your, you’re, their, there, they’re, where, were, we’re, wear, to, too, two. Personally I have no feelings about these words. What does make me grind my teeth is when I have to mark and correct 21 stories, and all the way through them these words appear, normally in the wrong place. [At this moment, maria is now confused that I didn’t put down quite and quiet – as these are the two I always confuse!] We then read a little bit more of Old Yeller (when will the bear appear in the story!!!!!).

Civics, recess, Spanish, and then on to music. Just leaving half an hour, at the end of the day, to run through the assembly a couple of times. The reciting of the lines has got a lot better, the singing is at a point where we’ve managed to stop giggling and feel self-conscious. Now I just have to think about movement. Hmmm, don’t think this will be the most brilliantly choreographed assembly of my teaching career. I think there will be a lot of standing around and knee-bending.

Oh, and the picture at the top? That’s the magic box. The magic box that is going to give all the students access to the internet. Yes, I finally have wireless in my classroom! This means tomorrow the students will be bringing their laptops into school, and we will be working with them. I know that 21 people in my classroom are very (very) excited about this, and one person is filled with a certain amount of trepidation. That will be me. Way back in 1987 I taught Computing. In fact I used to teach the language Basic, and the year’s two projects were to write the software for a fruit (slot) machine, and to get one (ONE) space invader moving across the screen from side-to-side and downwards. The last job I had before moving to Mexico was as an IT teacher to adults with learning disabilities. So, I’m not new to teaching computers…I’m just new to teaching with computers. However, onwards and upwards. I’m sure it will all go well.


Posted in english, laptops, maths | 8 Comments »


Posted by willkay on August 30, 2011

Hmmm. Yes, a hmmm start to the day. Way too many students speaking Spanish before morning line up, three homework notebooks not signed, three homeworks not done. This is sixth grade and I expect better, especially when it is only week two! Ho hum. Rather than let that get me down, we moved quickly on to do maths. Addition and subtraction of integers (positive/negative numbers). Not as easy as it looks. If there are any old students reading this, I did managed to sneak in the “baddy v goody” story. And, as everyone knows, a baddy and a baddy make a goody!

After the mind stretching problems of mathematics, it was on to the body stretching activity of yoga. I did stick my head inside the door, to check that everything was going well, and everyone was happy. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that my camera was more of a distraction than anything else. I left quickly. And then it was time for geography.

The geography lesson was all about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK (for short) is actually made up of four countries: England; Scotland; Wales; and Northern Ireland. Both Miss Ester and I are British but I tend to call myself English and she insists on claiming to be Northern Irish. While introducing the four countries, there was a chance to cover a little bit of history. When I asked the class if they could name any of the kings or queens of England/Scotland/Wales/Northern Ireland/UK, they managed to come up with two: Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II. They got close with Queen Diana (I say close, but as her ex-husband is still only a Prince, it wasn’t that close). The rest of the kings named: Philip, Carlos, Fernando – weren’t even close. I therefore took a little bit of time to tell some of the story of King Henry VIII. Of course, the best thing about Henry VIII is the fact that he had six wives, and what happened to those six wives. Which is best remembered using the childhood rhyme: Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived!

And then I left school. Oh, don’t panic. I came back later. However, I had to renew my papers, to allow me to work here in Mexico, and my presence was insisted upon by the government. Actually, to be more accurate, I wasn’t renewing my papers, I was moving another step closer to becoming a Mexican! To work in Mexico, as a foreigner, I have to have a permit. This is called an FM3. I have worked now at BAI for over five years, and this means that I now qualify for an FM2. Today my status in Mexico changed from “non-immigrant” to “immigrant“. I am half the way to becoming a Mexican citizen! Another five years and I can claim citizenship. It is all getting very exciting. Well, the students found it very exciting and I received a huge cheer when I got back to class. And maria found it exciting as well – we’ve been out for tacos to celebrate! (Which is why this post is a little late in appearing.) Who knows, I might still get married in November.

The last twenty minutes of the day were spent reading through the assembly. It was awful! But, it was awful in that way that a first read through always is. Now we know what we are supposed to say, now we know how we are supposed to say it, I am certain it can only get better. And that is what drives me onwards and upwards. It might have been a hmmmm start to the morning, but the day got better. And tomorrow will be better too. Or I suppose I should now start saying: mañana.

Posted in assembly, geography, maths, yoga | 21 Comments »

exams? already?

Posted by willkay on August 29, 2011

Not a full on assembly this Monday, but we did honour the flag and sing the National Anthem. It also was a moment for last year’s (fifth grade’s) honour guard to renew their function. Next Monday is our assembly. There will be a different honour guard, and this time there will be a presentation – including song! Well, that’s the plan. I spent most of Sunday preparing it, now we have a week to practise it. Unfortunately, my plan to start the day off with maths, then go on to rehearsing for the assembly, went out the window. SEP had asked the school to do a diagnostic test, which meant that the first one and a half hours were spent sitting an exam. Not exactly what I had planned.

We only had thirty minutes of the morning left (before History), which meant that I had to squeeze a maths lesson in under pressure. Positive and negative numbers was the topic of the day. We worked quickly and the class assured me that it was “easy peasy, lemon squeezy“. With ten minutes of the lesson left, I set them 34 questions. The good news: most of the questions were answered, most people did over 28 questions! The bad news: it wasn’t as easy as it was thought to be.

Spanish, recess, history, and back to maths for ten minutes as I corrected some misunderstandings. Then English. The reading logs were handed out today. This is the first time I have handed out reading logs this year, so we had to make sure that everyone understood the rules. Then I explained how to write a five paragraph story. In the sixth grade we write a story most weeks, also we read it out to the class on Friday. As this will be the first writing assignment of the year it took some time to explain all my expectations. Oh, if there are any parents/brothers/sisters/hamsters of sixth grade students reading this, you can help, please. All the best stories should be read, and the sixth grade should learn to read their own stories. Too often, they write down a story and yet never read it! If you are a mum/dad/brother/sister ask them to read the story to you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand English, they should read with feeling and enthusiasm. Thank you. With all of this happening, it meant that it wasn’t until late on in the day that I got to introducing the assembly – the theme, the script, and the song. With not much time to practise, we didn’t even get to read through the script. However, we did get to sing the song twice (maybe thrice). Ah well, there is always tomorrow…or the next day.

Posted in assembly, english, exams, maths, reading log, stories | 8 Comments »

the day I swapped my dad for two goldfish

Posted by willkay on August 26, 2011

It is hot! It is very hot! (As I happened to mention to Miss Lilian, and she reported in her blog.) It is also the end of a long week. Oh, I know, it has only been five days, but there have been moments when it has seemed like we have been back at school for months and months. However, Friday afternoon has been reached and so the weekend has been attained. Time to put my (hot, sweaty, aching) feet up and relax, before facing the rigours of Monday. But, before I totally switch off, there is time to report today’s events.

The school seems to be going through a Charlotte’s Web moment (oooo, literary reference number one). Every morning we are presented with the night’s labours of three very industrious spiders who provide us with their beautiful works of art; on the grass in front of the offices; in the little houses at the top of the slides. We get to admire their handiwork, and then Miss Monica (carefully) moves them on. Who knows what we might find when we get back to school on Monday! (I hope it isn’t Shelob – see how many people get that LoTR reference!)

Maths. It has been a very hard week in maths. It is never fun getting a new teacher, learning all the new ways and expectations. Added to this is the fact that some students (I said “some“) have managed to forget everything they have been taught since second fifth grade. Today we struggled for an hour and a bit through decimal division. Next door, in 6B, they were much braver than we were, they worked for the whole two hours. However, I decided “enough was enough”. We shall leave division for a week, and return to it on 5th September, when the temperature is less, tiredness is less, and brains are open and ready.

On to science. We discussed animal adaptations, and now we should all know how to recognise if it is an Indian or an African elephant standing on our foot. Thanks to Marissa we should also know if it is an alligator or a crocodile that is nibbling our toes. We learnt about different teeth. We discovered that cows have four stomachs. And we found out why you should never kiss a bunny rabbit (don’t ask). The living world is divided into six kingdoms, which we leant about. And then had a conversation about tonsils and appendixes. Finally we discovered that: King Philip Came Over For Great Spaghetti.

In English we all went to the front of the classroom and talked about our favourite book – or in some cases, a book. There were some very interesting choices, and a couple of books that I hadn’t heard about. Many students now know what book they are going to read next. This week i have not been doing any reading for homework. Anyone who knows my teaching methods, knows that I promote reading. Next week, we will start in earnest and I will be publishing the names of the best readers in class. For now, the children have time to prepare themselves for the targets that will be set!

During the day, the sixth grade also managed to fit in their first art lesson of the year and a Spanish lesson. To end the day, I read a story: The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish. The class sat in total silence. I don’t know if they were mesmerised by my reading, the story, the illustrations, or they were just so tired that they fell asleep. Whatever the reason, it was a nice end to a very long, hot, tiring, hot day.

It has been a really good start to the year. I have had (and I hope the students have had) a very enjoyable week. We have had a lot of fun, worked with great success, and settled into a good pattern of work. Now it is time to rest and recharge the batteries in preparation for the weekend. Have a good one!

Posted in english, maths, science | 7 Comments »

Algernon, Beetlebum, Castalina

Posted by willkay on August 25, 2011

Thursday, and “The Strange Mystery of The Disappearing Trainers” has been solved. Yes, I know, you’ve been losing sleep worrying over them. Well, worry no more. As they say in the south east of England, “Sorted!” In theory, today was supposed to start with the first computer lesson of the year. In practice, it didn’t. The new computer teacher is, at the moment, teaching the fifth grade – so we will have to wait until next week before we finally get to open our laptops and get down to business! Instead of computing though we had double maths. This was really useful time though, since we got needed the extra time to study division. Yesterday’s homework went well, and it looks like everyone has got a godd hang of multiplication – but division was a whole new prospect. And, just to make it even harder, I decided to introduce a brand new method of doing single digit division – a method I like to call “short division”. Of course, there was always time to drift slightly off the subject, and you should be able to ask any member of 6A to multiply a two digit number by eleven. They should be able to give you the answer automatically. I say “should” because I have taught them a method of multiplying by eleven that they can do in their heads. Try it. Find a member of 6A and ask them.

After maths I read the class a story. Part of understanding English is to be able to listen to the beginning of a story and then predict what might happen in the end. In this case, the end result was predicted, but the conclusion was not arrived at by the expected way. We then went on to read a bit of “Old Yeller” from Reading Street. As is the way of these things, we did end up trying to go on to youtube to watch a video of a lizard that squirts blood out of its eyes – yes, that is exactly what we tried to do. Fortunately, the school has installed a new system of blocking certain sites. Well done the school! This meant that we couldn’t watch it. However, that doesn’t stop me posting a link to the site here and you can, in the comfort of your own home, watch a lizard as it squirts blood from its eyes. This is what the internet was made for!

Spanish and PE were followed by Geography. The idea was to take a quick sprint round the world, reinforcing things we all (supposedly) knew already. This took a little bit longer than expected, as some of us knew some things and others were stunned to find that Madagascar really is a place! [Mind you, a knowledge of films turned out to be useful as a certain character from Night At The Museum also played a starring role in the conversation about Panama.]

Tomorrow the students need to have written up about their favourite animal and what adaptations it has made to survive and reproduce. They also need to be ready to present a talk about their favourite book.

Oh, before I forget: Algernon, Beetlebum, and Castalina are the names of the three new members of 6A. They are avocado seeds. This morning I “planted” them in the classroom, and we are going to see which one grows the fastest. Algernon is the one on the left of the picture. It is big and fat, a muddy brown colour with an odd shaped bottom. In the middle is Beetlebum. Beetlebum is wonderful. It is good looking, a lovely nutty, brown colour, and perfectly shaped. Castalina is the small, pale one on the left. Now is the time to choose. Which one do you think will be better grower? Will it be the one with a huge amount of stored energy? The perfect one? Or the small fighter? Choose one and start sending positive feelings its way.

Posted in avocado, english, geography, maths, youtube | 9 Comments »

here we go again

Posted by willkay on August 24, 2011

Summer is over! Well, the summer break is over, and we are back at school. Huzzah! I know what you are wondering. You’re wondering what I did during the holidays. I watched Le Tour de France, didn’t shave, watched the build up to the Rugby World Cup, didn’t shave, watched England become the number one test cricket team in the world, didn’t shave, watched MasterChef Australia, and grew a beard.

But now the school year has begun and I have finally shaved. However, more to the point, the school year started a couple of days ago and yet I haven’t written a blog post. Why is that? I can hear you ask – well, I can gather that the 48 hits the site has had since Monday means that some of you were wondering where I was. I have been laptop computer-less. Yes, my beloved MacBook went to spend a couple of days (felt more like a lifetime) with the very nice people at the Apple Store. Now it is back, all shiny and new, and I am free to blog again! Double huzzah!!

Once again I have the sixth grade, but this time I am not alone. This year there is another sixth grade, and their teacher is Miss Esther. For those of you who don’t know Miss Esther, she is from Northern Ireland – which makes her British. Yes, the sixth grade is now being taught by people who eat crisps, put rubbish in the bin, and spell “colour” with a “u”. Triple huzzah!!!

Monday, the first day, was an exciting moment. The school had not told an of the students who was going to be their classroom teachers. Nor had the parents brought all the equipment into school a couple of days early. So, Monday was the first time that people found out what class they were in. It all went very smoothly – except for the moment that Mr. Kay (that’s me, talking about myself in the third person) totally confused one student’s first name with her second name, and told the student that she wasn’t in my class! Fortunately, that confusion lasted for only seventeen seconds…but it was a very long 17 seconds! However, twenty minutes after opening the school gates the whole of 6A were present and accounted for (except for one student…probably already at DisneyLand). Settled down, the class began to work on their “Sixth Grade Passports”. Once they had introduced themselves to me, it was time to introduce myself to them. It always amazes me, I have worked at BAI for nearly six years, and yet some students still don’t know that I come from England!

Morning line up has changed! Well, not really. Before, the students would wander in to school, and into their classrooms to put their backpacks and lunch boxes down. This caused a certain amount of running up/down stairs when the second bell rang. Now, the students line their backpacks up in arrival order. Yes, no more heightism at BAI. We line up in order of when you come into school, rather than how tall you are.

Back to the classroom, where the students were faced with the difficulty of coming to terms with a new teacher. It is always scary, on the first day of term, with a new teacher. How will he be? What are his rules? What does he expect from the students? And how will we know if we are doing the wrong thing? So, the next hour was spent learning how Mr. Kay (that’s still me) does things. What he expects from his students and what targets he is hoping to achieve. Sixth grade is the stepping stone to Junior High, and I believe it is my task to help my students gain a certain amount of autonomy and self discipline before they get there. They need to learn to be responsible for their own actions. They are in charge of how they dress, how they behave, how their work is presented, when their work is presented. They are “young adults”. This is an attitude I like to build on from day one. Of course, there was still time for stuff that was totally of the point: we learnt four German words and where French Fries were invented!

After a History lesson and a Spanish lesson, there was time for the first maths lesson of the year. And an introduction to “the double margin”. There was time to set homework as well – yes! Homework on the first night! Then home. Tired and exhausted, with the knowledge that it all has to be done again tomorrow – but this time wearing deodorant (long, long story that includes waaaaaaay T.M.I.).

Tuesday, and it was nice to see that everyone turned up for school – I didn’t put anyone off. Nineteen (out of 21) homework diaries signed, twenty homeworks done, and 20 parental homeworks done (well done mums and dads). More maths done, this time addition and subtraction of decimals. The first yoga lesson of the year was fun, even though it led to [dun, dun, durrrrn] The Case of The Missing Shoes. Then on to science. It was a lesson for mnemonics: the colours of the rainbow were found by ROY G. BIV (although Miss Esther has pointed out that as a Yorkshireman I should have used, “Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain); and the characteristics of all living things can be found in MRS. GREN. We still had time to learn a Russian word and count in French and German, although no one knew the temperature at which Tequila freezes! Oh, the really, really important bit of news today? Everyone got their new laptop! Yes, everyone in the sixth grade now has a laptop. [All those old students who are reading this, and moaning because “we didn’t have laptops/SmartBoards/whiteboards/water/and you could go to the cinema, have four tacos and a coke and still get change from a 10 peso note”, please note: you are OLD.]

Wednesday, -114°C. No, that’s not the temperature outside (which is nearer 40°), it’s the temperature that Tequila freezes. I love learning! More maths – multiplication of decimals this time. The first English lesson of the year, meant that it was also the first spelling list of the year, which meant it was also the first spelling quiz of the year (Mr. Kay likes to play it fast and loose), which meant “YEAH!” to those students who got 9.5 and “Oops” to those who didn’t. More science to finish the day – and Mr. Kay’s love of penguins was revealed. (Although it is never a good idea to mention “Happy Feet’ anywhere near him.) Of course, we never did discuss my “power” animal.

It has been an excellent start to the new year. Long may it continue.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: