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 September, 2012

Easter Island

Posted by willkay on September 27, 2012

Exams. Let’s just think about all the ways that exams cause stress. First there are the exams themselves. Imagine you are an eleven year old, faced with a set of exams. Just that should be enough to make most people freak out – six exams, testing you on everything you’ve done in a month. Then there are the teachers. The teachers who encourage, cajole, demand that the students study/review/get everything correct. And finally there are the parents. True there are some parents who do not put any pressure on their children, however that doesn’t stop the child applying their own personal pressure – a desire to achieve the best so that they can make their parents proud of them. And those are just the obvious pressures and stresses facing the students in the 6th grade (and throughout the school), without dragging in peer pressure, grandparent pressure, and pressure from the world in general. Now, in sport, when a race is run, a game is played, something is achieved, there is a huge release of pressure. Sportsmen get to run around, shouting and screaming and celebrating. Students? Well, when the exam is finished, they just get to sit in a desk and learn more stuff. It becomes a very difficult balancing act for the teacher. How much more pressure do you put on your students? How much new stuff do you cover?

Personally, I look at finished exams, I look at results. If the results are good, if the exams are being completed correctly, if students are achieving their full potential, then I feel that they are being stretched, they are learning, and there is no point piling on more (added) pressure, by introducing new concepts. The students are mentally straitjacketed. All they are concerned with is “the results of today’s exam” and “tomorrow’s exam“. They have no interest (or space in their brains) for new concepts – concepts that could be crucial to their understanding of the whole of the next month’s topics.

With me so far?

This is why today was Easter Island Day in 6A. We did the science exam in the morning. There was a P.E. lesson, a Spanish lesson, a quick run through yesterday’s English exam, a review for tomorrow’s History exam, and the rest of the day was devoted to Easter Island. The true story of Easter Island is one that I think is worth hearing and understanding. It is the story of an island paradise, that was so wonderful that when 20 Polynesians washed up on the island 1400 years ago, they were able to create a society that numbered over 12,000 in one thousand years. Of course, the fascinating thing is that within the next 100 years, that society crumbled. When the Dutch discovered the island (on Easter Day – hence the name) there were less than 100 people living there. They had descended into war and cannibalism. Why? Because they didn’t Reduce/Reuse/Recycle. As simple as that. I believe that the story of Easter Island is a warning to us all. So, I took the chance today to tell 6A all about it. We watched:

and the other three parts of this documentary. We talked about how it happened, why it happened, and could it happen again? True, they might never get asked about Easter Island in an exam, but I like to think that they have learnt something interesting about the world today. Oh, and I didn’t have to spend the whole day demanding that they “sit down and listen“, so that was a bonus!

Tomorrow is late entry! But not as late as it used to be!! Gates open at 8:30am. History exam will be first thing. It never ends…until Monday, when the Geography exam will be the last one. [Until the next one.]

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Posted in english, exams, science, stuff | 1 Comment »

empanadas

Posted by willkay on September 26, 2012

I’m trying this for the first time, writing a post on my new iPad. [have I mentioned I have a new iPad? Can’t remember if I mentioned it – Mrs. Kay got me a new iPad. An iPad3 if you’re interested.] Anyhoo, I’m writing this post on it now, we’ll see how it goes.

The day started with the English exam. I’m not going to spoil tomorrow’s surprise, but let’s assume that it went incredibly well! The exam was followed with a review for tomorrow’s Science exam. A slightly different way to review Science (and geography), than the way I review maths and English. It is very much a “class activity“, so participation is very much the key to getting the most out of the lesson. It also helps if you have your book open, so you can check that you have all the necessary notes. Tomorrow will be the real test of how much attention students were paying.

After Spanish we read from Reading Street, Mother Fletcher’s Gift. It’ll be interesting to see if tomorrow, when Miss Gaby asks how everyone is, the students reply with:

I’m not cutting a rug, but I’m not lying on one either.

Instead of the usual “Fine, thank you. And you?

Once we had finished the story, there was time to wonder about how scary Father Christmas is – he breaks into every house in the world, and creeps into children’s bedrooms, while they are sleeping -, before Computing followed by music. Then home. No paella today ( yesterday’s was horrible!), instead we are having empanadas. Not the Argentinian ones as recommended by Miss Tere (which are wonderful), but ones from Soriana. Oh, and it appears I can’t do everything with the iPad, I’m going to have to fine tune this post on the laptop. Hey, ho.

Posted in english, exams, science | 4 Comments »

paella

Posted by willkay on September 25, 2012

We’ve been driving past this paella place (on Las Palmas) four/five times a week. Every time we go past, we mention that we should really try the place out. Last night, for reasons that are far too complicated to go into, we ended up not eating until very late – I had a bowl of cereal and Mrs. Kay had a tin of lentil soup. Today, on the way home, we stopped for paella.

Up to speed on my personal life? Cool. Right:

  • returned maths exams. Only one 10 and eight other students got a 9 or better. It’s a mindset. It’ll come with time, but the students need to aim for perfection. Most of them now realise that with a little more care, concentration, and effort, they could have score another 5 marks, which would have raised their grade a whole point. But, schools are for learning, so we’ll just chalk that down to a learning curve.
  • review for English exam
  • meetings all day about the maths books. Throughout the school (except in the 6th grade) we have a new set of maths books. It is part of my job to oversee the maths taught through the school, so I spent a lot of time in meetings/conversations today.
  • osmosis – the last topic before Thursday’s science exam.

Hopefully you’re up to date now with my professional life. So, I’m off to share a romantic paella for two with Mrs. Kay.

Posted in english, exams, maths, science, stuff | 1 Comment »

and so it begins…

Posted by willkay on September 24, 2012

I don’t have much time to write today: I’ve got a set of exams to mark; I’ve got my student coming round; and I’ve got a new iPad to play with. Oh, did I mention the new iPad? The luvverly Mrs. Kay won an iPad, a year ago, at a school event (for the teachers). From that moment on, she promised to get me my own iPad. She nearly managed to get one for my birthday, but she ended up getting me a rowing machine instead. However, yesterday, when we left the icebreaker, we went to the Apple store and I got….

It’s not really that big. It’s just me, I’m that tiny. The iPad could turn out to be a the bestest thing ever. My poor old laptop has been struggling over the past few months. And I don’t want to talk ill of a faithful war-horse, but I was starting to get mildly frustrated with it. Now I have a super new iPad, I can get on with everything else, while my MacBook pretends it is a PC. So, onwards and upwards….

It was 6B’s turn to present the assembly this morning, and what a jolly good presentation it was too! All of the children spoke loudly and clearly, but the best bit was the song/dance. Although Mrs. Kay had tested the CD several times during the week, this morning the school’s PA system did not want to know. The only way forward was to play the CD in an other player, put a microphone next to the player, and hope. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well. However, the children were wonderful, and made up for the failings of the PA system. Instead of going quieter, they went LOUDER. They sang very well, and danced brilliantly. A great start to the morning.

From assembly we straight into the classroom and sat the maths exam. Oh, there was still time to talk about yesterday: the time spent sitting in the shade; the time spent throwing-Mrs-Kay-to-the-floor; the fact that Roberto brought a fridge/freezer; and the most important thing – I got an iPad [have I mentioned that yet?]. But then it was into the exam. I can’t tell you what the results were, because I haven’t marked them yet.

After the maths exam, it was time for the Reading Logs. Are you ready for this? I suggest you sit down to read this. Here it comes…

THE WALL OF FAME

  • 1033 pages: Roberto

  • 812 pages: Andrea

  • 670 pages: Kristina

  • 370 pages: Luis Francisco

  • 350 pages: Jorge

  • 340 pages: Pedro

  • 310 pages: Pablo

  • 306 pages: Hector

  • 301 pages: Anafernanda

WOW!! Do you see those numbers? Oh, quick request – does anyone have a copy of the third book in the Twilight series? It’s not for me, it’s for Kristina. She has read the first book three times, I’ve managed to get hold of the second book for her, but we can’t get the third one. She desperately needs it if she is to stay up there with Roberto and Andrea. As usual, congratulations to all those students on The Wall Of Fame, and a big “WHOOT!” to all of those who got into The 200+ Club too.

The rest of the day was spent studying Science. We still have ground to cover before we are ready for the science exam – which is on Thursday! Eek. Anyhoo, that’s me finished, world’s to conquer, work to do.

Posted in assembly, exams, maths, reading log, science, wall of fame | 5 Comments »

big sister, big brother

Posted by willkay on September 21, 2012

One thing we do in the sixth grade is “adopt” a first grader. School can sometimes be a big, scary place, especially when you are five. So, we ask the sixth graders to become a “big sister / big brother” to a first grader. For the first grade student it means that there is always someone bigger on the playground, who will look out for them. And for the sixth grade student it means that they get some sense of responsibility, and a chance to look out for someone smaller than them. Today was the first event, a “getting to know you” moment. Cards were exchanged, presents were given, and pizza and juice were drunk. There are pictures of the event here.

Maths review. Maths review. Maths review. Oh, assembly practice for 6B. The real business of being in the sixth grade starts on Monday. Six exams in a week and a day. Mrs. Kay and I are confident that every question has been studied, every student knows how to answer the questions, everything is prepared. Now it is just down to the student themselves – how much they study, how much they prepare, how much they want a good grade.

Have a good weekend – but STUDY. I shall see you on Sunday at the IceBreakerInThePark, so long as you are there early. Or else you can catch me later in the day at The Shakespeare Grille eating fish, chips, and mushy peas. I am quite excited about Sunday – not just the IceBreakerInThePark nor the chance to eat fish, chips, and mushy peas…but Mrs. Kay has promised me a present. A present from The Apple Store. I might not sleep tonight – too excited.

Posted in big sister/brother, exams, maths, photos, youtube | 5 Comments »

bad moon rising

Posted by willkay on September 20, 2012

If a picture is worth a thousand words, there are some pictures here.

If moving pictures are more your thing, then here’s a video:

Posted in photos, Uncategorized, youtube | 1 Comment »

I love it when a plan comes together

Posted by willkay on September 19, 2012

Image

Brilliant start to the morning.

Mrs. Kay needed a little help with 6B, first thing in the morning, straight after morning line up. I turned to my class, told them to go into the classroom, and informed them I would be there in a minute (or two). Three minutes later, I walked into my classroom to discover:

  • a pile of homework diaries on my desk
  • every student sat at a desk
  • every student had their maths books on their desk
  • workbooks open to last night’s homework

It was perfect. What a brilliant way to start the day. And, you know what, from there on the rest of the day went well (for me).

In maths we went through yesterday’s work and corrected ALL the mistakes that were made in the homework – although that could have been my fault (bad teacher!). Then we moved on to the last topic before the maths exams, exponents. Fast, quick, and easy. Except, fast, quick, and easy does not mean you cannot concentrate. Sometimes it is when doing easy things that students make the most mistakes. [I hesitate to use the words careless mistakes, but you can probably see where I am coming from.]

Much to the students’ disappointment, it was straight into English and the new spelling list. I’m not sure that they were really disappointed, however they seemed to be looking forward to their Spanish lesson. That occurred after English and an explanation of the week’s words¬† [and no, a briefcase is not a case for briefs]. There was also time to fit in the first Earthquake practice of the year.

Spanish was working in teams, on projects. The students seemed to enjoy this tremendously, as they did not really want to settle back down to English again.

At the beginning of recess, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to Professor Marvin. This led to the first conversation of the year about “Cha-cha-cha“. In the sixth grade we don’t “Cha-cha-cha“. Ah, those sixth grade teachers and their grumpiness! After recess there was enough time to finish the spelling list and move onto the workbook. Then the day finished with computing and music.

Busy times ahead. On Sunday there is the Ice-Breaker. Mrs. Kay and I will be there very early! On Monday there is 6B’s assembly, and then there is the maths exam. Followed by a whole week of exams. Students should be organising their study guides, realising that they need to get these exams right, as good grades set the tone for the rest of the year.

Posted in english, exams, maths, spelling, team work | 2 Comments »

looking for the hook

Posted by willkay on September 18, 2012

Teaching maths is great, mainly because you get loads of “aaahhhhhhh” moments. In other subjects the “aaahhhhhh” moments can be few and far between. Let me tell you, no one ever goes “aaaahhhhhh” when you explain the difference between a vascular and a non-vascular plant. But maths lessons can be full of those moments – some days it can be like standing on Main Street at Disney, watching a fireworks display. Of course, the art of teaching is trying to get those “aaaahhhh” moments, those moments when everything clicks into place, everything becomes understandable, everything makes sense, and the student finally “gets it“.¬† And it is when your lesson is full of those moments that you know you’ve taught a good lesson. Of course, you can have a good lesson without those moments, but it is the most obvious moment that learning is “getting done“. Unfortunately, trying to capture those moments is like trying to capture lightening in a bottle. What works for one group of students, does not necessarily work for another group. And often, what works is never tangible. I talk to a lot of teachers, and eventually we all get round to telling a story about a lesson that was perfect – but the reason we tell the story, is we are hoping the other teachers will be able to point out what we did right. Often, I can have brilliant lessons, and I have no idea how or why – they just happen. However, the key to good teaching is experience. Everyone (EVERYONE) has one good lesson in them, most people have two or maybe three. What makes a teacher different to everyone is that they have 1000 good lessons a year. A teacher has the ability to teach one good lesson after another. A teacher can keep a group of children interested, excited, controlled, and awake lesson after lesson. That takes experience, an ability, and hard work. And so, it is with a heavy heart that I say, in all honesty, I had a really bad day today. Except, I admit this to the world with no regrets because, I did some real teaching today. It’s odd, because I don’t know how it happened, but I had a disaster of a maths lesson. It all seemed to go well, I taught the stuff, students answered question, on the surface it was successful. But when I saw the books at the end of the lesson, it was as if I had been speaking a foreign language.

I tried again in the English lesson. I thought I’d go slow, start with a spelling quiz which would settle me into my rhythm, but even a spelling quiz seemed beyond me. At that point I reached for my safety blanket – The Reading Logs.

THE WALL OF FAME

  • 770 pages: Andrea

  • 720 pages: Roberto

  • 555 pages: Raquel

  • 382 pages: Luis Francisco

  • 300 pages: Osvaldo

You see, somewhere, somehow, no matter how bad things seem, there is always a ray of light. SEVEN HUNDRED + PAGES! FIVE HUNDRED +PAGES! How cool is that? And along with these five students, seventeen (SEVENTEEN) other students read over 200 pages. WOW! Aren’t kids brilliant!

And that is the point. Even though I can have a bad day, the real art to teaching, is making sure that your students don’t have a bad day. So long as everything is working correctly, so long as everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing, then even if one person is having a bad day, the rest of the class will carry them through. And there’s the hook! TEAMWORK. Thanks to teamwork, hardly anyone noticed how bad my day was going. Oh, there were a couple of blips and bumps and bruises, and there were a couple of times that students asked what was wrong, but in the end, everything turned out well.

Now, does anyone know how to pronounce Lieutenant? Listen carefully to what the Oxford Dictionary says here.

Posted in english, maths, reading log, spelling, team work, wall of fame | 9 Comments »

in case you were worried

Posted by willkay on September 17, 2012

Just spent two hours at the immigration office. I’ve got my new FM2. I am allowed to continue living/working in Mexico for another year. Which is nice. See you all tomorrow – don’t forget your Reading Logs!

Posted in stuff | 3 Comments »

too hot

Posted by willkay on September 15, 2012

I’m not sure that I can remember very much from yesterday, my brain gave up working just past 3pm, and I haven’t been able to contact it since. The heat is terrible. How terrible? Well, my laptop seems to suffering terribly…I hope it’s the heat. However, I think I can remember:

  • we did averages in maths
  • in geography we looked at France
  • we used Google Earth to travel round Paris
  • while my class had Spanish and art, I visited all the classrooms, and spent 30 minutes in the fifth grade
  • we looked at Italy, and visited Rome on Google Earth
  • I messed up the lesson timings, and we only had 30 minutes of yoga
  • because we had had such a good week we watched Wallace and Grommit’s Grand Day Out
  • I told a story about a wedding that went wrong, and a golden apple

No school until Tuesday! Remember to bring in READING LOGS!

 

Posted in geography, maths, stories | 4 Comments »

 
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