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 the ‘english’ Category

it’s all about me!

Posted by willkay on September 29, 2013

The luvverly Mrs. Kay has been making some videos for my mum. You may have noticed some odd videos appearing on my youtube page, not odd, more “less to do with school”. This is because my niece has just got in contact with me and she lives near my mum. This means that when my mum goes round to visit her, my niece can show my mum videos of me. [Are you still following?] That explains why videos of me walking round the corner to the taco stand, the journey home by car, and other non-school related videos have been turning up on my youtube page. The reason that I am telling you this is that the luvverly Mrs. Kay has taken two videos this week, for my mum, that she thinks would be a good idea to put up on the blog.

As you know, every morning we have “morning line up”. I have already posted a video of the exercises that the children do (it’s here or scroll three posts down). However, every morning one teacher gets to talk about the value of the month. Last Friday it was my turn to talk to the school about Cooperation. I chose to talk about the “Beach Clean Up”.

The second video is of me teaching an English lesson. This year we are really concentrating on the children “reading to understand”. Using the new books, Learning Journeys, we read passages out of the book and then discuss what we have read. This week we have been reading to Compare and Contrast. Here we are reading about two different places the author has lived in, and how she writes about them.

Oh, and because there should be something about the students…here’s a bit of a PE lesson.

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Posted in english, morning line up, PE, youtube | 1 Comment »

loads of stuff

Posted by willkay on October 10, 2012

Pablo was up early this morning to watch an attempt on the world freefall record. Unfortunately (for him) for the second day running the attempt was cancelled. The next attempt will be on Sunday. That’s good news for Pablo, he can go back to bed afterwards!

The Homeless World Cup is being held in Mexico City. Seventy-six countries are competing. You can catch up with all the details here.

Next Sunday (that’s the Sunday after this Sunday, this Sunday being the Sunday coming up, which means that next Sunday is actually the Sunday after the next Sunday…confused yet?) it’s The Mini Olympics. Yes, I know it is a Sunday. Yes, I know that it is early. However, this is an event not to be missed. This is the sixth grade, this is the students’ final year at BAI. As each day passes, they are slowly ticking off things they will never do again. This will be their final Mini Olympics. Many of the students will not compete again at sport for the rest of their academic career. None of the students will ever compete again at a BAI Mini Olympics. As each event rolls round, the students should embrace them, partake in them, and store the memories. True, at the moment they might not feel like wanting the memories. However, one day, they will look back on their time at school, and all they will have is memories. And, let’s face it, no one remembers the day they sat at home doing nothing, and thinks of it as a day well spent. However, this might be the year that Mr. Kay actually wins a race! And it would be a terrible moment if it was missed. [Please note: Mr. Kay will not be entering any races, so he won’t be winning any. But, who knows what he gets to say this year…I hope they have the theme tune from Rocky, I love that song!]

Maths was comparing fractions. English was regular and irregular plurals. Geography was WW2. The students also squeezed in a computer lesson, a Spanish lesson, and a music lesson. At some point I made Paola cry. With laughter. And there were a couple of other students laughing as well. So, that was a good thing. Oh, at another point the bell rang for recess, and no one wanted to go outside because they all wanted to stay in and listen to the lesson. So, that was a good thing. And Roberto has just become my friend on Game Center [sic].  (Center shows up as a spelling mistake on my computer, because centre should be spelt centre!) This should be a good thing. However, I can now see his scores on Temple Run (over 13 million), PvZ, and Where’s My Water. Suffice to say, all of his scores are better than mine. Plus, he finds time to read over 2000 pages a week! I need to go and practise a bit more. And read a bit more too.

Posted in english, geography, grammar, maths, olympics, stuff | 3 Comments »

since when has there only been 60 minutes in an hour?

Posted by willkay on October 8, 2012

No photo.

Sorry, there’s no photo today of the readers of the week. This is not because there are no readers of the week, there are – and there are lots. However, someone (and I’m looking at me) didn’t get round to taking a photo. It all went wrong for me today. Not seriously wrong, don’t start to panic, but I seemed to be ten minutes out all day.

Instead of a one hour maths lesson, we ended up having a two hour maths lesson. This, in and of itself, was not a bad thing. Whilst trying to tell Raul what he had missed due to his four day illness, I discovered that many of the class had failed to pick up some basic concepts along the way. Therefore it became a review lesson. We went through the terms: factor; prime; composite; prime factors; common factors; greatest common factor; multiple; common multiple; lowest common multiple. These were terms (and concepts) that I thought the class knew and understood. Oops. However, two hours later, most of the class seemed to understand what was going on (and had been going on for the previous four lessons), so it wasn’t wasted time. It did mean though, that I was criminally behind for the rest of the day. Desperately trying to make up for lost time.

Eventually we got round to collecting in the reading numbers. WOW! and indeed WOW! again. It is important to note that my target (my unofficial target) is 140 pages a week. That’s all I ask for. However, I believe that reading is important. The reader has to understand what he is reading, he has to make mental pictures. All of this stimulates the mind. Also, reading involves sitting still for a period of time, concentrating. This, I also believe, is a good quality to practice. I am a firm believer that reading, and the activity of reading, makes you a better student. Plus, it can be jolly good fun. I always, always advocate reading a book that you enjoy. If you are not enjoying the book, stop reading it. Read something else. Out there, in the world, there are millions and millions of books – way too many for one person to read in one lifetime. And definitely too many to waste any time on a book that is not enjoyable. Read a book, read a book that you enjoy. You can’t go wrong.

And these people didn’t go wrong this week:

THE WALL OF FAME

  • 2456 pages: Roberto

  • 2138 pages: Andrea

  • 1176 pages: Ana Sophia

  • 708 pages: Manuel

  • 634 pages: Julien

  • 540 pages: Kristina

  • 504 pages: Carlos

  • 477 pages: Luis Francisco

  • 457 pages: Juan Fernando

  • 450 pages: Osvaldo

  • 382 pages: Yolitzin

  • 326 pages: Anafernanda

  • 315 pages: Paola

  • 3o8 pages: Alexa

  • 300 pages: Pedro

Fifteen out of 39 students read over 300 pages. PLUS, look at Ana Sophia, joining the 1000+ Pages Club. I am really impressed with the amount of reading that is going on. Added to these numbers is the fact that another nine students read over 200+ pages. Well done to everyone!

The writing assignment is a horror/ghost story (if the student wants to write one). Otherwise, it is just a story about an old abandoned building at the end of the street. It’s been empty now for nearly 60 years. I wonder what happened there? I wonder what happened to the last people who lived there? I wonder? Of course, with there being no school on Friday (for some – not the teachers) the writing assignment is now in on Thursday!

The spelling list was all about multisyllabic words. The hardest word being peony. Notice I said it was the hardest word, not the word with the most syllables. And then it was onto science and a multisyllabic word that I always, always, always fail to pronounce/say properly: Deoxyribonucleic acid. Every year we study this. Every year I practise saying it. And every year I fail miserably when it comes round to saying out loud! So, in science we studied D.N.A. – that I can say. I left the students with a project that they can do on Friday, while they aren’t a school, making a model of D.N.A.. These need to be brought into school next Monday!

And then the bell went for the end of school. I hadn’t taken a picture. I hadn’t even visited 6B to see their Reading Log scores. Aaarrrgggghhhh! Bad teacher that I am. Hey ho! Tomorrow is another day. I’ll go visit 6B. Congratulate them on their scores. And I should get round to taking a picture and posting on here. Right, the New York Jets are losing to Houston. This could be because I’m not watching them, and cheering them on. So, I need to go and shout at Mark Sanchez! Or, if this continues, Tim Tebow.

Posted in english, maths, reading log, science, spelling, wall of fame | 4 Comments »

growing pains

Posted by willkay on October 3, 2012

There is (at long last) some action in the cauliflower pots. Oddly enough, not in the pot we are just giving normal water to, but in the pot that we are just adding blue water. I thought that it would never grow, or if it did, there would be very little difference. However, the hot weather means that the blue cauliflower is now growing. Outside, the radishes have been struggling. Fortunately, Sr. Francisco has been planting other stuff on the side of the hill. This means that he has been tending his plants, and at the same time has been watering our radishes. Unfortunately, when I planted the seeds, I over planted – putting too many seeds in the bags, and not spreading them out far enough. To be fair, I was desperate for something to grow, because I wanted the children to see some “action”. However, this has meant that although there are some shoots, only a couple of those shoots have gone on to produce radishes. My cunning plan was to grow 40 radishes, so that every 6th grader could have one. It looks like there will be only four. Ooops. Never mind. Everything is in place (in my mind) for 2013. Once we get to March/April, I’ll have a go at tomatoes!

Yesterday, in maths, we did the rules for divisibility. That was so that today, we could work out the difference between a Prime number and a Composite number. First we made A Sieve of Eratosthenes. Eratosthenes was a Greek mathematician from the 3rd Century B.C. If you want to see exactly what we did in class today, click here to see an animation. [note: this is not an animation of the classroom, this is an animation of the sieve.]

English was fast, quick, and easy – it was Common and Proper Nouns. Then on to Geography which got very complicated, very quickly. We were supposed to be speaking about France. However, the conversation took a dramatic turn, and we ended up talking about politics. How good intentions can sometimes go very wrong if left in the wrong hands. How capitalism can change into Fascism and Socialism can move quickly into Communism. And also, how these two extremes can go badly wrong. There will be more of this conversation when we study Germany and Russia.

For me, the rest of the afternoon was spent on administration: exam grades have to be combined with classroom grades, to get an overall grade. These have then to be entered into Escualenet, so that the parents can see the final grades on Friday. The students had computing, followed by music.

On the way home, we stopped off at Randy’s (it’s opposite Wash Mobile) for a Torta de Loma. I can happily report it was delicious. It also appears that Randy (if that is his name) catered for the opening of BAI. I don’t know if that is true or not, I’m sure Miss Lilian might remember. However, I gladly recommend Randy’s Tortas! And I get no commission for that! Right, back to playing Temple Run to see if I can get anywhere near Roberto’s score!

Posted in english, geography, grammar, maths, planting, stuff | 2 Comments »

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.]

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 »

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 »

this was not my idea

Posted by willkay on September 12, 2012

I have blue fingers. No, it was not an exploding pen, it was food colouring. I love ideas. There is nothing better in my day than that moment when a student says something/asks something that leads to something else. Let me give an example: we are studying Europe and we were looking at Switzerland. I mentioned that it was land-locked, completely surrounded by land, with no access to the sea. (Did you see what I did there? I did some teaching without you noticing.) At this point, Jose Antonio raised the idea that Switzerland’s position should make it a very powerful country in war. However, no one in the class could remember Switzerland ever being mentioned when it came to war. In fact, as Mr. Kay pointed out, during The Sound of Music the Trapp family escaped into Switzerland – where there was no war. Switzerland was neutral, Switzerland is neutral, and Switzerland will remain forever neutral. And the odd thing about all this neutrality? The Swiss flag is a white cross on a red background, in other words, the opposite of The Red Cross emblem which is a red cross on a white background. I love it when we end up discovering something new and different!

But what has this got to do with blue fingers? you ask.

Yesterday we did the experiment with celery. At the end of the lesson, someone asked if you watered a plant with coloured water, would it change colour? Now, I know that originally carrots weren’t orange. Oops, should I have told you to sit down for that? Yes, carrots were originally purple, but those wild-and-crazy Dutch guys loved them soooooo much that they started breeding them so that they grew orange-coloured (orange being the Dutch’s favourite colour). So, what we have decided to do is, grow cauliflowers. Except, we are going to water one cauliflower normally, with normal water, and the other cauliflower with blue water.

I’m not sure that this is going to work. I’m also not sure that I can keep it going for long enough – never mind the fact that some student is going to end up distracted and so we have to abandon the whole thing, I’m worried about someone getting covered in blue food colouring. Someone like…me! Anyway, at the moment there are cauliflowers being grown in 6A. One of them is being fed blue water. I will keep you informed.

For the second day running, I didn’t make it outside to open car doors. Yesterday I was talking to Miss Julie about 5th grade maths, today it was Miss Miriam and Miss Addis. Then it was straight into lessons, and we started with maths. Mental arithmetic today – multiplication using the distributive law. The world has changed in so many ways. In maths we teach a lot more topics than we used to. We are constantly adding more and more to the syllabus, and not just in maths, in every subject. We tend to bombard children with more and more information, and more and more problems. When I was young (many, many, many years ago), we spent months and months (probably years) working on our number bonds and our multiplication tables. Now, students get to spend a day or two, and then we move on. The government demands we spend more time doing maths than doing arithmetic, and the basic skills are lost. We sometimes force children to run before they can walk, we deny them the basic tools to make them competent in subjects. Basically, what I am saying here is, often it amazes me that 6th graders don’t know their tables – and when I say know I mean know.

In English we looked at the difference between Independent and Dependent Clauses. And, in Geography, we have started to look at Western Europe. In the afternoon, the students had computing followed by music. I took the time to write my exams – actually, the sixth grade exams, and to get my fingers coloured blue.

Oh, I did talk to all the 6th grade today, to thank them. It suddenly occurred to me in recess that the whole sixth grade were speaking English. At no point did I have to remind any of them to not speak Spanish. I then realised that this was not unusual. This group are an excellent group of students when it comes to speaking English. Well done them!

Posted in english, exams, geography, maths, planting | 5 Comments »

 
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