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 the ‘planting’ Category

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 »

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 »

happy start

Posted by willkay on September 4, 2012

When the bell rings, at 7:30am, my job starts. One week I am stood on the pavement, in front of the school, opening car doors. The next week, I am stood inside the school, supervising children. The week after, it’s back to opening car doors. To tell you the truth, I like the car-door-opening duty, rather than the supervising duty. The main reason is, I get to be positive when I open car doors. I say,”Good morning!” I say, “Good bye!” (to parents) However, in the playground, it can be a bit negative: speak English, please; don’t run; don’t go there; don’t do that. Oh, there is still time to have the odd conversation, but it can still dissolve into “no-don’t-no-and-speak-English” moments. Today was different. Today, for the first time in [think of a big number, double it, multiply by 8, and then add another 1000 to it] days, I didn’t have to say, “Speak English” once. At all! I was amazed. Well done the sixth grade! Well done in deed.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go too well from there. Four homework diaries not signed, two homeworks not done, 12 people haven’t learnt their lines for the assembly, 14 people did not do what I asked to be done in the maths lesson. Fortunately, Miss Claudia + Mrs. Kay + Mr. Kay = solution. Listening! The students aren’t listening. They aren’t listening the first, second, third time of telling. They are still expecting to be told something several times, before they follow instructions. But, now we (the teachers) know what is going wrong, we can do something about it. We can say things only once.

What’s that? you ask. Say something once? Shirley that is counter intuitive? Shirley you should say something more times!

Well, first off: don’t call me Shirley! And secondly: I’ll take your counter intuitive and raise you a counter-counter intuitive. It makes perfect sense. if the students know that we are only going to say something once, they know they had better listen. Up until now, they have been used to people telling them what to do, and telling them again, and then repeating it, and then chasing them up to see if they have done it, and then being reminded (again). They have got aurally-lazy (I’ve just made that word up). They have to get used to listening once, and once alone, and then following the instructions. It’s a plan. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Maths was decimal division. Except, you can’t divide by a decimal! So, you have to change the question by moving the decimal point. Sounds complicated? Not if you see a couple of examples. I then went and spent 30 minutes with Miss Tere Rochin’s class. I’m getting old. It is getting harder and harder to get up from my knees. Oh, not that 2A drove me to my knees, I just got down there to teach one-on-one and discovered that I couldn’t get up.

Spelling was a new word list. Recess was followed by P.E. for the students, 57 books for me to mark. P.E. also included a practice session for the Honour Guard on Monday. Then History, and finally science. We discussed King Philip Came Over For Great Spaghetti and useful bacteria. Plus, after yesterday’s discussion about appendix-problems, I added a discussion about tonsils. Sorry. If your child starts having nightmares that part of his/her body might be trying to attack him/her – it might be my fault. Try increasing the dosage of Yakult.

Oh, and just for Alan Williams, a growing update. Who is Alan you are asking? Alan is a friend of mine who reads this blog. You might occasionally see his picture at the bottom of a post, because he has clicked on “Like”. The posts he likes are those about growing, because Alan is my go-to-bloke for gardening and growing. So, here’s some pictures of the sunflowers and the radishes. The radishes have gone mad. I was lazy, and didn’t trust the packet, so I sprinkled the seeds instead of placing them 2cm apart. However, my sunflower has actually started to grow, and is now 2cm tall!

And, as I happened to be walking past 6B’s yoga lesson (they were having it outside) I took some video. Enjoy;

Posted in assembly, english, honour guard, maths, planting, science, yoga, youtube | 2 Comments »

a sense of urgency

Posted by willkay on August 30, 2012

I don’t know if it is the heat, I’m not sure if it’s a hangover from the holidays, I’m fairly certain it isn’t that the children don’t understand, BUT there is a lack of a sense of urgency. Lessons are starting five minutes late, students are going for water and spending time at “the water cooler”, and if someone goes to the restroom – they’ve gone for hours. When work is being set, it’s not been settled to quickly. When notes are put on the board, they are being copied effectively. There is no sense of urgency. No sense of a desire to do. Normally, the sixth grade hit the ground running. We have four months to go before the entrance exams for Junior High, four months to fine tune and prepare. At the moment, it feels like we have four years – and even then, they won’t be a problem. I’m going to accept it is the heat. I’m going to assume that once it starts to cool off, or once everyone has built up some sort of resistance to the heat, then everything will be back to normal. However, they may be some harsh words spoken in class tomorrow – let’s call it a wake-up-call.

Not a great start to the morning: not ready when the second bell went for morning line up; one homework diary “lost”, one not signed; two homeworks not done, one homework was the wrong page (later there were three Spanish homeworks not done); multiplication tables not remembered. An hour’s maths lesson disappeared, and when it came time for P.E. we had only covered half of the planned lesson. The English lesson was lost entirely to doing some more maths, and then copying the geography from yesterday’s lesson – thank goodness for the SmartBoard and its ability to save all my lessons. The end of recess was a disaster. The thirty minutes that I had left to teach after recess, became 20, and so we read three paragraphs of the story “Old Yeller”. The students finished with history – in which they needed an extra five minutes because they hadn’t completed their work – and then yoga.

There are two bits of good news.

The first is that things have started growing. The picture shows some tiny radishes starting to sprout. Also, in the classrooms, the sunflowers are starting to appear – some are already a centimetre or two tall. (It is at this point that I will make two observations; (1) I did take pictures but my camera failed me, sorry; (2) my sunflowers haven’t grown at all!!) The watering cans were not totally successful, they don’t reach the last row of radishes. However, with a steady hand, they work very well in the classroom.

The second bit of good news is there has been a change of heart – I am now allowed to publish videos and photographs of all the children in the sixth grade. Yipee! So, here’s a video of the routine at morning line up. Every morning, Professor Rodolfo leads the school through a series of breathing exercises and physical exercise. This is a video I took of some of the morning’s session. I say “some” because I stopped recording before the jumping-jacks, and I missed filming the breathing exercises. I’ll try to catch them tomorrow, but I won’t make any promises.

Posted in english, geography, honour guard, maths, morning line up, planting, youtube | 3 Comments »

Grow, grow,

Posted by willkay on August 27, 2012

grow your boat – oh, hang on, this has nothing to do with boats.

This year, I have decided to do some planting, and some growing. Those of you who are long term readers, might remember last year’s failed attempt to grow avocados. Well, the good news is, I’m trying to grow avocados again this year. However, realising that I might fail, I have come up with a backup plan. Above you is a picture of two bags of soil. I have cut out four strips of plastic, and I have planted seeds in the soil-strips. Yes, I am trying to grow radishes! Hopefully, by the end of the month, I should have a crop of 40+ radishes, so that each child can have a radish.

Obviously my cunning plan might fail, and once again I will be proved to be a failure in the growing-department. However, do not despair! I have yet another backup plan, and this one is cunning. This time I have recruited the children in my mad scheme. EVERY sixth grade student has planted two (2) sunflower seeds. I have also convinced Mrs. Kay to plant some seeds as well. In other words, eighty (80) sunflower seeds were planted today. At least one of them must grow. Exciting? I think so.

Oh, hello to all those new readers and welcome. I realise that there are a lot of new people arriving here, wondering what is going on. Well, this is my blog, in which I record what happened at school during the day. Normally there are pictures/videos to look at – in case reading isn’t your thing – however I can’t put pictures up of the students until I have the parents’ permission. I note went home today and, depending on the outcome, I will start posting pictures tomorrow (or the next day or the day after that).

So, how was the day? It started straight away at 7:30am. Everyone turned up with their books, equipment, and an exciting new eraser that smells of strawberry. Maybe not everyone had a new eraser. Once the books were checked in, we made our 6th Grade Passports. The sixth grade is the best grade, and it is Mrs. Kay and I’s target to make it the most fun filled year. It is our intention to try to keep the sixth grade together as much as possible. Mrs. Kay spent two hours in my classroom today, and I spent two hours in hers. This way we can make sure that the children are being taught exactly the same way, and they also benefit from having two different ways of teaching a problem – in case they don’t understand one of us.

After the Passports it was on to the rules of the sixth grade, and the problems caused by me being English. New words for the day: bin; tissues; mum; colour; shed-ule; and box. (Although, to be fair, I think it is also called a box in American.) Once we had gone through how I expected the students to do the work, it was time to do some work. English. In the sixth grade we have a writing assignment every week. It is set on Monday and is expected to be in school on Friday, completed. All of this was explained to the students, and what was expected from them in the assignment.


After recess it was Values. This year I (and Mrs. Kay) will not be teaching Values. No, this year sees the return of Professor Israel (again?), who will be teaching Values to the whole school! Which is nice. Then it was a science lesson and planting. Oh, we did manage to teach one thing: MRS. GREN. Don’t know what MRS. GREN is? Ask a sixth grader.

All in all, a brilliant day! It was a good start to the year – a year that I am sure will be an excellent one. However, for now, I am very tired. I seem to have been on my feet all day. My feet hurt, my back hurts, and I am tired. I think it’ll be an early night for me, so I am up and ready for day two.

Posted in avocado, english, planting, science, values | 5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: