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 ‘stuff’ Category

8 Days of Christmas

Posted by willkay on December 18, 2012

Yes, I know, there are supposed to be 12 Days of Christmas. However, when this was planned we didn’t know about the trip to the orphanage. Then, once we did know about the trip, we didn’t know about the timing. Then, once we did know the timings, they ALL changed on the day. This meant that we had under 50 minutes to rehearse, and twenty minutes for filming. The filming went horribly wrong (my fault), as I couldn’t juggle the iPad very well whilst walking backwards on a bench.

All of that said…here’s an attempt at The 12 Days of Christmas…or Three-Quarters of The 12 Days of Christmas. Enjoy:

Posted in special event, stuff, youtube | 4 Comments »

November 17th

Posted by willkay on November 17, 2012

On November 17th, 2005, I arrived at San Diego airport with one suitcase. Seven years ago I crossed the border and entered Mexico for the first time. At the time, my plan was to make Mexico my home. I’d left England behind and this was to be the place that I would call my home for the rest of my life. Seven years later…still seems a good plan to me!

On November 17th, 2011, I married maria. Happy Anniversary Mrs. Kay. Thank you for this life.

 

 

Posted in stuff | 13 Comments »

Making Butter

Posted by willkay on October 30, 2012

So, we were reading a story in the English book about life in the 1800s. And somewhere in the story they mentioned that everyone had to make their own butter. This sparked off a conversation, which led to another conversation, which led to…well it led to making butter in the classroom. Yes, today in 6A and in 6B we made butter. In fact, to be more precise, the students made butter in the classroom. I’d love to show you pictures of the students making the butter, but I can’t. Sorry. However, Raul took a video of the beginning of the lesson. Which means you actually get to see me teach! Is this a good thing? Anyhoo, here are two videos:

After having passed the container around the classroom, with everyone getting two good shakes and a small shake, I finally got to open the container (thanks for the scissors Pedro) and revealed the contents:

At the end everyone got a sip of the buttermilk. We took the butter home, and Mrs. Kay squeezed as much of the buttermilk out of the butter. Tomorrow we will take the butter into school and send each child home with a small piece of butter that they helped make.

So, that’s your warning – get some fresh bread in for tomorrow’s lunch!

Posted in stuff, youtube | 2 Comments »

dreaming of a lazy Sunday

Posted by willkay on October 14, 2012

Last week we were talking to Nikos about how much the sixth grade at BAI read, and how impressed we were with them. [For those of you not quite up to speed on who Nikos is, he’s Mrs. Kay’s son, my step-son, and a sixth grader at Emma de la Vega.] At this point, Nikos mentioned that he would like to be on The Wall Of Fame. Obviously, this isn’t particularly possible. However, as neither of us wanted to discourage him from reading – could you imagine a world where Mr. and Mrs. Kay would actually tell someone to stop reading? Oh, hang on, I do that about seven times a day when I have to tell Andrea to put her book down and start listening to me – we told him to go for it. That was last week. One week later, this is a picture of Nikos, taken at 10:23 on a Sunday morning. Normally, by this stage, he has been on the computer, played on an iPad, watched some television, and is demanding that we do something because he is bored. However, this Sunday he is still on his bed, reading. He is desperately trying to get to the end of the book. Desperate because he wants to read book 2. You see, he’s already seen the film The Hunger Games, and he’s just discovered (in his own words) that the book is better than the film, it has more detail. Now he wants to read book 2, because he has no idea what is going to happen next. Oh, and the number of pages he has read so far, in one week? 367 (so far). This is enough to get him on The Wall Of Fame. So, if you can forgive a slight amount of parental indulgence (this is my blog after all), here’s a picture of Nikos doing his latest hobby:

Thursday seems so long ago. I remember we did some maths – changing improper fractions into mixed numbers, and changing mixed numbers into improper fractions. I know we read our Halloween stories. And I definitely know that we had a very long, very mature, very well thought out discussion about The Holocaust. Oh, and the SmartBoard in 6B exploded. I say exploded, but it was more like a rifle crack than an actual kaboom. Hopefully, Professor Victor spent Friday getting it to work, and Mrs. Kay will have something to use on Monday. Hopefully.

Friday there was no school. Actually, that’s not true. There was no school for the students, however there was school for the teachers. Eight o’clock in the morning saw us all try to squeeze into desks that were made for people a lot smaller than us.

It was a very interesting course, led by Miss Dulce. We discussed the reasons for evaluation, how to use evaluation better in the classroom, and all the new changes that are coming to the grading system. We worked in teams, we worked in pairs, we were told off a couple of times for talking, we were encouraged to participate, and we all came away better teachers for the experience. Big thanks to Miss Dulce for presenting the whole day. An even bigger thank you to Mrs. Kay who translated the whole day: as Miss Dulce spoke, Mrs. Kay typed away furiously, translating everything from Spanish to English, so that I could follow what was going on.

Saturday was spent at a volleyball tournament. However, there was a reward at the end of it all – birria tacos. And now it is Sunday, a day for chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’, all cool [and if you’re a student, and don’t know where those words come from, ask your parents. And, if they can’t receit the theme song from Fresh Prince, find it on YouTube, because really….in fact, here’s the original,

Ah, the 80s. Anyhoo, unfortunately this is not going to be a day for chillin’ out, maxin’, relaxin’, all cool because I have exams to write. Yes, the exam period has come around again, and I need to make sure that the exams are written, and ready for Monday, October 22nd. So, that’s my Sunday organised. Hopefully your Sunday is going better. You’ve already done your D.N.A. model, and that is ready to bring into school. Which means you can either read or try to beat my score on Subway Surfers. I’d suggest you read.

 

 

Posted in exams, geography, history, maths, reading log, science, smartboard, stuff | 4 Comments »

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 »

six birthdays!

Posted by willkay on October 9, 2012

In the six years that I have been sixth grade teacher, I have only had four birthday parties in school for students. [I should, at this point, mention that I have been fortunate enough to have had six birthday parties and one pre-wedding party for me! Thank you parents.] In fact, I haven’t had a birthday party in my classroom for so long, that I had forgotten all about “Birthday Party Tuesday”. So, last month, when we actually had a party for Alfonso, it came as a bit of a shock to the system. This morning was a bigger shock. Not only would there be a birthday party in my classroom (again!), but it would be for six students. Yes, one third of my class were born in the month of September. So, pizza and brownies for lunch today! (Oh, and tea*.)

Maths turned into yet another extended lesson. Throughout the school there has been a timetable change. Every classroom gets seven hours of maths a week, except the sixth grade. When the changes were first presented Mrs. Kay and I discussed how many hours of maths we would we need a week. Realising that the entrance exams to Junior High come in January, we were prepared to teach two thirds of the maths’ course before then. This meant that after January, we wouldn’t have a lot left to teach. So, we declined the extra maths lessons, preferring to teach more science and geography. Except, that is after January! Before January comes, we have to cram in extra hours of maths. This, in my head, I know. I know this because I’ve been doing this now for nearly seven years. However, it always comes as a surprise to me when I end up having to teach extra maths. I suppose it is because Mrs. Kay and I plan our week’s/month’s lessons very meticulously. But when we plan, we still plan a certain amount for science and geography. Of course, this only leads to a mental pressure build up when we end up teaching more maths. It will all sort itself out in the long run, this I know. However, until I get to the middle of February, there will always be this nagging worry.

Anyhoo, as I was saying, maths turned into another extended lesson. We’ve arrived at fractions. I love fractions, as all true mathematicians do. There is something fantastic about fractions. I love the fact that there are an infinite amount of ways that you can write the same fraction. I love the whole common denominator/diagonal cancelling/change the top-change the bottom symmetry of the subject. I also love the fact that when the answer is a vulgar fraction, that’s the answer. No messing about with decimals for me! However, I am in a minority of one in my classroom. Fractions seem to be every child’s worst nightmare. It is my job to convince the children that they are wrong. That fractions can be a quick and easy answer to all the problems they face. The best way of going about this? Start all the way back at the beginning. Get them to ignore everything they’ve struggled with the first time round, and this time look at fractions with the eyes of a sixth grader. Of course, this isn’t a simple task. Some children are still stuck in the nightmare of fractions that is known as the fourth grade – that moment when the concepts suddenly get more confusing and the brain isn’t really mature enough to understand what is going on. We shall see how it goes. We will be stuck with fractions for the next 3/4 weeks (depending how much time the exams take out of the maths timetable).

I did remember to take a picture of all the children who read more than 300 pages. Following Mrs. Kay’s advice (she’s a professional photographer donchu’no), I took the picture in a different place – less sun should have led to less squinting. I’m not convinced that I got the best picture ever, but at least I remembered:

Geography turned into a history lesson. Trying to study Germany is impossible without mentioning the fact that it used to be two countries. This is impossible to mention with out talking about the Second World War. WW2 cannot be mentioned without talking about the Holocaust. You can’t talk about the Holocaust without mentioning Hitler. And you can’t talk about Hitler without talking about the National Socialist Party. Of course, you can’t mention the rise of the Nazi Party without actually explaining why Germany was in such a situation. S0 (are you following this?), today’s geography lesson was all about The Great War, or World War I as it is now called. We got as far as talking about the soldiers playing football in No-Man’s Land on Christmas Day. And I was building up to my grandpa’s role in the war, when the bell rang. Another day done.

[*tea – a mid-afternoon meal. Yes, in England, everything stops for tea. There are tea breaks, there is elevenses, there is afternoon tea, there is an evening cuppa. But these are all to drink tea. As far as meals go, there are: breakfast, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner, supper. Now do you realise who J.R.R. Tolkien based the Hobbits’ eating habits on?]

Posted in geography, history, maths, stuff | 1 Comment »

life happens

Posted by willkay on October 4, 2012

Bullet points:

  • two days of maths homework to check
  • P.E. lesson
  • Spanish lesson, I went and sat in 6B
  • maths – prime factorisation
  • grammar – common and proper nouns
  • history, I went and sat in 6B
  • science – asexual reproduction

Can’t stop to say much, things to do, people to see, empanadas to eat, and an early bedtime for me. Not been feeling my best this week, so an early night now should get me through to the weekend. Then I’ll sleep for 48 hours!

 

 

Posted in stuff | 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 »

Happy Birthday Stephanie Jo

Posted by willkay on October 2, 2012

It’s my daughter’s birthday today. She’s 30. Yes, I’m old. She’s also a mother of two. Yes, I’m a grandpa. And yes, I did once have very long hair. Yes, that is me with Stephanie.

It’s been a long day, a long hot day. I’m not well, I’m very tired, and I intend to go to work tomorrow. So, I’m off to bed now. G’night.

Happy Birthday Stephie Jo.

 

Posted in 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 »

 
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