Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ah... Good-bye September

Hmm... It's early Sunday morning and it seems as if it's blog writing time.  And next I have to think about what I would like to write about.  I can't believe September has ended and it's October.  I feel good that I have actually now begun teaching all required subjects.  We had a Professional Day on Monday and I never have time to do all I want to do but I planned out my first unit in French and studying Spanish for the first time has really made me sympathize and think what is important in French for my students to learn.  I was also working on planning field trips, this can be time consuming with phone calls often going back and forth. 

Tuesday the kids were back and we began the day with a fun morning learning a tame version of Australian "footie".  In the afternoon we went to a film festival at Moberly Arts Centre.  I think what my class liked best was the 16 mm film projector, something in this digital age, they don't normally see.  I remember how the film would get stuck and I would have to untangle it-can't say I miss those projectors at all!  We were reunited with the herb garden but our onion crop wasn 't a big success but the garden looked lovely.  Tuesday we had Homework Club with several of my students catching up with lost or undone homework.  And despite a Professional Day I was at school until after 5:30 at least planning etc. 

Wednesday the kids breathed a sigh of relief when I had to rush out for a meeting across town planning a Literacy Day for the January Professional Day so that there wasn't a Homework Club.  Thursday I had a meeting at our school to plan a visual journal project with my former Artist in Residence and a couple of my friends who teach at other schools.  Every day we had meetings all through lunch by the way, Struggling Students, Professional Development, VESTA (our union) and Friday it was time for the Me to We club. 

Teaching highlights this week (I am sure footie was the kids' highlight and Barry sure loved those Australian expressions he learned)... We began the book, Almost Home.  Some of the kids were totally confused but I tell them that good books often are a bit confusing at the beginning.  It's a fun book to read out loud and the chapters are just the right length. 

French was fun as well.  I always like to begin with basic beginning conversations and then somehow that leads to French cartoons.  And I admit it, once and awhile we threw in a bit of Spanish as well-I have to practice regularly with Mayra anyway. 

I even managed some Health and Career Education as we had our class Students' Council elections.  Results were interesting to say the least.

I think I will do another post on The Day I Was Born projects in Social Studies that I finished marking this week.  In Science they have to do a field study-a close study of a square metre of the school grounds or they can use a piece of their yard at home.  Thursday we looked at the assignment, and then Friday I sent them off with magnifying glasses and ipads.  I discovered a neat app called Leafsnap-too fun, with your location you can take a photo of a leaf and identify it. 

That afternoon we did our Terry Fox Run and wouldn't you know it, for the first time in ages, it poured for the beginning of the run but true Vancouverites never let a little rain stop us. 

Yes, there was math... and I had a wonderful writing time on Friday morning.  Choosing an idea from Writing Bingo from Lori Jamieson's and Paul Kropp's The Write Genre, they were off and writing.  Barry couldn't believe how much he wrote.  Ellie's piece with sketches about her imaginary games with her best friend when she lived in Tofino, brought tears to my eyes.  Watch out literary world!

I ended the school day after school, with a little soccer practice with the girls, and couldn't help but think what a good and crazy week it was. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Almost Home

I love new books!  Well I actually told my class that I loved new school supplies, and that may have been one reason I became a teacher.  Anyway this time I am talking about new children's books.  I think I have noted before how much I have loved going to International Reading Association or National Council of Teachers of English' conferences and getting advance copies of new books free!

I have been seeking a good read aloud.  Due to my visiting the Titanic Museum this summer I was thinking of doing a unit on the Titanic and using a novel with the class and even had one picked out, but somehow just wasn't feeling right yet.  Last weekend I went off to Kidsbooks and spent a bit of time with the very knowledgeable Lesley (not sure if correct spelling) and tried to limit myself to a few good new books for my classroom.  I am a total believer in the school library but I think it is important to have a good classroom library as well.  No one in my class can ever claim that he or she doesn't have a good book to read.  

I really love Joan Bauer's books and was privileged to hear her speak at a conference a few years ago and she was great.  I think Kidsbooks needs many more of her books!  Anyway, I picked up her latest, Almost Home, and read it immediately.  I absolutely loved it.  It's about Sugar who lives with her mom in a home purchased by her now deceased grandfather for them.  Her dad, Mr. Leeland, an unreliable gambler comes and mainly goes.  She has just entered sixth grade with a very innovative teacher, Mr. B.  Due to her mom's employment difficulties and her father's gambling, they lose their home and end up in a homeless shelter.  Eventually her mom leaves Missouri to move to Chicago where things do not initially improve.  Sounds depressing but with this amazing heroine and a cast of interesting characters and one adorable small dog it actually is not!  

I am very much looking forward to reading this book to my class!  We are planning to be involved with  End Poverty Day and this book seems perfect fit for this issue.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What did I do the second day of school with the students...

I have had lots of ideas for this blog but haven't had time to really write them.  One always forgets how truly crazy September is for a school teacher.  You go from unstructured time to being in constant motion and dealing with zillions of things and in my particular case, 27 students.

It's exhausting and exhilarating and confusing and sometimes amusing and definitely exhausting.

The first day of school I only had my 15 grade sixes from last year for an hour and that seemed to be forever even though we were happy to see each other.  The next day with the addition of two new students to the school,  I had one of my sometimes brilliant ideas and put them to work on some end of the year math and a project on Tenochtitlan and Mexico City.  At noon one of the girls put her head down she was so tired!

One of the frustrations of all teachers is the difficulty to get through all the curriculum-usually in science out of three units I may make it through two, and I have never made it through all the Grade Six text book in Social Studies.  Now I tell myself that it is all about process and hopefully, we do a thorough job of what we do study and often we do go way beyond the text.

I did do a project last year with the sixth graders on cities and urban versus rural environment but the story of the Mayan city, Tenochtitlan, and the modern Mexico City is fascinating and a good introduction to the Ancient Civilizations that they study in seventh grade so this became the project in one day.

Step one, I let them loose in the computer lab to find out what they could about Tenochtitlan.  Then we went through the information in the text book, finding out why the city was built where it was, in a marsh in the middle of the lake surrounded by mountains, and then finding out how the Spanish conquered the Mayans and built Mexico City eventually.  They then wrote ten important or interesting facts they learned.

They learned about Diego Riviera and then explored his art on this website and then each chose a painting or mural that he or she liked, using the ipads  in the classroom.  Then they copied the chosen pieces of art.  I think we all had a fun day and actually felt that we had accomplished something!  I will photograph some of the finished artwork and post later.