30 September 2016

What's new around Room 16

It's been a while since I posted any pictures of my classroom and the hallway outside, so I thought I'd do a quick update. I recently asked our school director about the possibility of some extra bulletin (notice) boards for the hallway outside my classroom and one more for inside. He said yes, and they were installed a couple of weeks ago. It took quite a bit of time to move material around, freeing up one board for the Khmer classes that meet across the hallway from my classroom to use if they desire. If they don't use it, I will no doubt find a way to fill it up again. Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of the bulletin boards for Grade 4K.
This board is at the front of the classroom,
right beside the whiteboard that is the main focus of teaching,
and where I also project onto, making PowerPoint presentations interactive.
Our IPC units require various resources and student thinking to be displayed.
That's what this board is for.

This is a the other end of the room, and changes regularly.
As the year progresses, I plan to include more Khmer language on this board,
to help increase the children's vocabulary in both languages.

This board is next to the door and holds classroom management material
as well as our IPC Personal Goal material

This photo is the hallway outside my classroom.
As you can see I've now got three bulletin boards
on which to display important information about what we're learning as well as student work.
Board 3 is waiting for student book reports which are almost finished.
I hope to have those displayed before parent-teacher conferences this week.

This is first of the two boards together.
The focus of this board will be what we are learning about.

These cute posters were created during the first week of school
using some foam dolls I picked up at KMart when I was home.
The students loved making these.
First major writing task of the year are our "All About Me" posters.
This was also opportunity to teach students about writing Personal Narratives.
The smiley faces cover photos of the students!
This year we have an improved system in place to follow-up students who are absent. It requires teachers to complete a slip and put it on the door outside our classroom to be collected by one of the guards/drivers during the first part of the morning. I got tired of sticky-taping the note to the door, and then finding sticky tape left on the door, so I asked our maintenance man to screw this cute little character to my door. I was given four of these some years ago, but I hadn't really used them very much. Now I'm really happy to report that, although the first one was broken when they tried to use an electric drill to screw it up, I had another one AND an ordinary screwdriver. Now this cutie is happily doing the job. No more sticky tape!

29 September 2016

Challenges and creativity in science teaching

One of the challenges of teaching in a developing country is that you can't just walk down the street to the local School Supply store and pick up the equipment you need for a science experiment. Well, maybe in some developing countries you can, but definitely not here in Cambodia. So that means you have to get a little creative, visit a few (or sometimes many) different stores, and try out some more unusual options. It also means you have to think ahead a bit.

This coming week I've got an experiment to complete that is part of our International Primary Curriculum (IPC) unit called "Investigators". We've almost finished our Investigator Training, and we are currently investigating an accident scene involving a victim with blistered lips! This particular experiment requires students to determine the heat insulation properties of various different types of cups. Just collecting the suggested types of cups was the first challenge.

The experiment called for four types of cup: plastic, paper, polystyrene, and metal. Now plastic is easy, and so is paper. Metal reminded me of the metal cups we used in the dining room when I was at boarding school back in 1980. Then I saw some photos of those multi-coloured aluminium picnic cups that most families seemed to have when I was growing up. A photo on Google reminded me of my old enamel camping mugs, great for keeping a cup of herb tea hot on a cold night! My colleague did some hunting around town for metal cups with little success, so I did some hunting of my own. I eventually found some small stainless steel mugs like this one.
Now you might think finding polystyrene cups would be easy to find, especially in a country where so much street food and take-away food is packaged in polystyrene. Alas, that was not the story. I eventually found them in a grocery store that caters for foreigners, which also carries quite a lot of Australian products! They even had them in three different sizes. Bonus!

So now I've got all my cups lined up, the next challenge is how to measure insulative property. The suggested procedure is to pour hot water into each of the cups and measure the temperature over time, so see which cup keeps the water hot for the longest time. That would require a laboratory thermometer, of which we have none. My colleague thought he had solved the problem when he bought some clinical thermometers, and some clever person suggested putting each cup into cool water, and monitoring the temperature of that cooler water, to see how much it heated up. He tried it this week, and it sort of worked, but the narrow temperature range was something of a problem. I am also hesitant to use them as they look very suspiciously like they are a mercury thermometer, and I don't want the responsibility of mercury in my classroom.

After having hearing his experience, I thought about using standard weather thermometers. While their range isn't a wide as a laboratory thermometer, it does go from -40°C to +50°C, and the ones that I bought cost me all of $1.80 each. I just did my own mini-experiment to see if they would measure water temperature and here are the results.
The thermometer on the left is in refrigerated water (about 8z°C). The one on the right is in tap water (about 28°C). It was very satisfying to see the temperature drop rapidly when I put it in the iced water. Yes, I think that this just might work, especially using the water bath method suggested to us. Both thermometers are exactly the same, so I'm thinking that the different camera angles is why it's harder to read the one on the right than the one on the left.

We'll see how it goes next week, but I'd say that's another successful modification to a project in order to use materials I can actually get my hands on!

15 September 2016

Science Fun

In Grade 4K at EWIS, as part of our IPC Investigators unit, we are busy learning how to investigate a crime! Well, actually we are learning lots of science skills that we will use to help us investigate an imaginary crime. Along the way we are having some fun doing experiments.

One of the experiments we have done required the teacher to track down absorbent paper (coffee filter papers work very well) and black water-based markers. Finding water-based markets was a bit more of a challenge, but I managed to track down several different brands and had some fun testing them out (in between uni work).

Earlier this week we completed the experiment and then I made the students write it up as a formal report. Their report writing skills are still a work in progress, but some of them did a great job. Most of them still need to work on adding details and making sure they include all the steps. Tonight, so that everyone can included a picture of the results I've been scanning the absorbent paper. It's very interesting to see how the same process can sometimes yield different results, and I thought I'd share them.


Faber-Castell Jumbo Connector Marker

Pentel Marker
All student worked from the same instructions and supposedly followed the same process but as you can see the results are somewhat different. Very interesting. Maybe the size of the dot had an impact? I'm not sure, but meanwhile I'm thinking students will be happy to have pictures to add to their reports, at least I hope they will. Got to love being able scan stuff like this.

09 September 2016

A successful outing

Today I had a successful day. Nothing big was achieved, although it was a fairly good day at school. The success came in the form of a shopping trip.

Our current IPC unit has an extensive list of resources needed, one of which is PH testing strips. When I was at school I'm fairly sure we called it litmus paper. There were a few alternatives, but they are quite complex, so if I could find what I needed it would be good.
Not having easy access to a science teaching supply store, I thought that a medical supply store might just have what we needed. So, this afternoon, I headed out on my trusty moto to the area known to some of us as "pharmacy corner". Yes, there are literally dozens of pharmacies and medical equipment stores all located on the same couple of city blocks. I tried a couple of smaller places without success (no doubt hampered by my lack of Khmer language) and then a bigger pharmacy. Still no luck, so I headed down the street a couple of stores and walked into a place with a name that seemed to have good potential. A young man opened the door for me and offered to help, but litmus paper just wasn't working. When I talked about testing acid and alkaline, another young man behind the counter seemed to know exactly what I was looking for, and told the first young man where to find it.

Hooray! It seems like a small thing, but finding this will make our unit of inquiry that much more interesting for the students and definitely simpler for the teachers. Yes, that's what I'd call a successful outing!

10 June 2016

Why I do what I do!

When I became a teacher I wanted to make a difference for the children I taught. Sometimes you hear about it, and other times you don't. Today I was privileged to receive the notes below from a student and his Dad. I've blanked out the names to protect their identities. It is little notes like this that make the long days and sometimes nights preparing work and marking it, and just thinking about the children. I've received various notes from students and parents over the years, but this one was really special. I should add that not all parents want their children in my class. There are some who don't. That's OK. Meanwhile, I can only hope that they've seen Jesus is me, because on my own I'd be the mean, scary teacher this boy thought I was before he joined my class. I thank God for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Cambodian children. I thank God that He has softened me, and helped me become a kinder, more caring, while still strict, teacher. I pray that He will continue to guide and lead me to make the difference in the lives of the children He brings in to my classroom.

21 May 2016

Nine and a half years later!

From third graders to graduates
Today I had the privelege of seeing 17 of my former students graduate from high school. Fourteen of them I taught in both 3rd and 4th grade, another joined the class in 4th grade, another I taught in 4th grade one year after the rest, and the last was one of the students in my final university prac class.
It was fun to see them again, and to see how they have grown and matured over the years. Most are off to college next year, many of them leaving Cambodia.
Just for fun, I thought I'd see if I could find a few photos of them as 3rd and 4th graders.

 These young people will always have a special place in my heart. I wish them all the very best for the future, and pray that they will continue to grow in the love of Jesus.

18 March 2016

Something that delighted me this afternoon

One of the activities students in my class do is free writing. They have 10 - 25 minutes depending on the day and what else we are working on to write about anything they like. I try to do it every day, but somedays it just doesn't happen. Teaching's like that.

Managing to read and provide feedback on students' writing has always challenged me, so this semester I decided to try something new. I divided my class into five groups, labelled their book boxes, reading journals and writing notebooks with a coloured sticker on which I'd written M, Tu, W, Th, or F. Now students hand their books in on the correct day and I tackle 4 reading journals and 4 writing notebooks each day instead of having a pile of 20 at the end of the week. So far that strategy is working well. Wednesday can be a bit tricky when I leave school as soon as the class does in order to get home for my uni "Collaborate" session, but either they get done on Thursday morning (early start) or I bring them home (and do them when uni is finished).

So today I had 3 sets of books to read, from 3 totally different students. One set was from a very capable, confident and creative young lady, who had written some very creative fiction. The second was from a student who still struggles to put sentences together correctly, who had told me about races they ran in their PE lesson, and the third was from a student who has made huge strides in reading this year. As I read the third student's writing I was thrilled. Here's what he had written.

Reading is fun.
Reading is fun, at the beginning  of the year I know that reading was hard for me, and I keep saying that reading is hard, then when I do more of RAZ-Kids it become easier and funner to read. Reading is very fun and easier for me now, because I read lot's of books in RAZ-Kids and at school too. My favourite author is Suzy Kline, because sometimes she write funny book and sometimes sad book. My favorite book is about Horrible Harry, he always do horrible thing, but sometimes not. I love reading now, and I even read at home too!

Reading that piece of writing filled me with delight. This is one of those intangible things that makes teaching a joy and a privilege. Yes, it isn't perfect writing, but how many of us write perfectly first time anyway? This student's first language is Khmer. This was written directly in English. I couldn't do it! These kiddos amaze me.