30 June 2012

Daily Gifts of Grace: devotions for each day of your year

With a delightful, hardcover, ribbon bookmark, and magnetic cover flap, this book of daily devotions for a whole year is sure to delight. Daily Gifts of Grace: devotions for each day of your year is a Women of Faith publication. Written by women, for women, this book provides daily reminders of the amazing gift of God's grace to us. Writers such as Luci Swindoll, Shiela Walsh, Kim Cash Tate, Marilyn Meberg, Patsy Clairmont, and Jenna Lucado offer personal insights into a wide variety of aspects of God’s grace. Each dated devotion has a focus verse and a brief (one page) comment that will inspire, challenge and encourage the readers on their daily walk of grace. The honesty of the writers is refreshing, and the simple clear presentation of the book makes it easy to read. With a whole year’s worth of readings I have only sampled a few as I write this review, but I know I’m going to enjoy the daily reminders of God’s grace throughout the coming school year. It would make a lovely Christmas gift for any lady, old or young, who desires to spend the year living in the grace of God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

16 June 2012

A busy week as the countdown continues.

Nine school days to go!17 sleeps until I fly out of Phnom Penh.
18 sleeps until I land on Australian soil (I get to sleep in Kuala Lumpur for one night).

It's been a busy week this week. We've been doing standardised reading tests, two maths tests, writing biography posters, spelling, journal writing, and lots more.

This week our students completed a Reading Placement Test, and it was really interesting to look at the results. The majority of students did very well on the "Phonics" section of the test, then very poorly on the "Vocabulary" section, followed by satisfactory performance on the "Comprehension" section. Considering the majority of our students had very little exposure to English until they were about 5 years old, it is not surprising that their vocabulary is less than what a student who has heard English all around them most of their lives. What I do find surprising at times is the level of comprehension they have, despite the limitations of their vocabulary. The majority of students did really well. Clearly enhanced development of vocabulary is something I will be thinking about very seriously as I plan for the new school year.

One of the fun things we started this week was a final "novel study" with each of my Language Arts groups. I really want to do more of these next year, and to use graphic organisers to help the children think about various aspects of the books they read (characterisation, plot, setting, etc.). One group is reading "Ramona Quimby, Age 8", while the other group is reading "Fudge-a-mania". I'm hoping we can get the books finished before we break up, but it could be challenging. Graphic organisers are great for helping the children think about what they are reading, and those which use drawing allow all students to participate, even those who find reading and writing challenging.

Inventions went on hold this week, although we did have a further look at the life of Alexander Graham Bell, one very famous inventor. Meanwhile I've got a stack of empty tissue boxes waiting for me to fill them with miscellaneous items ready for my students to begin "inventing". We will see if they can come up with something that way. Hopefully I won't just get toy cars and planes. This is a really hard activity to scaffold, because I don't want to stifle their creativity, but I also want to students to "invent" something useful.

Next week we've got maths tests to complete, and the end of year concert on Friday night, so we'll be busy again. It will be the final week for structured homework, and biography posters are due in next Friday (some are already finished). While we are winding down, it's really important to keep a level of routine happening. Bored kids end up getting into trouble.

10 June 2012

What will this week hold?

It's Sunday night, and almost time to hit the sack, but before I do, I thought I'd reflect a little on the week to come.

With just three weeks left in the school year, there's a temptation to start winding down, but that really doesn't help the children and in a way it's actually hard work for the teacher too. When the children are engaged in learning they are happy. If they have too much "fun" time, then it becomes boring.

So how do I finish the year. The last week will be crazy, and the second last week only slightly less crazy. The second last Friday we have our end of year concert, so there will be lots of time practicing for that. The last week we are going to have a sports day, and I'm also planning a mini field trip to the local bookshop. I like to send my students off for the holidays armed with a new book to read, and this year I thought it might be fun to let them choose their own books (within reason and subject to my approval).

So what are we going to do this week? First of all we are doing some school-wide testing of Reading ability, so that will take a small part of each day. Then the children are working on Biography posters about inventors, so that will keep them busy too. Then we still have some math lessons to finish off, so we can do some final assessment. We'll also start reading some novels together as a fun way to finish of the year.

Then I'm still trying to get those inventions happening. A few children have some creative ideas, but the majority want to invent a card game or a paper car or airplane. I tried another activity on Thursday to get their creative juices flowing, but it really didn't work. I've shown them lots of examples of inventions, they've researched and reported on an inventions, we looked at an inventor's life and they are now researching and preparing biographical posters on an inventor of their choice. For some reason they just cannot seem to think outside what they know. I think this is partly cultural. From what I've seen, Cambodians find it very hard to think outside what they actually know and can see happening around them. I'm making generalisations here, so feel free to comment on this. I wonder if this lack of "creativity" is partially a result of not wanting to lose face by having something fail? If anyone reading this has some ideas of how to get the creative juices flowing I'd really love to hear from you, because I'm stumped, and I'd really love my kids to get a taste of "inventing".

Maybe I should just put together some boxes of  unusual combinations of materials and ask them to invent something useful using whatever is in their box. Get them working in groups of 3 or 4 to do this. What do you think readers? I'd love some input here.

07 June 2012

Some excitement today.

Just for something different the power went out this morning at about 10am.

Actually, it went out twice. It went out again around 1.15pm as well.

Both times it was only out for a minute or two. The cause? Well, that's the excitement bit.

I was working with my second English Language Arts group in my classroom just before 10am this morning, when I kept seeing bright flashes of light. At first I thought maybe the fluorescent tube was going, and it was flickering, but it wasn't that. Then I thought, maybe it's lightening? There was no thunder following so no, probably not that, and besides which the clouds hadn't really built up enough for that either.

Next thing I know the power goes off. OK. We can deal with that. I went outside to go to the bathroom and was met by a colleague who said there was a problem across the road, including some loud bangs that could have been gun shots, and so please keep the children in the classroom for recess. Then we heard a fire engine siren. Hmmm. Something is definitely not right. Looking from the vantage point of the fourth floor we could see white powder all around the shop across the road from the school. Couldn't see much else as the roof of the gym was blocking the view.

Given the power going out and coming back on again, I sent my assistant downstairs to find out what was happening and if we could let the children play under the main building at least.

When he returned it was good news. Yes, we can go downstairs. Hooray! Both kids and teacher needed the recess break.

When we got downstairs we discovered the cause of all the excitement was an electrical fault across the road from school. The transformed box had shorted out and caught fire. Fortunately it was quickly doused with dry chemicals, and no one was hurt, but it did add some excitement to the day. I think the kids were disappointed that there was nothing to see, but I suspect the store owners were very grateful it wasn't any worse.

Life in Cambodia is definitely NOT boring!