Tuesday, December 2, 2008 ;
2:41 PM
25 Nov

Sensational Olympics

This is the 2nd exhibition the kids in kindy are putting up for us parents. Only this time, we parents have to participate in something like an Olympics.

We have different stations to go to, numbered 1-7, and at each station, we have to "compete" and complete tasks before we can proceed.

This time, the theme is on "Our senses". Besides doing it for us, they had also done this for the Grade 3 students and the Nursery classes (ds2 was so thrilled to be in the Kindy class, he kept going on and on about it at home) on a separate day.

I had to start with my kid's station first, which was the "Taste Test". 2 other moms started there with me too. We were blindfolded by our kids, and then had to stretch out our hands to get morsels, which we will taste and then guess what it was.

Ahh, some were easy, like chocolate (sweet), chips (salty) and seaweed (the MSG taste, hehe). There was this super sour thing ds1 passed me that had me cringing, puckering up my nose and mouth, scrunching up my face...

I guessed it was a super lemon sweet. Ahh, forgot my son is not of my era. He said "wrong, it's a sour skittle candy". Ok lah! Isn't that the same??!?

(After I heard ds2 had the same activity in school on a later day, I was very curious and asked if he guessed the food items correct. ds1 said he got all correct except for the sour skittle, because the moment it went into his mouth, he spat it out and refused to try it anymore. hahaha, I knew it! He hates sour things.

This below is the "Touch Test". We parents have to stick one hand into the hole in the box and feel the item there. Then guess what it is.

Things like a stuffed toy and a plastic or metal item were easy enough. But then there was this sticky stuff. Turned out to be overcooked pasta. And then this oily squishy thing, which I eventually guessed correctly as Playdoh. It was fun.

This below is ds1 with other moms. I came back later to take a pic of him. In the background is the Head of Elementary School with one of the TAs. They just observe. The kids are running the whole show. The teachers were so busy going around snapping pics of everything hilarious. I think they are going to make another funny class book.

Then there were stations to guess different sounds, and smells and then one where we were given binoculars by 2 boys, and another boy was sitting far away, holding up some cards. We had to guess correctly all the cards that were flashed. There were pictures like a baby, a cat and so on.

The smell test was fun. The teachers placed items into opaque tin containers that resemble salt shakers, with holes on top. We couldn't see what was inside. There were fishy smells, perfume smells and one smell which was very familiar but I just couldn't place it. I smelt and smelt and thought and thought.

It reminded me of a huge big vast place full of plants and flowers and fruits. Time was running up, so I put orange. Later I found out it was Eucalyptus. Ahhh, of course! The teachers are both Aussies. It's funny how smells can conjure up a whole picture for us.

I remember stepping into a recording studio when I was in the orchestra in Sec School, and the smell immediately brought to mind a piano exam. I don't know why, but the smell just suddenly made me picture the ABRSM examiner seated there, with me at the piano ready to begin "scales or pieces first?". (I always told the examiner I wanted to do the scales first, it warms up my fingers.)

After all that fun, the kids went off for their music class, and we parents had our tea time. Yummy, this time a lot of moms contributed their home baked goodies.

After the tea, the teachers held another workshop for us. This time on assessments and the reports they will send home to us at the end of the semester.

Initially I felt that this school is good for the kids in terms of it being fun and having hands on learning. The kids love school, have no problem going in the morning, even if they had a late night the night before, and are learning things. The things may not be academic, but I am still happy with what they are learning.

Now with the workshop on assessment and reports, I think I am happy with the academic rigor or language. The teachers have definitely put in a lot of effort. (Math and Chinese is different from Spore, so I can't compare that. The amount of time they have for Math and Chinese each week is much less.)

For assignments, initially ds1 had the same amount of homework as others, 1 page of worksheet per week. Then the teachers gave him and a few others in the same advanced group harder Qs but still in the same format. Now, ds1 receives another homework book called extension activities, which the teacher said was for him and a couple others to complete, on top of their normal homework. This time, there were several sheets each week. Now ds1 is properly challenged, I guess.

I usually leave him to do his homework himself because I don't want to have to always sit by his side over the years. I am worried that if I do it now, it means I have to do it for the rest of his schooling journey (12 yrs?).

I'll pop by to check his work once in a while. He's not very neat, so usually I have to tell him to erase certain words and write them again, since they look like a squiggle to me.

I also like it that in his class, they get differentiated work and reading and so on. Otherwise I know ds1 will get bored and cry and refuse to go to school like in the past in Spore long time ago. They have enough manpower here I suppose.

When ds1 told me during reading he gets to go to the playroom and sing songs with another teacher while the rest continued their reading in the class with the class teacher, I thought how nice they can make such arrangements.

I had some really advanced students last time, but everytime I see them so bored with the same old tutorial Qs from the ten year series, and I know they already know their work, I cannot do much for them because I still have to go through the required Qs with the rest of the class. I do close one eye when I see them reading up on something else related to Biology though. And I do allow them to make their cheat sheets for the quizzes I give. Sometimes I'll ask them Qs related to the topic but require more thinking. But I still feel sometimes it is a pity they are not more challenged in class. It'd be great if they are allowed to go somewhere else with another teacher, or I could give them something they could go out of the class to do.

Which is why during lab sessions, I normally allow the students to experiment beyond what they need to do for the lab sheets, as long as it is safe.

I still remember the dissection labs very clearly. Students who are not comfortable doing it are allowed to watch from the side. Those who don't want to watch at all can do read their lecture notes or texts at the side. Those who want to just dissect what I have shown them and then complete the Qs can do so. Those who want to see extra and try extra can take extra from my teacher's bench.

Then there are those, who, after dissecting the whole rat, and having examined all the organs will place everything back neatly, and then sew the rat up again, just for a challenge. They even called me to check their stitching work. I was pretty impressed, very neat. I think I did tell them they would make good surgeons. I always tell them, really good dissection skills also mean there won't be a lot of blood. Once there is blood, it clouds up the rat body and they can't make as clear observations as they like, so they need to mop it up.

There were those pranksters too. During a sheep heart and chicken heart dissection, a waft of BBQ meat smell came to me. I scanned the lab and there were this group of boys who have finished their work already and were trying to see if the sheep heart or chicken heart burnt better. They were holding the hearts with forceps over the bunsen flame. I have to remind them about safety. And I reminded them about leaving dignity for the dead. Other than that, I know, from their eyes, from their faces, that is probably going to be one of the most memorable practicals for them. The rest of their classmates laughing along with them made them very happy. I always try to keep a stern face because I don't want to be seen as encouraging such things, but in my heart, I always laugh along with them.

Then I recall my own student days. I remember I always finished my compositions and essays ahead of time. Teachers back then do not allow us to do anything, we have to sit in our chairs and stare into blank space after we finish our work. Once, I talked to my partner. My teacher was so angry because I finished my work but she hadn't and I was disturbing her. After scolding me, I was made to re copy my whole essay all over again.

I learnt very quickly to be very quiet in class, never moving, even if I had nothing to do. In my primary 6 year, when most lessons in the day would be revision for the PSLE, I dreaded going to school. I think I went to school only half the time. My teachers were very surprised with my PSLE results, they thought I would do very badly since I was absent so much.

I dread that for ds1. I have kind of done work with him in Utah (don't dare to say homeschooled, cos it was so unstructured), and I know if it is something simple, he finishes it and becomes very restless. I have seen him in nursery school in Spore last time, and we had to pull him out in the end cos he was crying everyday. In Utah, when he attended the expeditionary school 2 mornings a week, I finally understood what sort of environment suited him best.

A small class size, where the teacher would know him well. Differentiated learning, where he can be allowed to do other stuff once he finished his usual work. A lot of hands-on work, and a lot of outdoor learning. The freedom to pursue something much more in depth when he is really passionate about it.

In Spore, the preschool did allow him to join the Kindy levels last time, when they were doing something he was very interested in. I remember those few days he would be very happy in school, but it happened rarely.

Over here, we are glad to once again be able to find such a learning environment for him. As parents, when we see them being so happy to go to school, we are happy too. In fact, ds2 cried when I kept him at home due to him having a cough. He kept insisting that he "needs to go to school".

The assessment mode, which the teachers shared with us, are those that are non-threatening too, which I feel ds1 would do well in. The reports are so detailed, I am looking forward to receiving them, because the portfolio would include a lot of photos too, that will show me what they are doing in class.

Will blog about that when I receive their reports end of the semester.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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