MS English A


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November 19

Today was a work day in class as I reviewed a few Dos and Don’ts when writing papers. Here’s a quick recap:

Things You Should Do:

  1. Format: It’s not just about font and point size. Indent your paragraphs. Understand where quotation marks go, particularly when quoting dialogue. 
    • “‘You didn’t tell a story,’ Kip said softly. ‘You lied.’ Even in the light of the fire, his face looked pale” (277). 
  2. Write a thesis statement: Your thesis statement should reflect your main ideas about wants versus needs, whatever those ideas are. 
  3. Make sure your body paragraphs point back to the thesis statement: If what you write in your thesis statement isn’t supported by the things you write in your body paragraphs, then you’ve missed something. It all has to tie in.  
  4. Conclude the paper with a restatement of your thesis using different words
    • For example, if your thesis statement is: Sometimes wants and needs can seem like they are the same thing, but often we overlook needs and replace them with wants. 
    • Then your conclusion might read something like: When we try to fulfill our needs with something we want, sometimes we’re left unsatisfied and wanting more. 

Things You Shouldn’t Do:

  1. Make Announcements: “Now I’m going to talk about…” or “This paragraph will be about…” or “Now you should understand how wants are different from needs.” No need to talk directly to the reader. Just cut to the chase.
  2. Make Apologies: “I don’t know much about this” or “I’m sorry if I don’t fully understand…” Don’t apologize. If you don’t feel confident writing about a topic, do a little more research! Build your confidence 🙂
  3. Repeat Yourself: Be careful not to repeat yourself with the same words and phrases, starting sentences the same way or using the same descriptors, such as fun, interesting, unique, etc. Read through your work and look for sentences that are repetitive. It’s easy to get stuck in a groove and not realize you’re saying the same thing over and over again.
  4. Go On Tangents: This essay is about wants versus needs  – a combination of lessons learned from the novel and your own perspective on the topic. Several of you started writing about symbolism, and while your remarks were correct, that was a tangent you didn’t need to follow. It’s too easy to start writing and trail off onto unrelated topics. Stay ON TOPIC.

We spent the rest of the class time doing MLA exercises. There is no homework over Thanksgiving specifically, but some of you still owe me a rough draft. Please try to get that to me prior to the holiday. If you’d like to rework your rough draft and let me have a second look prior to turning in the final, that works too. I’ll still be available by email through Tuesday of next week.

Happy Thanksgiving and stay well!


November 12

First, click here to vote for your three favorite yearbook covers!

Today I wrapped up The Night Gardener and talked about some of the bigger symbols from the story. It’s important to understand what these symbols meant because it speaks to the larger lesson about wants versus needs and how greed becomes a lie we tell ourselves. Constance didn’t need all of those rings. What she really needed was to reconnect with her husband. Penny didn’t need all of those Princess Penny books. What she really needed was to reconnect with her mother. Molly didn’t really need those false letters from her parents. What she really needed was to reconcile her feelings about them being gone. The wishes granted by the tree weren’t fulfilling needs. They were patching a wound for much bigger issues our characters were wrestling with.

If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.

Now it’s time to take all of these ideas about wants and needs and draft them into an essay. As I said in class, this will likely be a tough paper to write because it requires a certain amount of introspection on your part. You are not writing a confessional, nor are you writing a summary of the book!

Instead, you’re writing an essay about the difference between wants and needs, how we (as humans) mistake our wants for needs, and we can often ignore what our true needs are. You’re required to pull examples from The Night Gardener, but this essay will be written in the first person because I expect you to share your personal thoughts on the topic of wants versus needs.

Here are the basic guidelines for the essay:

  • Minimum 600 words
  • MLA format (Times New Roman, 12 pt, double-spaced)
  • Cited scenes or quotes from The Night Gardener in body paragraphs
  • Works Cited page
  • Written in the first person
  • First Rough Draft due Tuesday, November 17 via email
  • Final Essay due Tuesday, December 8 via email

To get you brainstorming, I listed the following questions in class:

  1. What is a true need? (physiological needs, emotional needs…)
  2. What is a want?
  3. When have I misunderstood a want and treated it as a need?
  4. When have I misunderstood a true need and fulfilled it with a want?
  5. How do I feel when I get what I want?
  6. How do I feel when I get what I need?

Homework:

Use the free-writing exercises you have from the last two weeks, as well as your answers to the questions above, as source material to get you brainstorming. It’s okay to wrestle with this topic. It’s okay to not know where to begin. Just start writing/typing and see what flows. Think about the characters from The Night Gardener and how they used the tree *thinking* they were getting what they needed.

Email your rough draft to me no later than Tuesday, November 17. Be sure to bring your MLA Handbook next week. Be in touch if you need help!


November 5

I am sorry for missing class today! Hopefully recapping Part Two of The Night Gardener was helpful for you. By now, you understand that one of the primary themes of this book is the Negative Effects of Greed. The tree obviously gives people what they wish for, but those wishes come at a heavy price.

After today, you should have two pieces of free-writing from class – one about your perceived wants, and one about your perceived needs. You’ll need to bring back both of these writing prompts to class next week. Your writings will serve as source material for your next essay. 🙂

If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.

Homework:

Finish The Night Gardener, then take the reading quiz.


October 29

Today I quickly recapped Part One of The Night Gardener and talked about all the elements of suspense – conflict, pacing, atmosphere, red herrings, and high stakes. Atmosphere is a big one with this book. The manor, the grounds, the vibe from the Windsor family… The mood is definitely suspenseful.

Students also participated in a free-writing exercise to answer the question, “What do I want?” There are no rules with free writing. No worries about punctuation or grammar or cohesion. Students won’t be turning in this exercise to me but they do need to hang onto it. It will come in handy later when they write their next paper.

If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.

Homework:

Read Part Two in The Night Gardener. Then, take the reading quiz.

Be sure to bring your MLA Handbooks to class every week!


October 22

Today I briefly introduced The Night Gardener and explained that it’s the longest book we’ll read this year. It’s sectioned into three parts, and we’ll be reading the first part this week, which is 145 pages. Do not wait until Wednesday to start reading. Give yourself plenty of breathing space!

We spent the bulk of class talking about figurative language and literary elements, specifically simile, metaphor, allegory, personification, imagery, motif, dialect, and mood vs. tone. Be sure you have these things written in your notes. You’ll see them again.

We also talked about the difference between a mystery and a thriller, along with the Five Main Elements of Suspense (conflict, pacing, atmosphere, red herrings, and high stakes).

If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.

Homework:

Read Part One of The Night Gardener. Then take the reading quiz by Wednesday evening.


October 8

Everyone worked so hard on the mid-semester test! I’m super proud.

If the test was harder than you expected and your notes weren’t thorough, now you know to up your game for the rest of the semester. If it was a breeze for you, I’m glad. Keep doing what you’re doing.

For now, kick up your feet because it’s FALL BREAK and there’s no homework. Be sure you get a copy of The Night Gardener by the time we resume class on October 22.


October 1

Today we reviewed key plot points in Ch. 16-31 in Holes. We also reviewed a bunch of literary elements and definitions that you will need to know for the test next week. If you have these things already written down in your notes, then you’ll have no trouble with the test since it’s an OPEN NOTES test. There will also be some plot-related questions about Holes.

If you need to listen to the lecture from today, click here.

Homework:

Finish Holes and take the reading quiz online.

Then, make sure your notes are in order. Scroll through this class page and see what’s bolded. Those are likely things you’ll need to know. See you next week!


September 24

Today we covered the first 15 chapters of Holes and talked about symbolism. Be sure you also know the definition of protagonist and antagonist. You will have a mid-semester test in class on October 8. It’s open notes, so make sure you have your notes organized and ready. The test will consist mostly of literary elements and some plot/theme questions related to Holes

Please download and print this document about Literary Elements. It will be handy to you in the future. 🙂 

If you need to listen to the lecture, click here

Homework:

Read Ch. 16-32 of Holes and take the reading quiz. Also, make corrections (if needed) on your thematic essay and email me the final draft for a grade. 


September 17

Today I briefly introduced Holes since that’s our next book. The rest of the class was spent talking about archetypes in literature, which are characters, settings, and plots that represent universal patterns of human nature. (The concept of archetypes was built upon the work of Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist.) Once we started talking about various archetypes, students seemed to catch on quickly. I hope everyone took notes because these things will show up on the semester test.

Homework:

Read Ch. 1-15 in Holes. Then, take the reading quiz by Wednesday afternoon (linked here).

I will spend the weekend reading your rough drafts. As I explained in class, my father passed away last week, so I’m behind on reading all of my students’ papers. You should get feedback from me before Monday.

*If you need to listen to the lecture, click here.


September 10

*I’m updating this page on Wednesday, Sept. 9 since I won’t be in class on Thursday, Sept. 10*

The substitute should’ve played the lecture for you in class. If you need to listen to it again, click here. Take notes if you need to. It will likely help you with your paper!

I hope you enjoyed Wonderstruck! Now it’s time to write your first academic paper for this class. Some of you are already experienced with this type of assignment, but others may struggle a little. No worries. I go over those details in the lecture, so listen carefully and email me questions if you have them!

Homework:

Write the rough draft of your thematic essay and share it with me through Google Docs by next Tuesday, Sept. 15. Make sure you share the document in Google Docs so I can make comments on it. Aim for 600 words.


September 3

Today we reviewed Part Two of Wonderstruck and talked more about some other themes we’re seeing. In addition to Loneliness, Loss, and Longing and Challenges in Communication, we’re also seeing the Importance of Family Bonds and the search for one’s Identity. You may identify some other themes this week as you finish the book.

If you already know what theme you want to write about for your first paper, take notes as you read Part Three. It will be helpful to you to have page numbers already written down for scenes you’d like to quote.

Be sure you have juxtaposition written down in your notes. This is a literary device authors use to place important things, characters, and ideas next to each other in the text. It’s a deliberate way to draw the reader’s attention to something. We’ve been seeing this over and over again with Ben and Rose. Their stories are unfolding in parallel to one another (50 years apart), so many important discoveries are juxtaposed to one another.

Homework:

You have a lot to accomplish this week AND you have an earlier deadline. Don’t drag your feet, friends! You have four things to do by Tuesday, if you can.

I realize Labor Day is Monday, so that might not be a school day for some of you. If you need to turn in your work Wednesday, just let me know. You won’t lose points or anything.

First, finish reading Wonderstruck. Then take the reading quiz (click here).

Then, use your notes to complete this MLA worksheet (click here).

Finally, draft your Outline in a Google Document and share it with me by Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. (Click here to view an example of what the outline should look like. Remember these are the BONES of your paper. You’ll flesh it all out next week when you write the rough draft.) When you share the document with me to my email address, make sure the option for editing is turned ON. This is how I’ll share my thoughts with you and offer ways to improve your essay. We won’t be exchanging physical papers in class this semester.

Please ask a parent or older sibling for help with Google Docs if you are unfamiliar!

Click here to listen to an audio file of the lecture.


August 27

Today we reviewed Part One of Wonderstruck, talked about the difference between theme and subject, and starting reviewing the basic details on how to draft a Works Cited page (click here to see an example). We will go over those details many times this semester, so if it was utterly confusing, don’t stress!

If you need to listen to everything again, click here for an audio file of the lecture.

Homework:

Read/observe Part Two of Wonderstruck. Start looking for themes in both Ben’s and Rose’s story. Jot down some page numbers or make notes of scenes you want to remember. You will be SO GLAD LATER that you did this extra work now.

Then, take the reading quiz (click here).

I mentioned in class that you’d have another MLA worksheet to do, but I’ve decided to save it for next week. So, that means you just have the reading, some note-taking, and the quiz this week! 🙂


August 20

It was lovely to see all of your faces (mostly your eyeballs) in class. I dearly hope we get the whole year together. 

For those of you who’ve been in my Middle School English class before, then the first day was a lot of repetition. Starting with Freytag’s Pyramid sets the stage for our conversations about story plots. It’s important to be able to identify literary elements and know what they mean. 

I realize that talking about MLA format is both boring and confusing, but trust me when I say that the more time you spend flipping through the handbook, the better understanding you’ll have of what’s required. Please bring your MLA Handbook to class every week. We’ll try to spend a few minutes flipping through it together. As I said in class, I prefer the 7th Edition, but the 8th is also fine. 

Homework: 

Read/observe Part One of Wonderstruck. Really pay attention to the illustrations. Resist the urge to flip through them quickly

Once you’ve finished reading, click here to take the reading quiz. You’ll be required to input your email address, and you’ll only get to take the quiz one time. 

Finally, use your MLA Handbook to complete this online worksheet. It feels like a quiz, but it’s not. It’s just to introduce you to the manual. 

If you need to hear everything we talked about in class again, I will post a recording of my notes each week. Click here to listen.



Introduction

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to meet in person ALL YEAR. With that hope in mind, I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in August. If you’ve been my student before, we don’t need any introduction. If you’re new to my class and style of teaching, I hope we’re a good fit.

In my class, we respect one another’s opinions, take turns talking and listening, and work hard on assignments, even when they are challenging or boring. I choose novels and stories with care so students can be exposed to different writing styles, voices, and subjects.

We will spend a good chunk of the fall semester learning about MLA format, which is the academic standard for writing essays and papers. It’s VERY BORING, but the harder you work to understand and apply MLA format to your English papers, the easier paper writing will be in the long run. We will suffer together!

Students need an MLA Handbook (7th or 8th edition please), which they’ll need to bring to class.

Fall 2020 Reading
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

Spring 2020 Reading
No Fear Shakespeare “Comedy of Errors”
Code Girls (Young Reader’s Edition) by Liz Mundy
Lion: A Long Way Home (Young Reader’s Edition) by Saroo Brierley
Short stories will be provided