MS English A

Click here to print the UPDATED Spring 2020 list of weekly assignments following the Feb. 6 class cancellation.

Please know that a few of the books we are reading this year have sensitive words and scenes in them. I expect only the upmost respect and maturity during class discussions.

Click here to download a PDF of MLA Handbook (7th Ed.)

Wednesday, May 6

Here is the last quick lecture where I review Group 2 Poems. Give it a quick listen just to make sure you understand what they were about.

Also, here is your final test for the semester. You are welcome to use the notes you’ve taken from online lectures and our classes together in January, February, and March. Please do not use the internet to Google answers. You are on your honor to take the test with what you have in your brain and in your own handwriting.

Please answer the questions in a Google Document, a Word Document, or even an email. Send me your answers by midnight tomorrow, May 7.

If you haven’t sent me your final biography paper, please do so! Be in touch if you have questions. Have a WONDERFUL summer!

Thursday, April 30

In today’s lecture I briefly review the seven poems you read this past week just to point out some their meanings and characteristics. I applaud you all for hanging in there! Poetry is meant to be read aloud, so I hope some of you tried reading them out loud as I suggested.

This week, 1) listen to the lecture on the Group 1 poems, 2) read the poems in Group 2 out loud and parse out their meanings, and 3) write a brief summary of each one and email those summaries to me by Wednesday, May 6. (Group 2 poems are on the same document as Group 1.)

I will post your final test next week, and then we’re all done! 🙂

Thursday, April 23

Today I introduce some terms we’ll use as we analyze poetry for the next two weeks. Be sure to take notes as you listen to the lecture, and make sure you catch these words: structure, lines, break, stanza, couplet, tercet, quatrain, rhyme scheme, meter, formal verse, free verse, the three main categories of poetry (lyric, narrative, and dramatic), sonnet, ode, elegy, and haiku.

Also be sure you’re up to speed on figurative language, such as imagery, alliteration, allusion, metaphor, personification, onomatopoeia, and simile.

This week, 1) listen to the lecture and take notes on the terms above, 2) watch this video on “What makes a poem… a poem?“, 3) read the poems from Group 1 (print them out), and 4) write a brief summary of each poem showing me you understand (or somewhat understand) what it’s about. Be sure to tell me what you think of the poems too!

I tell you this in the lecture, but I’ll also write it here: Don’t just skim the poems. You’ll be tempted to do that. Instead, read them OUT LOUD. Go outside on your porch or in your driveway, hang in a hammock – just find a spot where you can use your full voice. If we weren’t all quarantined in our homes, we’d be reading them aloud in class together. So, please do this! Reading poetry out loud will help you notice structure and other details you may miss if you’re quickly reading in your head. Trust me on this one!

Email your summaries to me by Wednesday, April 29. Have a WONDERFUL week!

Thursday, April 16

*I’ll post information on Thursdays for the rest of the semester.*

The reviews were mixed on the science fiction stories! Most of you enjoyed them (seems like “There Will Come Soft Rains” was the favorite), but some of you were bothered by the crazy dystopian futures! Hear me: That’s the sign of good literature. When you finish a story, whether it’s a novel or a short story, and you’re left wondering and thinking and feeling about it, that means the story was good enough to get inside your brain. You don’t have to like everything you read, but when you’re left with an emotion, whether it’s positive or negative, then the story had an appropriate effect. Does that make sense?

This week I talk about mysteries and thrillers! I also added the disclaimer that if you’re sensitive to suspenseful stories, you’re welcome to opt out and not read them. Just have a parent email me! I don’t want to make you read something that will end up giving you nightmares.

However, if you’re into spooky stuff and enjoy good suspense, you’ll like the two stories you’re reading this week. Be sure to take notes on what I tell you about mysteries and thrillers in the lecture. 🙂

This week, 1) listen to the short lecture, 2) read “The Landlady” and “Charles”, and 3) write a brief but detailed summary about both of them that include your opinions and email them to me by Wednesday, April 22. I’ll grade your biography papers over the weekend.

Have a wonderful week! 🙂

Tuesday, April 7

Good evening! This post is happening much later than I intended, but all rules are out the door, right? It sure feels that way.

We’re getting back to short stories this week since most of you have emailed your biography rough drafts. PLEASE – if you know your rough draft is NOT in the best possible shape, go back and work on it. We are nearly to the end of our academic year together. Don’t make me tell you to change the font to Times New Roman or to include citations. These are things you all should know by now. Only turn in your rough draft when it’s in its best possible shape. As long as your final is turned in to me by the end of the semester, you’re good to go! I would rather you turn in quality work late than mediocre work on time.

This week, 1) listen to the brief lecture, 2) read these three short stories (Autumntime, The Fun They Had, and There Will Come Soft Rains), and 3) write brief, detailed summaries in one document that include your opinions of the stories. Email them to me by Tuesday, April 14.

If you need to do more work on your biography papers, just let me know. You won’t be penalized for it. Just communicate with me 🙂

Stay well, everyone!

Tuesday, March 31

I hope you’re all doing well this week! I’m sure this feels like the longest Spring Break ever. It’s hard to get into a work-groove when everything is cancelled and we all have to stay home. Hang in there!

This week I had you read three short stories and summarize them instead of taking a reading quiz. (For future reference, you can put your summaries on one document! No need to separate them into individual documents.)

The audio lecture I recorded reviews each story and identifies key points I want you to know. I also want you to know what these terms mean: parable, tragic flaw, and monologue.

For homework, listen to the audio lecture and take notes on the terms I mentioned. Also, write the rough draft of your biography paper and email it to me by Tuesday, April 7. Let me know if you have trouble finding sources for your paper. Even though libraries are closed, there are plenty of academic sources online – documentaries, interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, etc. Your MLA Handbook will show you how to cite these sources properly.

Do keep in mind that the final test on May 7 covers the short stories and poems we’re reading! Whether the test happens at TC or at home, please be sure you’re paying attention to what goes on in each story and you take notes about the terms I emphasize.

I miss you all! Stay well 🙂

Tuesday, March 24

As you listen to the short lecture I’ve recorded, be sure to take notes on these things I mention (because I’ll ask you about them later):

  • General word counts for novels, novellas, and short stories
  • “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
  • the Arc of a short story
  • two reasons why storytelling is an ancient tradition
  • the Renaissance Period
  • Lost Generation writers
  • The Atlantic Monthly
  • The Strand Magazine
  • the rise of film in the 1920s
  • two techniques employed in writing short stories (beyond entertainment)
  • Guy de Maupassant
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Edgar Allan Poe

Even though we’ve started a new unit on short stories, you should still be moving along with your biography paper. Let me know if you have questions about that assignment.


  1. Listen to this audio file and take notes on the things I mentioned above. (The file should open in a separate window.)
  2. Read “The Necklace”, “The Three Questions”, and “The Tell-Tale Heart”
  3. Write a brief summary about each of the short stories. Be sure to include what you think about the stories. (We are doing this in lieu of taking a reading quiz. Be specific in your summaries. If you’re too vague, I’ll think you didn’t read it.) Email me your summaries (or share via Google Docs) by Tuesday, March 31.
  4. Continue working on your biography paper. Email me your outline (or share via Google Docs) by Tuesday, March 31.

You are welcome to complete this work sooner than Tuesday! If you have the time and want to work ahead, I certainly don’t mind. 🙂

March 12

Today we finished talking about Chasing Space, which (I hope) students found interesting and inspirational. We also did a writing exercise on how to pull out facts, categorize them, and write a thesis statement. Remember, a thesis statement is ONE sentence, not a full paragraph.

I also moved the due dates for the biography paper. On the off-chance we don’t see each other the Thursday after spring break, I wanted to make it easier for everyone.

  • EMAIL the outline of your paper to me by Tuesday, March 31, at 5 p.m. Be sure your outline is fleshed out with a rough thesis statement, some topic sentences, and a list of your sources.
  • EMAIL the rough draft of your paper to me by Tuesday, April 7, at 5 p.m. Be sure to include a Works Cited page.
  • BRING IN your final biography paper on Thursday, April 16.

You are welcome to work ahead if you want to! You don’t have assigned homework over the break, but you could/should be working steadily on your biography paper. Have a restful spring break and STAY WELL! 🙂

March 5

Today we talked about Ch. 5-10 in Chasing Space. Leland Melvin continues to be inspiring. In these chapters we learn about how he left the NFL and wound up in the Astronaut Corps. His professional journey took many twists and turns, but he always reflects on what he learned with each experience. I love discussing these revelations!

We also reviewed (in depth) my expectations on the biography paper. I handed out an information sheet with more details. Please do not wait to get started.

Click here for more information on varying sentence lengths. This site is referenced on the information sheet, so I thought it would be helpful to post the link here.

Homework: Finish reading Chasing Space in preparation for a reading quiz. If you haven’t already, select the person or group you want to research for the biography paper and get started. Remember, you’ll turn in your research notes with your final paper. They count towards your grade.

Feb. 27

Today we recapped the first five chapters of Chasing Space (Young Reader’s Edition) and started talking about the final paper, which is the longest paper of the year (but also the last!). Students can choose any person (alive or deceased) mentioned in either Chasing Space or The Lions of Little Rock to research. They can choose Leland Melvin if they want to. Whomever they choose, here are the basic requirements:

  • Minimum word count: 1,000
  • Minimum three sources (Wikipedia is not an academic source)
  • Research/note-taking required

We talked about making lists in a Google Document or making notecards. It honestly doesn’t matter to me how students keep records of their research – everyone’s brain works differently. But, I want to SEE the research. It will be turned in with the rough draft.

We will talk more about this paper next week. In the afternoon class we talked about Katherine Johnson as a good person to research because she’s mentioned heavily in Ch. 7 of Chasing Space AND she just passed away. 😦 There are a ton of news articles circling the internet right now.

Homework: Read Ch. 6-10 in preparation for a reading quiz. Choose the person you want to research and start researching! As you read about the person you’ve chosen, think about areas of focus (education, career, family, influences, era/timeframe, childhood, etc). You can’t write about everything!

Feb. 20

Today I reviewed several lists of things related to literary nonfiction. Be sure you hang onto the notes you took because these concepts will reappear on the semester test.

Chasing Space (Young Reader’s Edition) will be our last book of the year. (We’ll end the year with short stories and poems.) Leland Melvin is such a likable guy and so inspiring! I hope you all enjoy reading his memoir.

If you have questions about your rough draft, please be in touch with me this week! Some of you have a lot of work to do on it, while others are in great shape. Don’t forget your Works Cited page!

Homework: Finalize your response paper and bring me a beautiful, clean copy next Thursday. Read Ch. 1-5 in Chasing Space in preparation for a reading quiz.

Feb. 13

We finished talking about The Lions of Little Rock today, and the students filled out an organizer to help them sort their thoughts and reactions to the book in preparation for writing the paper. The rough draft is due via email on Tuesday, Feb. 18, by 5 p.m. Remember, you aren’t writing a recap of the book. You are writing a response to it. Tell me what you learned, tell me what you felt while reading it, etc. Refer to the organizer and look at the notes you took. If you want me to look at a rough outline before you start writing, I’m happy to do so.

Be sure to grab a copy of Chasing Space (Young Reader’s Edition) by next week. This is our last book of the year!

Feb. 6

I’ve updated the schedule of assignments to reflect our canceled class day. Essentially, everything shifts one week, so our last day of class will be May 7, not April 30. We’ll still talk about the ending of The Lions of Little Rock next week and you’ll take a reading quiz. Your rough draft is now due Feb. 18 instead of Feb. 11.

That being said, you are welcome to work ahead and send me the rough draft next week 🙂

Everyone stay warm (and dry) and get well soon!

Jan. 30

After the quiz, we watched an interview with Melba Beals, one of the Little Rock Nine. Reading historical fiction is meaningful, but it’s especially helpful to hear from people who lived through the time about which we’re reading.

We reviewed the book as much as we could in the time we had left, but we’ll pick up with Ch. 38 when we see each other next week. Do make sure you understand the difference between literal and figurative.

Homework: Finish The Lions of Little Rock in preparation for a reading quiz. Email your notes to me by Tuesday, Feb. 4. (The homework assigned next week will be writing a rough draft!)

Jan. 23

We are muscling our way through an emotional book, but I hope you are clinging to hope through the characters who aren’t afraid of integration. We have the benefit of knowing the outcome (i.e., schools in Little Rock were eventually desegregated), but it’s still worthwhile to consider what life was like in this particular time period for all the communities and people involved.

I also reviewed what I expect for Essay No. 4 (click here if you’ve misplaced the handout I gave you). Hopefully you will take notes as you continue reading! You will thank your future self when it’s time to go back and cite scenes from the book. Remember, you are not sharing these notes with anyone in the class but me, unless you choose to, of course.

I am so pleased you’re enjoying this book, by the way. It’s hard to read about troubling issues. How quickly we come to care for those who are hurting! Personally, this is why I love historical fiction. I need an emotional touchstone to people in the past.

Homework: Read Ch. 26-41 in Lions and take notes on the things that make you think and feel. You may share your notes with me via email anytime, but they are due no later than Tuesday, Feb. 4, by 5 p.m.

Jan. 16

Today we discussed the exposition and inciting incident in the Lions of Little Rock, along with all of the details that solidify the story as historical fiction. (You could all visit an antique store today and see a real console television.) I wrote a lot of literary terms on the board, such as the three forms of irony, trope, metaphor, and imagery, so you can be sure they’ll show up on a test. 

A few highlights from our discussion: 

  • The debate over integration was not just a regional one. States, cities, and even households wrestled to come to terms with it, as we see with Marlee’s parents and siblings. People really struggled to understand what this change was going to mean. 
  • As I said in class, sometimes racism, bigotry, and other forms of prejudice are a result of innate evil, but sometimes these behaviors are born out of ignorance and fear. We’ll have to reach the end of the book to discover whose minds were changed for the better after opening their minds and hearts to integration. 
  • Keep taking notes on your thoughts and feelings about what you’re reading. Your notes will form the basis of your next paper. Share them with me weekly or when we finish.

Homework: Read Ch. 14-25 in preparation for a reading quiz and take notes! Be in touch if you have questions.

Jan. 9

We kicked off the semester with tons of information about historical fiction. I hope everyone took notes because everything we talked about today will re-appear on the the final semester test on April 30 (which is open notes).

Essentially, historical fiction is the intersection of fact and fiction. It requires a certain amount of authenticity to fall under that genre. To validate authenticity, we look at setting and culture, characters and significant figures, plot and conflict, and universal themes pertinent to the era.

Before you start reading The Lions of Little Rock, read about the following terms and events to make sure you understand the context in which the book was written:

Also, watch this short video: “60 Years On, A Look Back at the Little Rock Nine“:

Homework for Jan. 16:

Read Ch. 1-13 in The Lions of Little Rock and take notes on dialogue and scenes that stick out to you. What do you find interesting? What made you uncomfortable? What is something new you’ve learned?

You can keep a notebook nearby while you read, or create a document on the computer where you can type your thoughts. Also keep a list of significant historical figures that are mentioned in the book.

In four weeks, you will share all of your notes with me in lieu of doing a group critique on outlines. You’re welcome to share notes with me each week or wait until the end of the book. We’ll have a reading quiz per usual next Thursday.

Dec. 12

Thank you SO MUCH for the teacher gifts! You sure know how to make a girl feel loved and appreciated 🙂

Each class was randomly divided into groups to work together on an extra credit assignment. Two teams tied for an extra five points in the morning class, and one team won the extra five points in the afternoon class. For those whose final grade exceeds a 100, the extra points will carry over to the spring semester, which means you begin January with extra cushion. 🙂

I collected final essays from those who brought them in, but there are a few who need to email me TONIGHT. I absolutely will not accept papers tomorrow. I’ve been generous, patient, and forgiving, but I have to draw a line on the last day of class.

I will email semester grades to parents and students this weekend since many umbrella schools need them next week. Please let me know if you have questions.

Enjoy your break, and be sure to pick up The Lions of Little Rock by the first week of next semester.

Dec. 5

Today was rough for some of you – I can see you weren’t prepared for the test! I admit this is frustrating for me since we had a practice test two weeks ago, and I’ve been telling you all along to take notes and study the things we discuss in class (especially the things I write on the board). For those of you who did poorly, I hope that means you’ll take my advice to heart for the spring semester.

That being said, this test only counts for 10% of your semester grade. So, if you’ve done well on reading quizzes and papers, this test is a small mark against you.

On the other hand, if you’ve struggled in this class and didn’t do well on the test, you need to finish strong and turn in a stellar formal argument next Thursday. If you are especially concerned about your grade, contact me for an extra credit assignment.

I will return tests to you next week, and we’ll play a game for extra credit. If you want to turn in your final paper via email so you can get a grade on it by next Thursday, you are welcome to do so.

Nov. 21

I reviewed a few things regarding rough drafts, which I’ll also mention here:

  • Keep to the THIRD person. Refrain from I/we/us, etc.
  • Avoid moralizing the paper with personal advice or overly emotional anecdotes. Stick with logic, reason, and facts. Remember, you’re trying to persuade the reader that your position is correct.
  • Your Works Cited entries must match your in-text citations. If you start the entry with an author’s name, then it’s the author’s name that gets referenced in the paper. If you start the entry with a website name, then the website name goes in parentheses in the paper.

If you want to send me a second draft prior to turning in the final, you are more than welcome to! I’ll be at the computer Monday and Tuesday of next week (prior to Thanksgiving), if you need anything.

You may turn in your final paper either Dec. 5 or Dec. 12. Your choice.

How well (or poorly) you did on the practice test today is a good indication of how well (or poorly) you’ll do on the MLA/Literary test on Dec. 5. Please study your notes. Review what we’ve talked about in class. Flip through the MLA Handbook some more and get more familiar with what’s inside. You may use your handbook for the test, but it will be closed notes.

If you need to double-check your answers on the practice test, I’ve provided them here: Page 1, Page 2, and Page 3.

Keep working on your papers! Check in if you need to.

Happy Thanksgiving

Nov. 14

Today we reviewed the last chapters of Fuzzy Mud and talked about the difference between Third Person Limited (readers only know what the main characters know) and Third Person Omniscient (“God’s Eye View” – readers know more than what the main characters know).

Then we group critiqued outlines and I offered the following feedback for everyone:

  • Keep to the third person (no mention of I, us, we, etc.)
  • Concede the other side on at least one major point. A proper argument is multi-sided, so whatever argument you’re making, you need to give credit where credit is due. If you can’t offer support to a counter-argument, then your topic isn’t arguable.
  • The thesis should be a command, not an informative sentence. Instead of saying, “Vegetarianism is a healthy way of eating because it cuts down on factory farming, which is bad for the environment.” Instead say, “Factory farming should be eliminated because it is a major contributor to water and air pollution.”
  • You must have at least three sources.

Homework: Write the rough draft of your formal argument and email it to me no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19. If you didn’t have an outline today and are still working on it, please email me before writing your rough draft. Do not start the rough draft until I’ve approved your argument.

Also, be sure to bring your MLA Handbook to class next week.

Nov. 7

Today we discussed Ch. 11-22 of Fuzzy Mud, specifically addressing the elements of the story that make this a thriller. We know the “Heath Cliff Disaster” is coming, but we aren’t sure yet how it will all pan out. Finish the book this week to find out.

We also talked about the third and final paper of the semester, which is a formal argument. For some, this will be the hardest paper to write thus far. Not only does it require you come up with your own position to defend, but it also requires you do some research. Please read the handout carefully. Please contact me if you need help. You have all of November to work out your thoughts, but please don’t waste time.

Here’s a run-down of our timeline for the rest of the semester:

On Thursday, Nov. 14: Group critique on outlines!

Due Tuesday, Nov. 19: Email your first rough draft to me.

On Thursday, Nov. 21: We’ll go over rough drafts together, but keep in mind that you may need to keep working and send me a second draft.

Your final draft of the formal argument is due either Dec. 5 or Dec. 12. If you’re prepared to turn it in Dec. 5, great! If you need the extra week, no problem! Turn it in on the last day of class.

Homework: Finish Fuzzy Mud. Then, take some time to think about a position you want to argue as it relates to bullying or conservation/environmentalism. Read the handout I gave you again and draft an arguable position with three reasons/points that support your position. If you need help brainstorming, talk to your parents or contact me! Bring in three copies of your outline to class next week.

Oct. 31

Yesterday we reviewed the first ten chapters of Fuzzy Mud, a story that presents readers with an ethical and moral dilemma regarding the creation of a “clean energy” solution. This book sets students up to write a formal argument in a couple of weeks.

We discussed a few literary elements too – how part of this story is told through an epistolary feature (writing through letters and other mediums) and the recurring motif of mathematical equations to how the microbes are reproducing exponentially.

I collected final response essays, so if your student didn’t turn one in, please do it via email this week.

Homework: Read Ch. 11-22 in Fuzzy Mud in preparation for a reading quiz. Also, complete the Works Cited list you started in class. Please type it as if you’re drafting a real Works Cited and bring it in next week. This is tedious work, but I’m trying to make you more familiar with the handbook. 🙂

Oct. 24

In preparation for reading Fuzzy Mud, we talked about genre and sub-genre. People are always familiar with the word, but few people understand what it actually is. Genre is our way of categorizing written works. I explained three primary umbrellas of genre (poetry, drama, and prose) and the various sub-genres that fall underneath. For what it’s worth, Fuzzy Mud is an eco-thriller.

We went on to discuss the difference between ethics (externally designed) and morals (internally defined), which will come in handy as we read a book that prompts us to grapple with ethical dilemmas. Students will write a formal argument for their final paper this semester, FYI.

I also reviewed – again – expectations for the response paper (citations, how to draft the Works Cited page, what the paper is even supposed to be about…). Some students are really struggling, and I’m not sure how to best help everyone except on an individual basis. Please be in touch with your student – look at his/her rough draft (if you haven’t already). Email or call me. I’m happy to help outside of class.

If I didn’t return a rough draft to you today, that means it’s still sitting in my inbox. I’ll email you feedback and suggestions for edits tomorrow morning.


  • Read Ch. 1-10 in Fuzzy Mud in preparation for a reading quiz (which will include questions about things we discussed today about genre, ethics, and morals)
  • Finalize the response paper and bring in a fresh, clean copy on paper next Thursday
  • Bring your MLA Handbooks to class next week!

Oct. 17

We group critiqued outlines today for the response essay, and here are a few things I noticed: 

  • Some students are missing a paragraph about their personal response to the maxim, a reflection of their own lives and experiences that prove the maxim to be true. You don’t have to have a pet to be “tied” to something or know what it feels like to be responsible for something. Since a response is a reaction, everyone needs to include a paragraph that defends the maxim from a personal point of view.
  • Please reference BOTH The Little Prince and A Mango-Shaped Space. In doing that, you aren’t restricted by the obvious – the little prince and the rose, and Mia and her cat. The concept of taming (being tied to something) is bigger than pets and plants. Really dig. Take time to consider other ideas that support the maxim.
  • You do need to include the author’s name with the book title in the first reference (in the introduction), but save that wordiness for the sentences between the hook and the thesis. Your thesis statement is your main argument for proving the maxim true. Everything that follows points back to the thesis and serves as your evidence.

I handed out an informational sheet about the response essay, which we went over together. Please read it again before sitting down to write. 

Homework: Rough drafts are due via email no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22. I will print the rough drafts, make comments/edits, and return them in class next Thursday. Also, make sure you grab a copy of Fuzzy Mud. You’ll start reading it next week. Email me if you need help!

Oct. 3

Today we reviewed the second half of The Little Prince, primarily chapter 21 with the fox. It’s in this chapter where we get our maxim: You are responsible for what you tame. The Little Prince encountered a series of characters on his year-long journey, and whether their interactions were long or short, each had a lesson for the young traveler – and for readers.

For the purposes of the paper, taming is less about the literal translation of domesticating a wild animal and more about creating a meaningful relationship between the two things that have been tied together. The Little Prince feels an attachment to the one rose on his planet, not to the rose bushes he encountered on Earth. He is responsible for and to her, not all the roses in the world. As the fox explained, when you are tamed to someone, you feel excited to see them. You anticipate being together. You miss them when they’re gone. This is how relationships work, and this is why losing Mango was so hard on Mia. She felt as though she’d abandoned her cat in his time of need. 

So, after reviewing the book, students pulled out their organizers from last week and I handed out blank outlines for them to start working, thereby giving them less to do over fall break. I answered questions, we talked about expectations, and they worked about 20-30 minutes on them. We will do group critiques on outlines on Oct. 17 when we meet again. 

Note: Some may find this paper harder to write than the first one. It can be hard enough to explain how you feel when speaking, but it can be even more challenging when writing. It may help to talk through your thoughts with someone before sitting down to type. 

Homework for Oct. 17: Type your outline notes into a document according to the proper format and print three copies to bring to class on Thursday, Oct. 17. Remember, this paper is a response to the maxim, so I expect the essay to reflect your own observations on its meaning. Writing in the first person is appropriate here, as long as you aren’t starting every other sentence with, “I think…” Also, you must include what you learned from both A Mango-Shaped Space and The Little Prince. This will require more thought and contemplation that you likely realized. Talk to a parent about it if you need help fleshing out your ideas. I will be out of town all of next week, but if you email me, I’ll respond to you by Monday, Oct. 14. 

Sept. 26

We talked about the first 14 chapters of The Little Prince and the maxim we’re working with for the response paper: You are responsible for what you tame. This is the lens through which to read the book.

I handed out an organizer to help students write down their thoughts as they continue reading. Please bring this organizer back next week filled out!


  • Finish The Little Prince in preparation for a reading quiz.
  • Complete the organizer I gave you today and bring it back next week with your thoughts and ideas ready to go. You will use the organizer to start your outlines in class. We will do a group critique of outlines in class after fall break, so the more you work on them IN CLASS the less you’ll have to accomplish AT HOME.
  • A few of you are still working on your literary analysis, which is fine. Please email me your final paper by Wednesday so I can grade it and return it to you before fall break.

Sept. 19

Today I reviewed some some common mistakes made on everyone’s rough drafts. While improper format is easily fixable, the hard work some students have to endure is digging into the topics a little deeper and pulling out examples from the book. Every body paragraph should have cited information from the book. (Citations aren’t necessary in the introduction and conclusion.)

Remember, a literary analysis is about 1) making a claim, and 2) providing evidence to support it:

If you claim A Mango-Shaped Space has a Coming of Age theme, then I expect at least three reasons why that’s true, followed by three examples from the book to support those reasons.

If you claim that A Mango-Shaped Space fits the requirements set forth by Freytag’s Pyramid, then I expect you to have three or four body paragraphs pinpointing what the inciting incident is (and why), what the rising action is (and why), and what scenes make up the climax and resolution (and why).

Cite your source by including page numbers and add the Works Cited page if you haven’t already.

Please hear me: If you need help between now and next Thursday, reach out via email or phone. If I don’t hear from anyone, I’ll assume help is being given by parents or everything is going smoothly.


  • Finalize your paper on A Mango-Shaped Space (including a separate Works Cited page at the end) and bring in a beautiful, fresh copy to me on Thursday.
  • Read Ch. I-XIV in The Little Prince in preparation for a reading quiz.

Sept. 12

Today we had our first group critique session on outlines, and most everyone looks to be in good shape. There are a few students who either didn’t have an outline today or had an outline that’s a little too loose or vague. No worries, though! The outline is not a graded assignment. Rather, it’s a lesson in organizing thoughts and putting thoughts to paper. The real challenge comes this week – it’s time to write the first rough draft of the year.

Please look over your critiques and see the areas where you need the most help. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is my paper really about?
  • Am I being clear about the direction I’m going with it, or am I kinda all over the place?
  • For every claim I make, do I have supporting evidence? Have I pulled text from the book, and is it cited correctly? (Look at the example I gave you to make sure.)
  • Am I writing about literary elements (theme, conflict, characters, plot, etc.), or am I just summarizing facts? (This paper is not a summary!)
  • Do I have smooth transitions from one topic to the next? (See the handout I gave you for extra words!)
  • Am I so stuck that I need to ask Mrs. Miller for help? (Email me!)

Remember: Your paper needs to be a minimum of two pages, typed in Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced, with a one-inch margin around the edges. The Works Cited is a separate page.

Homework: Write your rough draft and email it to me (either you or your parent) no later than TUESDAY, Sept. 17. I will print off your rough drafts, edit them, and return them to you next time we meet. (Your final paper will be turned in on Sept. 26 in class.)

If you don’t have The Little Prince yet, now’s the time to get it!

Sept. 5

We wrapped up A Mango-Shaped Space today by identifying the climax of the story (the maximum points of tension), followed by the falling action and resolution. We went on to review the homework from last week and then started talking about the first paper.

Students can choose the topic they’d like to write about for their Literary Analysis, as long as it’s one of the suggestions I made or it’s been approved by me. I handed out information about what’s required, including an example of an outline. Please read it again and contact me if you have questions.

Type your outline in MLA format: Times New Roman, 12 pt., double spaced. Every outline and essay will be typed in this format.

Homework: Choose a topic related to the novel for your Literary Analysis. Review my suggestions and see what strikes you. Draft an outline in MLA format and include scenes/plot points to support your claims. For example, if you decide to write about Identity as a theme in A Mango-Shaped Space, you’ll want to mention how hurt Mia felt when classmates called her a freak in the third grade. You don’t have to have complete sentences for every section in an outline, but please be as specific as you are able. Remember to bring three copies to class next week.

9 a.m. students: Please complete the MLA worksheet I handed out at the end of class. We’ll review it together next Thursday.

August 29

Today we started with a quiz on Ch. 6-10 and then reviewed the high points of those pages. We are still in the rising action of Mia’s story, but the tension is getting higher on account of increasing conflict. (We talked about the three main types of conflict, which will likely show up on the next quiz!)

We also identified this novel as having a Coming of Age theme, and we listed all the reasons why it fits.

We ended the class with a brief overview of the basic structure for a five-paragraph essay. I’ll be assigning the first paper next week, so in preparation, students need to understand what the skeleton structure looks like.

Homework: Finish A Mango-Shaped Space in preparation for a reading quiz. Then, print the Basic Outline for a Five-Paragraph Essay and use it to fill in the blanks for this worksheet. We will go over it together in class, but I want students to take a stab at it on their own first.

August 22

We started class with a quiz – half of it was on the reading, the other half was review from last week. (Taking notes in class pays off because the quizzes are open notes!)

We moved on to summarize the first five chapters of Mango, as well as to discuss the characters and setting. As promised, here is a quick video on synesthesia, the condition our main character, Mia, has. Please show your students:

We went on to talk about tone, mood, theme, and subject, which was a brief introduction to the many literary elements we encounter when we read fiction. Part of this week’s homework will be to read more about them.

Homework: Read Chapters 6-10 in A Mango-Shaped Space. Print these pages on Literary Terms and use it to complete this worksheet. If you didn’t do the homework from last week, please go back and finish it.

Don’t forget to bring your MLA Handbook to class every Thursday!

August 15

Great class today, everyone! I hope you’re all excited about the new academic year. I thought carefully about the books I chose, so I hope you’re pleased. If you end up reading farther ahead than what’s assigned, that’s fine – but please keep spoilers to yourself when in class 🙂

Recap: We started with a brief history about the basic plot diagram, also known as Freytag’s Pyramid. Gustav Freytag was a Polish/German writer in the 1800s and a student of philology. He argued that every dramatic plot has FIVE main acts, a concept inspired by Aristotle’s Theory of the Tragedy. Hopefully you all took sharp notes and will have no problem filling out the worksheet for homework.

Homework: Read Ch. 1-5 in A Mango-Shaped Space in preparation for a reading quiz, and complete this worksheet about Freytag’s Pyramid. There will also be elements about Freytag’s Pyramid on the quiz.