Freshmen have trouble spelling.

They reinforce bad spelling when they 'text message' and 'IM' each other.
They reinforce bad spelling when they email each other and post their online journals.
They reinforce bad spelling when they handwrite notes to each other.
They reinforce bad spelling when they use 'spell check' to correct their work.

The phrase, "I don't know" deteriorated to "I dunno" and now kids write "Iuno."
Say those three phrases out loud and think about how they sound.

Adults usually can tell by looking at a word whether or not it is spelled correctly.
Generally, Freshmen do not read enough to have seen the words before.

A second problem occurs when students don't know how to pronounce the words correctly. They can't 'sound out' the word.

For a while, students were writing "probly" instead of "probably." That made sense because that's how they said the word, but now students write "prolly," and I don't understand that at all.

Ours is an English class, so I will always circle misspelled words and take off two points each time (to a maximum of fifty points). Some students have been identified as being dyslexic and that is taken into consideration.

That's it for today. We read and discussed "The Interlopers" and answered questions from a worksheet.

Vocabulary Unit 1 is due on Friday.
This Thursday (tomorrow) is open house.
Next Thursday is a short story test.
Next Friday is the Vocabulary Unit 1 quiz.



Last Thursday, the students listened to a CD of "The Most Dangerous Game" while I attended a seminar on Prescription Drug Abuse. They didn't have time to finish it in class, and only about 5% of the students took the initiative to go home and finish.

On Tuesday, we attempted to discuss some of the basics of the story, such as who is the protagonist, but many of the students did not know.

Today, I tried to have the same discussion but still, many students did not know the basic facts of the story.

Most students in Regular English do not have a grasp of the concept of studying or active reading.

When a student is sitting in class, he or she should take notes over what is being discussed. If the teacher asks a question, the students should write it down along with the answer. They should then go home and look over these notes, clarifying, correcting, and amending. When they are reading a story, they should always be looking to identify the

basic situation
point of view

Everything they know they will be asked about, they should be looking for in advance.

Parents can help their students prepare for my class by using my site to read the story themselves. Then the parents and students can discuss the stories together. Do more than just discuss the facts of the stories (though they definitely need to have that down pat). Discuss the ideas of the stories, the "why" of the story, the "what if" of the story.

This ACTIVE participation will help your child do better in class.

My students have homework every night. They should be studying vocabulary and studying the literature for that day.

Here's a list of all the short stories we will be reading, or have read, with clickable links to the text.

The Sniper
The Most Dangerous Game
The Interlopers
The Cask of Amontillado
The Necklace
The Gift of the Magi
Poison (I haven't found an online copy, so it must not be in the public domain.)


Homework and Vocabulary

(Today, I returned some papers, talked about vocabulary and "The Most Dangerous Game.")

When students think of homework,they think of a specific assignment, usually some pen and paper task or a reading assignment. What they don't think about is general studying. In fact, when they are told to read something, they just read it and that's it. They don't actually do any studying.

Students should do more than just read a story. They need to read and think about it. They should identify the protagonist and the antagonist, the conflict, the climax, the resolution. These are the things I will expect them to know. Unfortunately, many students, after reading a story, don't even know who the main character is.

I strongly suggest printing out the handouts from my new LINKS page. Scroll down to "Short Stories."

VOCABULARY - The kids need to get a copy of the vocabulary book and study the exercises and words every night. They put two comments together and got a wrong conclusion.

1. They don't HAVE to buy a workbook. (They can borrow one from a friend or come to tutorials.)
2. I'm not grading the workbook itself. (The answers are online, and students copy from each other.)

This DOES NOT MEAN they don't need to do the exercises. They DO need to do them, and they WILL be responsible for them.

The due dates, quiz dates, and test dates are on the calendar.

It's 6:45. I have been here for 12 hours. I'm going home.


Grading Papers

On average, we have about 150 students each.
Let's take any assignment.
I have to read it, make comments, mark errors, calculate the grade, then record it in the grade book.
Suppose I was very fast and did the whole thing in one minute.
It would take two and a half hours of non-stop work to grade all 150 papers, and that's just for one assignment.


August 26, 2005

I told the students to take out their vocabulary books and a piece of paper. For some students, this was a time to panic because they did not have a vocabulary book.

**Note: All high schools in CCISD are using the Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary series for English. The PTA have been selling them at lunch, they are available at Barnes and Noble (Freshmen need Level D.) and they are available at They can use my copies during tutorials or study the words at Obtaining a copy of the workbook itself will help them do better on the quizzes and tests.***

I then gave them a surprise quiz over Units 10, 11, and 12.

Afterwards, we discussed what made the quiz so difficult:

1. It was a surprise, so they weren't prepared.
2. Some didn't have the book and couldn't have been prepared anyway.
3. Some brought their books (They had been told to.) but found it was still difficult because they had not studied.
4. The words are hard. (The words are words that are commonly encountered in the 11th grade.)

The students were happy to find out that the quiz did not count and was, instead, an object lesson.

They learned that in order to do well on the vocabulary, they'll need to get a book, work the exercises, and study.

Just to clarify: They will always know when the quizzes and tests are, so no surprises; Books are still available, so they will be able to prepare; Because they will know when the test is, they will be able to study (but won't be able to use the books); um.... the words will still be hard, but not as hard, because the kids will have studied and learned them!

Our first quiz is over Unit One on Friday, September 9.

August 25, 2005

Today, I went to a Prescription Drug Abuse seminar, and my students listend to a CD of "The Most Dangerous Game."


August 24, 2005

Today, we completed three worksheets over "The Sniper."

When a teacher lectures all day, the students don't remember much. In fact, one statistic given is that students only remember 5% of what they hear. (That's why we're always repeating ourselves.)

When they copy notes from the bored (I mean board) or definitions from a book, they generally do not remember much. (That's why we encourage them to go home and study.)

Today, I told them to imagine an athlete or musician or dancer preparing for a performance. If the Flairs (our drill team) spent each class just watching their instructors go through the dances, they would not be ready for their performance. If the athletes just spent the day watching games on TV, they would not be ready on game night. Instead, they get up and get involved, they engage their minds and bodies in the activity, and that's how they learn it.

Today, (how many paragraphs can I begin with "today"?) I put them into groups of three to complete the worksheets. They engaged their minds to share ideas and explain the concepts and find the answers. In the end, the class knew the material better than if I had just assigned the work to individuals.

I have a poem that I share with the class called "Pull the Next One Up." This poem says that when you reach the mountain top and are enjoying your success and the view, don't forget that there are those who are still struggling to reach the summit of success, so reach down and "pull the next one up." That's what group work can do.

Here are the three worksheets:

Somebody Wanted But So


Plot Outline


August 23, 2005

Today was a busy day. Not all classes move at the same pace, but I need to reach certain points at certain times.

Today, we finished discussing the plot outline. In some classes, we were able to discuss the plot outline and apply it to "The Sniper."

One of the things I'll be doing is trying to move this kids to a higher level of thinking, to move them up Bloom's Taxonomy of thinking.

Bloom's Taxonomy (from lowest level of thinking to highest)

Knowledge - Exhibit memory of previously-learned materials by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts and answers

Comprehension - Demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating main ideas

Analysis - Solve problems to new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules in a different way

Application - Examine and break information into parts by identifying motives or causes. Make inferences and find evidence to support generalizations

Synthesis - Compile information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions

Evaluation - Present and defend opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria

"The Sniper" takes place during the Irish Civil War. At the end, the first sniper has killed a second sniper. When he rolls the body over, he "looked into his brother's face." Earlier, I had asked a KNOWLEDGE question, "Who does the sniper discover he has killed?" Then I asked what that meant (COMPREHENSION). Then I asked what figurative meaning the word "brother" could have. What does it mean when you call someone your brother when he isn't literally your brother? That's what took them to a higher level of thinking.

Some of the classes didn't get that far.

I will be out on Thursday attending a conference on the abuse of prescription drugs. That means that what we do on Wednesday must lead to a fairly independent or easy-for-the-sub assignment.

I'll keep you updated.


August 22, 2005

Every teacher I've talked to has really been impressed by the behavior of this year's students. They really seem to be a great group of kids. I have had to given some warnings and office referrals for Dress Code violations, we've had a few tardies, but the biggest thing today was the number of students who had not done their homework and had not come to class prepared. I suppose they are still just trying to get into the groove of things.

Today, we turned in our writing folders. Some people decided not to follow the directions regarding decorating them. We took an open note quiz over the short story terms. Some students had decided not to complete their terms. We took a quick reading check quiz over "The Sniper," but some students had decided not to read it.

Then we took notes over the Plot Outline. The calendar has a link to that.


Week One Summary

I still have a few kids names on my roster who aren't in class. It's quite a chore to track down all of the students who have moved away and who are just missing. But schedule changes ended today, so next week's rosters should be up to date.

After some miscellaneous introductory stuff, we moved into our short story unit beginning with short story terms and "The Sniper."

This year's batch of kids really seem pretty swell, and the other teachers I've talked to have said the same thing. We've all been fairly impressed with this first week.

Now it's time to enjoy the weekend and do some planning for next week.

Day Five

Nothing monumental today. The students received file folders to use as writing folders. This weekend, they will decorate the outside and return them to me on Monday. I'll keep them in my room and maintain a portfolio of their writing.

They finished their short story terms and read "The Sniper."

Today was their first full day (without the extended advisory in the morning). On Monday, they will be on advisory schedule (1, 2, advisory, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).


Day Four

The day began in such a funny way that I just had to write about it.

First period started, and I told all the kids to take their books out.

Not a SOUL had one. Not a single student had brought his or her book to class. So we wrote an essay.

I always forget that what seems obvious to me, like bring your English book to English class, is not always obvious to students.

So here's what to bring to English class:

English book
3-ring binder

Now we know :-)

**Second Entry for Day Four

Another fun thing about the first week of school is the record keeping.

On Day One, we received a class roster. I like to keep all my records (names, addresses, etc, book #'s, discipline...) on the computer, so I start typing them in on Day One. Throughout the day, new students join the class, some students transfer out, and others don't show up.

On Day Two, more students come in, some still haven't shown up, some tranfer out, and some say they will be tranferring out, but haven't yet. I have a couple who already have credit for English I and are trying to get into the right class.

So, the original roster continues to change.

Then, I have the online attendance record. It shows the names of students who have never come to class, the names of students who came once but haven't been seen since, and the names of new students who haven't shown up yet.

That leaves me, at the end of each day, trying to figure out who belongs on my list of names and who doesn't.

**First period wrote an essay about their future, since they didn't have their books. The other classess copied a list of literary terms and began writing the definitions.


Day Three

Let's see. Today is Wednesday. I asked the kids today if it seemed to them that we'd been in school a long time already. They said yes, and I agree.

We do try to start working right off the bat. They had an essay (letter) to write last night, a timed writing today, and I believe they'll have homework for the weekend. I'd say 95% (or more) of my kids are doing fine. Some were able to type the first essay, some emailed it to me or brought it in on a disc for me to print. Unfortunately, there were also some who didn't do it.

It's day three and you might be surprised that some students are coming to class with no paper, no pen... This is not a good way to start the year.

Speaking of which, I've had at least one kid in each class ask about supplies. Here's what they will need:

notebook paper
a notebook (3-ring binder)
a pen (dark blue or black ink)

If they want to go beyond the basic, they could get

a pencil
a hi-lighter
Post-It notes.

They will also need three 3-brad folders for later in the year.


Day Two

All this week first and second period will be shorter than the remaining classes. That poses a bit of a problem when scheduling class activities. Luckily, we're still in the "taking it easy" mode.

Today, we had question-and-answer time. Each class wondered about what supplies would be needed. Just the basics. Notebook paper, a binder to keep it in, and a pen. They might also want a highlighter, a pencil, Post-It® notes, and liquid paper (Wite Out®).

They filled out a "student information" sheet. You can also send me your contact information here.

I made a seating chart and passed out textbooks. (Not all classes/ students got textbooks. They will tomorrow.)

Then it was time for the first assignment. Check out the calendar at Mr. Skipper Dot Com for more about that.

The day went by rather slowly. The kids are failry well-behaved. The other teachers I've talked to have said the same thing, so we're all happy.


Day One

The first day of school is usually uneventful. It's a chance for everyone to make first impressions. I try to impress upon the kids that the class can be easy or hard depending on how they want to make it.

I tell my students every year that it's easy to pass English I, but I always have a few students who don't do any work and don't pass. I can't help anyone who's not willing to put forth any effort.

Today, we talked about the rules. Some friends of mine got a new game this summer and invited me over to play. I asked to look at the rule book, but they said I could learn as I went along. At one point I was almost at the end when I did something wrong and had to go all the way back to start. I didn't think that was fair, and if I had known the rules, that wouldn't have happened.

SO.... We spend the first day of school going over the rules and expectations for class and school. The Student Handbook is online, and the kids went home today with a form for both parent and student signatures saying you have read it and understand it. You can request a hard copy from the school office.

The big things that get the kids are dress code, especially short skirts and piercings, and cell phones (not allowed).

Most of the kids seem ready to go. I had one talkative class, but they were just eager and excited.

All in all, it was a good first day.


Fish Camp

Today was Fish Camp. The students got their schedules and lockers and got a tour of the Ninth Grade Center. The main building is under construction, but the teachers and staff of Clear Lake High School are flexible, and we all will work around any complications that come our way.

Many of the kids looked excited. As much as they "hate" school, by now many are bored of the summer and ready to come back and see their friends.

I read an interesting article today based on a survey of over 10,000 students. One of their findings, which I already knew, is that students don't have the same view of school that teachers and parents have.

Teacher and parents see school as the students "job" and expect that to put their studies at the top of their list of priorities.

Students, however, see school as a social time interrupted six or seven times a day by classes. I've certainly seen that before, but I've also seen kids where the classes don't interrupt their social time, if you know what I mean.