High School English

May 3

I have heard that some of you are nervous about coming to class next week.  Some are begging Mom to let them stay in bed until noon, or go to grandma’s house in Florida for the day, or even to allow them to catch a Tuesday virus.


Yes, you will take a “test” and yes, it will involve writing.  You will have to read a short story in class and then write about it using the TRIAC method.  But, wait.

I will use a short story you’re familiar with.  I will give you a choice of thesis statements.  I will NOT expect that you understand the theme or deeper meaning or even too much about the author’s agenda because you’re just a student and not a professional literary person.

All you really need to know how to do is write TRIAC and I’ve drilled that into your noggin plenty of times since January, right?  I’m not even marking grammatical errors for goodness sakes.

You will have plenty of time.  In fact, you are welcome to arrive as early as 8:30 a.m. and start then!

The best news, though, is this —


For homework and just because it’s such a cool poem, read “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley, linked here.  Annotate it and answer the ONE question at the bottom.


April 26

Your next and final paper is due Tuesday, May 3.  Directions are below, but first, understand that grace week is no longer in effect.  If you do not give me your paper by 10 a.m. on May 3, you may not ever give it to me.  Never ever, ever.  Nope; don’t even ask.  Nada…not even for chocolate will I take a late paper.

So, do this:

“The Open Window” by Saki is a famous story, and as we discussed today, it has irony in it!  Irony is a disconnect between what we expect and what actually happens.  Write a fat paragraph (look at the assignment way back on September 8 to review the directions for FPs) discussing how the author’s use of irony enhances his theme/agenda.  Write in TRIARIAC style, expanding your “analysis” sentences to fill the page.  (You are only allowed to expand analysis – nothing else).

April 19

Your “Jury” final draft was due today, so if you did not give it to me, you have entered GRACE WEEK.  Because our time together is coming to a close, I cannot – nay, will not! – grade this paper if it’s not in by 10:00 a.m. next Tuesday, April 26.


Read “The Open Window”, annotate it, and answer these questions:

1.       What is the point of view of “The Open Window” and how does it draw you into the story?

2.      Where does the POV change and how does this change your feelings and reactions to the story?

3.      How would you describe the tone of this story?  Give specific reasons and examples for your answer.

April 12

Clearly (whenever your English teacher says “clearly”, she is making her position known and you need to pay attention) the author of “A Jury of Her Peers” has an agenda.  Clearly.  Susan Glaspell is telling us that it was acceptable for Minnie to murder her husband because he was a bad man.  She may even hint that all men are bad because of their condescending behavior towards the women characters.  In her created story world, truth is relative and situational ethics undermine any established laws or morals.

Your job is to show how Susan Glaspell promotes her agenda within the story.  Plenty of evidence exists to prove this – the condescending way the men treat the women, the loneliness of the setting, the canary (and what it symbolizes!), the recurring motif of things “half done”, Martha Hale’s guilt that she did not visit Minnie often.

As always, your essay must have a strong thesis.  Model your main body paragraphs from the TRIARIAC structure we’ve been using.  Always, always, always blend quotations in with your own words.  Include page numbers in your citations, using the pages printed from the copy, not my handwritten ones.

Your conclusion will discuss the validity of Glaspell’s agenda.  Should readers agree?  Disagree?  Why?  Write in third person POV, never using the pronouns “I” or “you”.

Final draft due next week.  Checksheet below.  I will collect your “Jury” to grade annotations also.

checksheet Jury

Then, read “A Fight with a Cannon” and annotate it.  Look for examples of metaphor, simile, and personification.  List two examples of each on your own paper, and write just one sentence explaining how those help the reader to relate on an emotional level to this incident.

April 5

“A Jury of Her Peers” is a tough story.  Besides deciphering the plot and keeping the characters straight, you have to have the schema (background knowledge) to tie three seemingly inconsequential elements together — issues with the telephone, canning cherries, and quilting.

Telephones in the early 1900’s were nothing like the telephones we have today.  Not every house had a telephone because the lines had to be physically strung from town to the farm, which could have been several miles.  This was costly.  In addition, the telephone was a big, boxy thing that hung on the wall and each family had its own special “ring”.  If you heard your ring you picked up; but nothing prevented you from listening in on your neighbors’ conversations, or them on yours.

I cannot fathom how difficult it would have been to can anything – let alone cherries, which had to be pitted– in the August heat of Oklahoma, with a stove that had to be tended constantly to maintain a steady temperature.  To keep the jars from breaking in the cold, the house would have to be kept warm all the time.  Obviously, several of Minnie’s jars of cherries cracked and leaked while she was in jail overnight.

Quilting is an art form that many of us enjoy today.  However, one hundred years ago women quilted not necessarily as a creative outlet, but to keep their families warm during harsh winter months.  Without a sewing machine, Minnie would have cut all of the fabric pieces by hand and then sewed them together again, by hand.  After the quilt top was “pieced”, she would have layered it with another large section of fabric on the bottom, some kind of “batting” or insulating fabric (maybe even old newspapers) in the middle, and then the pretty part on top.  Then she would have had to sew the three layers together using one of two methods:  quilting it or knotting it.  To quilt a quilt is to stretch the whole thing over a frame and then to sew the three layers together with needle and thread, taking tiny, tiny stitches in a lovely pattern all across the quilt.  To knot a quilt, Minnie would have stretched the quilt over a frame and then tied knots here and there, probably a few inches apart.  Both methods are time-consuming, but quilting is more difficult.  (By the way, “knot it” seems like a huge hint to the meaning of the story, don’t you think? Doesn’t “knot it” sound a lot like “not it”?)

Still with me here?  Sorry this is so long this week, but there is much to understand about our story.  I’m going to go on with some more information, and you may just want to copy and print this whole assignment so that you can refer back to it as you draft your paper.

Someone today suggested that the beginning of the story was interesting, and the end was also, but the middle was “just a lot of fluff”.  Well, I understand why some may think this way, but let me explain why this is not true.  First of all, realize that NOTHING is ever extraneous (or fluff) in a short story.  Every sentence, every word, every motif contains clues to understanding the theme.  Let’s begin with some motifs:

1.       Half-finished.  Did you notice how many times something was described as “half-finished”?  What are reasons for not finishing something you’ve started?  Laziness, yes.  Being interrupted by something else more important is another reason.  How about being interrupted by an emotionally charged incident, like your pet bird was just strangled?

2.      Lonesome.  Oh, my.  Here is where setting reveals both theme and character.  How often did the author use that word?  In what context?  Who was lonesome?  Why?  What was lonesome?  How?

3.      The way the men treat the women.  Look up the word “condescending” if you don’t know what that word means…and then look back at how often the men treat the women in a condescending manner.

All righty then.  The prompt for your next paper is this:  All authors have a worldview or agenda that they promote with their short stories.  What is Susan Glaspell’s agenda, and how is it revealed in “A Jury of Her Peers”?  Is this agenda valid?

Here is my suggestion of how to approach this 5-paragraph paper.

Introduction:  In this paragraph you must mention the title of the story and its author.  You should also give some background information about the time period.  End with your thesis which is the sentence that explains the author’s agenda.

Paragraph 2:  This is the first body paragraph and will explore one point of your argument.  Perhaps you could discuss the setting and how it contributed to Minnie’s isolation.

Paragraph 3:  Here you need another argument point.  I suggest Minnie’s difficult life – no telephone, the difficulty cooking on her stove, the quilting…choose one.

Paragraph 4:  How about discussing the dead canary?  Or the change in Minnie over the last 20 years? Or how her husband treated her?

Paragraph 5:  Your conclusion should restate your thesis first.  THEN, offer your views on the validity of Glaspell’s agenda.  Do this without writing in first person POV.

All done now.  Bring me a rough draft next week.

March 29

Happy spring, and welcome back!

This week you are to read and annotate “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell.  In addition, please answer these questions in writing –

1.       What is the main conflict of the story?  Answer in your own words, and then include a direct quotation from the story that supports your answer.

2.      Diagram the action of the story with a “Freytag’s Pyramid” chart.

3.      List all of the characters in the story and identify them as stock, foil, round, flat, static, or dynamic.  You may have more than one label for each character.

4.      What are some themes in “A Jury of Her Peers”?  Use the method we discussed in class today to unlock the theme of a story.  (Step 1:  “A Jury of Her Peers” is about ______; Step 2:  Write a sentence using some of the words you listed; Step 3:  check your sentences against the story’s characterization and plot structure to make sure they fit, and if you have written a cliché, rewrite it into your own words).

If you were absent from class today, you need to obtain a copy of “A Jury of Her Peers”.  You can do this by either emailing me right now and requesting one, or by going online and searching for a PDF of it.  Unfortunately for you, I will be out of town from Wednesday night through Sunday night and unable to email…so right now really does mean right now.

March 8

Focus, folks.  Pour all of your English class energies (and I’m sure you have lots of it) into writing your Necklace final draft.  Linked below is a checksheet.  Also below are THE RULES.

Necklace checksheet

Let’s start with the rules, shall we?  Pretend high school English is your job, and I am your boss.  I am a very difficult boss, one who is not inclined to cut you any slack for sloppy work or for failing to do exactly what I say.  So, if you want to earn your wage, pay attention to what the boss says:

  1. Have a clear thesis statement.
  2. Make sure your thesis is the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.
  3. In the introduction, you must mention the title and author of the story.  Be sure to punctuate correctly.
  4. Do NOT abbreviate anything.
  5. Your introductory paragraph must be at least 5 sentences long.
  6. Write your body paragraph in TRIARIAC style.  Count each sentence:  you must have at least eight.
  7. Follow MLA rules for headers, margins, spacing.
  8. Your paper must have a title.  Do not write a lame title.  These are lame:
  9. “The Necklace” Essay
  10. “The Necklace”
  11. My Paper on “The Necklace”
  12. Literary Analysis Paper on “The Necklace”
  13. Use a 12-point font for everything.
  14. Do not double-double-space between paragraphs.
  15. Indent paragraphs.
  16. Blend all quotations with your own words.
  17. Do not include long quotations; choose only the words you need to make your point.
  18. Do not say – “This quote”.  Bleh.
  19. This is a formal paper.  Write formally. You are not a jokester; you are a high school English student.  Your audience is very, very smart.  I am your audience.
  20. Write in THIRD PERSON.  No “I”, “my”, “you” or other personal pronouns ever.


March 1

If you were absent this week, please email me and request information on the lecture.  Thank you!

Your next essay will focus on Mathilde in “The Necklace”.  This is the prompt:

Is Madame Loisel’s ten years of poverty and labor a result of fate, or of her own actions and character?

You will write an essay consisting of three good paragraphs to answer the prompt – an introduction, a body paragraph in the TRIARIAC model, and a concluding paragraph.  All good essays are built from a thesis statement, so that’s where you’ll begin this week.

What do you think?  Were Mathilde’s years of hard work because of fate?  Or was she ultimately responsible for her own problems?  If you say fate was responsible, which is what the author seems to be indicating, then you have to understand what “fate” means.  We discussed the concepts of “fate”, “chance” and “God’s sovereignty” today in class, so refer to your notes.  If you say nope – she was a self-centered lady and deserved what she got – then you are rejecting the author’s beliefs, which is just fine.

Either way, you must prove your position.  This week play around with possible thesis statements, and bring at least three of them to class.

Choose the one you like the best, and then outline your proof in TRIARIAC form.  Choose appropriate quotes, draft your analysis, etc.  I’m just looking for a rough outline here, but the more effort you put into this assignment the easier your paper will be to write in the next two weeks.  The final draft is due on Tuesday, March 15 – the week before spring break.

February 23

Read the new story, “The Necklace” and annotate it.  Also, please answer the following questions and be prepared to share your insights next week.


1. Did Mathilde Loisel deserve the punishment she received? Explain your answer.

2. Some readers believe that the ten years of hard work changed Mathilde’s spoiled nature and made her a better person. Give two pieces of evidence that support this position.

3. Other readers argue that, although Mathilde matured during this time, she wasn’t completely transformed. Give two pieces of evidence from the end of the story that show Mathilde is still not a completely mature person.


4. The story’s ironic ending is part of what makes this tale so famous. The author, however, gives a few hints about the tragic twist. Look back over the story and find an element of foreshadowing. Paraphrase this element of the story and then explain why you believe it is a good example of foreshadowing.

5.  Closely examine the passage at Madame Forestier’s house when Mathilde discovers and borrows the necklace. What symbolic elements are being used here by the author? Explain.

6. To what degree is Mr. Loisel also to blame for the misery he endures. Dig deep into your analysis of this character.

7.  Using the character terms we discussed today (protagonist, antagonist, foil, stock, static, dynamic, flat, round) analyze each character in this story.

Then, expect a grammar test on subject-verb agreement.  I have given you all of the tests available online, so study using your grammar book.  Thank you!

February 16

We’re entering a two-week long “lull” in our writing pace as we step back, take a breath, and recuperate from the literary analysis paper.  You will have work to do, but perhaps not as much.

This week, please do the following:

  1. Check grammarbook online for more quizzes.  If you haven’t studied the “rules” regarding subject-verb agreement in Chapter 1 yet, this is a splendid time to do so.
  2. Complete the “Writer’s Toolbox” handout.
  3. Turn in your literary analysis paper on “Most Dangerous Game” if you haven’t already.

That’s it.

February 9

The paragraph model we discussed in class today is called “TRIAC”, which stands for Topic, Restrictor, Illustration, Analysis and Conclusion.  All of your body paragraphs from now on will be written in the expanded TRIAC format – TRIARIAC.  Be very mindful of this model as you write the final draft of your MDG essay this week.  To review –

T:  topic sentence of the paragraph.  This does double-duty, both providing an answer to the thesis and introducing evidence to prove your points.

R:  the restrictor is like a second topic sentence.  It narrows the focus of the paragraph a little bit more, leading your reader to the evidence you are about to provide.

I:  illustrations are evidence taken directly from the text of the story.  You will use direct quotations, written in the proper form (see below for info on this.)

A:  analysis sentences are THE MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCES OF THE PARAGRAPH, but don’t let that freak you out.  Here is where you intelligently make connections between illustrations and your thesis. 

C:  conclusions to paragraphs must repeat/reflect 2 or 3 words from the topic sentence.  Some of you will remember this from junior high writing class.


So, if you follow all of these directions perfectly, your paragraph will be no fewer than 8 sentences long; a better length would be 10 sentences, since the analysis should be twice as long as the illustration.


Now, about those quotations.  Here in a nutshell are the points we discussed in class today:

1.      No more than two per paragraph.

2.      No fewer than two per paragraph.

3.      Shorten the quotation so that you only use the key words to make your point.

4.      Blend the quoted words with your own words.

5.      Include the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

6.      Follow quotation punctuation rules.  Check your “Blue Book of Grammar” if you’re lost.


The nitty-gritty:

1.      Your final draft is due next time.  Intro paragraph, two main body paragraphs, concluding paragraph.  (I know that I didn’t talk about the intro or conclusion much, so I won’t be expecting much more than you already know; you do know something!)

2.      Include your rough drafts, graphic organizer, and thesis template exercise as part of your final draft offering.

3.      Follow MLA rules.  You learned these in the fall.

4.      Do some grammar.  Check online in your folder, please.

February 2

Your semicolons and colons test was less than stellar, so here’s the deal:  I have just placed two (or three) quizzes in your folder that will expire on Friday.  Go there tomorrow morning and take quizzes 6 and 7 (some of you may also have a quiz 5…which is there by mistake, but consider it practice if you have it). Your results will be sent to me and I will use them to improve your quiz score.  But beware!  If you procrastinate the quizzes will disappear and you’ll be stuck with the grade you earned.

I know I know.  A few of you scored well enough to not need a re-do, and that’s fine.  If your score was 11 or 12 right, you’re good.  (You’re welcome to take those quizzes still and I will not lower your score if you doo poorly.)

Now for that paper. I’m about to summarize our discussion this morning below, and I think it would be a good idea for you to read these words.  Here we go:

A literary analysis paper is not a book report because it does not “report” on a story.  Instead it dissects or analyzes a story to see just how the author created purpose and meaning in his/her story.  For this type of writing you will follow my very specific directions, beginning with a workable thesis statement.

Your thesis statement must be a sentence which 1) answers the prompt, and 2) states your position/opinion regarding the author’s purpose and meaning and how those were achieved.  Your thesis must be a defensible statement.

Always begin with your thesis.  Let’s see how that will work by examining the prompt:

How does Richard Connell create suspense in “The Most Dangerous Game”?

He uses literary techniques, right?  Examples are foreshadowing, flashback, sensory words, believable and likeable characters, suspension of disbelief, historical and classical allusions, foreboding words, repetition, a feeling of helplessness or frustration in the reader, and I could go on.  So, your thesis statement will focus on just two of those literary techniques and then you will use quotes from the story to defend your thesis.  In order to defend your thesis you will choose examples from the story itself in the form of direct quotations.

Linked here is a nifty “thesis template” which will enable you to form a good thesis.  Follow the directions on it.

Thesis Template

Next, you will draft your body paragraphs.  This morning I said you would write a 5-paragraph essay, but I’ve decided to modify that.  You will write a 4-paragraph essay:  an introductory paragraph, TWO body paragraphs, and a conclusion = 4.  These body paragraphs have to follow a very specific, super nit-picky, you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me model called a TRIAC.  You will come to love and appreciate TRIAC by the end of this course.  But, let’s save the loving and appreciating for later and just focus on the bare bones for this week.

Linked here is a “graphic organizer” for your paper.  Use it to create an outline, and then use your outline to draft the two body paragraphs.

Graphic Organizer

Briefly because I suspect you’re getting tired of English teacher stuff by now, do this:

  1.  Take semicolons and colons test by Friday.
  2. Also take the subject/verb tests, but they won’t expire.
  3. Use the thesis template to draft at least 5 possible thesis statements.  Directions on the link.
  4. Use the graphic organizer to outline your paper.
  5. Write a rough draft of your two main body paragraphs.

Oh, by the way.  If you did not receive back your MDG story with the annotations, it’s because they were in my box and I didn’t realize it because of the crazy room situation this morning.  If you’re in biology, I’ll give them back to you tomorrow.  If not, please email me and I will send you a PDF copy of the story just to get you through this assignment.


A huge possum just walked across my patio and the cat is going bananas.  You don’t need this information, but zowie!

January 26

First the good news: you do not have any grammar this week.  (But you may notice that nifty colon, eh?)

Then, more good news:  I have decided to hold off on assigning the outline/graphic organizer for your soon-to-be-written paper until a future date.  Instead, please take another (more careful) look at “Most Dangerous Game” and complete the worksheet below entitled “Story Analysis.”

Story Analysis

Here is linked a synopsis of the literary devices/plot/suspense notes from my lecture this morning.  Use it to help with your assignment.

Plot and Suspense Notes

And finally, linked here is that list of books that all high school students should read to build their “schema” or background knowledge.  Enjoy.

Reading List for High School Students

January 19

Annotate “Gift of the Magi” this week, including both underlining/highlights and notes in the margins which will convince me that you’ve applied your close reading skills to the story.  (BTW, after this story you’ll get a break from annotation for a couple of weeks.  You’re welcome.)

Then, write a journal response paragraph discussing what you think is the theme of “Magi”.  Just what you think…there is no “right” way to answer this, unless you don’t.  (Criteria for journal response paragraphs is under the January 5 entry, below.)

Lastly, study semicolons and colons by taking the final quizzes in your folder AND looking at the rules in your grammar book.  We’ll have a test next week.

Tom locked himself in the shed.  Seattle lost to Carolina.

Tom locked himself in the shed; Seattle lost to Carolina.

Tom locked himself in the shed:  Seattle lost to Carolina.

Grammar can be subtle, folks, unlike football.


January 12

You have some reading to do this week:  “Most Dangerous Game”, “After Twenty Years”, and “The Ransom of Red Chief” .  Read each and annotate.  When you annotate consider Mortimer Adler’s advice –

  1. Underline (or highlight) important phrases and statements.
  2. “Star” in the margins next to key points.  Use stars sparingly – decide which key points are really “key”.
  3. Use numbers to connect sequences of points or where these points pop up other places in the work.
  4. Circle words you don’t understand.  Look up definitions.
  5. Write in the margin to “talk back” to the characters and/or author.
  6. This is my advice, not Adler’s:  look for allusions!

Next week we will discuss only “Most Dangerous Game”, but I will collect all three stories to check your annotation work.  Also, prepare to show me your notebook with the proper dividers.

Schema, remember?  Build your background knowledge by reading good literature.  In the next day or so I will post a link to a list of books every high schooler should read.

Lastly, go to your grammarbook online folder and continue learning the subtle differences between colons and semicolons.


January 5

And we’re off!  It’s a new year, people, and although it’s not a blank slate in the gradebook, you can still purpose to do your best work this “semester”.

Today I lectured about literature and discernment.  You took notes as we discussed how authors create entire worlds, with or without God, and how their views of truth will be reflected in their works.  As you listened and participated, I hope you thought about these points.  Now it’s time to share your thoughts with me in a new type of writing assignment called a “Journal Response.”

Journal Response paragraphs are not Fat Paragraphs and that’s a relief.  When you write a Journal Response paragraph you only have to follow a few criteria:  1) You must write at least half of a page, single-spaced, or a whole page if you double-space; 2) You may write by hand or type; 3) You need not concern yourself with all those nit-picky rules of standard English because (shockingly!) I won’t be grading your punctuation, grammar, or spelling; 4) You must respond thoughtfully to the prompt I provide.  That’s it.  Grading for Journal Response paragraphs is on a scale of 0-5, depending on your thoughtful writing.

Write your first journal response on this prompt:  Why is literature important, and how must readers be discerning about everything they read?

Next, we discussed close reading and how it will dictate our interpretation and analysis of story.  Close reading is the process of digging in to the text, identifying unknown vocabulary words, thinking ahead of the author, questioning character motives, making links between setting and plot, recognizing literary elements…sounds hefty, right?  In other words, we’re going to rip each story apart to find the deeper meaning.  Ah, ha!

Close reading involves annotation.  We practiced annotation in class today and will come back to it again and again.  In fact, you will annotate every single story I give you this semester.  Begin this week by annotating “Marginalia” by Billy Collins and “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer J Adler.  Write in the margins…highlight…underline…do what Adler says to do in his article!

Briefly, then, do these:

  1. Write your Journal Response to the prompt, above.
  2. Read and annotate “Marginalia” and “How to Mark a Book”.
  3. Go to grammarbook.com and do the quizzes about semicolons and colons.

Until next time…

November 17

It’s nice to have electricity again.  Sorry for the delay posting this!

Focus here:

  1. Commas test.  Check your grammarbook folder for practice tests; check the grammar book for the rules.
  2. Read “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker.  Write a fat paragraph explaining what you think the author’s purpose was in writing this story.  (Two hints:  the purpose was not to compare and contrast the sisters — although that is a vehicle for revealing purpose; and authors always have a purpose whether writing fiction or non-fiction.)

November 10

Write the final draft of your C/C essay.  There are so many things (and I don’t even like that word!) to pay attention to when you write.  So many!  Check the check sheet so you’ll not be taken by surprise.

HSE Checksheet comparison contrast

Oh, ho!  One surprise-y thing, though, is that I’d like you to Write Like a Pro in at least one paragraph by including a schnazzy stylistic device.  We worked on that today, but in case you’ve misplaced your worksheet, here it is again.  Just one…in just one paragraph…unless you’re feeling spunky and then you can add more.  Be sure to underline the device you’ve used, and indicate somewhere in the margin what it is.

Write Like a Pro

Otherwise commas test is coming up not next week but the week after.  Practice more quizzes in your online grammarbook folder.


November 3

Begin drafting your C/C paper, choosing from one of these topic ideas:

  • Slave insurrection to the Revolutionary War.
  • Poverty to paranoia.
  • Christopher Columbus to early astronauts.
  • Acting to lying.
  • The 1970s to another decade.
  • The decisions of Red Riding Hood to the decisions of Goldilocks.
  • Wandering on the African plain to drifting in the open sea.
  • Being afraid to being bored.
  • The influence of music to the influence of books.
  • The influence of celebrities to the influence of parents.
  • The Sound of Music (movie) to The Parent Trap
  • The Three Bears to the Three Little Pigs.
  • Being a teen to being a toddler.
  • Working as a waitress to working as a flight attendant.
  • Camping in the deep woods to sleeping in a motel.
  • Physical beauty to inner beauty.
  • Being grounded to being in jail.
  • The benefits of cold to the benefits of heat.
  • Advertisements for automobiles vs advertisements for food
  • The Apostle Paul to Peter
  • Moses to Jesus
  • Western Washington to Eastern Washington
  • Hamlet to the Lion King

If none of these seems to suit, you are welcome to propose a new topic idea, but you must clear it with me first.  (Remember:  NO sports teams, computer/electronic games, or mundane topics.)

This essay must be written in third person POV, meaning no first-person pronouns and no “you.”

Besides your rough draft which is due next time, study commas.  There are quizzes in your folder, and the rules are in your blue grammar book.

October 27

Your next essay will be written as a comparison/contrast paper.  I haven’t assigned this essay yet, because we’re going to work up to it by exploring the c/c method.  As we discussed in class today, we use c/c all the time — when deciding what snack to eat, game console to buy, politician to vote for.

This week, please write another Fat Paragraph comparing and contrasting the two pictures I gave you today, “American Gothic” and “Rural Reconstruction.”  Using the list we began in class, write your paragraph showing how these two works of art are similar and different.  Now, your paragraph may start sounding like a back-and-forth exchange (think spectator tennis!), but that would not be good.  Instead of just stating point-by-point differences and similarities, pick and choose the ones that will serve your purpose.

Purpose?  Do I need a purpose?

Well, yes.  C/C essays serve a purpose — to win an argument, make a decision, further examine two types of characters in a short story.  Your purpose for this paragraph is your choice, and I promise not to care as long as you have one.  (If you’re worried, I understand.  Do your best.)

No grammar this week.

October 20

Your writing assignment this week is to choose from these topics and write your answer “fat paragraph style”.  If you’ve forgotten Fat Paragraph Style (how could you though?), see the post from September 8.  The FP checksheet is there, too.

Here are the possibilities:

  1.  Write a FP which takes the opposite viewpoint of Suzanne Britt.  Defend the neat person and criticize the sloppy person.
  2. How would you describe your household?  Are your parents organized?  Disorganized?  Are some family members neat and others sloppy?  How does this affect your neatness/sloppiness?
  3. Suzanne Britt claims that sloppy people cannot part with anything.  Write a FP analyzing your own attitude about possessions.  What are the things you have a hard time parting with? What things do you especially like to collect and save?
  4. Britt makes several generalizations in her essay.  What are two of them, and are they fair?  Why or why not?  How does Britt use them effectively?

And, we’ll have a test on capital letters next time.  Check your grammarbook folder.


October 13

To those of you who “won the million dollar prize” today, good work.  The rest of you need to cut loose a bit more and impress me with your intro paragraph.

And then, write the final draft of your Process Analysis 5PE!  Woo hoo!


You’ll need a schnazzy intro, a solid main body of three paragraphs, and a conclusion.  We talked about those today —

  1. Revisit your thesis!
  2. Show a benefit to be gained!
  3. Tie up any loose ends!
  4. Suggest an application or course of action!
  5. Emphasize something you want the reader to remember!
  6. Write no fewer than five sentences.

Those points in red are crucial…the rest is suggestion.  I owe you a check sheet, and here it is!

HSE Checksheet PA 5PE

Look at the chapter on capitalization in your grammar book, and check your online account for new quizzes.

October 6

While I read your Process Analysis outlines, you are to throw yourself into writing an introductory paragraph.

I’m the one you have to impress, remember.  You want me to be astounded by your wit, amazed by your craftiness, bedazzled by your nifty introductory paragraph.

Rough it out this week, and don’t worry about English grammar rules for a while.  Picky Mrs. B will be back later when you turn in the final, but jaunty, creative, fun-loving Mrs. B would like you to NOT BORE HER TO DEATH with lousy writing.


That’s it for writing, folks, but you do have a “writing numbers quiz” next week, so check your online folder and study.


September 29

Our next essay has a name:  Process Analysis 5PE.  For this one you will write five paragraphs like normal, but this time you will focus on either a “directive” process analysis or an “informative” one.  Either is fine with me; just please make sure you are writing at  high school level about a high school worthy subject.

Here are some possibilities, but you are not limited to these:

  1. Dress for success
  2. Survive an earthquake
  3. Learn to drive
  4. Gain weight
  5. Have a good time for free
  6. Continue a friendship over long distance
  7. Throw an impromptu party
  8. Enjoy a movie at the theater
  9. Clean house for your mom
  10. Flea your cat
  11. Survive without a car
  12. Kick a bad habit
  13. Overcome insomnia
  14. Enjoy the weekend
  15. Complain effectively
  16. Pitch a tent in the rain
  17. Find a great job
  18. Get an “A” in English.
  19. Avoid cavities
  20. Be a good friend

For next week complete the worksheet questions as you did in your group today.  You do not need to write a rough draft yet, but are welcome to if you want to get started and save yourself some work later.

Besides this, go to grammarbook.com and complete the Writing Numbers quizzes in your folder.  Big test coming October 13.

September 22

Let’s just get this paper finished, shall we?

Write your final draft 5PE about your special person.  The big deal this time is to get those main body paragraphs into T-SEE-SEE-C form, which I explained today in class and on the handout.

You will include an introductory paragraph – here, fishyfishyfishy! – to lure your audience on this essay trip with you, and a concluding paragraph to bring your audience back home in one piece.  Remember:  your audience is the fish…you are the fisherperson…the bait is a well-written, interesting paragraph to draw your audience in.  (You are not hunting for bear.  Your audience will not rip you to shreds, but your English teacher might.  Heh.)

At the END of your introductory paragraph write a thesis sentence.  This is a sentence that summarizes the topic of each paragraph so your reader knows why she’s taking this essay trip with you.  Like this:

Dad is clever, compassionate, and the most comical man I know.

Do your best; checksheet below.

5PE Checksheet

Also go to grammabook.com and do the quizzes I have for you there.  Expect another numbers quiz next week.

September 15

Your Fat Paragraphs are in the grading queue right now, folks.  Expect to get them back next week; expect also to receive a grade report emailed to your parents and/or you by Friday.

Now, onward to the Five Paragraph Essay, which I am going to nickname the 5PE.  This week you are to write a rough draft of the main body paragraphs in a descriptive essay about a person.  We did three exercises in class today to help you think of a person you could use for your subject and ideas of what you might write about him or her.  Since the 5PE will include one introductory paragraph and one concluding paragraph, that leaves three main body paragraphs for you to fill with descriptive information.

To begin, you will need to decide on three paragraph topics.  These could be “Zelda is creative.  Zelda is funny.  Zelda is compassionate.”  For each paragraph topic, you will include examples and details to support your topic and flesh it out for your reader.  I would suggest that you outline/brainstorm/make a list of ideas before you begin to write; however, I won’t be collecting that for this assignment.

In addition to the 5PE writing assignment, begin learning how to write numbers correctly.  Read “Chapter 5:  Writing Numbers” in your grammar book.  (Well, as we discovered, this is indeed Chapter 5 in MY book, but maybe not in yours.  SO,  find the chapter about “writing numbers” and there you go.)  In a day or so you will be able to logon to grammarbook.com and find a quiz or two in your folder.  Complete the quiz by next Tuesday.  Logon with the first letter of your first name followed by your last name; then use that very special 4-digit number you wrote for me as your password.  Like this:

If your name happened to be Mergatroid Simpleton, and you chose 3887 as your 4-digit password, you would logon as



Okay?  Let me know if you have troubles with this but don’t even try until Thursday.  I have to input a lot of info before the system will recognize your new class.  Thanks.

I also told you that you would be very, very bored if I were to give you a punctuation/grammar lecture each week.  Instead, I will assign pages in the book or particular rules for you to learn, and expect you to learn them by the deadline.  Next week expect a quick, in-class quiz on the first five rules in your chapter.  The test will be on October 13.

That’s all.

September 8

Welcome to your English class homework blog.  This is the place you’ll come after 9 a.m. on Wednesdays to discover exactly what I want you to complete for homework this week.  Everything I assign is due in one week; therefore, make it your habit to understand what you need to do, and then to plan your time well so that you get it done.

My rule for homework is that if you miss a deadline you are in “grace week” and have one more week to finish.  If you fail to turn your work in at the end of grace week, I will not take it and you will earn a “0”.  Of course, if you’re sick or away on a trip, let me know and I will grant you extra time.

Here is your assignment for this week, due on September 15:

Write a Fat Paragraph explaining your thoughts on the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes.

Here is a more detailed explanation of this assignment:

A Fat Paragraph is a paragraph of approximately 8-15 sentences written on the same subject.  When I ask you to write a Fat Paragraph I am looking for these elements:

  • A topic sentence which states the main idea of your paragraph.
  • Details, examples and reasons to support the topic sentence.  These will make the body of the paragraph, and will provide the “fat” in your Fat Paragraph.

A clincher sentence which restates the topic and gives the reader a feeling of satisfaction.  (Did you know that “fat” is satisfying?  For example, think of how much more gratification you receive from a strip of bacon compared to a broccoli floweret.)  For this particular assignment on the short story, “Thank You, Ma’am”, I would like you to simply respond to the story.  What are your thoughts?  What did you learn from our class discussion?  How would you interpret the story for another person?  Caution:  You’ve read the story, and so have I – so don’t summarize it for me.  Instead, analyze it.  Think about what meaning it holds for readers, you and others like you.

Now, there is another element of this assignment I need you to focus on, and that is the form of your paper.  English teachers are concerned about many aspects of writing – content, mechanics, style, form – and we will tackle all of them this year.  Of these, “form” is both the easiest to master, yet the gnarliest to do correctly right out of the gate if you’re not paying attention.  So, pay attention:

  • Type your paper.  Set your margins to 1” on all sides (top, bottom, right, left).
  • Use a standard font like “Calibri” or “Times New Roman” set at 12 pt.
  • Head your paper with, in order:  Your Name, My Name (spelled correctly!), High School English, and the date the paper is due (in this case, 15 September 2015).  Notice how I wrote that?  Headers should be double-spaced.
  • Double-space your paper.
  • Include a title, written in the same font and size as the rest of your paper, and center it.  Do not include extra line spaces, please.  Do not underline, italicize, or bold your title.
  • This particular paper must be exactly one page long.  Not one page minus one line of type…and not one page plus one line of type on another page.  Linked below also is a sample Fat Paragraph so that you can see what yours should look like.

Seymour’s Fat Paragraph

I will evaluate and grade your paragraph based on the criteria in the Fat Paragraph Check sheet, also linked below.  Happy writing!

Fat Paragraph Check Sheet