High School English

April 22

Folks, please.  Please!  Make me want to read your paper.  Entice me with that very first sentence — that first lick of gelato on an eighty-degree day, that first bite of spaghetti after not eating since breakfast, the opening scene to the latest, greatest flick on the big screen — grab my attention and hold on.  Make it impossible (impossible I tell you!) to put your paper down.

The introductory paragraph is your focus on this Process Analysis essay; the place where you’ll earn the points.  Checksheet coming, so check back.  Linked below is a little paper to help you with the meat of this essay, which is due in final draft form next week.

Process Analysis Essay

For grammar, it’s parentheses and those little buggers, apostrophes.  Book first, then online quizzes.  (I’m running late this morning, so the quizzes won’t be assigned for a little while.)  (Did you notice the punctuation within these parentheses?)

April 15

Get my attention.  Make me want to keep reading your paper.  I will read your paper no matter what because that’s my job; however, I will enjoy it more if you capture my attention with a brilliantly written introduction.

I showed you several ways to begin your introductory paragraph today:

1.  Begin with a startling or humorous statement.  (Would you like to read a really great book?)

2.  Begin with a quotation or familiar saying.  (“A fool and his money are soon parted” says the proverb.)

3.  Begin with dialogue — real or imagined.  (“Daisy Mae!  There’s a spider on your shirt!”)

4.  Relate a story or paint a descriptive picture.  (As the announcer directed contestants to the starting line, I took a deep breath.)

5.  Ask a question.  (Who was Mr. Magoo, anyway?)

6.  Show a benefit to be gained.  (It takes only thirty minutes a day.)

7.  Funnel; give background information and introduce your thesis.  (In the last several years, scientists have made great discoveries in medicine.)

Your next essay is a Process Analysis essay.  Linked below are topic ideas which you may or may not like.  I would like to see a draft — a down draft — next week.  Pay particular attention to the introductory paragraph and how it should capture my attention.

Fifty Topic Suggestions

Quizzes for you online, too.

April 8

Heigh-ho, here we go; time to write a final draft of your marshmallow essay.  Below is a checksheet; be sure to check it.  Now, although I require five paragraphs (you’ve drafted three) I have not taught you exactly how to write the introduction or the conclusion. You still have to write them, but I won’t grade them too strictly.  The main thing to remember is to write your thesis as the last sentence of the introduction paragraph, and restate it as the first sentence of your conclusion.

Marshmallow Checksheet

Maybe you experienced an epiphany this morning; maybe not.  If that little dot-balanced-atop-a-comma lecture helped you to understand subtleties of language, terrific.  Learn more about semicolons in your grammar book — yes! the rules are in chapter 3.  Colons, too: these are equally nifty.  I’ll put some quizzes in your grammarbook online account.

April 1

Firstly, take a look at Chapter 3, Punctuation, in your grammar book.  Please read the section about commas (the sheepdogs of punctuation) from pages 52 – 57 and do the commas quizzes on pages 102 and 103.  I will also put a quiz or two in your online grammar account.

Nextly (which is not a word), work on the three body paragraphs of your marshmallow essay.  We came up with a few paragraph topics in class, including “problems with marshmallows”, which you may or may not decide to keep for yourself.  Remember that you are not allowed to do any outside research whatsoever, and your essay may not contain ridiculous or false information.  Follow the new paragraph model for this:  “SEE”.

Topic sentence to start the paragraph.

Statement to support the topic.

Explanation or example sentence (that shows rather than tells)

Explanation or example sentence (that shows rather than tells)

Statement again — another one that supports the topic

E again

E again

Concluding sentence that clinches to the topic.

Dress-ups and openers are part of the game now, folks.

Due next week is the rough draft.  Forget the introductory and concluding paragraphs at this point.


March 18

Yes, you may take a week off!

Yes, you have homework!

Since we won’t see each other for two weeks, you can spend one week on your assignment and take one week off.  Such a deal.

Your assignment is to rewrite your “personal essay” (the one I collected today), revising it for style.  Incorporate as many stylistic devices as you can, even if it seems…overstuffed, unwieldy, obese.  Below are linked the “Rover Ran” style sheet and the checksheet for this assignment.  Please note the checksheet requirements and point values so that you’ll know exactly how you will be graded.

Checksheet style

High School English Style Sheet

March 11

Today we discussed English teacher stuff about writing essays — the five components of essay writing, to be specific.  As we delve in to this unit, I will say things like, “use this as a model”, or “the form of your essay will be…” and when I do, you need to pay attention.  Most of your learning will be about the form and structure of the 5-paragraph essay, but of course I shall also be concerned with what you say and how you say it.

Your first essay, due next week, is a simple “personal essay.”  I gave you a model today, one that I wrote entitled “Math is Not Stupid”, and I expect you to use it as a form guide.  It is two pages, double-spaced; yours should be the same.  It has a thesis (I failed to adequately teach algebra to my daughter, yet she learned a larger lesson) which you can find at the beginning and at the end.  Margins and line spacing are MLA; however, there is no heading.

In addition to the essay, please review “confusing homonyms” for a test next week.  I shall assign more online grammar quizzes to you in preparation.

March 4

So this is a transition week.  Lit is behind us; essay writing on the horizon.  What shall we do with our time?  What shall you do with your time is the better question, since I already know what I have to do and the royal “we” is a bit pretentious.

You shall do some grammar.  In your blue grammar book, please read (skim) Chapter 2, “Confusing Words and Homonyms”.  I don’t really expect that you will read every word, but it would be wise to skim through those pages with purpose.  Then do the quizzes on pages 88-91.  Check your answers when you’ve finished.

I shall also put quizzes into your online grammar book thingy.  Do them, too.

February 25

Next week concludes our study of literature, and I’m a bit sad.  Maybe you are, too, or maybe not; but it is good to remember that even though we won’t be reading short stories and discussing them together, you can read good literature on your own, and you can recall the elements of literature we discussed in class.  I know that you are a better, smarter, savvier reader now than you were early in September, 2013.

Speaking of savvy-ness, you have an opportunity to demonstrate all you have learned about plot, character, conflict, tone, mood, worldview, POV, setting, figurative language, etc. on a final exam next week.  The exam will use the short story linked below. Read the story thoroughly this week and annotate it.  Think about the theme (can you find the theme?).  Think about how the author uses literary elements to demonstrate his theme.  What elements stand out to you?  What allusions did you find?  What are the mood and tone of the story, and how does the author accomplish them?

final exam story

Also, read “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Tell me, in one fat, expanded TRIAC paragraph, what is ironic about the poem, and why is this important to its meaning/theme.

Take a break from grammar this week.

February 18

Would you like a sandwich?  Well, that depends on your tone of voice and my level of desire, but if I would like a sandwich, I would tell you so without using exclamation marks.

Your assignment this week is to think about “tone”, which is the author’s attitude towards his subject.  Tone is expressed through word choice, since that’s all a writer has at her disposal.  Mood is not tone; mood is the feeling you get while reading a selection, tone is the author’s attitude.  Subtle difference there, and it isn’t always easy to distinguish the two so you just have to read a lot.

I gave you a handout entitled “Creating Tone”, which I will also link below in case you missed class this week.  The directions for your writing assignment are on that handout, and below is linked the checksheet for the assignment.

Creating Tone

Creating Tone Checksheet

In addition, do two more things:

1.  Read “The Open Window” by Saki (here it is) and answer these questions about it.

The Open Window

a. What is the point of view of this story, and how does that POV draw you in to the story?

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

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

People, I have to speak to you about the way some of you (not all of you!) are presenting homework assignments to me.    No sloppiness, please.  No skimpy answers.  Prove to me that you are thinking about your homework and not mindlessly scribbling it down.  Thanks.

2.  Go online and practice grammar; we’ll have a test on preposition problems and effective writing next week.

February 11

What’s the right answer, people?  How can you make your English teacher happy?

This week is an opportunity for those of you who *ahem* have not succeeded in managing your trifles to catch up with your rewrites.  If you owe me a rewrite of the “setting TRIAC” paragraph, do that.  (It is now officially too late to rewrite the “Jury TRIAC.”)

If you don’t need to rewrite, you can earn some extra credit by revising the following fable, which is written from the objective point of view.  Rewrite it three times — once in first person, once in third-person-omniscient, and once in third-person-limited.  Label each appropriately so that I know that you know what you’re doing.  The length should be equivalent to the original.  Here ’tis:

The Hare was once boasting of his speed:  “I have never been beaten,” said he, “when I go full speed.  I challenge anyone here to race with me.”

The Tortoise said quietly, “I accept your challenge.”

“That is a good joke,” said the Hare; “I could dance round you all the way.”

“Keep your boasting till you’ve won,” answered the Tortoise.  “Shall we race?”

So a course was fixed and the race started.  The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap.  The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the finish line and could not run up in time to save the race.

Lastly, go do some grammar online.

February 4

What happened to January?  I surely don’t know, but here we are and there’s nothing much we can do about it.  Let’s press on.

It’s February, my pretties!  The month of paper hearts and chocolates (truffles!) in red boxes, and roses — red, red roses.  It’s the month of maybe-snow, but maybe not.  The month of surely some rain, but not this week.  Let’s dive in!

And, it’s all about imagery, figures of speech and connotation.  Connotation gives us mood, tone, atmosphere; three elements of literature that authors utilize to draw us in to their world.  Let yourself be drawn into the world of “Fight With a Cannon” this week, and complete the homework as outlined on the worksheet linked here –

imagery and figures of speech

Alas, also please study “problems with prepositions” in your blue grammar book and go to grammar online for quizzes.

Lastly, remember trifles?  Trifles are important to English teachers — spacing, headers, indentures, titles, GRAMMAR and PUNCTUATION so if you failed to grant them the significance they were due…you have one week to rewrite your “Jury” TRIAC paragraph.  Include your original draft or I refuse to grade a rewrite; unless it is accompanied by truffles.  Espresso ones are best.



January 28

Go to grammar book online and do the quizzes I put there for you.  We will have a test next week on adjectives and adverbs.  Review the rules for these in your blue grammar book.

Also, please read one of the three short stories linked below.  Write a TRIAC paragraph explaining how setting contributes to the meaning of the story — one story, not all three.  You may choose.






January 21

Thank you for your thoughtful discussion regarding “Jury” yesterday.  Keys to understanding this short story are 1) placing yourself in the setting; 2) understanding what was involved in canning and quilting for women in the late 1800′s; and 3) noticing the language the author uses in the dialogue of the men and of the women. (By the way, Glaspell originally wrote this as a play called Trifles.  Interesting title, don’t you think?)

Of course, then it is important to evaluate the author’s position with reality.  What is this author wanting you to believe?  Do you agree with her or not?

Write a Fat Paragraph this week exploring the author’s position and how it affects your thinking.  Glaspell does an effective job of portraying Minnie as an abused wife (if you can’t see this, re-read the story) and the other women as the only qualified jurors to judge her.  Do you agree with her position?  Minnie is guilty; should she be acquitted because of the abuse she suffered for twenty years?

In your paragraph include at least two quotes from the story as support.  It should be 10 – 15 sentences long, written in the TRIAC style.  Below is a checksheet.

fat paragraph check sheet

No grammar this week.


January 14

Read and annotate your copy of “A Jury of Her Peers”.  You are looking for any hints that will help you to understand the theme of this rather disturbing short story — including repeated words and phrases, words you don’t understand, clues said by the characters, inferences, etc.  Ask questions of the characters and of the author!  Then try to answer them.

In addition, please take a stab at figuring out the theme.  First, fill in the blank:  This story is about _______________.  (Use just a word or two).

Gift of the Magi is about love.

Then, write a sentence that will convey a “universal truth” and apply to the context of the story.

True love is by nature sacrificial.

Finally, check to make sure you haven’t written a cliché .

Love is blind. (A cliché  … and pretty silly, really.)

Also, analyze each of the characters in the story as to their character type.  Static, dynamic, stock, foil, protagonist, antagonist are your choices, and you may use more than one for any character.

We didn’t have enough time to go over your “who/whom” grammar exercises, but I’m going to ask you to do just one grammar quiz online this week anyway.  Login and do the quiz in your folder.

January 7

We’re back!

Today we had a rousing discussion about symbols and symbolism in literature.  Your assignment is to re-read “The Convergence of the Twain” by Thomas Hardy, annotate it, and then answer these questions –

1.  What is the poem about?

2.  What are the two symbols in the poem?

3.  How do these symbols contribute to Hardy’s message?  (What is his message?)

Then, read a longish short story called “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell.  I’ll link it below.  Just read the story this week, without annotating it; next week I’ll give you a printed copy for annotating and for deeper thinking.  IF you would like some extra credit points, write a journal-type response (a paragraph about your reaction to the story) and email it to me by Monday.


Lastly, study those pesky who/whom; whoever/whomever pronouns on pages 8-10 of your blue grammar books.  Do the quizzes on pages 82-85 and check your answers.

November 19

Think of this week as your final lap before Christmas vacation begins.  (Yay!)  You have three chores to finish –

1.  Your “Necklace” paper.  Remember to add a short introductory paragraph, and a short concluding paragraph (short = 3 sentences at least).  Follow the directions for blending quotations that we discussed in class.  Write in “literary present tense”, 3rd person POV.

2.  Study for a pronouns test.  Utilize the pages in your blue grammar book for this, and also check the online grammar thingy for more quizzes.

3. Read a short story, linked below.  Or, maybe two:



Enjoy your week.

November 12

Attached here are two PDFs that may help you with your next assignment:

Fate and Chance lecture

Characterization in Literature

The assignment is to write another 4-paragraph literary analysis paper on this prompt:

Was Mathilde Loisel’s ten years of hardship and poverty a result of fate or her own actions and character?

You will need to first make your decision — fate?  character?  Remember that you are analyzing according to how you see the author’s presentation.  Does the author want you to think that fate was involved, or does he give plenty of indications that Mathilde’s character is to blame?

Then, craft a thesis statement.  You may use one of your own, or use one of mine, below.

1.  Madame Loisel’s downward spiral is her own fault, a result of her unnecessary greed and lies.

2.  The actions of Madame Loisel’s husband, combined with her fate, are both responsible for the hard life she must endure.

3.  Although fate plays a small part in Madame Loisel’s circumstances, her tremendous pride is the most responsible for her unfortunate outcome.

4.  Madame Loisel’s weakness of character, specifically her discontent and selfish nature, causes her to waste ten years living the life she loathed.

Show me your rough draft of two TRIAC paragraphs next week, along with your thesis statement.  Remember that the TRIAC is expanded, so you really need TRIARIAC.

Also, we need to move along in grammar.  Read pages 7-8 and do quizzes on page 81 and 82.  Also check the grammarbook online for a couple of quizzes.

(Below, just because I like you, is a Graphic Organizer for your upcoming essay.  This isn’t homework…but a tool to help you organize your thoughts on “Necklace.” Use it or not.)

Fate vs Freewill Graphic organizer

November 5

I dare you to impress your family with your new word.


The urge to look in people’s windows as you pass by their house.

And, I am not kidding about this; you can look it up!  We do a bit of crytoscopophilia when we read good literature, except we call it “making inferences” instead of “snooping in windows” (which, by the way, is bad if you linger outside of somebody’s window for dastardly purposes).  Ahem.

Read “The Necklace”, annotate the snot out of it, and make inferences about the characters.  Here are questions for you to turn in next week.

1.  What is the conflict in “The Necklace”?  Why do you think so?  Cite a quotation to support your position.

2.  Draw Freytag’s Pyramid for the story.  Include specific “inciting incident” and “climax”, of course.

3.  Who is the protagonist?  The antagonist?  Why do you think so?

4.  Identify the characters as stock, foil, round, flat, static, dynamic.  You will have more than one label for each character, probably.

If you missed class, or misplaced your copy of the story, here it is:

The Necklace

AND, your final draft of the MDG suspense essay is due.  Word to the wise:  if you don’t follow MLA standards for margins, spacing, and headlines, I will give your paper back to you without grading it.  See below for a link to these important things.

October 29

There are so, so many issues to consider when you write an essay for English class; fortunately for you, I am not concerned with all of them right now.  For instance, I’m not gong to evaluate your papers for witty introductions or satisfying conclusions, only for solid TRIAC middle paragraphs — so that is where you should concentrate your efforts this week.

Write the complete rough draft of your literary analysis essay on “The Most Dangerous Game.”  Include a short introductory paragraph and an adequate concluding paragraph to your two main body paragraphs, and you’ll be set.

Linked below are some handouts that will be helpful.  You received some of them in class today; the one you didn’t get is the MLA Style Sheet which tells you how to format your paper (so be sure and take a look at that one).

MLA Style Guidelines for English Papers

Conclusions and Introductions

TRIAC example

In addition, you will retake the “subjects and verbs” test next week, unless you are one of the THREE people who passed it.  Study the practice test below, and please ask for extra help if you need it.

SubjectVerb practice

Oh, hey, one more thing.  Formal essays are written in third person.  This means you are not allowed to use the pronouns “you” or “I” (or their possessive forms) at all in this paper.  I noticed that some of you did in your rough draft paragraphs, so make sure you purge those before you go any further.

October 22

Complete the Suspense Essay Graphic Organizer than I gave you in class (also linked below).  Then, write two main body paragraphs for your literary analysis essay.  I expect that you will have to do a major rewrite on these paragraphs after next week’s class, but that’s okay.  Try, however, to write in the TRIAC style:

T:  topic sentence

R: restrictor (also known as a second topic sentence, one that is a little bit more specific)

I:  illustration (quote from the story to prove your point)

A: analysis (the most important part of this paragraph; your thoughts)

I: another illustration

A: another analysis

C: conclusion sentence.  End the paragraph well and get your reader into the next one.

Suspense Essay Assignment Organizer

Also, please check your folder in grammarbook.com for new quizzes to practice.

October 15

Those subject-verb tests are just about graded, and I’m sorry to say they aren’t lookin’ good.  Check your grade soon, and we’ll talk next week.

Until then, read some more suspenseful short stories!  Here are links.  No written assignment for them, but we will discuss conflict, Freytag, plot devices, and author’s purpose next week.  Prepare to participate.

“Contents of the Dead Man’s Pockets” by Jack Finney


“The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty


Lastly, we began to craft thesis statements that would answer the prompt:  How does Richard Connell create suspense in MDG?  You are to finish writing two more according to the chart we were working with in class, and then use the same chart to answer this prompt about “Poison”:  How does Roald Dahl create suspense in “Poison”?





October 8

We’re gearing up, folks, for a PAPER.  You will be writing a “literary analysis” paper for me in a very short while, in which you analyze one or more of our short stories in a 5-paragraph essay.  Do I have your attention?

To prepare for this paper, you will further analyze MDG for elements of “suspense”.  Linked below is a worksheet asking you to find evidence of literary elements that the author has used to create suspense in this short story.  (You will not find all of them –  I don’t see a ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ for example.)

Plot Analysis for Suspense in MDG

Complete the worksheet.  Study for a “finding subjects and verbs” quiz by rereading the Blue Grammar book pages 1-6/Rules 1-14, and doing the quiz on page 78 to the top of 81.

Lastly, if you did NOT give me your “Poison” short story today so that I could check your annotations, you may give it to me next week with no late penalty.  Thanks!

October 1

Isn’t “Poison” a fun story?  With deeper meanings?  Yes.  Re-read the story this week, watching for any racial references.  Annotate them, and then see if this little hint helps you to go deeper than the surface conflict, which is about a snake.  Only, it’s not.

In addition, do a plot analysis for Poison, MDG, and Magi.  Each of these stories is built around a conflict, maybe more than one.  We discussed those conflicts quickly in class today (man vs. man/himself/God/nature/society).  For each story, say what you think the conflict is, and then support your position with ONE quote from the story.

Finally, draw Freytag’s pyramid for each story, naming the inciting incident, some of the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution.  In other words, state exactly what you think the “inciting incident” is for MDG — is it when Rainsford falls off the yacht?  Is it when Ivan opens the door to Zaroff’s “home”?  Likewise, what incident is the climax — when Rainsford jumps into the sea to escape the general?  When he hides in the general’s bedroom?  When he kills the general?

Study p. 2-6 in your grammar book, do quiz #2 on page 80, and do the quizzes I put in your online grammar folder.

September 24

Great work on your Classical Allusions presentations!  I especially liked the visual aids — posters and white-board drawings!  Next week expect a short quiz on these allusions:

1.  Between Scylla and Charybdis

2. Song of the Sirens

3. Achilles’ Heel

4. Sword of Damocles

5. Trojan Horse

6. Pandora’s Box

7. Herculean Task

8. Gordian Knot

9. Daedalus and Icarus

10. Midas Touch

11.  Crossing the Rubicon

12. Faustian Bargain

The quiz will be pretty simple:  I will state a “literary situation” and you will choose from the list of allusions which one fits it the best.  For example, if I said, “George had to choose between two difficult situations,” you would recognize this as an allusion to Scylla and Charbdis.

Read “Poison” by Roald Dahl and annotate it well.  We will have our first big class discussion on this story next week.

Now, for grammar.  Below is the link to our classroom subscription of online grammar quizzes.  Each of you has your very own login, which is the letter of your first name and your last name, and then your ID number that I gave you for the grade book.  Like this:

Mickey Mouse would be “mmouse” and his ID number is 1000.  (Not really!).  Here is the link:


Go there this week and complete the quiz that I have assigned you.  They will appear in your account when you login.

If this fails to work correctly for you, please let me know ASAP.  Thank you!

September 17

Thanks for enjoying “Most Dangerous Game” and for discussing it a little bit today.  We will have many more in-depth discussions on this and other stories.  I’m reading your annotations and will have them to return to you next week.

Today we discussed one of an author’s tools for revealing the deeper meaning of story:  allusions.  We noted that there are basically three types of allusions — classical, historical, and Biblical.

This week, work on your “Classical Allusion Project”.  You will give a very short presentation (more like a summary) of the classical reference to the class next week, along with some kind of visual display.

Also, read the two poems on this worksheet and answer the questions about them.

Biblical Allusions in Poetry

Finally, read pages 1 – 2, Rules 1-5 in your grammar book.  Do the quizzes on pages 78 and 79.  Check yourself when you finish.

September 10

Your assignment this week is to practice annotation.  First, finish reading your copy of “Gift of the Magi” and note the annotations in the margins.  While this is not exactly how I would annotate that story, it is a good example of a thoughtful annotation style.

Next, read “Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, and annotate it for yourself.  This is a graded assignment, and to have an idea of how I will score it, see the “Annotation Rubric”, linked below.

Annotation Rubric

Also read “How to Mark a Book” by Mortimer Adler, linked below.  You will have to print this out for yourself and annotate it in the margins.


Lastly, take the grammar Pretest on p. 76 – 78 of your grammar book.  This is just a pretest — so do your best, but don’t fall apart if you’re stumped (and don’t look at the answers yet!)  We have 8 months to improve your grammar abilities…and we will.

Thanks for coming to class today.  See you next Tuesday with your completed homework!