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Frequently Asked Questions

Page history last edited by Julie E Ruble 6 years, 9 months ago

(go home)


Julie’s English FAQs


  • What will we learn in English?


In a nutshell, I like to say that my class is all about interpreting a text and communicating your findings. The word "text" might bring words to mind first, and we will certainly read fantastic novels, epic poetry, sermons, poetry, plays, diaries, and social commentary throughout the year. But I like to tell my students that, as I saw on a bumper sticker once, "All the world's a text." Every day we're inundated with symbols (from actual signs along the road to our friends' body language and tone) that we must interpret and myriad opportunities to communicate and/or react to our findings about those symbols. Every conversation and every conclusion we draw requires us to have great interpretation and communication skills. You'll build those in my class. 


  • What supplies do I need to bring to class?


Every day you will need to bring these things to class:

    1. Your English handbook (composition notebook) 
    2. Your Current Project Work Folder
    3. Computer (with charger)
    4. Word Within the Word (we will usually leave these in the classroom)
    5. DailyGRAMS  (we will usually leave these in the classroom)
    6. The book we are reading as a class AND an free reading book 
    7. The obvious extras: your planner, writing utensils, highlighters, glue sticks etc.


  • What are we going to read?


This question is tricky, because my curriculum is extremely dynamic. It changes based on your needs and preferences, my reflections, and my whims (I might read an amazing novel during the year and decide we must read it together!) There will be many unlisted poems, articles, and other readings, but here are the book-length items I think we're going to read right now:


7th / 8th: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Of Mice and Men, short stories, poetry, songs

9th: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Alchemist, In a Sunburned Country, Nickel & Dimed: On Not Getting By in America



  • What kinds of work will we do?


Good readers interact with texts in a lot of different ways.  Here are some of the ways we will relate to our texts:

    1. Class notes, discussion notes – We don't take notes too often, and when we do, they're usually brief background notes before a project. They will be taken in your Language Arts handbook. Discussions will sometimes take place on Edmodo during a reading.
    2. Vocabulary and Grammar exercises – You will use Word Within the Word for vocabulary and DailyGRAMS to practice grammar.
    3. Journals -- These are personal LA Handbook entries designed to give you a chance to express your thoughts, personality, and reactions to texts. 
    4. Tests and quizzes 
    5. Homework – You’ll have 30-35 minutes of homework in English almost every night, since it’s a focal subject for you right now.  Homework will usually be finishing up something we did in class or reading. On any days when we don’t have explicit homework, you’re expected to read your free reading book for at least 30 minutes.  Good readers read a LOT!  
    6. Free Reading – You’re always expected to have a fun reading book other than the book we’re reading for class. You can get these books from the library, used bookstore, bookstore, or borrow them from a friend. We’ll have free reading time in class almost every day, and you’ll read at home as well. Even though graphic novels, comics, and magazines are great reads, for your free reading book, you need to choose a novel or nonfiction work that you plan to read straight through.


These are all the bits and pieces you'll do here and there, but the REAL work of our language arts classroom is APPLICATION PROJECTS.  These aren't the "take home" projects you're used to, where you go out and buy poster board and bring them in by the due date. These are long-term, real-world projects where you independently (with support from me!) apply your knowledge to something big. We might publish a book together, start a relationship with an organization we love, create plans for a building on our campus and put it into action. These projects could be anything or everything that helps us understand the text we are reading, apply our knowledge, and synthesize our own writing. Remember, these are in-class application projects that you complete step-by-step with a teacher-facilitator (me!) and so you won't work much on them at home.


  • How does Julie keep me updated?


Our main form of communication about assignments will be your planner. The Class Pages on the MS Portal are great for checking on an assignment, but you shouldn't rely on them like a planner. Since our class changes often, your planner will often be more up to date than the English Class Page. Make it a point to develop great organization habits like writing down every class in your planner and noting whether or not you have homework in them each day.


Another important form of communication is email. I expect for you to check your email at least once per day. I will sometimes email announcements, reminders, and questions. 


  • How am I graded in this class?  What’s my grade right now?


Each assignment has a point value.  Bigger assignments (tests, projects) are worth more than daily assignments (class notes, reader responses).  Larger project grades are given based on a rubric that outlines my expectations (we'll go over rubrics together!) At the end of each trimester, I calculate your grade by totaling the points you have earned and dividing by the total points possible.


This means it's quite easy for you to keep track of your grade if you wish. You can make a grade record sheet where you record the points received and points possible on each assignment. You can then easily calculate your grade at any given time. That being said, I don't put much stock in your grades. You can't be defined by a single letter. What I care about is your curiosity, effort, skill acquisition, and responsibility for learning. Don't get caught up in the quest for "straight A's" -- instead, be yourself and try your best, using grades only as a rough indicator of whether or not you need to seek extra help in a subject. I'll try to help you adopt this mindset.


  • What should I do if I’m absent?


You are responsible for making up any and all work you missed while you were absent.  I WILL NOT remind you to obtain your makeup work or turn it in.  Being responsible for your own education is one of the primary goals of middle school.

The MORNING of the day you come back to school, you should go around to each of your teachers and write missing work in your planner. You might want to get to school a little early to do so. For the middle school absence policy regarding how long you have to make up missed work, please see the MS Companion. And don't forget that you must copy any notes that you missed, too!


  • Can I go to the restroom / go to my cubby / get water during class?


Class time is valuable!  We have to work efficiently to accomplish all of our impressive tasks.  For this reason, you should always try to go to the restroom in between classes. That being said, sometimes we need to run to the restroom. If you need to go, just let me know and go. If I notice the visits are adding up or are hurting your participation in class, I'll help you brainstorm solutions. I probably won't let you go to get water unless you're having a coughing or hiccuping fit, however, so please bring a water bottle in case you get thirsty. 


Another thing I very rarely let students leave the classroom for is to retrieve materials they've forgotten. I encourage you to make a little list in your planner of things you need for English and spend an extra few seconds making sure you have them all. Being prepared is something we have to train ourselves to do, so if you reach class without an important item, you may have to do without. If you don't have your supplies, you'll also have to fill out a Student Accountability Note to get signed by your parents.


  • My dog ate my homework / project!  Can I turn assignments in late?

Assignments turned in late will be penalized per the MS Companion (one day late = 10% off, two days late = 20% off, three days late or more = failing grade, not turned in = zero). If you don't have your homework, you'll also have to fill out a Student Accountability Note to get signed by your parents. Homework is usually absolutely critical for the work we're going to do in class, so I'm seriously dedicated to making sure you turn in every single assignment. Do it the first time so you don't get that late penalty!


  • Can I print my homework at school?


If there's homework due that needed to be printed, it should be printed before you arrive at school for the day. Your teachers will tell you if there are times you can use the printers here. Make sure you have a printer buddy that you've shared phone numbers and email addresses with. If your printer breaks, it's nice to have someone to send your work to, to get it printed and avoid a late penalty.


  • What if I need extra help?


Come visit me (before or after school or during advisory or lunch) to schedule time for extra help on any topic at any time.  If you’re at home and find yourself unsure about an assignment, you may email me at jr@msr.org.  I'll also be at Wednesday afternoon tutorials.


  • What are the consequences for misbehavior?  How do I get recognized for excellent behavior?


Any disruption wastes precious time and sidetracks those students who are eager to learn.  I will not sacrifice our respectful, loving class culture for the sake of one or two students.  Any classroom disruption will result in a clear verbal warning. I only give one warning, without exception. After that, I'm making a note in my personal classroom notes of your struggles. If I have a few separate notes about you within a week's time, that usually means you need extra assistance to work in our classroom environment. This could mean that we use behavior logs, behavior reflections, emails home, removing you from the community, or a conference with your advisor to accomplish our goals.  


I don't treat all students the same. You are different people with different needs and I will respond to you in different ways. This means that you may see one person get redirected for something you do not get redirected for -- but maybe he struggles with calling out often and this is the first time you've ever done so. Try not to compare yourself to others. Work with me as an individual and trust that I value and respect you all. I don't do favorites.


What about rewards? Well, being a good, considerate person is a reward in itself.  Even if I didn’t offer any behavioral rewards, your values would still guide you to be amazing students.  Nevertheless, I love recognizing your good choices!  Rewards for being polite and ethical include a shout-out on our Superstar Shout-Outs wall, a positive note or phone call home, and certain classroom privileges.


  • What can I do to make our English class successful?


    1. Maintain a positive attitude and excitement about what we’re working on!   When you’re excited and enthusiastic, class is fun!
    2. Participate!  Enter the classroom each day determined to make the most of your time there, and actively seek ways in which you can add to our discussion.  Your voice matters!b
    3. Own it.   Take ownership of every choice you make.  Own your behavior, your attitude, your work, your preparedness, and your grades.  Be determined to NEVER make excuses, blame others, or take a shortcut on an assignment.  Do what it takes to make your choices something you’re proud of!
    4. Respect your peers.  Our classroom must be a safe place to share ideas.  There should never be any eye-rolling, snickering, or verbal criticism when someone else asks a question or makes a comment.  It’s perfectly fine to disagree, but it’s never okay to belittle someone else’s ideas.
    5. Get organized.  Use your agenda daily and keep your notebooks organized and table of contents updated.  If you find yourself forgetting materials, try creating checklists for your locker or bedroom door.  Ask your homeroom teacher or advisor for help if you’re having trouble. Organization is a skill that can make or break your academic experience!


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