April update

Dear parents & students,

We are in the final stretch of the academic year. (Writing students, did you catch my cliché?) Next week is our Easter break; however, you may have noticed that both classes have assignments due on April 29.

I gave brief assignments that students should complete by the end of this week. Fantasy Lit students need to read a brief chapter in The Two Towers, while CP Writing students need to write a short story using trite expressions. As always, assignments are available on individual class Web pages.

When we return to co-op on April 29, Fantasy Lit students will be presenting their final Tolkien projects. Students were given this assignment three weeks ago with the understanding that there was adequate time to complete it without using Easter break. Students may use Easter break; however, it is not a new assignment.

In a similar fashion, CP Writing students should have been adding to their dialectical journals as they completed their research papers. They have had enough time to complete one entry per week. Their final 6 entries are due on April 29 as well.

On a final note (that’s another cliché), my prayer is that all of you appreciate the miracle of this Holy Week. As we pause to remember Christ’s humiliation and physical sacrifice on Good Friday, may we all celebrate with gratitude His resurrection and triumph on Easter Sunday.

He is risen!


Fantasy Lit students, read this please!

As promised, I’m attaching the instructions for your Tolkien final project to this blog post. I will bring hard copies to class next week, but you can also read over your options now. I’d like you to mull over these lists and choose a topic. I will ask you in class next week. The final project will be due on April 29 after we return from spring break.

A quick note to my writing students & parents

Dear future college students & the people who love–and financially support–them,

You must read the written directions that I give you in class. If you fail to read the directions, the due dates and requirements still apply to you. If you are absent from class for almost any reason, you are still required to turn in assignments on time. Likewise, if you miss class for almost any reason, you are still responsible for the material that we covered while you were away.

Yes, I know that arrival of spring is distracting and that the flu vaccine was not a good match this season. Quite a few of you are talented artistically, athletically, and academically and so you pursue other endeavors; however, this is a college preparatory course. When one day you find yourself in an actual college class, you will not have 8 weeks to complete a 6-8 paper, nor will the assignment be broken down into manageable chunks. One of the purposes of this course, therefore, is to model the research process so that you are fully prepared and not overwhelmed when you matriculate.

If you do not follow the schedule I have crafted for you, you are choosing to add unnecessary stress to your lives. And like David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, once wrote,

…Education is a soulcraft. The disciplines we cultivate in young people hold sway for the rest of their lives.¹

Don’t cultivate stress, people. Discipline yourself to complete your assignments on time. Dare to ask questions when you don’t understand. And determine that you will meet this challenge.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Mrs. Ford

¹ Coleman, David. “College Board CEO: How Religious Education Helps Us Rethink the College Admissions Race.” Christianity Today, 31 May 2018, www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/may-web-only/college-board-ceo-religious-education-college-admissions.html.


Looking ahead: What are we doing this spring?

Parents, I’ve been talking to your students about what they can expect for the spring semester in both of my English courses. So that everyone has a general idea, I wanted to outline what we’ll be doing in Fantasy Literature and College Prep Writing.

In Fantasy Literature we have begun our study of Tolkien. It’s evident to me just three weeks in that several students have read far more of Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories than I have; in fact, I appreciate having knowledgeable “experts” in class.

We will conclude our reading of The Hobbit on February 25. We will then read “Leaf by Niggle,” a lengthy short story that Tolkien wrote as he was crafting The Lord of the Rings. Most critics agree that Niggle is a thinly veiled allegory of Tolkien himself, which is why I want students to read this delightful story before we read LOTR. We will immediately follow with Tolkien’s well-known lecture On Fairy-Stories before we begin The Fellowship of the Ring. I am still deciding how much of The Two Towers and The Return of the King we will be able to read. There definitely is not enough time to cover Books 4-8 of LOTR. Lastly, our semester will culminate with a final project. Students will receive instructions when we begin The Fellowship of the Ring. Like their final project on C.S. Lewis, students have multiple options.

CP Writing students are finishing their final drafts of a response essay this week. For the past month, students have read opinion articles and crafted their own responses in short assignments. The current essay has a 5-paragraph structure and requires a separate Works Cited page. We had a mini lesson on documenting sources in class yesterday. Your students have a handout that gives very specific instructions and reference pages in their two writing handbooks.

Next week I will distribute research packets for a 6-8 page research paper. I’ve included numerous (100, to be exact!) topics, paper requirements, research steps, a calendar of due dates, MLA requirements, and a resource guide. I will give each student a rubric for the research process (100 points) and final paper (100 points). Students can keep track of how they are doing as they reach checkpoints and receive grades.

I fully expect that each student will be successful throughout the process. A research unit should enhance your student’s overall grade. During the research unit, I will teach lessons on the individual parts/aspects of research. I have also included two in-class workdays.

Lastly, students will conclude their research unit with oral presentations. The final month of class will cover resume writing and a timed response to a writing prompt.

Snow Warning…

Dear students & parents,

The weather has an uncanny knack for interfering with Monday classes. In light of this weekend’s forecast–and probably because I’ve already copied, punched, and stapled multiple handouts–I will update both course pages on Monday if co-op is cancelled.

What does this mean specifically? First, it means that my CP Writing students should finish their MLK, Jr. speech essays before Monday. I’m going to move on with the next lesson whether or not we officially hold class. If co-op is closed, I will be posting a reading assignment from The Little, Brown Handbook, a follow-up exercise, and a writing assignment. I expect students to complete these assignments.

For Fantasy Lit students, I will post a reading assignment and a cumulative writing activity on C.S. Lewis. I promise that the writing portion won’t be painful; in fact, I suspect that most, if not all, of you will enjoy this conclusion to the first semester. If it looks like a repeat of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter, I’ll include the reading schedule for The Hobbit.

Stay warm and stay safe,

Mrs. Ford

Thanksgiving update for both classes

Parents & students,

All students have received their first written evaluations for Fantasy Literature or CP Writing. If you have not seen these progress reports, please ask your student to produce his/her copy. CP Writing students received their copies yesterday at the end of class, and Fantasy Lit students received theirs before the Thanksgiving break.

Fantasy Lit students are continuing to read and discuss Till We Have Faces, and we will wrap up this book on December 10. There will be no homework over the Christmas break–unless you student wants to read The Great Divorce. In January we still have 3 weeks to finish our first semester on C.S. Lewis. We will begin our semester on J.R.R. Tolkien on January 28, 2019, with The Hobbit.

I distributed copies of The Little, Brown Handbook to 5 students yesterday in CP Writing. If you plan to purchase your student’s copy, please send $5 to cover its cost. (Thank you, David, for your payment.) I still have one copy available.

CP Writing students completed their first informal Socratic seminar yesterday. Because I am recovering from an illness/injury, I needed to scale down the seminar. Your students did an excellent job of running their own discussion. We will definitely add another seminar to a future class. Overall I was pleased with their level of preparation and willingness to try something new and unfamiliar to them.

Next Monday is the first collection date for their Dialectical Journal entries. Students were given the assignment two months ago, and I will be collecting 10 entries. I suspect that quite a few students have multiple entries to complete this week.

I remain thankful for the opportunity to teach these two classes,

Laura Ford

A Note to Parents of CP Writing Students

Dear parents:
As I write lesson plans for your writing students, I need to confess that I am dissatisfied with our writing textbook, Write for College. It’s great for narrative and research writing, but it hasn’t proven helpful for the unit on rhetoric/fallacies or for editing certain elements of writing. We will return to using it more regularly in the spring semester when students focus on research.
Because this is my personal choice, I am planning to order copies of The Little, Brown Handbook for students. Before I do so, I need to know if you already own a copy. If your student took Academic Writing 2 last year, you may still have this handbook. Please let me know if you already have a copy.
I plan to order the 12th edition and will give everyone a few options:
  1. If you own a copy–even if it’s another edition–you may use your own book. Please let me know if this applies to you.
  2. If you do not own a copy, you may borrow one from me for the remainder of the academic year. You will not be charged unless your student does not return the book or damages the book.
  3. If you would like to purchase a copy, please let me know. After I receive the order, you may reimburse me. The estimated cost is $6, and the book will be a used hardback edition.
Please respond no later than Friday, November 16. I would like to place an order so that students will have this text when we meet after the Thanksgiving break.
Thank you for understanding,
Laura Ford