These are questions I have been asked in past years. If you have a question not answered here or would like a more detailed answer to a question, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are there two Literature and Composition classes?
Originally there was only one Literature and Composition class for grades 7-9, but several parents of the seventh and eighth graders in the class asked that I expand it to cover more grammar skills and to continue the literary analyses and creative as well as practical writing instruction of the original class.
Can Literature and Composition 2 be used to satisfy other high school English language course requirements?
Yes, with one or two additional reading assignments, it could fulfill the requirements as one of several other high school courses. I have had older students take the course, and I am glad to discuss the specific options and recommend additional readings with anyone who may need them.
As it is, the course corresponds with the Georgia Department of Education's requirements for Ninth Grade Literature and Composition. Ideally, students take the Literature and Composition courses in junior high (grades 7, 8, or 9) so that they may have more options in senior high to meet their English language requirements.
How is your American Literature class different from others?
The first thing I tell students in the American Literature class is that the goal of the class is to make them think. The first class assignment is for students to state in writing their worldviews, keep that statement in their notebooks (it's not graded), and evaluate everything read during the year by that statement. They, as active readers, are an essential part of the literature, not blank space to be filled by the literature. This does not mean that their ideas can't be affected or refined by the literature, but that they are not easily swayed from one idea to another. (See How to Read Slowly by James W. Sire.) They are encouraged to investigate all aspects of situations and develop their own ideas.
As in all my classes, I urge students to research topics from all sides, not just the one that supports their opinions or the one they think I might like. Because students read works by authors of varying worldviews, students develop a better understanding of their own worldviews and of others, a skill which will benefit them throughout life. Each week they write a response to quotes by the author being studied in order to process and reflect on the readings. These responses are emailed to me so that I may work individually with students on writing skills to best express their ideas, but they are not critiqued for content of thought.
In Survey of American Literature, students read and evaluate a wide range of literature: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, and other media. They also examine the multiple influences upon the authors and what they wrote, including events of the historical period, philosophical movements, and the authors' personal lives, beliefs, and personalities.
Students who have taken the class have told me they gained a better understanding of American history, learned that the best writing is relevant beyond its historical period, and secured their own beliefs and ideas before going to college.
What makes your AP Language class different from other AP Language classes?
Since much of my work experience has been outside the classroom, I bring perspectives to the classroom with which students can examine language in multiple arenas. From sales and marketing, I provide students with situations they will encounter in business, whether they become executives, employees, clients, or customers. From advertising and publishing, I offer students numerous opportunities to explore and evaluate the use of language within media and determine the effects of media in our society. From teaching communication skills and language arts, I present students occasions in each class to develop and use language skills as effective readers, writers, and speakers.
AP Language is recommended for a broad base of college majors and careers, so it requires studying the English language beyond literature and a textbook. I incorporate in the AP Language class real-life situations and reasons to have a strong understanding of language structures and devices and to be able to write clearly and effectively.
Also, by combining AP Language and American Literature, students may receive two course credits, just as those who take AP Language/American Literature do in traditional schools.
Are your classes accredited?
The classes are approved on an individual basis by the accreditation agencies used by individual families. Although the classes themselves are not offered by an accreditation service, they have met the requirements of the agencies for every student I've taught who has opted to be accredited.
The new Georgia law requires that teachers of classes taken by students who seek accreditation must have had six semester hours of pedagogical training. I have a masters degree in education and an active teaching certificate which I maintain with the required hours of continuing education classes.
Why do you teach grammar?
In brief, I teach English grammar because it is important to effective communication skills, not only writing, but also reading comprehension and speaking. Colleges and businesses are spending millions of dollars on remediation courses to teach basic grammar skills, because grammar has not been taught in elementary, middle and high schools.
(For further explanation, visit the Memoria Press links given on my resource page.)
How much time do you spend on grammar in the class?
In a 90-minute Literature and Composition class, we spend 15-20 minutes on grammar unless there's a concept that students find particularly difficult, and then we spend extra time as needed. Generally, once a concept is introduced and practiced in class, the students are ready to practice it at home and add it to their composition "toolbox."
In AP Language class, we spend about the same amount of time on advanced grammar and syntax. Students are given an "AP Language Toolbox" that they may refer to for completing assignments and may take with them into college as a resource for advanced reading and writing requirements. We do not spend time on grammar per se in American Literature class unless several students are consistently making the same mistakes. Usually grammar is addressed on an individual basis during the email writing conference each week.
Why do you give grammar homework?
Just as an athlete or a musician spends time practicing and warming up before performing, grammar practice and warm-ups are needed to develop and refine writing and reading skills. If a student doesn't understand the grammatical concept/reason, he or she will continue to make the grammatical error in writing.
How much homework do you give?
I try to pace the assignments so that the average junior high student spends about 30-60 minutes on English (this includes reading) during each of the four weekdays not in class. A senior high student may spend 45-90 minutes each of the four weekdays not in class (this includes reading). A pacing schedule is sent with each week's assignments. If a student spends considerably more or less time, then the parent, student, and I need to meet to determine the problem and work out a solution.
In a traditional school setting, a junior high student would be in class for an hour each day and have 30-60 minutes of homework for that class each night for a total of 7-9 hours of English study per week. The home schooled junior high student who manages his/her time will have 4-6 hours of study per week, including the 90 minutes of class time.
Why do you give grades?
Grades are a part of life in school and afterwards, although not every assignment is graded. Only a small percentage of grades given in higher education are pass/fail. Employees are rated on a scale for their work during their annual evaluations, and the public expects to see grades/ratings for restaurants and other services.
Students have many opportunities to raise their grades in my classes. I encourage students to make test corrections after each major test and even after quizzes. Half credit is given as one may look up the answers to make corrections. Each formal writing assignment (paragraph, essay, or research paper) may be corrected for full credit. Making corrections allows students to learn from mistakes and refine composition skills.
What about extra credit?
I applaud students who wish to do extra credit in order to have higher grades, and I give opportunities to earn extra credit throughout the year in each class. Students are required to have completed and turned in all assigned work before doing extra credit assignments, but all are welcomed to answer the extra credit questions at the end of a test or quiz.
How can students know what their grades are?
I typically grade and return all assignments by the next class meeting. Also, each student is given a personal code to access his/her grades and averages on the electronic gradebook, Engrade. Students and parents are strongly encouraged to check Engrade often, because not only does it record and average the grades, the site also has a class calendar that lists the assignments and their due dates.
What about special circumstances?
As long as I am made aware of the circumstances, I can work with parents to modify and adjust lessons to the student's need. For those with learning challenges, weekly lessons and assignments can be adjusted or modified. For those planning an extended absence, a modified amount of work to keep the student from falling behind the rest of the class can be arranged. For those with unplanned absences, make up work is given with extended deadlines, but at a rate to keep the student current and not overwhelmed.
When do you meet with parents?
Parents may call or email me to schedule an extended (more than 10 minutes) appointment. Scheduling an appointment to meet during the summer is a great way for new parents and students be ready for the class in the fall. For "one quick question," a parent is welcomed to come to the classroom before or after the day's classes. I also send out a general conference schedule after the first four weeks of class.
Why do you have students read extra books in each class?
The simple answer is to prepare them for higher education, particularly for college, during which students may read six to twelve books besides the text per semester (and they aren't all novels with great stories).
Why do you have a summer and a winter break reading assignment?
There are several reasons. The first is because classes start in September, have an extended Christmas break, and end early in May, many parents have asked for an assignment for their students so they can "get in" the 180 required days of school. The second reason for the summer reading is that it gives me an idea of students' reading and writing levels early in the year, since I do not have access to student records as a teacher in a traditional school would have. For the winter break reading, it is to keep students from forgetting some of what they learned in the fall.
Although some home school teachers don't require summer reading or only give it as an extra credit opportunity, most preparatory schools require extensive summer reading. To remain competitive with public and private school students, a home schooled student should continue to read (not just for pleasure) and learn during the summer. Only one book is required for most of my classes. Honors American Literature and AP Language, of course, have more reading. Extra credit opportunities for summer reading are also provided.
What about payment?
My courses are priced for tuition to be paid in full or by semester to avoid the hassle for parents of forgetting to send tuition or for me taking class time to collect monthly payments. There is a discount for those who pay in full and a further discount for those who pay early. Sibling discounts also are given to families with more than one child in my classes. Currently, I accept cash, money orders, or checks. If needed, other arrangements may be discussed.