Course Outcomes:

  • Students will develop a love of reading and writing.
  • Students will be able to critically analyze texts of all kinds, including both literature and rhetoric.
  • Students will become empowered as writers for all kinds of purposes.
  • Students will be prepared for the STAAR English 1 exam.
  • Students will be prepared for Pre-AP English 2 and on track to perform well on the AP English Language and Literature exams.
  • Students will have built upon their skills of scholarship (that is, being a good student).


  • your school-issued laptop
  • headphones, earbuds, or some other form of technology that allows you to privately listen to media
  • notebook paper (note – if you’re using a notebook for paper, it must be the kind that allows you to neatly tear off the sheets along a perforated edge – don’t give me fringy paper!)
  • blue or black pens
  • pencils
  • highlighters
  • one approximately 1-inch binder for grammar materials
  • a binder or a section in your binder for your other English papers
  • One classroom community item
    • Periods 1 and 2: Clorox (or Lysol, or similar brand) wipes
    • Periods 4 and 6: tissues
    • Period 7: paper towels

If finding supplies is difficult for you for any reason, please let me know.


Major Works:


Fall Semester:

  • The Odyssey (abridged, electronic copy provided), by Homer
  • The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas (we read a special edition: ISBN: 0553213504)

Spring Semester:

  • Dracula, by Bram Stoker (Dover Thrift Edition recommended)
  • The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  • Romeo and Juliet, by Shakespeare


This reading schedule is subject to revision. We will also read many shorter works to supplement these texts. We have books to lend to students, but I recommend getting copies of Dracula, The Hot Zone, The Joy Luck Club, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Glass Castle. Having your own copy will allow you to annotate (make notes as you read – we’ll talk about how to do this in class), which is an important skill for AP English. You can probably find copies of these books in many of Houston’s used bookstores – I might also organize book ordering for students if there are enough who are interested.


Assignments will be weighted to count for one, two, or three grades, depending on value. Most daily assignments will count once; quizzes will count twice; exams and projects will count three or four times.

For many daily work assignments, I will grade on a check-plus (100), check (80), check-minus (60) scale. Reasons for a low score on this kind of assignment might include: incomplete assignment, lack of depth and substance, issues with mechanics, etc. I am always happy to talk with you about what you could do to improve your work.

Most major projects and essays will be graded using a rubric or scale. Projects and essays for Pre-AP English 1 may not be retaken.

Late Work

It is the policy of Pre-AP English 1 at Bellaire that we do not accept daily and homework assignments after they are due.

Students may submit one major assignment one day late per cycle.


Test and quiz days for English are on Monday (unless school is cancelled for that day, in which case the assessment will be on Tuesday). If you are absent for a quiz or a test, you must come make it up with my on the Friday of that week – this session will be your only opportunity to make it up, and students who do not show up will receive a zero for their grade.

Tests taken in class have time limits; you should not expect to be able to come in later to work on a quiz or exam that you were not able to finish in class. (If you have counselor-approved accommodations, talk with me one-on-one.)

Students must put their cell phones in a bag, backpack, or binder while taking a test or a quiz (no phones in pockets!).

Academic Integrity

The Short Version

Students who turn in work that is not completely original will receive a zero for the assignment (without the possibility of making it up) and may receive an office referral. Turning in the same answers as your friend counts as cheating. For this reason, please be very careful about letting your friends see your homework. In the case that I receive two identical or very similar assignments, both receive zeros.

Cheating on an assignment in this class will impact my recommendation of you to National Honor Society and universities to which you apply.

The Long Version

Why is this such a big deal?

Academic dishonesty is such a big deal because when you cheat, you are essentially stealing something from your peers and your community. Bellaire is a highly competitive high school, where your GPA (calculated, in part, based on your performance in my class) will determine where you are accepted to college and if you will be awarded enough money to attend. If you edge someone out of the top 10% because you received a grade that you didn’t earn, you are taking away someone else’s opportunity to get into a good school or win a scholarship.

What constitutes “cheating?”

  • Unauthorized aid on a test or quiz.
  • “Working together” on daily or homework assignments – all assignments for my class must be completed individually, unless I explicitly give you permission to work with a partner or in a group. If you have trouble understanding the material, you can ask me for help instead of copying your friends’ answers. If you copy from another student and change a couple of words in an attempt to disguise it, I will be even more disappointed than if you had just copied word-for-word.
  • Copying anything from another source (often the Internet) without putting it in quotations and giving a citation.
    • Copying from the Internet is not “research.” Research is the process of generating an authentic question, consulting a variety of sources that deal with that subject, and synthesizing that information into an original answer.
    • If a section of your work that’s roughly 100 words long matches, verbatim, something I can find on the Internet, you copied it. It’s not a one-in-a-billion coincidence. The person from Wikipedia did not plagiarize your work. You’re not telepathic and accidentally thought exactly the same thing in the same way that someone else did. There is a 0% chance I will buy any of those excuses, and a 100% chance that I will be extremely annoyed that you are compounding your cheating with dishonesty.


Reading Guides:

We will often having reading guides (sets of analytic questions) to help students with their independent reading and to structure classroom discussion.

This is covered in the Academic Integrity portion of this syllabus, but it bears repeating: there is no “working together” on reading guides unless I give you explicit permission to do so. You are expected to complete your reading guides independently; if the work that you turn in is suspiciously similar to another student’s assignment (and yes, I can tell when you just substitute some synonyms to make yours look original), you will both lose credit, in addition to other possible repercussions.


In Pre-AP English 1, we cover 30 vocabulary words per week (some upper grades cover more) and quiz over them on Mondays. At first, many students find this a bit challenging. Here are some tips I would offer to be successful in your quizzes:

  • Do not wait until the night before the quiz to start studying. Try learning a few words every day so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Use – check out the “Vocabulary” section of the website for the lists. It is a fantastic resource for practicing words, and many students tell me that it’s fun (or at least as fun as studying vocabulary can be!). Make sure that you “master” all of the words if you want to be ready for the quiz.
  • Actively participate when we discuss the words in class. Take notes on your vocabulary sheet.
  • Try writing sentences using the words as a method of studying – most of our quizzes will be sentence completion.
  • Do the practice quiz that goes along with your vocabulary list.



We will also cover grammar on a weekly basis in class. We’ll start with the very basics — parts of speech like nouns and verbs — and build up to more sophisticated sentence structures.

For many students, grammar is the most challenging part of the English curriculum. (In my experience, many students who come to Bellaire did not have a lot of exposure to grammar instruction in middle school.) If you find that you are struggling with grammar, here are things that I would recommend:

  • First, try to remember that this is a difficult subject for a lot of people! I frequently hear students say, “I’m just not good at grammar.” But being “not good at grammar” is not a thing — it doesn’t require an innate talent like ice-skating or writing poetry. It’s just that you haven’t learned something — yet.
  • Make sure that you are mentally “with us” when we are practicing taking apart sentences during class time. (When I was in middle and high school, I remember thinking of math class as time for my mental vacations! The teacher would show up how to work out different problems, and I would start daydreaming, and then I was surprised when I had no idea how to do the homework!)
  • Try using some interactive electronic resources — in particular, and Khan Academy.
  • Make your studying as active as possible. If you are just reading the notes explaining the concepts, you won’t be able to answer the questions on the assessments that ask you look at how grammar unfolds in actual sentences.
  • And finally, come talk with me! We can go over the things that are difficult for you together — you’re not in this alone!

Class Policies and Procedures


Cell Phones

Please use them responsibly and respectfully.

Chewing Gum

If you can chew gum without making a big smacking spectacle, you are welcome to do so. Please dispose of your gum in the trash cans (NOT UNDER THE DESKS).

How I feel when I see students drawing on desks.


Do not draw on the desks. This is one of those things that I will be very upset about if I see you doing it. I spend a lot of effort trying to maintain a nice, clean classroom for you, and drawing on the desks shows an enormous lack of respect for that.

Fan Fiction

I am still a little baffled that I have to say this, but please do not write about me in your class assignments. I don’t want to read your story about “Ms. Nampahc” or some other teacher who bears a strong resemblance to me, or an essay about my class, or a list of vocabulary sentences about me. I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t objectively grade something so personal. Branch out! Write about something a little less familiar.


Friday is the English department’s reserved day for tutorials. What this means is that if I want you to come see me during this time (to make up a test, review something you are having trouble with, etc.), my class takes precedence over all others for that day.

I will frequently offer tutorials and have my room open during lunch on other days of the week. It’s always best to let me know if you are planning to drop by – sometimes I have meetings during this time that require me to be out of the classroom.

Start and End of Class

Each day when you come in to class, please initial next to your name for my attendance records. Pick up any papers I have set out for you next to the sign-in sheet, take a seat in your assigned desk.

At the end of class, please wait for me to dismiss you before putting up your materials.

Restroom Breaks

Bellaire permits teachers to manage restroom breaks during class by giving students two passes per six-weeks-cycle. I would strongly prefer not to deal with a system of counting the number of times you need to relieve yourself and instead treat you like mature young adults capable of dealing with your bodily functions. With that said, if it appears as though you are missing class frequently due to bathroom breaks and it’s interfering with learning, I reserve the right to limit or stop your restroom breaks.

You will not always be able to go to the bathroom at any moment of the class period. Part of the excitement of becoming an adult is accepting full responsibility for your excretory system. Here is a handy guide to knowing when it’s appropriate to ask to be excused in class:



Please try to be in your seat when the bell rings. If being late develops into a pattern, we will talk.


Please do not ask to miss my class for an extracurricular activity (practicing for a performance, helping with a fundraiser for a club, etc.).

If You Are Absent

Really try to arrive back at school with as much of your work completed as possible – I post everything I can electronically on the class website so that you are able to catch up. I understand that there are some days when you are so ill that literally nothing can get done, but I think often when we need stay home it’s because we’re contagious and we need a bit of a rest. Of course, I’ll allow you additional time to make up your work, but I think it’s very much in your interest to take care of whatever you can on schedule.

When you return to school, do not come ask me if you missed anything while you were out. Of course you missed something while you were out – I spend great quantities of time planning that something to fill those 53 minutes of your day. Instead, check the class website (if at all possible, prior to your return) – it will have a much more thorough summary of what we did than I could possibly give you. After checking the website, please ask me if you have any further questions about the work that you need to make up.

If you know that you are going to be absent ahead of time, feel free to ask if there is work that you can get in advance, but most of the time I’m revising lessons and schedules on a daily basis and your best bet will be to keep up with the class website while you are out.

If you miss a quiz or test due to an absence, the only make-up session that will be offered for that assessment will be on the Friday of that week. Friday is the English department’s dedicated tutorials/make-up day, and work for this class takes precedence over all others on that day of the week – if another teacher tells you that you must come in to his or her class on that day and it conflicts with something that you need to do for English, let me know and I will email that teacher. (Please make sure that it’s not a situation where your other teacher told you that you could come to their tutorials any day of the week, and you waited until Friday.)

It’s your responsibility to remember that you need to make up assessments that you have missed due to absence, and if you miss the make-up session your grade will be a zero.


You are required to bring your laptop with you to English class every day, charged and ready to go.

Please have a professional, reliable email address.

Electronic Correspondence

Please, from the bottom of my English teacher’s heart, adhere to the basic rules of grammar and mechanics when you send me emails. I don’t expect you to compose a sonnet asking for help with your homework, but when I see an email you have sent with zero capital letters, a little part of my soul withers.

I do not accept emailed homework assignments (I would not be able to keep on top of my email if I did).

Class Website

My class website is – I update it almost every day with a summary of the day’s lesson and activities. I expect you to check it once a day (preferably in the evening – I usually don’t have a chance to post until the day is over). There are lots of great resources on here to help you succeed in this class.


            The library has facilities for students to print.