A Letter to Parents and Guardians

Dear Parents and Guardians,


This website is meant as a supplemental learning tool, an extension of my classroom. It is a work in progress, something I have been focusing on throughout the summer. I had technical assistance from Mr. Bracksieck who is truly a technological wizard and a patient one at that. But he will be the first to tell you that Google sites (as any of you who have tried it know) is not the most intuitive of websites and as a result, it has been challenging to get this up and running. If it becomes too daunting to continue to run, I may have to abandon ship. I hope not.  


The website should be a place where students can find resources, some of the handouts I give out in class, and a place to look up homework – the major assignments which will be posted each week. However, the place for your child to find homework daily is on the board in our classroom. While it is “old school,” chalk can be more reliable than a website for many reasons. Websites can be persnickety; power can fail and I can also get involved with extra help after school or running to a meeting. So, again, they should turn to the board in class first! Some of the pages have nothing on them yet because they are books we will read later in the year. Your child will be directed to pages, assignments and use of the site as it happens in class.


I look forward to getting to know your child and helping him to grow as a reader, writer, and thinker in class this year.  


At times parents have asked how they can best help their child succeed in high school. Here are a few ideas I have shared in the past:


  • Encourage him or her to read – everything – of course our daily reading assignments are absolutely key, but also urge your son or daughter to have a book to read for pure enjoyment.   


  • Perhaps you’d like to read the book we are reading in class together. As a mom, I found, and still do, that it is a wonderful way to create a conversation that will go on and on. Pick up a copy at the library or a used book store. This year in 9th grade we start with Of Mice and Men, then Fahrenheit 451 and then excerpts from The Odyssey and The House on Mango Street. In 10th grade, we will begin with Black Boy and then, move on to Local Girls and The Catcher in the Rye. (This will depend on book availability, so schedules do change.) In AP we’ll begin with Let the Great World Spin (summer reading) and then on to Beloved, As I Lay Dying and Othello and The Age of Innocence.



  • Urge your child to embrace the idea of a dialectical notebook. In 9th and 10th grade, in our English classes, students will be required to take notes as they read in a dialectical notebook – for homework. They’ll seek out what they feel are the most compelling passages in the chapter and then interact with them on the page, creating a kind of written dialogue between themselves and the book. A page on this is also on the website. We feel this is a map back to their thinking as they read, a vital strategy.



  • Subscribe to a couple of magazines in an area that interests your child. Whether that interest is science, art, rugby, fashion, writing, skateboarding, videogaming, the environment, social causes, soccer, dance, music, there is a magazine out there for her and for him.



  • Vocabulary practice/growth. By late September, about every two weeks, we will have a vocab quiz. Students should do the exercises for each unit in the book and expect a quiz every other week. You can quiz them on the words. Quizzes will typically be on Fridays. On the website, there is an SAT word link. These are great resources but they’ll improve too by doing crossword puzzles, looking words up as they read and, again, simply by reading. 
  •  The Links for Learning page on this website has some great resources for students and it will be expanded as the year goes on.


  • A word about the CAPT.Test. Our English Department philosophy is that CAPT informs what we do; it makes sense because it asks students to do what they are doing and should be doing as readers:
  • React
  • Interpret
  • Connect
  • Evaluate or take a critical stance.
  • Because this is so important as a reading, writing and thinking strategy, it is embedded in what we do when we discuss, read and write. We will have formal practice sessions but more often, it will be as natural as breathing. For example, as we read the novel Of Mice and Men, students may be asked to react to what they felt was the most powerful moment in chapter three and to bring in three questions about the chapter so that they can facilitate the class discussion.


  • You can help by chatting with your child as she or he reads by asking perhaps, does this book remind you of anything? What did you think of that part in the book? Why would that character do something like that? Which book was better – Local Girls or The Catcher in the Rye? Why?



  • What else helps?  As parents we all know the drill, the better the sleep, the better the breakfast, the happier and more academically engaged and energized the student. Encouraging them to continually stay on top of homework is great as well!



  • Communication: Encourage your child to talk with me about any concerns or struggles or ideas or questions he or she has. I can be reached through B-House office at 203-453-4513 or by email at hennessj@trumbullps.org.