When my eighth graders were reading Flowers for Algernon, they all laughed at Charlie’s spelling in the early Progris  Riport (sic) entries. It happens every time I do that story. But as you all know, Charlie ain’t got nothin’  on your typical middle schooler when it comes to creative spelling:

begging (for beginning — Boy Howdy, I hate that one!)

But while reading their one page samples of their research papers in progress, one girl…

Hold on. I have to interrupt this post with another brief aside. The girl in question here has made great progress this year. I hear that last year, as a seventh grader, she was the epitome of  S and R (sullen and resentful: the teenage default) as well as defiant and etc. She also lived through some things as a kid that no one should have to, and is now being raised by her sister. But she is a sweet girl, who really just needs a dad. Anyway, today she was turned around jabbering with her friend while I was trying to give directions, and I called her on it. I got the perfunctory (vocab word for seventh graders this week) and insincere “I’m sorry,” and then she went back to jabbering. So I whacked my stick to get her attention again. I gave her my best crabby-looking-over-my-reading-specs look, and she suddenly blurts out, “I love you!”

The thing is, only a couple of them laughed at her. I guess it’s better than I’m sorry.

Anyway… She’s been working real hard lately and I’ve been real proud of her. Her paper is about schizophrenia, and she had read where there might be a link between a pregnant mom having the flu and the baby having schizophrenia later in life.

I guess she had never seen the word written down.

She spelled it…


Since we’re in the middle of research, I thought I might rerun this little gem from last year.

We’re at the halfway point in the research process; one week in, one week to go. You can tell how exciting this past week has been by the lack of snappy posts.   There are still about a dozen shmarties who basically haven’t started, but most seem to have something going on. The Titanic is having quite a renaissance this year, clocking in at 20+ kids interested in giving me lists of the many amenities the ill-fated ship offered.

Another biggie this year is global warming, at 18+. UFO’s; Are they spaceships? has about 15 backers. And now that there’s the excuse of the initiative on the November ballot here in California, legalization of ____ is also a hot topic, also with about 15. (I don’t need those kinds of ads appearing, thank you very much.) I always tell them, “As long as Mom knows and approves…”

Most of them have a bare-bones outline, and some notes…

But you all know that seventh graders and actual research –skimming, reading, note-taking, etc– are like oil and vinegar. You have to do a whole lotta shakin’ to get them together. And then, if you let ’em sit for awhile, you hafta shake ’em up again. And again. I’m straining my metaphor, but I think you know what I mean. You have to be constantly putting things in front of their faces, and reminding, and sometimes even practically taking their hands and helping them write a note or two, to prime the pump, so to speak..

“Wait, why’d you click back? That was a perfect site for your topic.”

“I didn’t see anything about my questions.”

“How could you? All you did was wiggle the little scroll-wheel, and then click the back button. You couldn’t possibly have read any of it.”

“Uh huh!”


I swear, those mice with the little scroll-wheels should be banned in junior high. All they do is click-wiggle-wiggle-scroll-click-wiggle-scroll-scroll-click-repeat.

One of the more savvy ones did turn me on to a jewel of a site for one of the other pains in the Heineken about this project: the dreaded works cited page.

Go here:


and all your works cited issues will go away. You can even create an entry for a book by entering the ISBN number. It’s a beautiful thing, and will save you a load of pain and suffering. It even passed muster with our old-school librarian. It’s especially useful for citing websites.

After a few days of riding herd on them in the library (“What are you doing over there? You have a stack of books on your table you haven’t even opened yet, and a magazine that has to go back tomorrow. What are you doing? Sit! Stay!”), I’m ready to buy a class set of these babies. Too bad they’re out of stock. Set that sucker for 54 minutes, and lock ’em in. It weighs about 20 pounds, so I might need two for the bigger ones; one for each leg.

The link is here.