Today we were working on one of the few things I still use from the giant collection of “material” that came with our hopelessly dated anthology text.

(First sentence, and I’m already at an aside: There’s a road that connects to a highway in the great California Central Valley–the birthplace of most of the nation’s vegetables–called Brown Material Road. Really. Brown material. What sort of brown material?)

The texts came with a consumable (you get to write in it) workbook that had some of the stories in the big book with room to write notes and “reflections” and answer questions and do easy vocabulary exercises. They also had a section called “Reading Beyond the Classroom” (RBC) which had things like bus schedules, medicine bottle labels, weather maps, and suchlike, with exercises and questions based on reading these types of things. Perfect for prepping for standardized tests, and if toughened up a bit with some actual questions, also good for fostering that thinking thing that’s all the rage these days.

We’ve had our texts so long (at least 10 years), that the “lifetime” renewal for the consumables sort of… ran out. I had hoarded extras for a long time and managed to squeeze out another year, because I use about 1/3 of it, and when someone else is footing your copying bill…  So anyway, now I am down to doling them out in packets a little at  a time, with my serva–student aide making copies from my last couple of books.

Today the RBC we were going over was a set of instructions for programming a VCR timer with the remote. A little dated, but good for working on the one skill that almost no middle-schooler in the entire known universe has: following directions or instructions.

I nit-pick them to death. If the instructions in the workbook say underline, and they circle? IT’S WRONG! Did the instructions say circle? I didn’t think so. And so on.  Then they get to my questions. The ones in the workbook focus on things like finding the header that says this, and the words that tell you to do that. My questions are more about understanding what they just read. That’s where the wheels fall off the cart. More on that later.

Today’s story is about the bonus question I added. You all know how middle-schoolers LUV their extra credit. Almost every quiz or warm up has a bonus question for “non-clicker extra credit.” So the bonus question on this li’l quiz was, “What does the CC button do?”

The answer wasn’t in the book–that’s why they call it extra credit–but almost everybody understood what I meant by the CC button. I was talking about the one on the remote in the diagram on the workbook page. And some actually knew that the CC button on your remote was to turn on the captions.

One genius mixed it up with SAP button.

“It’s the button that turns your TV Mexican.”

Amid the din of general laughter, somebody beat me to it.

“You don’t have to be Mexican to speak Spanish!”

“Oh, sorry.”

Thank you. Moving on.

Alas, one poor lad didn’t really get the question at all.

They were clicking in their answers to the quiz–they were supposed to answer the bonus question in their notebook when they were done CPS clicking–and I notice that someone keeps answering the same question over and over.

“Number 7 (I don’t have their clicker numbers memorized), what are you doing?”

“I’m testing the CC button.”


“Never mind.”

Now I see #7 clicker doing the same thing with the next question; answering it over and over.

“Number 7, what is up?”

“I’m seeing what the CC button does.”

“What?” (I find myself saying this quite a bit with this particular class.)

Now I see #7 intently inspecting his clicker as he repeatedly answers the same question.

OMG. It can’t be. But it is.

And it came to pass that this was the explanation:

“I thought CC button meant pushing the C button twice.”

On. His. Clicker. The C button. Twice.