Read First
Site maintained by Jack Farrell
Retired Teacher, Conejo Valley Unified School District

Brief Biographical Background: I taught high school English in the Conejo Valley Unified School system for 27 years after beginning my teaching career at St. Monica High School in Santa Monica where I was a teacher and administrator for 4 1/2 years. I also served as a full-time released teacher in the BTSA Program (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment), supporting new teachers, during two 3 year rotations. During this time I had the unusual opportunity of observing hundreds of hours of instruction from 4th through 12 grade and in multiple disciplines. I had a chance to evaluate the latest eduational theories in practice. I considered this a research opportunity and much of the work detailed on this web-site was a result of the conclusions I drew and the alternative theory I put into practice in my own classroom when I returned to teaching English for two years between my two rotations as a Consultant Teacher.

I am currently retired from teaching and living full-time in Mammoth Lakes, California, in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. I work part-time as a support provider for the Mono County Office of Education. I currently support three teachers in the Eastern Sierra Unified School District, two at Lee Vining High School and one at Edna Beaman Elementary School in Benton, Ca. I am also a trustee of the Mammoth Unified School District Board of Education.

The California State Board of Education has adopted the new Common Core Standards.

This will have a major impact on how we deliver instruction in California Schools. The following article: Aligning the Teaching Standards with the Common Core Standards explores the implications for supervision and formative assessment. A briefer version of this article can be found here: Embracing the New Common Core Standards.

First-time visitors should begin here.

This is a Summary of Findings, a brief two-page document with all the major findings of the research articles on this site: Summary of Findings.

Recently I submitted a series of articles on summer reading of non-fiction to the Mammoth Times. Thus far, they have published two of the articles. Below are the four I have submitted:

"The Case for Non-fiction"
"How to Grow a Student's Vocabulary"
"How to Locate Suitable Non-Fiction"
"The Importance of Fluency in Reading"
"Fluency in Reading, Part 2"
"How to Keep Your Student Reading Throughout the School Year"

Introduction: This site was primarily used as a way for me to communicate with my students and, to a certain extent, their parents, in my classes at Newbury Park High School. After implementing new ideas and testing them in the clasroom, I returned to the position of consultant teacher for 3 additional years. I left the web-site up as a communication tool with teachers and administrators about the perils of forward teaching and the benefits of teaching backwards. There are links below to the research articles I've written. I also left up artifacts from when the site was used as a classroom tool.

During my second 3 year rotation as a full-time released consultant teacher, I maintained a reading weblog or "blog." Occasionally I wrote up observations of secondary reading pedagogy in practice and its implications for implementation of the language arts framework and the California content standards.


Posted Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2004: An examination of the Framework and the Content Standards Using the Language Arts Framework and Content Standards

Also posted Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2004: an examination of the reading requirements in the framework: Are Our Students Reading Enough?

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 29, 2004: a look at vocabulary growth: A Vertical Look at the Vocabulary Standards

Posted Tuesday, October 5, 2004: meeting the framework's reading goals: How Do we Meet the Framework's Reading Goals, Part 1?

Posted Thursday, October 21, 2004: Meeting the Framework's Reading Goals, Part 2? How Do we Meet the Framework's Reading Goals, Part 2?

Posted Monday, November 8, 2004: Discusses the role of fluency skill work: Fluency in the Language Arts Classroom

Posted Tuesday, November 23, 2004: takes a vertical look at a single standard, in this case theme: A Vertical Look at a Single Standard

Posted Tuesday, December 7, 2004: takes a look at the logic of reading and writing: The Logic of Reading and Writing

Posted Thursday, January 6, 2005: proposes the first steps a teacher or staff might take to implement this reading pedagogy: First Steps

Posted Tuesday, January 11, 2005: proposes the next steps a teacher or staff might take to implement this reading pedagogy: Next Steps

Posted Tuesday, February 15, 2005: describes a classroom research project comparing modern vs. traditional approches to writing instruction: Process vs. Mimesis

Posted Thursday, April 14, 2005: examines the research of McRel and its negative impact on today's classroom. The Failure of McRel

Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005: examines the effectiveness of SSR and SURE reading programs. Re-Thinking S.U.R.E.

Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005: A "Teaching Backwards" unit on Robert Frost's Poetry, comparing process writing with writing from models. Unit on Teaching Backwards

Posted Monday, January 30, 2006: An article entitled "Teaching Backwards" which outlines the major theory presented at the CATE Convention on February 4, 2006.Teaching Backwards

Posted Friday, February 10, 2006: An article entitled "The Math Formula" which offers a critique of current math pedagogy. The Math Formula

Posted Wednesday, August 23, 2006: A table comparing the standard 7 step lesson plan, a classic scaffold for 'forward teaching,' with a lesson plan utilizing a 'teaching backwards' design. Forward teaching vs. teaching backwards

Below you will find links to articles I wrote in support of the pedagogy advanced through this web-site. Most of these articles are 'brain-storms' or 'mind-dumps' and have yet to be even submitted for publication.


"The Student Who Read Everything Twice"
"A Walk in the Stacks"
"It's Not Scaffolding, if You Never Take It Down"
What Exactly is "Prior Knowledge?"
"Teaching Secondary English in a Standards-Based Curriculum"
"A Year-Long Look at the Teaching Standards"
"The Quick-Write as a Critical Thinking Tool"
"The Math Formula"
"How to Raise Test Scores Without Spending Money"
"Two Views of Langauge"

Parent's Letter

If you found your way to this site by way of NPR Boston, here is a brief orientation. This is not a commercial website. Rather it exists as a medium of communication for students and their parents in my high school English classes. It also has a section for professional educators which contains links to about a half-dozen articles I have written on reading pedagogy and the methods used in my classes. Look for the link below: "Professional Educators click here." And, if you would like to e-mail any comments or questions, there is an e-mail link at the bottom of this page. The remainder of the site is bascially for student use.

NPR contacted me for an interview based on a letter to the editor I wrote in response to an article published in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, May 19, 2003. The links below are to the original Times article and my letter to the editor in response. The Times holds reprint rights.

"2 R's Left in High School"
Letter to the Editor, L.A. Times

Welcome, CATE Convention!

The article related to the presentation "Teaching Backwards" can be located here: Teaching Backwards.

The power point presentation can be accessed here: Cate Presentation.

The domain name for this web-site is the key to understanding the philosophy of my classes. I begin with the notion that all students should encounter text first, with the idea being that students, over time, will become self-starters and independent learners. The first step on this path is independence as a reader.

In order to achieve these goals, the class will focus on the following:
1. Essential content standards chosen from the grade-level standards.
2. Self-assessment on these standards using specifically written rubrics.
3. Limited peer assessments.
4. Maintenance of grading logs and rubrics.

Many of the readings and assignments will be posted on this web-site and students will be routinely directed to access and print these pages for use in the class. The homework assignments will be posted daily as well. Parents are encouraged to monitor this site on a daily basis and to discuss homework readings and assignments with their students. Parents are also encouraged to use the e-mail link below to ask for clarification on the assignments and to monitor the progress of their son or daughter.

This site is presented very simply to help underline the focus of the class, on independent mastery of authentic text, which is black type on white paper. Any search of the library stacks will reveal this to be true. Students will be encouraged to mark up the text features as a way into the text and will have daily opportunities to closely read authentic text.

The following is an example of a textbook page, which, by its color and graphical content, is artificial, rather than authentic text, followed by an example of authentic text, as presented to the class, and, finally, the same text whose text features have been marked up by a student:

Here is some brief background on myself. I have an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Southern California and a Master's Degree in English from the Universityof California, Los Angeles. I taught at Thousand Oaks High School from 1974 to 1999. The last twenty-two years at Thousand Oaks I taught Advanced Placement English. From 1999-2002 I was a Consultant Teacher for the Conejo Valley Unified School District, on full-time release from the classroom. I worked with beginning teachers from 4th-12th grade. Currently, in addition to teaching two classes at Newbury Park High School, I am employed in the afternoon and evenings as a Consultant Teacher for the Ventura County Office of Education, working in the New Teacher Program.

During my time as a consultant teacher I also became involved in the Governor's Reading Initiative. I have co-directed two reading institutes with California Lutheran University and was involved in a Leadership Institute in August,2002 whose focus was reading, writing and literature.

I have written several articles about reading in the secondary schools; they are linked on this site, and I have developed the pedagogy for English 9CP and English 11S based on essential standards chosen from the English-Language Arts Framework and Content Standards, as well as the California Standards for the teaching profession.

Follow the links below to the articles and the essential standards.

Professional Educators click here.

Pedagogy for the class

Essential Content Standards


"The Chaser" by John Collier
"Charles" by Shirley Jackson
"Luck" by Samuel Clemens
"The Upturned Face" by Stephen Crane
"The Lost Soul" by Ben Hecht
"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe
"Houseparty" by Walter Bernstein


English 9CP

Class Participation
Reading Content Standard 3.8
Reading Standards 1.1 and 1.2
Writing Applications 2.2
Manuscript Conventions 1.5
Writing Strategies 1.1
Writing Revision 1.9
Writing Applications 2.2--Drama

White Fang by Jack London
Part 1, Chapter 1
Part I, Chapter 2
Part I, Chapter 3
Part II, Chapter 1
Part II, Chapter 2
Part II, Chapter 3
Part II, Chapter 4
Part II, Chapter 5
Part III,Chapter 1
Part III, Chapter 2
Part III, Chapter 3
Part III, Chapter 4
Part III, Chapter 5
Part III, Chapter 6
Part IV, Chapter 1
Part IV, Chapter 2
Part IV, Chapter 3
Part IV, Chapter 4
Part IV, Chapter 5
Part IV, Chapter 6
Part V, Chapter 1
Part V, Chapter 2
Part V, Chapter 3
Part V, Chapter 4
Part V, Chapter 5

Continuous Scripts

Mt. Olympus

Opening Paragraph to essay on Fahrenheit 451.

Trifles by Susan Glaspell

"The Duel" by Joseph J. Ellis, from Founding Brothers
"The Duel"

Sample paper on "The Chaser" and 7 sentence outline. Sample Paper

Sample paper on "The Lost Soul" leading with the thesis sentence. Thesis Sample

Directions for the I-Search Paper: The I-Search Paper

Oral Presentation schedule: Oral Presentations

Sample I-Search Paper Sample I-Search Paper on Cormac McCarthy

Sample of Oral Presentation on a sonnet by Shakespeare: Sonnet V
Explication of Sonnet V: ESLR Assignment

The Federalist Papers

Click here to access the Federalist Papers

Animal Farm
Classic Notes on Animal Farm


"Sunlight in Trebizond Street" by Alan Paton
"The Ring" by Isak Dinesen
"The Watery Place by Isacc Asimov
"A & P" by John Updike
"The Rat Trap" by Selma Lagerlof
"A Country Doctor" by Franz Kafka
"The Far and the Near" by Thomas Wolfe

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, a Paraphrase

An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope

Controversial Issue Sample Paper


During the school year, the last five days of homework were listed for each of my classes.

Number of visits to this page since February 15, 2005.

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