Freshman Prep to give students a boost 09.17.2007

Written by David Green.


Any homework today?

“I don’t have any homework; I have a test tomorrow.”

Wrong answer, says Morenci science instructor Kerry Neiman. If you have a test tomorrow, then you have homework.

That answer might be classified as a freshman mistake. It’s one Mrs. Nieman doesn’t want to hear again as Morenci’s ninth grade class members advance onward toward their senior year.

Along with the help of two other teachers, she’s doing her best to improve the study habits of the school’s freshman class—the first to face the stiff graduation requirements set by the state education department.

Math and science teacher Kim Mohr came up with the idea for what’s being called “Freshman Prep,” a high school readiness class. She read about the concept in an education magazine and it made a lot of sense to her.freshman_prep.jpg

It sounds simple—taking notes, reviewing notes, following directions, studying, preparing for a test, taking a test—but those skills aren’t specifically taught in the lower grades.

Some kids might come into high school with good study skills, but many don’t. Even if it’s something they’ve been taught in the past, most students could benefit from learning how to better put the skills into practice.

As a practical example, Mrs. Mohr points to the new requirement in mathematics. General math isn’t even offered anymore. To graduate in 2011, students needs to pass algebra II.

“We want to make sure they know how to use their textbook,” Mrs. Mohr said. “Rather than raise their hands and wait for a teacher, they’re going to need to be able to take a more proactive approach.”

Mrs. Nieman says they’re giving students “the skills to succeed” and helping them put the skills into practice.

Freshmen used planners in middle school to write down homework and test schedules. Well, at least they were issued planners. They weren’t always taking advantage of them.

“They’re going to be using them a lot more than in middle school,” Mrs. Nieman said. “They’ll be getting in the habit of that.”

Daily class

Updating planners is part of the new course, along with 20 minutes of homework time. A study skill is discussed followed by an activity to put the skill into practice.

The class often addresses a topic or skill that students will encounter the next day in their regular classes. Other teachers are asked for ideas that should be covered in the prep class.

There was no set curriculum to buy and creating the class takes a lot of time, said Deb Hojnacki, the third teacher involved. However, there’s a definite advantage to having three teachers.

One of the three takes charge of planning for a week. She creates a lesson plan, then shows it to the other two for review and suggestions.

“It really helps to have three different points of view,” Mrs. Mohr said.

“You get a lot of ideas from each other and we do a lot of brainstorming,” Mrs. Nieman added. “We’re learning each day.”

Mrs. Hojnacki, who teaches students with disabilities, got involved with the freshman class for two reasons. Her students could clearly benefit from special study skills, and there’s concern that the state might do away with resource rooms in favor of inclusion where all students learn in a regular classroom.

“We’re erring on the side of caution,” she said, by trying more inclusion, but with a co-teaching format.

In the current trimester, she’s spending some time in Jesse Bach’s social science class to help special needs students there and also to handle some presentation of subject matter.

The Milan school district has done away with the resource room completely, Mrs. Hojnacki said, but Morenci isn’t yet ready to make that jump.

In the meantime, all of her students are joining the freshmen in learning how to study better.

And don’t forget, kids, if your planner indicates there’s a test coming up next week, you could do a little review of your notes today.


  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016