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About Me

  • I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from Stephen F. Austin State University and a Juris Doctor from Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Texas Southern University. Following my legal career, I entered the teaching profession 15 years ago as a special educator. From there I worked for several years as an Instructional Technology Specialist. I hold teaching certifications in Special Education, English as a Second Language, ELA/Reading/Social Studies 4-8, and Social Studies 9-12. I am an Intel - Teach to the Future Master Teacher, a LoTi (Levels of Technology Innovation) Certified Mentor, a Flat Classroom Certified Teacher, and worked for the past 2 years as part of the Early Adopters Learning Symphony technology integration initiative at Spring Forest. I am looking forward to the 2nd phase of that program to be rolled out this year.




 Kenneth Jones - 8th Grade Language Arts

 Ask a math, science, art, social studies, music, or shop teacher to give some examples of the content covered in the course they teach.  You will hear things like: fractions, moon phases, complementary colors, presidents, notes and scales, or woodworking safety. In English Language Arts (ELA) the answers can be a bit more difficult to pin down. Most think of ELA as being a skills acquisition course: reading comprehension, effective written and oral communication, and/or writing conventions and processes.

While these skills are taught and practiced, the actual “content” of ELA is Life! Our content concerns itself with the BIG questions life poses: How are humans expected to act toward one another? What are the attributes of a life well lived? What stuff of life holds value and is of lasting importance? How do we make appropriate and reasonable choices? What value is involved in risk-taking? How do I view and handle my certain failures along the way? It’s pretty cool and heavy stuff, right?

We will spend the year getting students to ponder these and other “lesser” questions. The substantive content students consume is selected and directed toward raising the students’ level of comprehension, analytical, collaboration, and communication skills.  The level of these skills students possess and can apply will ensure not only a deeper understanding of life’s challenges, but a more effective participation in the real world regardless of their eventual academic and career goals and pursuits.

 Our society has experienced dramatic technological, social, and economic changes over the last several decades. It has been said that we live in exponential times, meaning that change occurs faster than our abilities to keep up allow. As learners, we must develop skills that allow not only collection, but the management of a constant and ever increasing flow of new learning avenues, approaches, and applications. As learners preparing to be tomorrow's workers and leaders, students must not be merely adept and passive recipients of the flow of information. They must be active participants in the creation and distribution of that flow. This requires that an integral part of their education be focused on acquiring an updated definition of Literacy.

While there are other definitions of literacy, the one that will guide our 8th grade exploration is:

 The ability to read, write, speak, and listen, and use numeracy and technology, at a level that enables individuals to express and understand ideas and opinions, to make decisions and solve problems, to achieve their goals, and to participate fully in their community and in wider society. Achieving literacy is a lifelong learning process. Advance Literacy Houston

 The overarching Essential Question that will drive the learning this year is: In what ways can mastery of modern literacy skills and curricular objectives be demonstrated through the publication of student designed and created artifacts?

 The days of education being about learning the 3 Rs – Readin’, Rightin’ and Rithmatic are but irrelevant remnants of a past long gone. Like it, lament it – the fact remains! New economic realities demand that students’ focus on acquiring a grasp of and experience with the 5 Cs: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, and Citizenship.  The goal of the 8th grade ELA program is to provide numerous opportunities for students to acquire these skills in the context of exploring the state and district curriculum.

Our approach to the curriculum will be a Project/Problem/Passion Based Learning (PPPBL) model in which students will work together to express their understanding of the curriculum in ways that demonstrate critical thinking and creativity. A critical component of PPPBL is that students are in charge of the directions their curriculum based projects take – both in terms of process and product. Equally important is that the audiences to view and critique their creative products be public – the campus, the community….the planet!

 While the goal is to produce a rigorous program of learning for increased student ability and achievement, the ELA course also strives to provide an engaging and relevant environment that values the individual student both in terms of need and interest without regard to present ability or past performance. Our goal is to raise the level of student ability and achievement, period! We begin where the student is and work from there for ALL students. The only failure is to not try or to give up. Through genuine and consistent effort, unflappable persistence, and an attitude of resiliency ALL students will find success!

 For students to view ELA as their favorite learning experience is not only a personal goal but a professional goal as well. A major focus of the course will be to create an environment in which students are genuinely engaged in learning AND Having Fun doing so! I will strive to bring energy and enthusiasm toward this end each and every day! I look forward to learning with you and your students.


















The 8th grade English Language Arts program is a true integration of literacy skills: reading, writing, creating, communicating (listening, speaking, and presenting) and collaborating. In this course, students will learn and practice critical reading, thinking, and writing skills through a variety of genres, including short stories, novels, poetry, non-fiction essays, articles on current events, cultural trends, and/or issues pertaining to particular student interests. Students will learn and apply a variety of strategies to uncover hidden layers of meaning in literary and informational texts and to examine analysis techniques in order to strengthen their own abilities to use language purposefully and skillfully. 

The purpose of homework is to provide an opportunity for students to apply skills independently. Since I believe that students learn best when they collaborate with others and the fact that our classroom structure allows for both collaborative and independent demonstration of competence, there will be very little “officially assigned” homework which requires turning some product in the next day.

However, there can be no question from the course components (Major curricular writing pieces, performance projects, and ongoing weekly assignments) that students have a great deal of work to complete each and every week. While the workshop structure allows a significant amount of class time to complete required tasks, this does not mean that students have “nothing to do” at home or on the weekends. In fact, the opposite is true, particularly for students that have struggled in the past with reading, writing, organization, and completing assigned tasks in a timely manner. All students are expected to put forth the effort necessary to meet grade level expectations and personal achievement goals.

For a learner in the business of acquiring modern literacy, preparing for high school, college, career, and life to believe, much less say that their ELA work can be done entirely in class is not only patently incorrect, but has completely misunderstood the class expectations! As virtually all major grade level student work will be submitted electronically, anything the student completes can be shared - this includes being viewed by parents. Therefore, parents are strongly encouraged to have their student demonstrate their performance on or completion of any assignment. I will be offering parents the opportunity to learn how to use the methods we will use in a series of evening and/or weekend sessions.




Tutorials and Help - ELA Team and Mr. Jones

**Both of the 8th Grade Language Arts teachers hold a formal afternoon tutorial**:

                Monday – Mr. Jones

                Tuesday – Genius Hour Makerspace (Available for tutorials)

                Wednesday – Genius Hour Makerspace (Available for tutorials) – Mrs. Cyphers

                Thursday – Available for tutorials on request

                Friday – by student/parent request communicated as far in advance as possible BEFORE the Friday in question.           

                Saturday - I plan to hold Saturday school from 9:00 to 12:00 every Saturday. This will be time for students to get extra help on assignments, to work on projects with their student teams, or to simply get caught up on late work.

 **Due to the nature and variety of personal, family, and administrative demands on our schedules, flexibility is a key tutorial concept for the 8th grade ELA team. Students are expected to timely communicate their tutorial needs so they receive the help they need when they need it.

 Obtaining help in ELA should not be an issue for any student. It is rare that I am not in the room working by 7:30 am until 4:30 pm. There are however, exceptions to this. I have periodic mandatory faculty, grade level, and department meetings on Tuesday mornings. In addition, I am required to attend various other meetings in the mornings or afternoons and have a weeklong morning and afternoon duty assignment every 5 weeks. The occurrence of these type events will mean that morning tutorials will end at 8:00 am and afternoon tutorials will not begin until 3:45 pm. On occasion I have to arrive later and leave earlier or be absent for personal and family needs. Students should check with me in advance to make sure that I will be available. 

 Students are encouraged to arrange for extra help on any given day. In addition, students are invited to call, text, and/or e-mail with any questions they have regarding an assignment.  Students are strongly encouraged to ask their parents, relatives, and class or school peers for assistance as well. Any student is free to attend Mrs. Cyphers’ tutorials for general help and/or for an alternative approach to address a particular difficulty. 

 Students are encouraged to seek out the extensive amount of tutorial material on –line as well. In addition, a major focus for the 2014-2015 school year is the creation and maintenance of an extensive library of student created instructional videos for assistance. 

Parent Conferences

The importance of communication and understanding between parents and "school" cannot be over-stated. Students are far better served when there is a connection between the home and the classroom. Although I strive to provide current information in regard to class activities and student performance to families on a regular basis through electronic means, there is no substitute for face to face conferences. These conferences should be held as soon as possible in the school year. My conference period will be in the early afternoon just after lunch making it difficult, if not impossible for many parents to attend. My goal is to hold an initial conference with every parent within the first month of school. Toward that end I am willing to meet with parents in the evenings and on weekends, at school, in their home, or other mutually convenient location. Further, I can always be reached via text or call to my cell phone - 832-654-1779. If a text is sent or a message is left, please identify yourself, your student's name, your question or concern, and a good time to reach you. If your question or concern can be addressed by return text, I will respond. If not, I will give you a call as soon as I am able.  


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