Study Guide

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Education

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In January our class started a project on The City. Mrs. Haver, our teacher, divided us up into committees by where we live. That way we could work at home. My committee was me, Jimmy Fargo, and Sheila. (7.1)

Peter's in elementary school, which means that he gets to participate in one of the great frustrations of school life—working on the dreaded "group project." Even worse, the kids don't get to pick who's in their group.

In a few weeks each committee had to hand in a booklet, a poster, and be ready to give an oral report. (7.1)

This is one serious project.

The first day we got together after school we bought a yellow posterboard. Jimmy wanted a blue one but Sheila talked him out of it. "Yellow is a much brighter color," she explained.

Everything will show up on it. Blue is too dull." (7.2)

It's no wonder that the boys don't want to work with Sheila. She has an opinion about absolutely everything, which makes it hard for them to have a say in their "group" project. It's more like Sheila's project, with Jimmy and Peter assisting.

So right away she told us she would be in charge of our booklet and me and Jimmy could do most of the poster. As long as we check in with her first, to make sure she likes our ideas. We agreed, since Sheila promised to do ten pages of written work and we would only do five. (7.3)

Well, there's one bright side to having Sheila as their partner in the group project. She's not going to skirt her responsibilities; in fact, she assigns herself more work than the boys have. We'll forgive her for being bossy.

"I want a good mark on this project. Peter, you can write your five pages about the monorail system and how it works. Jimmy, you can write your five pages about pollution caused by transportation. And I'll write my ten pages on the history of transportation in the city." Sheila folded her arms and smiled. (7.15)

The boys go along with Sheila's plan because it makes sense and she knows what she's doing. Still, she's an awfully smug person to have to work with.

"That's not fair." Jimmy said. "This is supposed to be a group project. Why should I have to put my name on my five pages?" (7.18)

Sheila isn't treating this like a group project at all; instead, she's making it look like they all did separate work. Guess she doesn't want to risk it if their work isn't as good as hers, which seems to be what she's thinking.

"Well, I do have a nice even script," Sheila said. "But if I'm going to copy over your written work you better give it to me by next Tuesday. Otherwise, I won't have enough time to do the job. And you two better get going on your poster." Sheila talked like she was the teacher and we were the kids. (7.25)

Shmoop bets you know someone in school just like Sheila. She knows it all and loves ordering everyone around.

Me and Jimmy designed the whole poster ourselves. We used the pros and cons of each kind of transportation. It was really clever. We divided a chart into land, sea, and air and we planned an illustration for each—with the airplane done in silver sparkle and the letters done in red and blue Magic Marker. (7.26)

Despite Sheila's misgivings about their abilities, Peter and Jimmy end up doing a bang-up job on the poster. You can tell Peter's really proud of it.

That night I showed my mother and father our new poster. They thought it was great. Especially our silver-sparkle airplane. My mother put the poster on top of the refrigerator so it would be safe until the next day, when I would take it to school. (7.114)

Notice how the author makes a point about telling us that Peter's parents put the poster on top of the fridge "so it would be safe." It's a little bit of foreshadowing—a hint of what's to come. In this case, it's a dead giveaway that this poster's not going to be safe at all.

Our committee was the first to give its report. Mrs. Haver said we did a super job. She liked our poster a lot. She thought the silver-sparkle airplane was the best. (7.120)

In the end, even though working with Sheila was a bit of a pain, their committee pulls through and does a great job on the project. Even the setbacks have only made their end product better. Thank Fudge for allowing them a do-over.

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