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Horace Mann Middle School > Grade 7 > Ms. Scott > Short Stories

Miss Awful

by Arthur Cavanaugh

This story will be used as a Dictionary Practice opportunity.

For each word below missing its part of speech and definition, use a dictionary to find this information. Write it in the space beside each word, as shown in the completed samples.


rambunctious – adj. noisy and lively

catastrophe -

queries -

ecstatically ** -

whimsical – adj. full of silly, fanciful ideas

atrocious ** -

ruefully ** -

gaping -

subdued -

reeling -

taut -

prodigy **- n. child genius

disparaging – adj. (something) showing disrespect for, “putting down”

lurid -

infiltrated – v. gradually entered or sneaked into


1. Describe Roger’s personality.

2. What is the impression you are given of Miss Wilson, Roger’s regular classroom teacher?

3. What gives you this impression?

4. Give two to four (2-4) reasons that Roger doesn’t seem too concerned about his homework this first night in the story.

5. What is the first indication that life with the substitute teacher will be different?

6. Describe the attitude that Miss Orville takes towards her responsibilities as a substitute teacher.

7. Tell about any changes you see in Roger during the week of Miss Orville.

8. What do you think is prompting him to change?

9. What do we learn about Miss Orville from Nancy Reeves?

10. What is revealed about Miss Orville’s character from this information?

11. Have you ever learned something about a teacher that reminded you that (s)he was a real person and not simply a “teacher”? Explain.

12. On Friday of that week, what do the children learn?

13. In what way(s) is Miss Orville different on Friday?

14. What makes the kids target the plant?

15. How does Roger’s “soft side” resurface and show itself?

16. How did you feel when Miss Orville discovered that the plant had been mutilated?

17. What is significant about Roger’s decision to spell for Miss Orville at the end of the story?

Hyper-Thinking Questions

** On the last page of the story, it reads,

“Violence and destruction…” She turned and faced the class, and behind the spectacles her eyes were dim and faded. “Whoever is responsible, I beg of you only to be sorry,” she said. When she returned to her desk, her back was straighter than ever, but it seemed to take her longer to cover the distance.

18. For what reasons do you think it took Miss Orville so long to cover the distance from where she was to her desk after discovering the plant? What does her behavior here tell about her feelings? (Characterization…)

19. * Reflect on the above question and the expression “body language”. Whether or not you’ve heard the expression used before, consider your response to number 18 and what it might mean. Think about characterization and learning about a character through their actions. Explain what you think “body language” is referring to and share a time when you observed an individual’s body language and learned something about them and/or how they were feeling. Share your observations.

Updated: Jan 25, 2005  

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