Jinny Zechman calls them "outlaw" words - or "nasties." Words such as "does" and "says," "should" and "could."
They're the ones pupils have the most trouble with when learning to read, Zechman tells a crowded room of Baltimore City's newest teaching recruits.
"They're the ones," she says, "that don't follow the rule."
The consultant for Open Court publishing is in charge this morning of introducing new second-grade teachers to the phonics-based textbook series the city adopted two years ago to teach reading.
More than 800 of them came to the Samuel L. Banks Professional Development Center last week for a mandatory five days of curriculum introduction. It was the final official training they would get before heading into the classroom - some for the first time - for the start of school Sept. 5.
Learning how to teach "outlaw" words - which are considered irregular because they don't follow the standard rules of English - was just one item on the fast-paced agenda in Room 343.
On Tuesday, the morning session included everything from where to hang the phonics alphabet (high enough so every pupil can see it) to what topics the second-grade readers will tackle ("Being Brave," "Rich and Poor" and "Fossils," among others).
Zechman, a 20-year veteran of teaching, said one of the most important items in the "teacher tool box" is the set of black-spined "learning framework cards" - a kind of Cliffs Notes to the whole program.
"You will have an equivalent of a master's - practically a doctorate - in teaching reading when you've finished these cards," she said.
Teachers said the training helps them feel more comfortable with the nuts and bolts of the program.
And Marsha Taylor, who heads the new teacher training program, said that's exactly the point.
"Sometimes when you have a bag of tools, if you don't know what a tool is for, you tend not to use it," she said. "The teacher has to understand how you use this guide to help you in teaching reading."
Zechman led her charges through each letter in the phonics alphabet posted on the back wall.
"The first card up there is called the lamb card," she said slowly, as if teaching second-graders. "The sound is `ah,' and we spell it `a.'"
The picture on the card is a lamb, and not the typical apple or alligator, she pointed out, because most vowels occur in the middle of words - not at the beginning.
"We want them listening for these sounds in the position they occur," she said.
"Reading and writing isn't the ultimate goal in this [Open Court] program," Zechman told the teachers. "Reading and writing are only the tools, folks. Teach them to use them and then get out of the way."
Quanya Williams, 24, a recent graduate of Morgan State University, is beginning her first year as a teacher at George Washington Elementary in southern Baltimore's Washington Village - the school she attended while growing up.
"I'm giving back to that school," she said. "I come from that neighborhood, and I'm going back to show the students that you can do anything you want to do. It was my goal to become a teacher ever since I was 8 years old."
She said reading Open Court's instruction book on her own isn't as helpful as training with Zechman.
"Listening to her - and all of the materials that come with [the reading series] - make me feel more at ease," she explained.
But Zechman said teachers such as Williams may get help from an unexpected source: their pupils.
"Frankly, these kids are going to come in and tell you how to teach this program, because they've had it in first grade," she said.