COVID19 at Mark’s Text Terminal

May 28 2020–But Revised Regularly

We’re now eleven weeks into the global disruption the coronavirus has caused. According to UNESCO, 91 percent of students worldwide currently are out of school because of various social-distancing and and shelter-in-place mandates. Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, whence I write, closed schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. 31 states have closed schools for the remainder of this academic year. As I write this, some schools, and a number of colleges, have suggested that they may not reopen in the fall, or at least not reopen for face-to-face classes.

Until March 12 of this year, I was a one-year contract employee in a school district to which I had already announced my intention not to return. I lost my job when the schools in Vermont closed in mid-March. I plan to continue to work in education. But for now, like everyone else, I await the outcome and eventual conclusion (I hope) of the public health catastrophe we currently endure. It happens, therefore, that I suddenly have some free time on my hands. As a teacher, I sought to be of some use to the communities I served. Now as a blogger with some free time, I hope to be of some use to those parents who have their own children at home as, for now, students.

Mark’s Text Terminal will ramp up production. I plan to use my free time to publish material already in my data warehouse, but also to develop some new documents, especially on English usage, some short literacy exercises based on Barbara Ann Kipfer’s great book The Order of Things, and cross-disciplinary worksheets based on Judith Hochman and Natalie Wexler’s excellent framework from The Writing Revolution.

I taught under my special education license in New York City for 16 years, so you will find that the material offered on this blog contains a lot of language about that city, and even particular places in the Five Boroughs, the better to call up and build upon prior knowledge I could be relatively confident my students possessed. For more about using worksheets from Mark’s Text Terminal, see the “About Posts & Texts” page just above the banner photograph. Here are a set of users’ manuals for the most commonly posted materials on this blog. As below, you may email me with any questions you might have about the material posted on this website. Nota bene, please, that most of what I post here is in Microsoft Word: that means it is easily exportable to other word processing programs, as well as adaptable to your students, children, and circumstances. I wrote most of the material found on this blog for struggling high school students. Most of it can  be easily modified for a wide range of abilities in students.

I’ve opened a Twitter account in an attempt to make material–especially new material–more readily available. I try to remember to tag everything I post on Twitter with #freeopensourcecurriculum, which I contrived for a simple form or organizing my material there. I’ll be revising posts to make them more easily searchable, and I’ll add more extensive, and new, explanations to the “About Posts & Texts” page.

Mark’s Text Terminal can offer you a variety of seasonable materials. To help your students and children understand the president’s response to this crisis, here is a lesson plan on personality disorders. To understand the biology of COVID19, here are a reading and comprehension worksheet on viruses. Here is a short Cultural Literacy worksheet on the concept of a pandemic (and don’t forget to tell your children or students–or both, in these circumstances–that the Greek word root pan means all and everything–though in Latin, I must point out, the same root means bread). Since our current circumstances are regularly likened to it, here is a reading and comprehension worksheet on the influenza epidemic of 1918. This reading and comprehension worksheet on immunity should definitely be au courant in our current situation, as should the same set of documents on antibodies. This reading on Edward Jenner and Smallpox explains the science of vaccination, of which I assume I needn’t belabor the importance. Finally, here is a lesson plan on using the 2020 United States census as a teachable moment.

You will notice that the basic structure of this blog alternates posts between a set of documents and a quote of some kind. Over time, I have begun to develop these quotes–especially those tagged as readings and research–as assignments themselves. Many of these passages are linked to readings outside of Mark’s Text Terminal. If you want to use these posts for learning, here is a worksheet template with an extensive list of questions to drive inquiry in them. For more on this, see the About Posts & Texts and Taxonomies pages.

As this crisis deepens, and I read accounts of parents struggling to sustain their children’s education, it becomes clear to me that I should post some material on teaching practice. For now, keep this in mind: all teaching and learning starts with a question. So, here, to begin, is a a taxonomy of questions from Roland C. Christensen, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet’s (eds.) Education for Judgment: The Artistry of Discussion Leadership. (Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press, 1991). Here is a list of question stems to start discussion and essays. I don’t remember where I got this list of 17 Teaching Tips, but it is solid stuff and easy enough to use with whatever you’re doing at home with your kids. I’m starting work on a review essay on the contents of my planning book that I hope will provide parents with some basic grounding in pedagogical theory.  For my money, the best framework for instructional planning out there (because it is based firmly upon the principles in the National Research Council’s book How People Learn) is Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe’s concise yet exhaustive Understanding by Design. I’ve used it to guide my own planning since I discovered it. Here is a trove of documents from the pages of that book, as well as a couple of assessments from the pages of Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids by Mr. McTighe and Carol Ann Tomlinson. I used the Understanding by Design framework to write this list of adapted essential questions for the struggling students I have served in social studies and English language arts classes in New York City. This table of structured activities from Janet L Kolodner’s article “Case Based Reasoning” in The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), might help to focus home learning for the best retention. Finally, to get a sense of your child’s cognitive style, you might find useful this cognitive styles table from Daniel Willingham’s book Why Don’t Students Like School?  (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009). I look to Professor Willingham’s work when I need guidance on the best instructional design for any learner, but particularly the struggling learners whom I have served throughout my career. If you want more on this, I wrote this review essay with all these documents embedded in a few paragraphs about teaching and learning.

One organization worth following is TeachRock, which has developed, in a very short time, a great deal of  high-interest material. TeachRock is on Twitter , and you can sign up for its mailing list at its homepage. Highly recommended. Recently, the author of The Historical Diaries blog left her approval here in the form of liking some of my posts. Her own blog is literate and stylish, and mines history for obscure but compelling facts. It is definitely worth a look; I’ll soon publish a worksheet template here that could be used with posts on The Historical Diaries, as well as my own posts tagged with readings and research.

Your kids, especially if they are younger, would all but certainly benefit from listening to Vermont Public Radio’s (I’ve listened to public radio stations across the country, and VPR is the best of them, I think) podcast “But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids.”

If you have any questions, or if there is something you and your students need, please leave a comment on any post with your email address. I vet all comments before they appear on the site, so you won’t be exposing your email address to the open internet. I’ll take your address, delete your comment, and get back to you. If you need something I don’t already have (I have volumes of material to publish), I can probably write something for you.

Finally, and I hope not crassly, I started a Go Fund Me campaign last fall, long before COVID19 disrupted our lives. Please rest assured that the material I publish here has been, is, and always will be free of charge; moreover, I will continue, if I am able, to pay the WordPress premium fee that keeps this site free of the clutter of advertisements. However, I am, in fact, unemployed. I need to be smart about keeping myself in food, shelter, and medicine. I am demonstrably bad about selling myself or asking for assistance. Nonetheless, I do ask now.

I offer tutoring, writing, and editing services. Please contact me at the email address above for services, rates, and procedures.

That’s it. I wish you safety and good health.


Term of Art: Tabula Rasa

“Tabula Rasa: Also known as the blank-slate or white-paper thesis, a name for the radically empiricist view of the mind and knowledge which inspired so-called associationism in psychology. According to John Locke, the contents of the mind are written on it by experience as if it were white paper, a view comparable with modern behaviorist theories which try to account for mental processes as a product of external stimulus and behavioral response.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Word Root Exercise: Pneum/o, Pneumon/o, Pneumat/o, –Pnea, and -Pnoea (Greek)

Finally this morning, here is a worksheet on the Greek roots pneum, pneumon-o, -pnea and -pnoea. They mean, variously, breathing, lung, air, and spirit (leave it to the Greeks to blend the literal and metaphorical with ease).

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Book of Answers: Dalton Trumbo

When was Dalton Trumbo summoned before the House Committee on Un-American activities? In 1947. The screenwriter and author of Johnny Got His Gun (1939) was imprisoned and blacklisted for his refusal to answer questions about his Communist affiliations.

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Vietnam Protest Movement

Here is a reading on the Vietnam protest movement in the 1960s along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This material might provide valuable context for students seeking to understand the actions and (I hope) changes consequent to them in our nation right now.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.


“Articles: The words a, an, and the, which signal or introduce nouns. The definite article the refers to a particular item: the report. The indefinite article a and an refer to a general item or one not already mentioned: an apple.”

Excerpted from: Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. New York: Longman, 2000.

Tutelage (n)

It’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day today, and it well may be a word, as the 2020 school year takes shape, that parents and students need to know. So, here is a context clues worksheet on the noun tutelage. You can no doubt hear its relationship to tutor.

So enough said.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.


“Crocodile: A symbol of deity among the ancient Egyptians. According to Plutarch, it is the only aquatic animal that has its eyes covered with a thin transparent membrane, by reason of which it sees and is not seen, as God sees all, Himself not being seen. To this, he adds: ‘The Egyptians worship God symbolically in the crocodile, that being the only animal without a tongue, like the Divine Logos, which standeth not in the need of speech’ (De Iside et Osiride). Achilles Tatius says, ‘The number of its teeth equals the number of days in a year.’ Another tradition is that, during the seven days held sacred to Apis, the crocodile will harm no one.

Crocodile tears’ are hypothetical tears. The tale is that crocodiles moan and sigh like a person in deep distress to lure travelers to the spot and even shed tears over their prey while in the act of devouring it. Shakespeare refers to this in the second part of Henry VI.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

The Second of Two Lesson Plans on Ancient Egypt

OK, here is the second of two lessons on ancient Egypt. I open this lesson with this worksheet on the noun diaspora; this is a very heavily used words in historical discourse, and I cannot tell you how many times students have asked me to define if for them over the years. If this lesson goes into a second day (I wrote this and the five lessons that precede it below to be taught over a two-day period, FYI), here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the grim reaper. It might not be the best choice for this lesson, but there are plenty of others elsewhere on this website–simply click on the “Cultural Literacy” tag in the word cloud. Finally, here is the worksheet at the center of this lesson with its reading and comprehension questions.

And that is it. In the the six documents posts below (with the interstitial quotes between them), you’ll find most of the rest of the lessons in this far-from-perfect unit.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Historical Term: Autonomy

“Autonomy (Gk., self-law). Self-government, often used in a context where there are pressures which might alter this state of prevent its attainment.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

The First of Two Lesson Plans on Ancient Egypt

Here’s the first of two lesson plans on ancient Egypt. I opened this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun empire. In the event that this lesson goes into a second day (and, as below, I’m fairly certain I wrote all of the preceding five lessons with this in mind, so if you teach this lesson over two days, you’ll need this second do-now exercise), here is a worksheet on the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta. Finally, here is the worksheet at the center of this lesson with its reading and comprehension questions.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.