COVID19 at Mark’s Text Terminal

March 11, 2021

In the year since the outset of this pandemic, Mark’s Text Terminal ramped up production–and the site has undergone significant revisions to simplify taxonomic systems of organizing posts, and to make the blog and its posts more searchable.

I have used my free time over this year not only to 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 RevolutionAnd as I start to shine a light into the back corners and top shelves of my data warehouse, I find a number of projects I started then, for one reason or another, abandoned. For example, I have the framework for a unit on paraphrasing and summarizing that I anticipate with particular pleasure building up into something usable for teaching that important procedural knowledge.

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 for organizing my material on that platform. 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” and “Taxonomies” page.

Mark’s Text Terminal can offer you a variety of seasonable materials. To help your students and children understand ex-President Trump’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.

As I peruse them, I notice on the various job search platforms there is demand for workers in health care. If you, your students, or anyone else for that matter are thinking of working in health care, you might find this list of Greek word roots used in the health professions to be useful, and perhaps even indispensable (I hope).

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 deepened, and I read accounts of parents struggling to sustain their children’s education, it became 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. 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.

As this pandemic continues, and the failure of distance learning becomes increasingly obvious, I have an opportunity to harp on a topic I take quite seriously–the importance of handwriting. If I were teaching remotely, the first thing I would figure out is how to get paper worksheets into the hands of my students. If you’re interested at all on the manifold benefits of longhand writing, here is a review essay on penmanship and handwriting with links (as usual) to outside sources affirming those benefits.

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.

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.

Ho Chi Minh on Sniffing Imperialist Dung

[Remark, ca. 1946] “It is better to sniff the French dung for a while than eat China’s all our lives.”

Ho Chi Minh, Quoted in Jean Lacouture, Ho Chi Minh: A Political Biography (1968) (translation by Peter Wiles)

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

The Weekly Text, May 7, 2021, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Mao Zedong

This week’s Text, in observation of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month 2021, is a reading on Mao Zedong along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

His image, when I was in high school, was instantly recognizable–though I must stipulate that I ran with a crowd that tended to have his one of his various complimentary portraits displayed. Back then, and perhaps now, he was a demigod a certain sort of political aficionado–the forgiving sort, to be sure. While Mao is unquestionably a world-historical figure, his balance sheet tips toward liability, especially in the light of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. If one considers the Chinese Annexation of Tibet and its subsequent corollary, the Sinicization of that nation, Mao emerges, in terms of both domestic policy and statecraft, as an unmitigated disaster.

One could plan on unit on Mao and use it to examine a number of conceptual processes of history, including, war, revolution, peace, types of tyranny, utopias and their drawbacks and downfalls, the individual and the collective, political theory and practice, free and regulated markets, capitalism and communism–well, this list could go on at some length.

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.

Yang Di or Yang Ti

“Yang Di or Yang Ti orig. Yang Guang (569-618) Second ruler of the Chinese Sui dynasty. Under Yang Di canals were built and great palaces erected. In 608 he built a great canal linking the rice-producing areas in the south with the densely populated north, and he extended this system in 610, contributing to what was to become the Grand Canal network. He embarked on military campaigns in Vietnam and Inner Asia. Three expeditions to Korea were so disastrous that the Chinese people turned against him; he was assassinated in S China. One of his former officials reunited the empire and established the Tang dynasty.”

 Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Cultural Literacy: Chiang Kai-shek

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Chiang Kai-shek, the Generalissimo, as he was known for his service to the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.

Like Mao Zedong (of which more tomorrow), Chiang is a controversial figure. His record of imposing the White Terror on the island of Taiwan says quite a lot about him, I think. 38 years is a long run of martial law by any standard I recognize. The Kuomintang, known for its excesses, used anxiety about the Chinese Communist Party to sustain oppression of political opposition across the period of the White Terror. As in most tyrannies, one example serves to illustrate the absurdity of the oppression, to wit the case of Bo Yang, who made the mistake of translating a Popeye cartoon in a way that didn’t conform to the Kuomintang political orthodoxy.

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.


“Ashrama: The Sanskrit name for the four stages of life in Hinduism: (1) brahmacharin, the austere life of a student of sacred lore; (2) grhasthya, the life of a householder with wife and family; 93) vanaprastha, the life of a hermit, involving increasing separation from worldly affairs after birth of grandchildren; (4) sannyasin, the life of homeless wanderer, with all earthly ties broken. Combined with varna (‘caste’) and dharma, ashrama is integral to the basic Hindu doctrine of varnashramadharma, or sacred duty appropriate to one’s rank and stage of life.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Brahmins

OK, on a rainy morning, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Brahmin caste in India.

I don’t know how your school or district handles global studies, or world history, or whatever it calls a social studies survey course on world history, but in New York City we took a thorough, two-year excursion through the seven continents, the four oceans, and the seven seas. One social studies teacher with whom I co-taught did a very nice job of exposing and examining the caste system in India–and by implication, in the United States.

In any case, as the short reading on this half-page worksheets explains, the proper noun Brahmin has entered the English language as a descriptor of a wealthy and/or eminent person. If nothing else, the three questions on this document will lead students toward that understanding, thereby building their vocabularies.

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.

Gennady Nikolaevich Aigi

“Gennady Nikolaevich Aigi: (1934-2006) Chuvash poet and translator. Aigi published six collections of poetry in his native Chuvash language in the period 1958-1988, and several translations into Russian. Later, however, he was only able to publish poems in Russian abroad, in Stikhi, 1954-71 (Poems, 1975) and the two-volume Otmechannaia zima (The Naked Winter, 1982). Aigi worked on various translation projects from the mid-1960s until the early 1980s. His best-known anthologies of translations into Chuvash include works of the French poets (1968) and the poets of Hungary (1974). In 1992, an English-language edition of Chuvash poems selected by Aigi—An Anthology of Chuvash Poetry—appeared in the West. Since the onset of Perestroika, Aigi’s poetry in Russian has once again been officially published in Russia—Zdes (Here, 1991) and Teper vsegda snega (Now There Is Always Snow, 1991). Aigi writes in free verse and searches for new means of expression to embody his vision; he sees the world as broken apart and composed of isolated images, and his metaphors are often abstract. Because his work can be obscure, he sometimes provides his own commentary.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Azerbaijan

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Azerbaijan. This is a full-page worksheet with seven questions, so it has utility beyond the classroom do-now exercises for which most of the Cultural Literacy materials on this blog were meant to serve.

Why would a teacher need such a thing? I don’t know that one would. On the other hand, the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies between Azerbaijan and Armenia, is contested territory that has produced armed conflict between these two nations. As the Soviet Union was dismantling itself and falling apart simultaneously at the same time in the late 1980s and 1990s, a number of ethnic and territorial conflicts, long suppressed by the Pax Sovietica, flared up not only across the Union, but in Eastern European lands controlled by the Soviet Empire as well. The atrocious dissolution of Yugoslavia is but one example of this dynamic at work in the post-Soviet world.

Another is the the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. I remember following events there all through the late ’80s and early ’90s and especially in the latter period, when I was actively engaged as an undergraduate in a program of Russian and Soviet Studies. Like events in Yugoslavia, the first conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh included war crimes and genocide (clothed, as it was in Yugoslavia, in the revealingly clumsy euphemism “ethnic cleansing”). I understood that the 1994 ceasefire didn’t guarantee peace in the region; it only meant that after six years of internecine ethnic violence, the combatants had temporarily exhausted themselves.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear that on September 27, 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, hostilities between these two former Soviet republics had once again flared. Like the first war, evidence of atrocities surfaced. This time, Vladimir Putin was involved in the ceasefire agreement.Now 2,000 Russian troops  are deployed as a peacekeeping force in the contested territory. In fact, Nagorno-Karabakh, as I understand it, remains disputed, so the world may well see more fighting in the area.

Needless to say, this situation opens up a lot of space for conceptual instruction. Students can see in this, with the right materials and teaching, ancient ethnic hostilities, conflict resolution, the real political and diplomatic consequences of the dissolution of empires, war crimes as military strategy (which connects to ancient ethnic enmities), and a host of other topics in the social sciences. A unit on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would help students to grind their own lens, so to speak, for understanding ancient enmities between nationalities, and how ethnic and territorial conflict, and the issues that drive them, persist in the world. While analysts–and both sides in the conflict, interestingly–appear reluctant to characterize the wars in Nagorno-Karabakh as religious, it does look like there has been friction between Armenian Christians and Azeri Muslims for centuries. In other words, another go-to source for mutual self-destruction to which humans have turned since time immemorial (or at least since formally organized religions have existed) and an important conceptual framework for high school students to understand.

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.

Aryan Language

“Aryan Language: (Fr Sans, arya, ‘noble’) The Indo-European family of languages, from the name which the Hindus and Iranians used to distinguish themselves from the nations they conquered. The place of origin of these languages is not definitely known, authorities differing so widely as between a locality enclosed by the river Oxus and the Hindu-Kush Mountains, at one extreme, and the shores of the Baltic Sea at the other. The Aryan family of languages includes the Persian, Indic (Hindi, Sanskrit, etc.), Latin, Greek, and Celtic, with all the European except Basque, Turkish, Hungarian, and Finnic. It is sometimes called the Indo-European, sometimes the Indo-Germanic, and sometimes the Japhetic.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Indira Gandhi

For the first day of the observation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021 at Mark’s Text Terminal, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Indira Gandhi. This blog will feature materials related to Asian culture, geography, politics, and personalities for the entire month of May.

By any measure, Americans of Asian Pacific descent have experienced a difficult year. At the beginning of 2020, on January 23 to be exact, the Museum of Chinese in America suffered a fire in its building at 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. Fortunately, the original estimates of the devastation proved to be overestimated, and the Museum is on the mend. I attended a professional development day at the Museum several years ago. It was one of the best of such things, a twice-yearly obligation of employees of the New York City Department of Education, that I had the good fortune to encounter. Godspeed to the good people at MOCA in restoring the museum to its original state.

Unless you live in a cave, you are no doubt aware of the rising anti-Asian bigotry in the United States. This has prompted a long overdue public discourse on racism towards Asian-Americans. I particularly appreciate the inimitable Ronny Chieng’s takedown, from way back in 2016 but which has lately been trending on YouTube, of Fox News dimbulb Jesse Watters, who visited Chinatown in that year to “report” for the execrable Bill O’Reilly show. The work of Asian feminists who are speaking frankly about the cultural and political history of fetishizing Asian women, another long overdue discussion, arrives at a propitious moment; maybe these thinkers will forge change in this area of our public life. I’d like to think that making an understanding of the term “orientalist tropesde rigueur for high school students before they graduate from our secondary institutions might take us some distance toward recognizing this problem in our society.

I lay the blame for much of the rising anti-Asian violence on the last president of the United States, a man who wore his bigotry on his sleeve throughout the benighted four years he malingered in the White House. Calling a virus–and the last time I talked with my friends in the academic and professional genomics community about this, they assured me that viruses, unlike humans, have no ethnicity–the “Kung Flu” is an obvious slur, intended, it appears, to bait the kind of bigots who immediately began parroting it. Likewise, COVID, caused by a coronavirus, is not a “Chinese Virus,” though that particular lie and slur has contributed to violence against Americans of Asian descent. The president bought himself a mendacious Barbie doll who stepped up to defend him and his trashy mouth. Even NBC News, not exactly an institution of the woke left, spoke up on the president’s appalling rhetoric.

Man, I am glad he is gone. I’ll stipulate that anti-Asian racism has a long and sordid history in the United States, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the World War II internment of the Nisei, to our current ugly moment. But for a president to rile up his or her followers with racist slurs? Well, if you can defend that, I’d like to hear why. Actually, on second thought, never mind. Everyday life offers up a smorgasbord of degrading ignorance and stupidity; I don’t need to go looking for it.

Finally, my sympathies–which I understand is more or less useless–to Americans of Asian descent everywhere. And my deepest condolences to the friends and families to the victims of the Atlanta Massacre. The perpetrator, by the way, was a professing Christian (how that works escapes me) who I don’t doubt for a minute was motivated by the racist, anti-Asian rhetoric that is clearly au courant in the United States.

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.