Argument

“Argument (noun): A disagreement of debate; argumentation, or the process of expression and interchange in disputation; a course of reasoning to demonstrate a truth or a falsehood, or a reason given as a proof or rebuttal; intended theme or rationale of a literary work; thrust; synopsis. Adj. argumentative; adv. argumentatively; n. argumentation, argumentativeness; v. argue.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Cultural Literacy: Straw Man

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the concept of a straw man in argumentation. This is a half-page worksheet with a two-sentence reading (the second of them a long compound) and two comprehension questions. This is a cogent introduction to the topic of the straw man. However, it presupposes an prior understanding of argumentation (and its rules) that some students may not possess. But in our current discursive culture, understanding the straw man, a favorite tool of demagogues, strikes me as vital for the development of critical awareness in students.

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.

7 Classical Heroes Who Visited the Underworld

Aeneas * Odysseus * Orpheus * Dionysus * Heracles * Psyche * Theseus

Virgil has Aeneas descend with the sibyl into the underworld at the Sulphur-ridden crater of Avernus near Cumae to speak to his dead father. Odysseus makes it as far as the banks of the River Charon. However, Orpheus succeeds in charming Pluto and Persephone with his music and almost succeeds in extracting his lover Eurydice from the gates of Hell but on his return to the light gives birth to a mystery religion complete with a transformational initiation rite, hymns, and a priesthood who remain poor outcast wanderers, renouncing their taste for meat and women.

Dionysus’s descent feels like an earlier episode in this same half-understood Orphic religion, though dance replaces music and Dionysus is successful in rescuing his mother Semele and placing her in the heavens. Hercules is in Hades on a mission to steal the hound of hell (Cerberus), but again seems to follow in the spiritual footsteps of Orpheus by descending into the underworld via Eleusis and its mystery cult.

Looking beyond the Aegean, and this list of seven, are the much older stories of Gilgamesh’s journey to Hell and the Sumerian-Babylonian goddess Inanna’s descent.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

The Weekly Text, 21 January 2022: Two Context Clues Worksheets on the Verbs Coerce and Coax

This week’s Text is a pair of context clues worksheets, one on the verb coax and another on the verb coerce. Both of these verbs are used only transitively, so don’t forget your direct object; you must coax or coerce someone or something. These words are near antonyms. However, I wrote them as a pair to help students develop an understanding of the continuum of connotative meanings in English words. A key question for interrogating these two words is quite simple: When does coaxing turn into coercion?

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.

Teach the Child, Not the Subject

“Teach the child, not the subject: The quintessential slogan of the progressive, child-centered movement of the 20th century. It is certainly true that the health and welfare of the child are more important than the academic subject matter. However, the slogan sets up an unfortunate and unnecessary dichotomy between the child’s social, physical, and emotional well-being and the teacher’s responsibility to teach the child the knowledge and skills that are essential elements of a good education. Both are important.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Cultural Literacy: Progressive Education

Should you be using progressive methods in your teaching practice, you might find this Cultural Literacy worksheet on progressive education useful. If nothing else, it will help your students understand the way their class operates.

This is a full-page worksheet with a six-sentence (a full paragraph) reading and six comprehension questions. Once again, the editors of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy have done an admirable job of summarizing a series of concepts, complicated when taken together, into a short but thoroughly informative reading.

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.

Write It Right: Commencement for Termination

“Commencement for Termination. A contribution to our noble tongue by its scholastic conservators, ‘commencement day’ being their name for the last day of the collegiate year. It is ingeniously defended on the ground that on that day those on whom degrees are bestowed commence to hold them. Lovely!”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

Meticulous (adj)

Because it is a very useful word–indeed, when it’s needed, few others will suffice–here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective meticulous. It means “marked by extreme or excessive care in the consideration or treatment of details.” I submit that this is a word students should know and be able to use before they graduate high school.

But what do you think?

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.

Lexicon

“Lexicon (noun): An alphabetical list or book of defined words; wordbook; glossary or dictionary; the vocabulary of a particular language, class, group, or individual; word-hoard; compete record or domain, as of a particular field. Plural: lexicons, lexica; verb: lexiconize.

‘Among several reasons why the Women’s Liberation Movement (and interesting metaphor in itself) runs into resistance is that both men and women have internalized a rich lexicon of metaphors, about the subjects of sex, love, and domesticity.’ Neil Postman, Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Word Root Exercise: Lex

Here is a worksheet on the Latin word root lex. It means “word,” “law,” and “reading.” This is a very productive root in English–n.b. that it morphs to leg for most legal terms–and yields a number of academic words, many of which you already know, like lexicon, lexical, and, of course, dyslexia. This root, when it morphs, gives us high-frequency words such as legal and illegal.

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.