Monthly Archives: March 2016

How To Teach

“Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.”

Chinese Proverb

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

The Weekly Text, July 22, 2016

A couple of weeks in Vermont always does me a world of good. This weeks Text is three context clues worksheets stemming from the verb perceive. If you haven’t previously used context clues worksheets from Mark’s Text Terminal, you might find the users’ manual for context clues worksheets helpful for working with them in your classroom.

It’s summer! This is the payoff for teachers, an I am collecting every minute I can. I hope you find this modest post useful; as always, I would be grateful to hear about how you used these materials.

The Weekly Text, July 1, 2016

Are you done with the 2015-2016 school year? I gather that our school year here in New York City goes much later than other districts in the United States. Our last day was Tuesday the 28th.

So it’s summer break! I always schedule my share of fun for these months, but I also work some–because I want to. You can continue to look for the Weekly Text at Mark’s Text Terminal, because I only plan to miss three Fridays during the summer.

Over the years, as an employee of the New York City Department of Education, I’ve experienced a mixed bag of professional development sessions. A few years ago, at least in the school in which I presently serve, teachers were responsible for performing professional inquiry groups, which selected its own topic for, well, inquiry, and analysis, germane to the work we do, but obviously for improving pedagogy. For this week, then, here are–in three separate links–the raw materials for a professional development presentation on executive skills and function I wrote for the group I joined in the 2011-2012 school year.

First up are the the proposal for this inquiry group, and a learning support for teachers, which are the teacher’s materials for this presentation; second, here are four student surveys to assess executive skills; third, and finally, here is a letter explaining these surveys to students. I adapted the student surveys from Ellen Galinsky’s excellent book Mind in the Making.

I hope these documents are in some way useful to you. I’d like to hear how, if you are so inclined.

Until next week….

The Weekly Text, March 24, 2016

We’re off for Good Friday tomorrow, so I’m posting this week’s text this (Thursday) morning, so that I can spend the day doing something else besides looking at my computer screen–maybe looking at blue skies and budding trees.

So–very quickly–here is learning support on the formation of comparative and superlative adjectives that I use with a couple of lessons from my adjectives unit. As always, if you find it useful, I’d like to hear your comments.

And Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring!

Common Sense

“Since there is not single set of abilities running throughout human nature, there is no single curriculum which all should undergo. Rather, the schools should teach everything that anyone is interested in learning.”

John Dewey (1859-1952)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

The Weekly Text, March 18, 2016.

Here are three context clues worksheets for the words fanatic, fanaticism, and fanatical. I thought these words appropriate in this gruesome political campaign season. If you haven’t dealt with these worksheets before, you may want to consult the Focus on One Word Worksheets Users’ Manual that will help explain why these read and look the way they do.

That’s it for this week. If you find these useful, please advise. If you think they could use some work, I would definitely like to hear your thoughts.

Until next week….

Theodore Sizer and Essential Schools

Have you read Theodore Sizer’s books? He was among the founders of the Coalition of Essential Schools, which served to put into practice the principles of secondary education he espoused in the first book of the Horace Trilogy (as it has come to be known), Horace’s Compromise. I recently read the second volume of the trilogy, Horace’s School, which my incessant haunting of used bookstores fortuitously supplied me.

I wish it were possible for every high school  in the United States to have someone with the late Mr. Sizer’s intellect, passion, talent and decency on its faculty.

In the Horace trilogy, Mr. Sizer uses the fictional and allegorical Horace Smith to  spin out a didactic exploration of the state of American high schools. Horace, unsurprisingly, finds that his high school–therefore mine and yours–falls short. Our schools don’t fall short because of low test scores, but because they fail utterly to perceive, let alone work to develop, the innate and unique talent every child possesses and with which they arrive at school. Mr. Sizer patently–and refreshingly, in our currently benighted atmosphere of educational policy–respected children and their parents; his model of the ideal high school exemplifies that respect.

In an educational cosmology where one size fits all, and tests are considered the only reliable lens through which to view educational ability and attainment, Theodore Sizer firmly and thoughtfully dissented. He observes, in an exercise of common sense that in a reasonable world would persuade even the most myopic educational “reformers,” that not all children learn in the same way, possess the same interests, or arrive from the same social or family milieu. His view that our schools ought to recognize, respect and even honor these differences seems basic–and would give us, in Diane Ravitch’s elegant phrase, the schools we deserve. Yet current educational policy pointedly, indeed aggressively, ignores these differences.

In the final analysis, if we are to educate all children, we must recognize the differences in the way they learn, their backgrounds, their individual strengths and weaknesses, and their common humanity. We ignore this at our peril, as the state of our schools presently attests.

Ted Sizer died in October of 2009. His passing impoverishes, alas, our discourse on education and therefore, our schools.

A Motto from Emerson

I recently read The List (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004) by Robert E. Belknap. Mr. Belknap used this fine quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (which a small amount of internet research reveals is drawn from Emerson’s Nature) as his epigraph:

“He will perceive that there are far more excellent qualities in the student than preciseness and infallibility; that a guess is often more fruitful than an indisputable affirmation, and that a dream may let us deeper into the secret of nature than a hundred concerted experiments.”

The Weekly Text, March 11, 2016

Phew, busy week. I’ll keep this short so I can sustain some stamina to get through this afternoon’s round (after being here last evening until almost eight for same) of parent-teacher conferences.

So, here is a learning support for Latinisms and Latin abbreviations that commonly appear in English expository prose. These terms often trip up students, and in any case, I believe strongly that we ought to be teaching, as part of a broader curriculum for teaching writing, the more common of these, like e.g. and i.e., if not viz. and Q.E.D.

But what do you think? Should we bother with this at all? I welcome (i.e. seek, beg for, pursue, wheedle after, crave) your comments.

Timestyle, Time-ese

I’ve always enjoyed this squib from David Grambs’ The Random House Dictionary for Readers and Writers (New York: Random House, 1990) which appears, alas, to be out of print.

Timestyle, Time-ese n. The characteristically heady and melodramatically compressed prose style of Time magazine, with particular reference to its zesty verbs, marshaled characterizing adjectives and hyphenated compound words, clever coinages and puns, and above all (formerly) the frequent use of verbs  at the beginnings of sentences and hence inverted syntax.

Brain child of joke-making, china-dog-collecting, cordovan-shoe-wearing Briton Hadden more than Time co-founding, beetle-browed, baggy-britched Henry Luce was Timestyle. Wrote Wolcottt Gibbs in a New Yorker profile of Luce: ‘Backwards ran sentences until reeled the mind. Where it will end, knows God!’ Ended has inversion since Godwent Luce.'” –John B. Bremner, Words on Words