Monthly Archives: June 2016

On Standardized Testing

“The price of your hat isn’t a measure of your brain.”

African Proverb

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

The Weekly Text, June 24, 2016

Classes are over, Regents testing is finished, and the halls in this school are eerily quiet. I’m enjoying some long stretches of uninterrupted planning time. Focusing on developing some more Greek word root worksheets–for words that are more abstract and therefore a bit more difficult to work with for struggling students–I’ve developed a small group of them that can be used as do-now exercises at the beginning of a period. These types of tasks aid me in getting teenagers settled after that second bell rings, and therefore focused for the primary lesson of the day.

Word root worksheets, in my classroom, are meant to accomplish several things, but three are salient: the first is to allow students a chance to work with a dictionary, whether that’s in book form or an app on a smartphone (I encourage students to use whatever works best with their learning styles); second, word root exercises aid students in building their vocabularies quickly; third, word root work fosters pattern recognition, with which, in my experience, struggling students need all the help they can get.

Coincidentally, as I was preparing these worksheets, the National Association of Special Education Teachers posted this article on pattern recognition and language acquisition on Facebook. So I rolled “Theme from the Vindicators” by the Fleshtones, and kept at it.

This week’s Text comes from the fruits of my recent labors, to wit, two do-now exercises on the Greek word roots leuk/o and leuc/o, and nephr/o. Students simply read the definitions, then use the common words–the pattern, that is–to identify the meanings of the roots. For leuk/o and leuc/o. the meanings are white and colorless; for nephr/o, the meaning is kidney (which is why if you have kidney disease, you consult a nephrologist).

As always, if you find these worksheets useful, and especially if you modified them to make them more useful in your classroom, I’d be grateful to hear how and why.

Until next week….


The Great Lexicographer Might Be Talking to Pearson

“Your manuscript is both good and original; the the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”

Samuel Johnson

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.

The Weekly Text, June 17, 2016

We’re in the home stretch of the school year, and not a moment to soon: about three weeks ago, several students I work with began arriving with shell-shocked looks on their faces, and even further attenuation in their attention spans.

I understand. I feel how they look, as I regularly tell them.

This week’s Text is two context clues worksheets on two essential words, paternal and maternal. If you haven’t used these before, you might find the users’ manual for context clues worksheets useful. These complement a couple of word root worksheets I posted in March: the first one is on the  Latin word roots patr, patri and pater,  and the second on the Latin word roots mat, matri, and mater.

As always, if you find these worksheets useful, I would be much obliged to hear how–particularly if you modified them for your classroom.

Until next week….

A Dicta for Teaching Writing

“There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers.”

H.L Mencken

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.

The Weekly Text, June 10, 2016

Teaching figurative language, particularly when you want to give students direct experience in dealing with it, can be a tricky business. For several years, I had these two worksheet templates for working with metaphors and similes rattling around in my current work folder before I actually did something with them–to wit, making up some worksheets to attend a unit on Stephen King’s novella “The Body,” which is part of the Different Seasons collection (and which was made into the fine film “Stand By Me”).

The structure of these makes them pretty easy to use. For the metaphor-o-matic worksheet, I use, for the first section, which calls upon students to interpret metaphors, some metaphorical language or symbols from whatever we’re reading in class. Then, to offer students some direct experience with writing metaphors in the second section of the worksheet, I might ask them to create a metaphor for human emotions, weather, and the like. For example, you might ask students to think of and write down a weather metaphor that suggests confusion; the obvious answer would be fog. Similarly, you might ask for a metaphor that indicates anger, and students might say the color red, a storm, the Tasmanian Devil from “Looney Toons” or something along those lines.

In general, as similes are themselves, the simile-o-matic  worksheet is easier to use. At the top of this template, I’ve provided a number of exemplars of the simile at work. I usually ask students to write several similes of their own in order to give them direct experience working with them. After students have composed their similes, I use the basic writers’ workshop format for discussion of their work.

And that’s it for this week’s Text. As always, if you found this material useful, I’d appreciate hearing about just how you did–especially if you’ve modified it for use with your students.

Until next week….


The Joys of Critical Thinking

“To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight of the blood.”

George Santaytana

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.