Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Weekly Text, September 30, 2016, Hispanic Heritage Week 2016 III: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Well, the month of September 2016 has passed us by, never to be seen again. I’ve been so busy getting the school year up and running that I barely noticed.

For the past two weeks, and for the next two weeks, Mark’s Text Terminal is featuring readings and reading comprehension worksheets in observance of  Hispanic Heritage Month. In the process of preparing these posts, I’ve learned a lot about this celebration. If you teach in a school district that is as diverse as ours here in New York City, you are very likely working with a number of students of Hispanic descent. If so, you and your students might be interested in both the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and its Youth Awards program.

For my part, I offer as this week’s Text a reading on author and Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as well as a comprehension worksheet to accompany it. And now I must get back to work on planning.

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.

On Perseverance and Tenacity

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

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

The Weekly Text, September 23, 2016, Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 Week II: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Jose Marti

As I mentioned last week, it is National Hispanic Heritage Month. For the duration of this observance, I’ll post readings and comprehension worksheets that teachers might find useful for edifying students on Hispanic history. I’ll do so with brevity, because it’s the first month of the school year, and I am as busy as I always am in these weeks.

This week’s Text is a reading on Jose Marti, the nineteenth-century martyr to Cuban independence; here is a comprehension worksheet to accompany it. And that’s enough said.

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.

Jonathan Swift on Competence

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in confederacy against him.”

Jonathan Swift

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

The Weekly Text, September 16, 2016, Hispanic Heritage Month 2016, Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Cesar Chavez

Whew: busy week.

Are you aware that yesterday inaugurated Hispanic Heritage Month?  For the next five weeks, I’ll post readings related to this honorific month.

To that end, and in somewhat indecent haste (I have to teach in half-an-hour), here is a reading on Cesar Chavez and an accompanying reading comprehension worksheet.

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.

The Academic and Social Case for Literacy Instruction

I’ve been reading, as I mentioned below, Dr. Mel Levine’s excellent book,  A Mind at a Time (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002), On page 143. he makes this compelling observation about (as the subchapter heading characterizes it) “The Special Challenge of Language Production.” Even though I am less than halfway through this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough: there is nary a wasted word, and Dr. Levine has much to offer the teacher working with struggling learners.

“Language output is an especially elusive undertaking for some, and for that reason I would like to give it some further emphasis…. There was a time in our schools when every child was required to take a course called rhetoric. In contemporary culture, not much attention is paid to oral language production, the ability to encode ideas into clear, cogent and colorful semantics, syntax, and discourse. Verbal eloquence and fluency are dramatically less evident in many classrooms as a result. Effective oral language serves and abundance of purposes. For one thing, it correlates highly with writing skill. Quite understandably, ‘If you don’t talk too good, it might be you’d not write too good neither.’

Language production serves as a lubricant for memory…verbal elaboration makes it easier to consolidate information and skill in long-term memory. We also make use of language as an implement for creative expression, as a wrench for tightening our grasps of concepts, and as an elixir for winning and keeping friends.

Expressive language plays a less obvious but powerful role in regulating behavior. Words and sentences can be peacemakers and problem solvers within a social milieu. We adjust our feelings and actions by talking to ourselves. Internal voices…enable people to self-coach, to verbalize internally, as they consider the likely consequences of various actions they are contemplating. They are also able to talk through, buffer, and modify their inner feelings.

When individuals lack expressive language ability, they may be susceptible to the development of aggressive behaviors and also depression or excessive anxiety. I participated in several research studies involving early adolescent juvenile delinquents. In these investigations we sought to uncover specific neurodevelopmental dysfunctions that were common among these kids. We were struck by how many teenagers in serious trouble with the law had signs of expressive language dysfunction as one of the risk factors that led to their downward spiral. In fact, it turns out that at two ages in particular, namely preschool and late adolescence, language production problems are strongly associated with acting-out, aggressive, and sometimes downright antisocial behaviors. So the stakes are sky-high when it comes to expressive language capacities.”

Meeting Fundamental Needs

“Children and adults alike share needs to be safe and secure; to belong and to be loved; to experience self-esteem through achievement, mastery, recognition, and respect; to be autonomous; and to experience self-actualization by pursuing one’s inner abilities and finding intrinsic meaning and satisfaction in what one does.”

Thomas J. Sergiovanni, Building Community in Schools (1994)

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

The Weekly Text, September 9, 2016: A Complete Lesson on Laissez-Faire Capitalism

Last week I posted a complete lesson plan on mercantilism, which you’ll find three posts below this one. This week’s Text is a lesson plan on laissez-faire capitalism , which is the free-market orthodoxy that arose, mostly due to Adam Smith, to challenge mercantilist trade policy.

As I mentioned in last week’s companion post, it often takes students in my classes up to three days to complete an assignment of this length. To that end, here are three context clues worksheets on merchant, merchandise, and mercantile. These are meant to reinforce the lesson on mercantilism by providing context for the examination of laissez-faire; they also provide teachers and opportunity to familiarize students with the relatively productive Latin word root merc. In addition to forming the basis for the three words in these context clues worksheets, merc (it means “trade”) is found in words like mercenary and commerce.

This lesson, like almost everything I develop, aims to promote literacy. particularly reading comprehension. Here is the intellectual devotional reading on laissez-faire that is the mainstay of this lesson. Finally, you’ll need this reading comprehension worksheet on laissez-faire.

School is started, and I’m already much busier than I want or need to be. I hope your year is off to a good start.

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.

Selection Control

Today is the first day of classes in New York City. While I await my second period class, I’ll take a moment to post something interesting I gleaned while reading my first professional development book of the year, Dr. Mel Levine’s excellent and humane One Mind at a Time (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002). If you work with special education students, and particularly students with limited attention spans, your will recognize the cognitive phenomena Dr. Levine describes.

Selection control, in Mel Levine’s words, is a cognitive process in which “…attention rapidly inspects candidates for admission to the thinking brain, filters out and discards what it deems irrelevant, welcomes a chosen few stimuli into consciousness, and then invites the most timely and informative of these selections to penetrate deeply enough to be understood and/or remembered or else used right away.” In the following paragraph, Dr. Levine spells out the challenges that teachers working with students with attentional difficulties face: “Selection control disposes of worthless stimuli, such as the quiet hum of a fluorescent bulb or the mauve hue of your teacher’s panty hose or totally irrelevant memories that may be competing for attention. Selection control does not actually interpret or put to use what we hear or see; it just picks out the very best items, the most important and currently relevant data. Selection control that works well is especially valuable in view of the fact that a mind has very little capacity from moment to moment for brand-new information. The entryway that leads to conscious awareness is narrow; space is limited. So selection control is obliged to be highly refined.” 

Dr Levine continues, with this idea for a lesson plan: “To tighten selection control among his entire class, one teacher I work with, John Reilly, gave students an article to read and asked them to summarize it in one hundred words or less. After they submitted their summaries, he returned these and asked the kids to write a fifty-word summary of their summary. The following week they were asked to write a twenty-five-word summary of their fifty-word summary. All the while he emphasized the critical importance of determining relative degrees of importance in globs of information, a great academic lesson.”

At some point this year, I’ll develop a lesson plan for this form of writing assignment, which looks like a good way to assist students in developing their own methods and habits of selection control.

Teaching Skepticism

“Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight, if possible.”

Robert M. Hutchins on Academic Freedom as Quoted in Time magazine.

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