Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Weekly Text, September 30, 2016

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.

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.

Georg Lind: Standardized Testing is Bad for Education and Bad for Democracy

Here’s another post from Diane Ravitch’s Blog on testing, a topic of pedagogical and political concern here at Mark’s Text Terminal. High stakes tests, I think, have indentured teachers to the corporations which produce them. Moreover, there is little evidence to suggest that these same tests have improved education in the United States, particularly for struggling learners.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Georg Lind is an educational researcher and professor of psychology in a German university who has studied the moral implications of standardized testing. His bio is at the end of this post. He sent me the following short essay on the negative consequences of standardized testing:

Leviathan: The Anti-Democratic Effect of High-Stakes Tests.

We ought to think about high stakes tests in wider contexts than we usually do, namely in the context of human functioning and in the context of human rights and democracy:

(a) All tests which are based on classical test theory (CTT) and its off-springs (e.g., item-response-theory, Rasch-scaling) are essentially statistical artifacts. Their hidden psychology is at odds with our knowledge of psychological processes underlying human behavior. These tests are built on a false postulate which says: each and every human response to a test is determined only by one disposition, namely the competence or personality under…

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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

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.

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.

Kenneth Zeichner: What We Know (and Don’t Know) about Non-Traditional Teacher Education Programs

Here’s a post from Diane Ravitch’s Blog on alternative routes to teacher certification, which addresses a professional and pedagogical concern at Mark’s Text Terminal. I entered teaching through one of these programs, the New York City Teaching Fellowship, which was abysmal. I’ve spent the last ten years remedying the shortcomings of my experience in this program, which earned me a M.S. in special education from a diploma mill in the New York City metropolitan area.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Kenneth Zeichner is Boeing Professor of Teacher Education at the University of Washington in Seattle. He recently reviewed five alternate routes into teaching. Here is a question-and-answer session with him about his study.

The study is here.

He said:


My examination of the research on the five programs (The Relay Graduate School of Education, Match Teacher Residency, High Tech High’s Internship, iTeach and TEACH-NOW) concludes that there is no credible evidence that supports the claims of success that are made about them, and that the continued expansion of these programs is driven by ideology rather than by empirical evidence of success.

He added:

First of all, in the U.S. we have very serious problems of an inequitable distribution of teachers and inequitable access to a high-quality education, which enables students to interact with knowledge in authentic and meaningful ways. Students living in communities highly impacted by poverty are disproportionately…

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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

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.

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

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.

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.

Until next week….