Monthly Archives: April 2017

The Weekly Text, April 28, 2017

Of all the units on using the parts of speech I’ve built, the fifth, on pronouns, is the longest and most involved of the whole yearlong course of study. As both an undergraduate and a graduate student, I worked in college writing centers. The two most common writing errors that impelled professors to send students to the writing center were pronoun-antecedent agreement errors and subject-verb agreement faults. Consequently, I have taken particular pains in building training around these two writing issues into the worksheets in my pronoun and verb units.

This week’s Text is a complete introductory lesson plan on the personal pronoun. This lesson begins, depending on how you use it, and with which population, with an Everyday Edit worksheet on Pocahontas (and, incidentally, if you like Everyday Edits, the good people at Education World very generously give them away; if you click that hyperlink, it will take you to the page where they keep the answer keys). If the lesson runs into a second day, then here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on satire that should serve well as your second do-now exercise. The center of this lesson is this scaffolded worksheet on using the personal pronouns in all three cases. Students will very likely benefit from using this learning support on pronouns and case. Finally, to help you guide your students through this lesson, here is the teacher’s copy of the 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.

Realize (vt.)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the verb realize, which is transitive only; when I saw that in the dictionary, I realized that the direct object that follows this verb must about always be a noun phrase beginning with that (or maybe a pronoun in the nominative case, even though that pronoun is usually preceded by that), so that may be one thing you want to emphasize when you teach this word.

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.

Rotten Reviews: Madame Bovary

“Monsieur Flaubert is not an author.”

Le Figaro

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Sphere of Influence (noun phrase)

It’s hard to imagine, in teaching social studies, a time in history when the term Sphere of Influence isn’t germane (or at least starting with Rome, but I would argue that the earlier empires in the near east also claimed spheres of influence). So, here is a context clues worksheet on the noun phrase sphere of influence that might help elucidate this phrase for 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.

Idle (adj.) and Idol (n.)

This morning, after carrying them around in a Moleskine for a couple of weeks, I finally typed up these five homophone worksheets on the adjective idle and the noun idol. I considered including idle as a verb, but decided for the moment to keep these simple. There are any number of ways to bring the verb into this mix, including a context clues worksheet to follow these. If there’s interest in that (leave a comment, please), then I’ll write a context clues worksheet for idle as a verb and append it to this post.

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 Backbone of Democracy

“Not until this century have we undertaken to give twelve years of schooling to all our children…. Suffrage without schooling produces mobocracy, not democracy—not rule of law, not constitutional government by people as well as for them.”

Mortimer J. Adler The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto (1982)

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

The Weekly Text, April 21, 2017

By high school, teachers hope, students have mastered the form of the grammatically complete sentence, even if those sentences are only passingly meaningful. Where there is structure, one can assume, there can be style. High school is the place, I think, where those well-structured sentences can gain meaning and be forged into longer forms of writing, particularly the essay. At the school in which I serve, teachers assign students multiple essay assignments, and the midterms, finals, and especially the New York State Regents Examinations in humanities subjects all require students to compose essays.

And all of this takes place, as far as I can tell, in an instructional environment in which students are never really told, with any appreciable degree of clarity or completeness, what exactly it is that makes an essay. This is difficult enough for students for whom school work comes naturally; for students who struggle, this is arguably educational malpractice.

So, this year, I finally began work on an essay-writing unit that begins with an elucidation of the essay as a form of writing, and continues with a series of short, two-lesson unit that seeks to introduce students to the essay and assist them in developing their own understanding of the this “most flexible and adaptable of all literary forms,” in the words of J.A. Cuddon, the author of  The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (New York: Penguin, 1992).

In the first lesson, which is this week’s Text, I guide students through this vocabulary building worksheet with six words related to essay (to wit: essay as a verb, essay as a noun twice, the adjective essayistic, the noun essayist, and the compound noun essay question). As with all of these kinds of context clues worksheets, I assign a class linguist (for more on the procedures you might consider using for this worksheet see the About Weekly Texts page above the picture at the top of the page, and find your way to the Focus on One Word Worksheets Users’ Manual), who will need the lexicon that provides the dictionary definitions of these words.

One thing I am particularly interested in when using this worksheet–and as of this writing, I’ve used these materials three times, but each time they worked well with my students–is if students can make the connotative connections between the three definitions of the word essay included in this worksheet. As a verb, essay means attempt or trial (which is what the French word whence it comes, essai, means), and one of its meanings as a noun is the result or product of an attempt. The third meaning, of course, is the one students must most clearly understand,  an analytic or interpretive literary composition usually dealing with its subject from a limited or personal point of view or something resembling such a composition <a photographic ~>. Can students see their essays as both an attempt at making sense of a topic, and as the outcome of that attempt? For struggling learners, this small act of semantic synthesis may well represent some fairly deep learning.

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.