Monthly Archives: January 2020

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: A volume of memoirs (1970) by the African-American writer, singer, and actress Maya Angelou (1928-2014). Angelou borrowed her title—a metaphor for the African-American experience—from the US writer Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906):

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

Paul Lawrence Dunbar: ‘Sympathy,’ in The Complete Poems (1895)

Dunbar may have been inspired by an earlier line:

When caged birds sing, when indeed they cry.

John Webster: The White Devil (1612), V.iv

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Cultural Literacy: James Weldon Johnson

Allow me to close out this Friday afternoon, and a difficult week, with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on James Weldon Johnson. He was a highly influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and it is nearly impossible to underestimate his influence on that efflorescence of culture in the United States.

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.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

[The beautiful Dunbar Apartments in Harlem are named for Paul Laurence Dunbar. Let me mention editorially that I am mildly uncomfortable with this entry’s association of Dunbar with Thomas Nelson Page. Dunbar, in my own view, was sui generis as a poet. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia has a tendency–especially in older entries like this one–to discount the originality of African-American writers.]

“Paul Laurence Dunbar: (1872-1906) American poet. Dunbar is noted for his highly skilled use of black themes and dialect. Writing at a time when literary regionalism was in vogue, he was undoubtedly influenced by Thomas Nelson Page. Dunbar was the son of a slave, but became the most famous African-American poet of his time. He exercised a great influence on later writers. Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896) is his most famous collection. It was followed by Lyrics of the Hearthside (1899), Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1903), and Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. He also wrote novels, including The Uncalled (1898) and The Sport of the Gods (1902).”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Everyday Edit: Hank Aaron

Here is an Everyday Edit worksheet on Hank Aaron. If you and your students like this worksheet, the generous proprietors of Education World, who give away a year’s supply of them at their website.

If you find typos on this worksheet, that’s the point of the work. Ask students to proofread for errors, and then repair them.

New Yorkers, It’s Time to Cashier Richard Carranza

As I say every time I post something like this, Mark’s Text Terminal is not a political or policy blog.

That said, by any standard I recognize, it is long past time for New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to find something else–anything else–to do. As an erstwhile colleague of mine commented recently, Carranza is “a lightweight.”

In the 16 years I taught in New York, we had one condescending, disrespectful chancellor after another–including the amazingly ill-fated–by her own dismal performance–Cathie Black.

So Carranza is not sui generis. That said, as this web page shows, Carranza’s  incompetence is well-documented and his failures many. The irony of this, of course, is that like so many people who occupy offices at his level in public education, he will all but certainly fail up when leaving New York.

Whatever happens, good riddance….

Muhammad Ali on Maintaining His Schedule

“Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.”

Muhammad Ali

Quoted in N.Y. Times, 9 December 1962

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Independent Practice: Songhai Empire

OK, folks tomorrow begins Black History Month 2020. Circumstances impel me, as they do every February, to editorialize briefly in saying that if Americans are honest with themselves about the history of the United States, then every month is Black History Month. That said, I am distinctly uncomfortable second-guessing the founders of Black History Month, particularly Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

So, let’s start the month off with this independent practice worksheet on the Songhai Empire.

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: William Shakespeare

“Shakespeare’s name, you may depend on it, stands absurdly too high and will go down. He had no invention as to stories, none whatever. He took all his plots from old novels, and threw their stories into a dramatic shape, at as little expense or thought as you or I could turn his plays back again into prose tales.

Lord Byron, letter to James Hogg 1814″

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

The Weekly Text, January 31, 2019: A Lesson Plan on the Crime and Puzzlement Case “Windy Beach”

[I drafted this post a couple of weeks ago because I knew I would be assuming a new position at the beginning of this week at the middle school in the district in which I serve. When I brought out the first couple of lessons from the first Crime and Puzzlement unit I have. Students took to them immediately; one student’s eyes widened when he learned I have 72 of these lessons. This is the first unequivocally positive response these materials have garnered from students. The Crime and Puzzlement materials I’ve published here so far quickly became some of the most frequently downloaded materials on Mark’s Text Terminal. So I am particularly interested, if you would be so inclined, for the comments of other educators on these materials.]

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “Windy Beach.” I begin this unit with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the American idiom “High Horse”–as in “Get off your high horse.” This scan of the illustration and questions about the case is really the center of the lesson. Finally, here is the typescript of the answer key to solve the case.

That’s it. I bid you a restful weekend.

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.

Terms of Art: Classroom Interaction, Classroom Behavior

“Classroom Interaction, Classroom Behavior: Describes the form and content of behavior or social interaction in the classroom. In particular, research on gender, class, and ‘race’ in education has examined the relationship between teacher and students in the classroom. A variety of methods have been used to investigate the amount and type of ‘teacher-time’ received by different groups of students. Much of the research has then sought to relate this to different educational experiences and outcomes among particular groups. For example, some studies showed that boys received a disproportionate amount of the teachers’ time, sat in different places in the classroom, and were more highly regarded by teachers, which may go some way towards explaining the educational differential between men and women. More recently, focus has shifted to examining the role of the school as a whole on student experiences as well as behavior outside the classroom, such as bullying and racial and sexual harassment.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.