Monthly Archives: April 2020

Book of Answers: Ralph Ellison

What is novelist Ralph Ellison’s middle name? Waldo

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

The Great Debaters: Lesson 6

Moving right along this morning, here is the sixth lesson plan in “The Great Debaters” unit plan here at Mark’s Text Terminal. This lesson initiates the viewing of the film.

So, here is a context clues worksheet on the noun montage, a cinematic term that describes the compression of exposition into a series of fleeting images that supplies deep context for the narrative without the sacrifice of a compelling pace of narration. The main document for this lesson is this simple note-taking blank that asks students to jot down responses to a single who, where and what questions.

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.

Claude Brown on Escaping the Promised Land

“For where does one run to when he’s already in the promised land?”

Manchild in the Promised Land Foreword (1965)

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

The Great Debaters: Lesson 5

Here is the fifth lesson plan of the unit plan on the Denzel Washington film “The Great Debaters.” This lesson addresses the attempts of the Communist Party USA to enlist Americans of African descent in the class struggle in the United States. This is a complex and fraught topic, and I believe an entire academic career might be profitably spent on this topic. A good place to go to get a general sense of it is Richard Wright’s superlative memoir Black Boy. Because of Melvin Tolson’s involvement in labor organizing, and his possible membership in the Communist Party (a fact, I find, very hard to pin down), there are scenes in the film of Tolson (played, once again, by Denzel Washington) organizing farmers and farmworkers), I wanted students to understand the allure of the Communist Party to oppressed Black people.

Unsurprisingly, I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun socialism. In the event the lesson continues into a second day, here is another on the noun communism. Finally, here is the reading and comprehension worksheet at the center of this lesson.

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.

Manchild in the Promised Land

“Manchild in the Promised Land: (1965) An autobiographical novel by Claude Brown. Set in Harlem in the 1940s and 1950s, the novel is a coming-of-age story in which Sonny, the author, escapes the ghetto and the drugs, prostitution, and violence that plague it. Having sought refuge in higher education, the author conveys a sense of warmth toward the Harlem ghetto while simultaneously contributing to the spirited social criticism of the time.”

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

The Great Debaters: Lesson 4

Okay, here is the fourth lesson plan of a total of eight in “The Great Debaters” unit here at Mark’s Text Terminal. This lesson is on James Farmer Jr., the legendary Civil Rights activist, who is a key figure in the narrative of this unit and in the film in which this unit culminates. It’s worth mentioning here that Mr. Farmer’s father, James Farmer Sr. (played in the film by the estimable Forest Whitaker), was a truly heroic figure and probably worth a lesson in this unit. Unfortunately, when planning such a unit, one must make choices. I may return to this unit at some point and add a lesson about James Farmer Sr. What do you think?

I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the verb matriculate, which is used both intransitively and transitively. In the event the lesson goes into a second day (depending on the length of your class period and how you choose to teach this material, there is a good chance it will), then here is another on the noun labor union, a concept and concrete assembly of people that is a key aspect of the biography of Melvin Tolson.

Finally, here is the reading and comprehension worksheet on James Farmer Jr. that is the gravamen of this lesson.

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.

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige on Dietary Prudence

“Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.”

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige

“How to Keep Young,” Colliers, 13 June 1953

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

The Great Debaters: Lesson 3

Here is the third lesson plan for “The Great Debaters” unit plan. This is a reading and discussion lesson on the protagonist of the film, Melvin Tolson, whom Denzel Washington plays with his usual grace and aplomb.

I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on poetry and this one on prose. I assume it’s obvious that I hope students, from these two active exercises, will understand the difference between poetry and prose, and to use these two conceptual words competently. The mainstay of this lesson is this reading and comprehension worksheet on Melvin Tolson himself. As with the previous lesson, I envisioned this as group work, with each group taking a share of the vocabulary words and comprehension questions. That may not be tenable, depending on the size of your class (or, if you are using this during the COVID19 crisis, depending on the vagaries of online learning). But, this is a fairly flexible document and can be altered and used to best fit your circumstances.

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.

Arna Bontemps

“Arna [Wendell] Bontemps: (1902-1973) American writer, librarian, and teacher. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, Bontemps moved to California at the age of three. After graduating from Pacific Union college in 1923, he moved to Harlem, where he emerged as an award-winning poet during the Harlem Renaissance. His best-known works, however, are his novels, particularly Black Thunder (1936), and historical novel about the abortive slave rebellion led by Gabriel Prosser in the Virginia of 1800. Bontemps’s most enduring legacy was his work as a librarian and historian of African-American culture. During his twenty-two year career as Librarian at Fisk University, he created one of the principal archival sources for study in the field. Among Bontemps’s thirty works are two additional novels, God Sends Sunday (1931) and Drums at Dusk (1939); a major anthology of folklore coedited with Langston Hughes, The Book of Negro Folklore (1958). A collection of memoirs, The Harlem Renaissance Remembered: Essays (1972); and several histories and fictional accounts of black life written for a juvenile audience. He collaborated with Countee Cullen to transform God Sends Sunday into a successful Broadway musical, St. Louis Woman (1945).”

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

The Great Debaters: Lesson 2

Here is the second lesson plan for “The Great Debaters” unit, this one on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in general, and in particular on Wiley College, where the action in the film is primarily set.

I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on forensic as a noun and adjective. The context in the sentences is, I think (or hope) strong enough, but it can also be connected to the previous lesson’s context clues worksheet on debate as a noun. I also use this second context context clues worksheet on debate as a verb. It too should help students understand the meaning of forensic, which may be a reason to reverse the order of these two exercises. In any case, that worksheet gives you an opening for a brief excursus on the parts of speech, since you have this word used as both a noun and a verb in the first lesson. In short, with the right planning, there are plenty of connections to be made here.

Finally, here is the reading and comprehension worksheet that is at the center of this lesson. I initially imagined assigning this as in-class group work, with each group responsible for two vocabulary words and two questions. However, this also can be used in small-group instruction, as a whole-class activity. Again, in short, I wrote this to be used responsively and flexibly with students.

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.