Monthly Archives: April 2020

Book of Answers: Countee Cullen

Was Countee Cullen male or female? The poet of the Harlem Renaissance was male.

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 1

Here is the lesson plan for the first lesson in “The Great Debaters” unit plan. This lesson introduces the concept of debate.

I open this lesson with this Everyday Edit worksheet on African American History Month (and don’t forget, to give credit where it is abundantly due, that you can get a yearlong supply of these worksheets at Education World). From there, I move on to this context clues worksheet on debate as a noun. Because this is a definition, discussion, and note-taking lesson, this brainstorming and note-taking worksheet asks some basic questions that should elicit discussion about debate and its role in approaching the truth of a matter.

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.

Harlem Renaissance

“Harlem Renaissance: With the largest concentration of African-American, West Indian, and African populations in the U.S., Harlem had become the ‘Negro Capital’ (as it was then called) of America by the early 20th century. After World War I, the flourishing intellectual, artistic, musical and political scene focused on historical recollection and redefinition of the African-American experience. Among the best-known artists are Aaron Douglas, William Johnson, and Jacob Lawrence.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

The Great Debaters: Planning Materials

Over the next several days, I will post an entire unit I wrote, inspired by the Denzel Washington film (he directed and stars as the story’s protagonist, the peripatetic poet and teacher Melvin Tolson)  “The Great Debaters.” on the real-life subjects of that fine film. My original intention was to teach this unit every February in observation of Black History Month. For reasons that involve a long and frustrating story, I was only able to use these materials a couple of times. I’ve parceled them out in dribs and drabs over the years.

I cannot think of better time than now, while students and parents are homebound during this pandemic, to post this unit in its entirety. There are eight lessons in all. I should note, as I do at some length in the unit plan, and as the unit’s title–“Seminar on Prior Knowledge”–that one of the purposes of this unit is to demonstrate for students how learning happens. I want them to understand who the main characters are in “The Great Debaters” before watching the movie. This leads students to understand why it is important for all learning to possess as large a fund of prior knowledge as they can manage to accumulate, or find on their own with the numerous, powerful knowledge-gathering tools–the smartphone is Cold War computing power in the palm of one’s hand–now at our disposal.

In the event that you want to revise or otherwise adapt this unit to your students’ needs, let me start by posting the planning materials for this unit. First, here is the unit plan. This is the lesson plan template. If you want to build some new context clues worksheet for this unit, here is the worksheet template for that. Similarly, here is the worksheet template for building new reading comprehension worksheets for each lesson. This list of definitions for the context clues worksheets already embedded in each lesson will help that part of each lesson proceed without a hitch. Here is a squib on Wiley College, which is at the center of this heroic story, which I grabbed from that institution’s website. Finally, here is another squib on Historically Black Colleges and Universities that I wrote myself and synthesized from a variety of sources, including my own knowledge of these schools; it’s meant to be inserted just about anywhere along the way in this unit.

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.

Make the Paragraph the Unit of Composition.

[If you want this quote as a learning support in Microsoft Word it is under that hyperlink.]

Make the paragraph the unit of composition.

The paragraph is convenient unit; it serves all forms of literary work. As long as it holds together, a paragraph may be of any length—a single, short sentence or a passage of great duration. If the subject on which you are writing is of slight extent, or if you intend to treat it briefly, there may be no need to divide it into topics. Thus, a brief description, a brief book review, a brief account of a single incident, a narrative merely outlining an action, the setting forth of a single idea—any one of these is best written in a single paragraph. After the paragraph has been written, examine it to see whether the division will improve it.

Ordinarily, however, a subject requires division into topics, each of which should be dealt with in a paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.

As a rule, single sentences should not be written or printed as paragraphs. An exception may be made of made of sentences of transition, indicating the relation between the parts of an exposition or argument.

In dialogue, each speech, even if only a single word, is usually a paragraph by itself; that is, a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker. The application of this rule when dialogue and narrative are combined is best learned from examples in well-edited works of fiction. Sometimes a writer, seeking to create and effect of rapid talk or for some other reason, will elect not to set off each speech in a separate paragraph and instead will run speeches together. The common practice, however, and the one that serves best in most instances, is to give each speech a paragraph of its own.

As a rule, begin each paragraph either with a sentence that suggests the topic or with a sentence that helps the transition. If a paragraph forms part of larger composition, it relation to what precedes, or its function as a part of the whole, may need to be expressed. This can sometimes be done by a mere word or phrase (again, therefore, for the same reason) in the first sentence. Sometimes, however, it is expedient to get into the topic slowly, by way of a sentence or two of introduction or transition.

In narration and description, the paragraph sometimes begins with a concise, comprehensive statement serving to hold together the details that follow.

The breeze served us admirably.

He campaign opened with a series of reverses.

The next ten or twelve pages were filled with a curious set of entries.

But when this device, or any device, is too often used, it becomes a mannerism. More commonly, the opening sentence simply indicates by its subject the direction the paragraph is to take.

At length I thought I might return toward the stockade.

He picked up the heavy lamp from the table and began to explore.

Another flight of steps, and they emerged on the roof.

In animated narrative, the paragraphs are likely to be short and without any semblance of a topic sentence, the writer rushing headlong, even following event in rapid succession. The break between such paragraphs merely serves the purpose of a rhetorical pause, throwing into prominence some detail of the action.

In general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. Therefore, breaking long paragraphs in two, even if it is not necessary to do so for sense, meaning, or logical development, is often a visual help. But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting. Paragraph breaks used only for show read like the writing of commerce or of display advertising. Moderation and a sense of order should be the main considerations in paragraphing.”

Excerpted from: Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. New York: Longman, 2000.

A Complete Lesson Plan on Linking Verbs

A few days ago, I posted the first lesson in a series of two on linking verbs. If you search the term “linking verbs.” Because of the way these kinds of words are used in the English language, as well as their commonality in everyday and academic speech and prose, I thought it necessary to make sure students master their use.

So, here is the second lesson plan on linking verbs. I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom “Burn the Midnight Oil.” Should the lesson go into a second day, here is a worksheet on the homophones you’re and your. This scaffolded worksheet is the mainstay of this lesson; the teacher’s copy will help you teach the lesson. Finally, here is a word bank that functions as a learning support to help students understand usage and syntax in writing sentences with linking verbs.

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.

Humanism

“Humanism: The belief, Renaissance in origin but inspired by classical civilization, that man is potentially the master of all things, and that by study and scientific inquiry such mastery is within his grasp. In art, humanism caused a gradual secularization of themes.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Cultural Literacy: Apollo

OK: moving right along, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Apollo, that avatar of civilization, order, balance, and light.

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.

Demonstrative

“Demonstrative: Indicating something pointed out or singled out, e.g. the pronouns ‘this’ and ‘those.’”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Eclectic

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective eclectic. It seems safe to say that this is a word students ought to know before they graduate high school.

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.