Monthly Archives: July 2021

Book of Answers: The First National Book Award

Who received the first National Book Award for Fiction? Nelson Algren in 1950 for The Man with the Golden Arm.

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

The Weekly Text, 30 July 2021: A Lesson Plan on the Reflexive and Intensive Pronoun

This week’s text is a lesson plan on the reflexive and intensive pronouns–i.e. myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves–and their use in declarative sentences and expository prose.

I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the bibliography and its function in scholarly writing. In the event the lesson goes into a second day due to whatever classroom exigencies you encounter, you might want to use this Everyday Edit worksheet on Miranda rights (“You have the right to remain silent…” etc.) that the United States Constitution guarantees people when they are arrested. (Incidentally if you like Everyday Edit worksheets, don’t forget that the good people at Education World offer a year’s supply of them at no charge.)

Here is a learning support on reflexive and intensive pronouns that I distribute with this scaffolded worksheet that is the primary work of this lesson. Finally, here is the teacher’s copy of the worksheet that eases delivery of this material.

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.

Plausible (adj)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective plausible. It means, variously, “superficially fair, reasonable, or valuable but often specious (a plausible pretext)”; “superficially pleasing or persuasive, (a swindler…  then a quack, then a smooth, plausible gentleman —R. W. Emerson),” and “appearing worthy of belief (the argument was both powerful and plausible).”

For this worksheet, the first and last definitions are the one the context tries to elicit from students. Incidentally (and editorially as well, for which I ask forgiveness), I’ve long believed, and believe now more than ever, given the outhouse of misinformation that social media has become, that we should use at least some of our schools’ time teaching students about media literacy. If I designed a unit to address this perceived need, I would conduct a lesson on plausibility very early on in the cycle.

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.


“Fiction: A vague and general term for an imaginative work, usually in prose. At any rate, it does not normally cover poetry and drama though both are a form of fiction in that they are molded and contrived—or feigned. Fiction is now used in general of the novel, the short story, the novella (qq.v) and related genres.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Term of Art: Number

“Number: A grammatical category used in describing parts of speech that show contrasts of plural, singular, dual, etc. In English, the number system is basically a two-term contrast of singular and plural, shown in nouns and some pronouns and determiners, and to some extend in verbs. Even dual words, such as both, either, neither, take singular or plural verb concord: both taking the plural; either, neither usually taking the singular. English nouns, as far as number is concerned, can be divided into: singular only, plural only, and words that can be both. Singular-only nouns are: (1) Uncountable nouns which can occur with such uncountable-specific words as much, little: much money, little sugar. (2) Most proper nouns: Edinburgh, the Thames (in which other restrictions apply). Plural only nouns are (1) Countable: people in six people, but not in the European peoples. (2) Usually uncountable: not enough clothes (not six clothes); many thanks (not five thanks); trousers (a pair of trousers but not usually three trousers). The vast majority of countable nouns can be both singular and plural (book/books, fox/foxes, mouse/mice), but a few have no distinct plural form (as with one sheep/three sheep). Many nouns, however, have both countable and uncountable uses, in which case they may have a plural in some uses (What an excellent wine/What excellent wines!) but not in others (I never drink wine). Pronouns having distinct singular and plural forms include personal, reflexive, and possessive. Number contrast is neutralized with you, but the second-person reflexive forms distinguish yourself and yourselves. Demonstrative pronouns also have separate forms, singular this, that being used with singular countable nouns (this restaurant) and with uncountable nouns (this food). Number contrast in verbs, except in the verb be, is confined to the distinct third-person singular tense form (look/looks).”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Word Root Exercise: Bi, Bin

Here is a worksheet on the Latin word roots bi and bin. They mean two and twice. But you already know that, and your students probably will before long as they work their way through this material.

Of course these are extremely productive roots in English, and this worksheet includes many of the most frequently used words containing bi or bin, to wit: biannual, bicameral (a useful social studies word), bilingual, bicycle, and bifocal.

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.

Bob Moses: A Tribute to a Brilliant Civil Rights Activist and Educator, and His Message to Us

Diane Ravitch's blog

Bob Moses died on July 25 at the age of 86. He was noted for his intellect and courage. He was a leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), leading a voter registration drive in Mississippi at a time when violence against Black civil rights activists were at risk of being murdered, and no jury would convict their killers. In 1964, he led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which tried unsuccessfully to replace the all-white Democratic delegation to the Democratic National Convention. In 1982, he founded the Algebra Project, to teach algebra to underprepared Black youth. He received multiple honors for his work. He graduated from the elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Hamilton College (where he majored in philosophy and French), and earned a master’s degree at Harvard in philosophy.

One of his friends and admirers forwarded the following story:

It might be of interest…

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Ad Infinitum

“Ad Infinitum To infinity: without limit, endlessly or ceaselessly; forever.

‘Administrators expedited, finalized, implemented, processed ad infinitum, while social workers, already famed for euphemism, called their investigators case workers….’ Mary Dohan, Our Own Words.”

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

Palaver (n)

It’s Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day today, so here is a context clues worksheet on the noun palaver. It means, variously, “a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication,”  “idle talk,” and  “misleading or beguiling speech.” The context in this worksheet calls for the latter two meanings.

I know this isn’t the most commonly used word in the English language, but I think it might make a reasonable surrogate for a commonly used epithet among many of the students I have served, to wit, bulls**t (please forgive me that vulgarism, even in its elided form, on this G-rated blog).

Incidentally, this word can also be used as a verb to mean, intransitively, “to talk profusely or idly,” “parley,” and transitively to mean “to use palaver to cajole.” The word has an interesting pedigree: it arrives in English from the Latin parabola (“parable,” “speech”) via the Portuguese palavra (“word,” “speech”).

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.

Term of Art: Social Content Guidelines

“social content guidelines: The directions for textbook publishers developed by the state of California. These directions tell publishers what information their textbooks must include and exclude with regard to groups identified by race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, economic status, or other criteria. California not only requires proportional representation of listed groups but also prohibits adverse reflection on them—meaning that any ‘descriptions, depictions, labels, or rejoinders that tend to demean, stereotype, or patronize’ any listed group are prohibited. The guidelines also require proportional representation of entrepreneurs, managers, and labor groups and ban adverse reflection on any particular occupation. In response to California’s social content guidelines, publishers are careful to avoid adverse reflection on any group in history textbooks and to eliminate potentially controversial literary selections. See also adverse reflection; bias and sensitivity review.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.