Monthly Archives: April 2022

Vernacular

“Vernacular: (Latin vernaculus “domestic, native, indigenous’) Domestic or native language. Now applied to the language used in one’s native country. It may also be used to distinguish between a ‘literary’ language and a dialect; for instance, William Barnes’svernacular poems,’ and outstanding example of dialect (q.v.) poetry.”

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

Word Root Exercise: Semi

Here is a worksheet on the Latin word root semi. It means “half” and “partly.” This root finds its way into common discourse in English–it can be used as a prefix to just about any adjective or noun to attenuate the full force of a word. So, in addition to the number of words this root grows in casual discourse (i.e. being attached to nouns and adjectives in everyday conversation), this root yields such high-frequency English words as semiannual, semicolon, semiconductor, and semifinal.

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.

Light Sculpture

“Light Sculpture: Sculpture in which light sources (fluorescent and neon bulbs, incandescent bulbs, laser beams, and sunlight) are the primary medium or source of visual interest. Minimalist Dan Flavin, Chryssa, and Robert Whitman are three of the best-known light sculptors.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Once in a Blue Moon

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom “Once in a Blue Moon.” This is a half-page worksheet with a three-sentence reading followed by three comprehension questions. As the reading explains that a blue moon occurs only “about every thirty-two months,” students will be able to understand that this expression means the same thing, where people are concerned, as “Long time, no see,” or “I haven’t seen you in a month of Sundays.” Where events are concerned, students will infer that something that happens “once in a blue moon” doesn’t happen very often, and is, arguably, a rare event.

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.

Write It Right: “Compare With” for “Compare To”

“Compare with for Compare to. “He had the immodesty to compare himself with Shakespeare.” Nothing necessarily in that. Comparison with may be for observing a difference; comparison to affirms a similarity.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.

Audacious (adj)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective audacious. It means, variously, “intrepidly daring,” “adventurous,” “recklessly bold,” “rash,” “contemptuous of law, religion, or decorum,” “insolent,” and “marked by originality and verve.” Because this word tends to cluster its meaning around the commonality of “rash,” or “bold,” which all the words and phrases above mean to some extent, this worksheet is keyed to all of the definitions above.

And if it somehow falls short, I would be very interested in your thoughts as to why–so I can improve it.

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.

Formalism or Russian Formalism

“Formalism or Russian Formalism: Russian school of literary criticism that flourished 1914-28. Making use of the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, Formalists were concerned with what technical devices make a literary text literary, apart from its psychological, sociological, biographical, and historical elements. Though influenced by the Symbolist movement, they sought to make their analyses more objective and scientific than those of the Symbolists. The movement was condemned by the Soviet authorities in 1929 for its lack of political perspective. Later, it became influential in the West, notably in New Criticism and structuralism.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 29 April 2022: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Sound Waves

This week’s Text is a reading on sound waves along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Over the years, I’ve crossed paths with several students interested in careers as recording engineers or producers. I know that music is played on instruments that have evolved over centuries by persons with enviable talent; that, however, is the extent of my knowledge of music production. I hoped these documents would help students gain some understanding about the actual physics of sound. These materials have been of sufficiently high interest in my classroom that I have tagged them as such.

So this might be thin gruel where the subject is concerned. As with many of the documents I prepared over the years to engage alienated students, these were prepared in haste. So they are very likely, uh, less than perfect. Fortunately, they are both formatted in Microsoft Word, so exporting them to a word processor of your preference and tailoring them to your students’ needs will be relatively effortless.

May is Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I’ve already prepared a batch of posts for the month, so if you need material on topics related to American of Asian and Pacific Island descent, or Asia and the Pacific Islands themselves, trundle on by the site.

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.

History

“History: A seamless web linking past, present and future.

Contemporary Western society attempts to limit history to the past, as if it were the refuse of civilization. Individuals who hold power tend to see history only as mythology which can be manipulated to distract the citizenry, but is not useful in itself.

Among the different humanist areas of, history has nevertheless survived best the pseudo-scientific reduction of non-scientific learning to theoretically objective standards. The other cornerstones of humanism—literature and philosophy—have been severely damaged by the drive to quantify and objectify everything in sight. Intellectual accounting is not a synonym for thinking. Driven by this vain search for objectivity, literature and philosophy have come to resemble the obscure and controlling scholasticism of the Middle Ages.

If the historical approach has been able to resist these trends, it may be because power structures require a comforting background of mythology and mythology requires a sweep of civilization. Thus, history is welcome as a superficial generalization viewed at a hazy distance.

Our technocracy is frightened by the idea that ideas and events could be part of a large flow and therefore less controllable than expertise would like to suggest. For them, history is a conservative force which blocks the way to change and to new answers. In reality, history only becomes an active force when individuals deform it into a weapon for public manipulation. By that process it ceases to be history.

The twentieth century has been dominated by a catastrophic explosion of ideologies of which communism and fascism have been the most spectacular. Neo-conservatism is a recent minor example. The fleeting success of these ideologies has been made possible in part by the denial of history—or rather, by freezing history into narrow bands of logic, the sole purpose of which is to justify a specific ideology.

This does not mean that history becomes a beacon of truth when it is separated from ideology. History is not about truth but about continuity, and not about a limited dialectic but about an unlimited movement. To the extent that ethics remain in the foreground, history cannot be grossly deformed. The ethics which Western civilization has attempted to push forward for two and a half millennia are scarcely a secret. If anything, they have remained painfully obvious as one set of power structures after another has sought to marginalize or manipulate them. It is in this context that ideology most typically seeks to fix our attention on a single, conclusive pattern which can be presented as inevitable and which therefore carries a deformation of ethics.

These destructive experiences illustrate the value of history as a guarantor of both stability and change. It is neither a conservative nor a revolutionary force. Instead, history is a constant memory and its value lies in our ability to make it a highly conscious part of our lives. In an age which presents abstract analysis—a method that denies continuity and memory—as the sole respectable method of exercising power, history is perhaps the sole intact linear means of thought.”

Excerpted from: Saul, John Ralston. The Doubter’s Companion. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Cultural Literacy: Vladimir Putin, National Self-Determination

Here a pair of Cultural Literacy worksheets that I hope are timely. The first is on Vladimir Putin. This is a full-page worksheet with a five-sentence reading and six comprehension questions. The second is on national self-determination; its a half-page worksheet with a two-sentence reading and two comprehension questions. Nota bene, please, that this second document at its end asks the reader to “See Fourteen Points.” If you want students to follow up on that point, you’ll find a credible reading under this hyperlink.

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.