About Posts & Texts

When I started working in the classroom (as opposed to a hospital or corrections unit, where I have also worked with adolescents) with struggling learners in 2003, I quickly realized that my best strategy for meeting students where they are–as opposed to where their peers are, or where teachers and administrators believe they ought to be–would be to develop or adapt as many curricular materials as I could. Moreover, I knew that I needed to get my materials into some sort of word processing document–all but a very few of the Texts I post will be in Microsoft Word–so that I could adapt them for a variety of learning styles and abilities.

I also knew that I wanted, to degrees that varied by the needs of individual students, to help students develop their own understanding of how they learn and in so doing to make myself, to the greatest degree possible, superfluous in their pursuit of learning. For several years at the front end of my career, this was an inchoate desire that I couldn’t really put into words. Then, after using the word myself, loosely but in the final analysis accurately for several years, I came upon this in an edition of the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (Flexner, Stuart Berg, and Lenore Crary Hauck, eds. New York: Random House, 1993):

“heu*ris*tic adj

  1. serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation.
  2. encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error: a heuristic teaching method.
  3. of, pertaining to, or based on experimentation, evaluation, or trial and error methods.
  4. Computers, Math. Pertaining to a trial-and-error method of problem solving method used when an algorithmic method is impractical. –
  5. a heuristic method of argument.
  6. the study of heuristic procedure….”

I wanted, and still want, the students I serve to be autonomous learners. I want them to have the procedural knowledge to conduct inquiries with only the lightest guidance from me. I want them to be curious, motivated, and self-directed. Moreover, I want them to see the value of learning–not always easy in schools where learning is more bureaucratic ritual than the satisfaction of discovery.

In any case, the daily posts and Weekly Texts at Mark’s Text Terminal are the fruits of my labors. I hope that you may find some or all of them useful in your teaching practice. However, these documents require some explanations for use, and this page will meet that end, I hope. There are a few basic things worth mentioning at the outset, particularly about these worksheets in the form that I use them, which may not, indeed probably will not, work for you without modest editing and adaptation.

You will notice right away that many of these worksheets, particularly those do-now exercises that I use to start lessons, use highly New York City-centric context. I try to create context that I am absolutely confident my students will recognize and understand, or calls upon prior knowledge I am sure they possess. In fact, in some of the materials you will encounter here, there is some very particular context. I’ve left them in their original form (after considering editing them for more local use), so that users may tailor them to their own needs. I believe the syntactical structures and semantics of most of the sentences I write are strong, so all these really require is that you insert your own locality or local content. If you need some guidance on this, please get in touch by way of the comments forum.

Over time, I’ll post a broad variety of materials here. Nonetheless, I’ll publish some standard materials regularly. I’ve found it necessary to create a more elaborate taxonomy of materials than I would have preferred; you can find explanations of my sorting system on the Taxonomies page, on the masthead near where you clicked through to get here.

In any case, here’s a short roster with linked users’ manuals for the most commonly posted types of materials that will appear on Mark’s Text Terminal:

Do-Now Exercises are short worksheets I’ve developed to begin class periods. Over the years I’ve designed a variety of them in response to gaps in prior and procedural knowledge and literacy issues I’ve observed in the the students in my classes. Many of these shorter worksheets  (most, you will see, are half-page exercises) have potential to become full-length lessons, especially if they’re synthesized. As always, I would be grateful to hear how you’ve used these materials in your classroom.

You will discover that many of the Do Now exercises contain asterisks where subject nouns and pronouns should be. I’ve read in a couple of places–notably in Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom–that when kids read their own names in classroom exercises, they are more likely to remember the procedural knowledge or concept under discussion. As soon as I have time, and can figure out the right search term to use in ERIC, I’ll post a review essay that rationalizes this practice. When I wrote the foregoing sentence in 2015, I thought I would produce a piece of writing within a couple of months. Six years later, I still haven’t even started it. However, recently, when reading Gholdy Muhammad’s book, Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework of Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy (New York: Scholastic, 2020), I encountered this squib, which is at least a start toward rationalizing the practice of including students’s names in worksheets: “…a great deal of research has found that students have the potential for success when they see themselves in the curriculum and when their cultural, gender, and racial identities are affirmed (Noguera, 2003).”

In any case, when I use these worksheets, I edit in my current students’ names and matching pronouns. In my experience, kids like seeing their name in print, and if you can say something complimentary, funny, or both, in these exercises, students will very likely respond to them. Do-now exercises are meant to settle the class at the beginning of a period and get it focused for the comprehensive lesson which follows; aligning do-nows with the lessons they accompany is a long-term, ongoing project at Mark’s Text Terminal.

Here are the four primary types of do-now worksheets on this website:

Homophone Worksheets assist students in developing their own understanding of the use of common homophones in English. These are modified cloze exercises and simple to use. That said, here’s the Homophone Worksheet Users’ Manual to provide more context for the use of this work. You might also find useful these more thorough explanations of the terms homograph, homonym, and homophone. Finally, here is template for homophone worksheets so you can alter those on this blog or make your own.

Context Clues worksheets guide students through vocabulary acquisition with relatable, readable context. These are mostly self-explanatory, but you may nonetheless find the Context Clues Worksheets Users’ Manual helpful. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Edition as of this writing, but I anticipate a 12th sometime relatively soon) drives the composition of the context clues worksheets I prepare. I have a Kindle edition, so should you ever need to cite a source for the definitions at the base of these documents, here it is: Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition (Kindle Locations 204000-204002). Merriam-Webster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Cultural Literacy worksheets are mostly short exercises, useful for do-now work, informed by text excerpted and adapted from E.D. Hirsch Jr., Joseph F. Kett, and James Trefil’s The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002). I do understand the controversy that Professor Hirsch’s work has generated; in fact, I followed that controversy closely while it was underway. I was then, and remain now, agnostic about and indeed indifferent toward the criticism of E.D. Hirsch Jr. and his Core Knowledge Foundation. What I can tell you with some intellectual certainty is that the squibs from the Dictionary are a very quick and effective way to get kids reading and therefore to build prior knowledge on a variety of key topics in the elementary and secondary school curricula–and that’s how I use them. Occasionally, Cultural Literacy worksheets extend to a full-page of reading and questions, and are therefore suitable for purposes beyond a do-now exercise at the beginning of a class; those documents will be identified as such in the text of the blog post containing them.

Incidentally, during the pandemic, I found this PDF of The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, on which these documents and the pedagogical concepts behind them are based. Interestingly, I found that with only a bit of editing, I could copy and paste from this PDF directly into a Microsoft Word Document. So, I can post the entire chapter (in, as above, Microsoft Word, so you can manipulate this as you like) on “Conventions of Written English” from the book. Normally, to respect the owner’s copyright, I would never post something like this en bloc; but since it is now posted on the Internet for everyone to find and use, I think I can put this up here.

Parsing Sentences worksheets guide students through the old-fashioned, but nonetheless useful exercise of parsing sentences–i.e. picking sentences apart to identify their parts of speech. I maintain that this is a way to help students to understand how the parts of speech function in syntax, and therefore learn how to compose sentences whose structure supports their semantics. The Parsing Sentences Worksheets Users’ Manual serves to explain and rationalize these short worksheets for opening a class period. There are only so many parsing sentences worksheets from which students can benefit, so there are consequently only so many I have written or will write. If you find these worksheets helpful, or just want your students to understand what it means to parse something, you might want this context clues on the verb parse relevant; here is the teacher’s copy of it if you want or need it.

Here are longer form materials, principally in the form of lesson plan, that you’ll also find published on Mark’s Text Terminal.

Word Root Worksheets for vocabulary building are a Friday feature in my English Language Arts classroom. The Word Root Worksheets Users’ Manual rationalizes this work and explains one way of using it. You might find this master list of Greek and Latin Word roots useful as well. In the almost six years since I started Mark’s Text Terminal, I gathered what I considered the  37 (one for each Friday of the school year with a couple of extras for my absences) most important word roots and made them into a unit for my English Language Arts class. If you are using these in your classroom, or want to build your own word root unit, I offer you the overarching unit plan that explains the purpose and methods behind these lessons and their pedagogical approach. Should you need it, here is the lesson plan template for this unit. Here is a checklist of lessons for the freshman word root unit that may be helpful. While it doesn’t cover all the word roots in my freshman unit, I will nonetheless post this list of Latinate cognates for some of the Latin word roots in this unit–and some that I have not arranged into formal units, nor written lesson plans for, but are useful per se. Incidentally, if you find you want to pursue word roots as a means of vocabulary instruction, then you might want to check out learn that word, an excellent Internet compendium of word roots. Finally, as above, there are a small number of word root exercises written and formatted as do-now worksheets; those will be clearly identified in the text of the post.

The Parts of Speech. When I became a teacher, I mostly ended up focusing on teaching students literacy strategies and procedural knowledge. One of the things I discovered immediately is that the students I served really didn’t know how to write grammatically complete declarative sentences. Not long after, I discovered that students didn’t possess any understanding of the parts of speech and how to use them in prose. So, I set to work writing a unit on the parts of speech. Many of the lessons that comprise that unit are now scattered around this blog. Here is the overarching unit plan for the parts of speech lessons you’ll find on Mark’s Text Terminal. As long as I have the planning materials folder open for this unit, here is the lesson-plan template, the worksheet template, a formative assessment that I don’t believe I’ve ever used, a glossary of the parts of speech and its counterpart, a supported glossary with longer definitions and examples each part in actions in sentences, and, finally, Common Core standards that drive this material. In all there are 72 lessons in this unit, with numerous supporting documents. While not all are posted as of this writing (February 22, 2021), the first two subunits, on nouns and verbs (the workhorses of the language, as William Safire once said) are published in their entirety (13 and 12 lessons respectively).

Crime and Puzzlement lesson plans stem from some research I began conducting some years ago on how best to teach students the art and craft of argumentation for synthetic research papers. I began this enterprise by reading, first, George Hillocks Jr.’s Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning (Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2011). Hillocks’ book begins with an excursus from Stephen Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). So I moved on to Professor Toulmin’s book, a relatively dense and abstruse piece of analytic philosophy, which yielded little of anything useful in my endeavor. In the end, I used used Anthony Weston’s A Rulebook for Arguments (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2008) and Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (New York: Norton, 2009). In the course of this enterprise, I perused some other journal articles in ERIC on the subject of teaching rigorous and epistemologically sound methods of argumentation to high school students.

Along the way, I kept stumbling across varying degrees of praise for Lawrence Treat’s Crime and Puzzlement books as a means of assisting students in developing their own understanding of marshalling evidence to support arguments. Indeed, the praise for these books was sufficiently effusive that it moved me to buy one of them to get a look at it. To make a long story very short, I worked up a couple of prototype lessons and tried them out with students. They went over, as the saying goes, like gangbusters. So, I bought two more of the books (the whole series, when I started, appeared to be out of print) developed three units of 24 lessons each. These lessons have been a very heavily downloaded item at Mark’s Text Terminal. As of this writing (December 4, 2019), I’ve posted most of the first unit. Over time, I’ll publish all 72 lessons here. If you are looking for these, I’ve made them quite easy to find: each post is named “Crime and Puzzlement” followed by the name of the individual case. Therefore, to find these lessons, you need only search “Crime and Puzzlement” in the search window in the right-hand margin near the top of the home page, which will yield all of the lessons.

If you’re using these lessons in your classroom, you might find you need supporting materials. To start off, here is  the overarching unit plan for the entire series of Crime and Puzzlement lessons, derived from three different books of this material, which I have designated, for my planning and organizational purposes, Volumes 1, 2, and 3. So, here are all the supporting materials for Volume 1, including its lesson plan template, answer key template, lesson checklists for both students and teachers (in other words, two different pages), and a typescript of the “How to Solve Puzzles” page from the book.

Next, here is the same set of documents for Volume 2, without the teacher’s checklist; for this volume, rather than a typescript, here is a PDF of the “How to Solve Puzzles” pageVolume 2’s supporting materials also include this map of Martha’s Vineyard. I also scanned the introduction to this volume for reasons I can’t recall. Even though I typed all the puzzle solutions into Word documents (which are included with each blog post), I also kept this PDF of them.

Finally, for Volume 3, here I have the same three Word documents as in Volume 2 (i.e. lesson plan template, answer key template, and student checklist). While Lawrence Treat doesn’t call it “How to Solve Puzzles” in this volume, this “CONFIDENTIAL” page serves the same purpose in Volume 3. Similarly, this “What the Young Detective Ought to Know” brief serves as the introduction to Volume 3. And as in Volume 2, even though I typed out all the answer keys, here they are again as a scanned PDF.

That’s it! When I finish posting all the lessons, you will have access to all the materials I put together to build this unit. As always, I seek your peer review. Have you used these to good effect? What might make them better?

Learning Supports are, I guess, self-explanatory and relatively flexible in their usefulness. Nonetheless, here is Learning Supports Users’ Manual to rationalize these documents’ use in the classroom.

English Usage is an area of language that particularly interests me, so when the Common Core standards emerged, I was relieved to see “Standard (L.11-12.1b): Resolve issues of complex or contested usage, consulting references, (e.g., Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, Garner’s Modern American Usage) as needed.” I’d seen firsthand students’ lack of familiarity with the parts of speech and its deleterious effect on their writing. So the call for good or proper usage and the ability to use an English usage manual as part of standard pedagogy struck me as progress.

Yet the choice of manuals was narrow, and in particular the call to use Garner’s Modern American Usage struck me, for the students I serve (and arguably for all but the most advanced students at the secondary level in general) struck me as inappropriate. Brian Garner is clearly an important lexicographer and grammarian, and his manual, which is quite technical and in my view aimed at people who write professionally, seemed like an odd choice for this standard. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage seems a better choice (it is in heavy use here at Mark’s Text Terminal), but most entries are a bit prolix and abstract for struggling readers. And, frankly, for all but professional writers and language nerds, much of the information in the entries in both these books is superfluous.

So I went looking for something that would work, and hit upon Paul Brians’ book Common Errors in English Usage (Sherwood, OR: William James & Co., 2013). As its title indicates, Professor Brians’ book deals with the most common, and therefore the most persistent, errors in English usage. Its entries also lend themselves readily to the manufacture of a hybrid worksheet that both builds vocabulary and reinforces its proper usage. Nota bene, please, that I built some ambiguity into some of these worksheets to spur discussion on usage–the way writers often do. Or at least that’s what I hope these materials do–get students thinking and talking about English usage; I hope you, the reader and user of Mark’s Text Terminal, will see fit to peer review these materials. In any case, these worksheets, as above, will always appear under the header Common Errors in English Usage.

Mastering Gerunds and Infinitives (Honolulu: Focus on English, 2008) by Tom Celentano is a book I picked up ten or fifteen years ago with an eye toward using it to develop materials on the use of, unsurprisingly, gerunds and infinitives. I worked on this project during state testing periods in June when I often waited to take my turn at proctoring. At a number of stages, as I began to perceive the weakness of the source material, I nearly abandoned this enterprise. This (incomplete) unit plan testifies to my ambivalence about these materials and the work involved in bringing them to fruition. By June of 2021, the whole project was far enough along that I just decided to finish, at the very least, the worksheets themselves. All of this is a roundabout way of saying I am not really sure what these are. I originally conceived them as do-now exercises. In the process of building scaffolds into them, however, they became longer, and more involved, than the typical class-opener do-now work, which usually occupies five to ten minutes at the beginning of class. So, I don’t know how, if ever, I will use these, and I doubt they were or are a particularly wise investment of my time. If you have other thoughts on these, I would be grateful to you if you could related them in a comment.

Anyway, I started work on these by typing up the book itself so I could begin writing worksheets. This 9,272-word document, formatted in Microsoft Word, is the result. You can, as I have, copy and paste directly from that document into worksheets. You might find this numbered list helpful as a shorter catalogue of all the worksheets by type in this unit. Here is the lesson plan template for writing lessons; because there are five different varieties of worksheets in this aggregation, here are five worksheet templates, one for each unit. With those you can easily make one your own worksheets. Finally, here are four learning supports on, respectively, gerunds and infinitives, gerunds and pronouns, infinitives and split infinitives, and verbs and objects. Finally, here are all five of the unit-concluding assessments for this unfinished unit–because I am not sure these documents even comprise a unit.

The Order of Things is a book by the prolific Barbara Ann Kipfer. Like any good obsessive, I find reference books fascinating, and Ms. Kipfer’s are among the very best out there. When I first encountered The Order of Things (New York: Random House, 1997), its lists struck me immediately as perfect as the basis for a series of worksheets that required students to work at what former United States Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls “symbolic analysis.” I envisioned worksheets using Ms. Kipfer’s lists as a means of helping both struggling readers and English language learners develop procedural knowledge of reading, analyzing, and synthesizing two symbolic systems–language and numbers–while writing out answers in grammatically complete declarative sentences. In other words, a complete literacy exercise.

At the same time, I wanted students to deal with information in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. One thing that is clear about teaching and learning in an age where students are carrying cold-war computing power in the palms of their hands is that a recitation of facts, and a cold diagnostic drill on recall of those facts, no longer suffices as teaching, and isn’t of much value in learning. Students need to deal with and use information presented in new and variable syntheses. This manner of teaching requires students to think, and thought is the parent of memory. So these worksheets derived from The Order of Things aim to introduce struggling students to this way of dealing with learning.

Put another way, With this material, I seek to create a learning situation similar to that described in this article on “Interleaving” in math instruction from the pages of American Educator.

In March of 2020, as the world faced the pandemic of COVID19, I finally began developing materials based on the lists in The Order of Things. While I had initially envisioned these worksheets as short exercises to use (i.e. a do-now) at the beginning of a class period, I began to see them as something more–perhaps even the mainstay of a literacy lessons. In any case, like just about everything else at Mark’s Text Terminal, these documents are in Microsoft Word. You may export them to word processing software more commodious to your needs, or edit them in Word. They are flexible, which is what a good teacher should be, it seems to me. If you need or want it, here is worksheet template for this unit. Now you can write your own if you want. Here, also, is the the overarching unit plan, which I struggled mightily to complete; it will no doubt grow and change over time.

The Intellectual Devotional Readings: As I mentioned in this blog post from June of 2016, I have used the five books that comprise The Intellectual Devotional series to build a broad and deep series of readings and comprehension worksheets to which students in all the schools in which I have served were very receptive. There are a number of ways to find these materials on Mark’s Text Terminal: you can click on the readings/research tag in the word cloud on the front page of this site, or you can search by the topic for which you seek material.

I want to offer here the templates I use to develop these materials, should you buy the books and work at developing your own–or wish to differentiate the materials on this blog. All of these documents are in Microsoft Word, so you can alter them to your needs. The first set is from the general book, simply titled The Intellectual Devotional. Here are the templates for preparing materials from the American History volume. This set of four templates work with the Biographies volume. Here are the four templates for the Health volume. For the Modern Culture book, here is yet another four templates for readings and worksheets. Finally, here is the bibliography of all five titles for copying and pasting, citation, or for whatever reason you might need it.

Common Core Standards stood as the pedagogical law of the land in the school districts in which I’ve served. Many of the lesson plans I post on Mark’s Text Terminal are parts of larger units. Because of the manner in which I manage my workflow, I outline the Common Core Standards on the unit plans themselves, and then indicate on individual lesson plans that the reader should refer back to the unit plan if he or he wants to see which of the Common Core Standards the lesson meets. So, you may need to add a list of Common Core Standards to the lesson plans you take away from this site. To make that easier for you, here are typescripts again, in Microsoft Word) of the Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards; here too are the Common Core Standards for Grades 9 and 10 English Language Arts as well as the Common Core Standards for Grades 11 and 12 English Language Arts. If you are a social studies or science teacher then you will find useful the Common Core Standards for Grades 9 and 10 History:Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects and the Common Core Standards for Grades 11 and 12 History:Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. Here also, if you need them, are the ITSE National Educational Standards (NETS*T) and Performance Indicators for Students. Finally, if you use them in your lesson plans (I do, and I think they’re important for guiding instruction, particularly with struggling learners) are a list of habits of mind to be cultivated in students. I include these, as appropriate, on all my unit and lesson plans.

Every so often in my self-directed efforts at professional development, I take a deep dive into a topic that interests me inordinately. Often, the results of this research ends up in a Review Essay. Over the six-year life of this blog, I’ve composed five of them. Here’s an essay on online learning and its shortcomings that includes a Cultural Literacy worksheet on “The Last Mile” (of, in this case, the high-speed internet cable). I have served in socioeconomically distressed areas for the entirety of my teaching career; the inevitable result, for my hamster wheel of a mind, is this essay on poverty and cognition. In May of 2020, as I was finally recovering with my own encounter with the coronavirus, I decided to publish the contents of my planning book as a review essay; this has been a regularly visited post. Are you familiar with George Bernard Shaw’s interest in spelling reform? I have found that students with reading struggles find comforting Shaw’s exemplar of the capriciousness of English orthography–that ghoti can spell fish (click though on the links!). Therefore, I put together this essay on “Ghoti and Its Others,” replete with a lesson plan on ghoti. And, for the moment last but not least, here is a review essay on cursive handwriting, penmanship, and learning. I took an interest in cursive, and by extension handwriting in general, when my students began expressing an interest in learning to write in cursive. Moreover, in every inner-city school in which I have served, students have been interested in cursive; this essay is a comprehensive review of the research on the cognitive benefits of writing by hand. Most recently, here is a review essay on the beginning of the school year that includes a trove of documents I use in various combinations to begin the school year in my classes.

You can read more about this over in the Taxonomies page, but I want to mention the readings/research tag here. Early on in the evolution of Mark’s Text Terminal, I settled on a basic structure for this blog. I would publish one post with documents for teacher and classroom use, then I would publish a quote of some sort–something for professional development, something humorous, something for reference purposes–basically some text that might be of some use to high school teachers. As I learned how to use WordPress, the software that drives this blog, I realized how easy it was to augment the interstitial quotes with links, thereby creating potential research assignments for students homebound or in need of make-up work.

Then the COVID19 crisis hit in March of 2020, and I began taking a much more careful look at my quote inventory as a source of instruction and independent work. I developed this worksheet template with an extensive list of questions to accompany reading and research posts. You will notice that some of these questions repeat after a slight restructuring. Sometimes students just need the question asked slightly differently to activate the thought that will result in an answer.

Nota bene, please, that material on Mark’s Text Terminal is copyrightedPlease don’t use it for your personal financial or other gain. Almost everything you will find here is in Microsoft Word format; I write my own curricular materials so that I’ll own them in a manipulable form and can adjust them according to student ability and need. Needless to say, you should feel free to do the same.

If you find any dead links on Mark’s Text Terminal, please advise me via comment so I can repair them. I will be much obliged.

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