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 of the Texts I post will be in Microsoft Word–so that I could adapt them for a variety of learning styles and abilities.
So, 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. 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. 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.
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, then 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 post types of materials that will appear on Mark’s Text Terminal:
Do-Now Exercises are short worksheets I’ve developed to begin class periods. You can find a more comprehensive explanation of them above. Over the years I’ve designed a variety of them in response to skills and literacy issues I’ve seen in the population I serve. Many of these shorter worksheets (some, you will see, are half pages) 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. Here are the four primary types of Do Now exercises that I’m using at present (i.e., as of April 15, 2016). I have a few other types of these worksheets in the works, and will post them and their explanations when I get them ready.
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 skill 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.) 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 of mine.
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 three years or so 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. Over time, I will probably post all 37 lessons; indeed, I’ve already posted three of them over the past few months. 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. Over time I have developed full units from these materials, replete with lesson plans and do-now exercises. For that reason, some word root worksheets may be published twice here–but the worksheets, save for the addition of cognates where appropriate, will remain the same.
Do Now 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’s 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.
Do Now One Word (also called Context Clues) worksheets guide students through vocabulary acquisition with relatable, readable context. These are mostly self-explanatory, but you may nonetheless find the Focus on One Word Users’ Manual helpful.
You might also find helpful this master checklist of words for which I have prepared context clues worksheets. This list will grow with time; I’ll post an annual updated list. Eventually all of these worksheets will turn up on Mark’s Text Terminal. I frequently write context clues worksheets, often when I see something on Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day that I think merits inclusion. Also, frankly, I write these worksheets to keep my own mind agile. For that reason, If you can’t find a word you need rendered as a context clues worksheet, leave a comment and I’ll whip something up and post it.
Do Now 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.
Crime and Puzzlement lesson plans stem from some research I began conducting some years ago on how to best teacher 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), which began 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). So I bought the least expensive copies and 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 lesson available.
If you’re using these lessons in your classroom, you might find the overarching unit plan is worth keeping around, as well as the lesson plan template and the answer key template. All of these documents, like almost everything else at Mark’s Text Terminal, are in Microsoft Word. Therefore, you may edit and redesign for the needs of your students.
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. 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 think and talk 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 English Usage.
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–in Word, like almost everything else here–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.
Nota bene, please, that material on Mark’s Text Terminal is copyrighted. Please 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.
Finally, 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.