Category Archives: English Language Arts

Worksheets, short exercises, learning supports, readings and other materials related to the English Language Arts curriculum.

Sacrifice as a Noun and a Verb

Here are two context clues on the word sacrifice, the first of which uses it as a noun, the second as a verb.

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.

Halcyon Days

“A time of happiness and prosperity. Halcyon in Greek is the word for kingfisher, compounded in hals, “the sea,” and kyo, “to brood on.” The ancient Sicilians believed that the kingfisher laid its eggs and incubated them on the surface of the sea for fourteen days before the winter solstice. During this time the waves of the sea were always unruffled.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Rubicon

The expression “crossing the Rubicon” is a commonplace in educated discourse, in the sense that one has arrived at a point of no return. This is of course its figurative meaning, and here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Rubicon River that will help your students understand the literal meaning of this expression.

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.

Man-Bites-Dog Story

A newspaper story having a curious human-interest, often humorous flavor, such as one profiling a person with a hobby that would seem to be a role reversal.

‘The defendant was what the N-boys like to call a Scion (of a wealthy family of former oleomargarine manufacturers, in this instance), which, in the same idiom, qualified him as a Socialite. Scions are seldom accused of procuring, which gave the case a bit of the man-bites-dog-aspect that the schools of journalism talk about.'”

A.J. Liebling, The Press

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

Lou Gehrig

Two days ago in these pages, I noted the birth anniversary of the great Yankees player Lou Gehrig. He was born, to reiterate, on June 19, 1903. You may know that he was felled by the same disease that recently claimed Stephen Hawking, to wit Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which, not coincidentally, is known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Mr. Gehrig famously delivered what is known as “baseball’s Gettysburg Address” on July 4, 1939, making a dignified exit from the game, and cementing his legend with that simple, eloquent address.

Here is a reading on Lou Gehrig along with a comprehension worksheet to accompany it.

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.

Revolve (v)

If memory serves, I wrote this context clues worksheet on the verb revolve last fall to attend a lesson on the French Revolution, so that students could understand what happens to governments and societies in revolutionary situations. Of course, there are any number of uses for this document.

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.

Auxiliary Verb

“A category of VERB that regularly accompanies full verbs such as write, run, shoot, is in is writing, has in has run, may in may be shooting. In English, auxiliary verbs are customarily divided into: (1) The primary auxiliaries be, have, do. (2) The modal auxiliaries or MODAL VERBS can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must. The marginal modal auxiliaries are also called semi-modals, are dare, need, ought to, used to. They are called marginal because they do not share all the properties of the others or do not do so regularly. Auxiliaries have four properties: (1) They are used with the negative not to make a sentence negative: Frank may buy me a sweater/may not buy me a sweater. (2) They form questions by changing positions with the subject: Wendy has invited me/Has Wendy invited me? (3) To avoid repetition they can occur without a full verb: Has Jonathan written to you yet?—Yes, he has. (4) They can emphasize the positive, in which case they carry the accent: David may not be there—His mother told he WILL be there. The same properties apply to be as a full verb (Jonathan isn’t tired) and particularly in British English as an alternative to have as a full verb (I haven’t a headache). In the absence of any other auxiliary verb do is introduced for these functions: Leslie didn’t tell Doreen; Did Leslie tell Doreen?: Yes, he did; he DID tell her.

The auxiliary be is used to form, with a following –ing participle, the progressive (is employing, may have been proving) and with a following –ed participle the passive (is employed, may have been proved). The auxiliary have is used with the a following -ed participle to form the perfect (has employed, may have been proved). The modal auxiliaries convey notions such as possibility, obligation, and permission. They are the only verbs not to have a distinctive third-person form in the present: He can/They can contrasts with He is/They are, He has/They have, He sees, They see. Like auxiliary do they are always the first verb in a verb phrase (should have apologized, could be making, did tell) and are followed by the bare infinitive. In standard English, two modal auxiliaries cannot co-occur, but they can in some non-standard varieties, such as Appalachian English, They might could dance.”

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