Category Archives: English Language Arts

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

The Weekly Text, February 15, 2019

When I first began work in Lower Manhattan in 2008, for the first time in my career, I worked with students who were reading—decoding and comprehending—at grade level or very close to it. The primary challenge to serving these students revolved around the issues of interest and choice; they could read, they simply chose not to because they were completely uninterested in the material assigned them.

Back then, there was a Borders bookstore just east of the school in which I worked on Trinity Place, over on Broadway, right across from Trinity Church. I often found myself there during my lunch break. In the course of my browsing, it occurred to me that I might be able to co-opt kids into reading by supplying them with high interest articles from what looked like the two leading Hip-Hop magazines of the day, to wit XXL and Vibe. I say “looked like” because these two periodicals, while ostensibly about Hip-Hop music, also contained a number of features of interest to young, inner-city residents. Not only that, but the prose was really first-rate.

And bingo! Students who had theretofore been failing English began to read articles and submit—completed!—the comprehension worksheets I wrote to attend them.

Still, I knew these assignments ultimately would suffer from expiration dates. As I mentioned in a blog post a year or so ago, I remember the time before Hip-Hop was part of popular music’s landscape. That means, of course, that I have seen a lot of rappers come and go. So, it was only a matter of time before these readings and worksheets became obsolete. While students may know who 50 Cent is, but as far as they’re concerned, he is not as au courant as whoever is the newest and flashiest star in the Hip-Hop firmament.

Like many rappers (I ask again, how many people remember Kool Moe Dee, a rapper I really liked in the 1980s), Borders was a casualty of time and circumstance—in its case, the 2008 economic collapse that took the bookseller, like electronics superstore chain Circuit City—down the drain. Over time, I’ve disposed of all the materials I accumulated after students began, once again, turning up their noses at those articles and worksheets. Vibe appears to have survived the transition to digital media,  as did  XXL. I just haven’t the time to keep up with the always rapidly changing rises and falls of stars in Hip-Hop.

However, I did keep one article, Jay-Z’s resume, because I understood that it had value as a well-constructed example of such a document. Moreover, across time, it became clear that unlike many rappers, (and his resume tends to affirm this, I think), Jay-Z is a permanent part of the global cultural landscape. So here is a PDF of Jay-Z’s resume scanned directly from the pages of  Vibe (and the hyperlink at the beginning of this paragraph is a web page with a better reproduction of the document). If you think it might be easier to use, you might consider sacrificing some authenticity an use this typescript of Jay-Z’s resume I prepared, in Word format. I sought to keep the fonts and formatting consistent while assembling a graphically presentable and readable document.

For both teachers and students, I also prepared this glossary of key words used in the document. Finally, here are two comprehension worksheets to attend these documents.

You’ll notice, as of this writing, that no lesson plans or do-nows accompany these materials. I have a lesson plan template made and a few preliminary questions formulated, but this work, without a lesson plan, remains incomplete. As a rule, indeed, a relatively rigid one here at Mark’s Text Terminal, I don’t like to post incomplete work. I do so now because Jay-Z has been in the news a good deal lately for a variety of things–primarily political stances–and I think students should know what self- and community advocacy look like. If you use this material, check back here occasionally for an addendum that will render the assembled document an complete lesson plan.

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.


Lorraine Hansberry

When I lived in The Bronx I would occasionally get off the 2 or the 5 train to at West Farms Square-East Tremont Avenue to look at the Manhattan skyline. Just below and to the east and south of that very high station, sits the Lorraine Hansberry School. In the past couple of years, some new high-rise apartment buildings have gone up there, so the view is now obscured. But the school remains, thank goodness.

Lorraine Hansberry has crossed my radar screen several times recently: she was the subject of a PBS American Masters series, and she is featured prominently in Raoul Peck’s superlative documentary, James Baldwin: I Am Not Your Negro. Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin were great friends, and her early death was a great tragedy for him, and for the theater.

Here, hot off the press, is a reading on playwright Lorraine Hansberry and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

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.

Phillis Wheatley

Although I’d been aware of her since high school, I wasn’t aware of the indignities she endured as the first African-American writer to publish in North America. This reading on early African-American poet Phillis Wheatley (with its accompanying vocabulary building and comprehension worksheet) does a nice job of exposing that particular disgrace on the part of white Boston elites.

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.

Imamu Amiri Baraka

Formerly Leroi Jones, 1934-2014). American poet and playwright. Dutchman, a taut one-act play, part realistic, part ritualistic, crystalizing the conflicts between white and black cultures, established Baraka as an important force in stimulating black playwriting and production. Slave Ship (1967), relies on music and action as much as language to unfold its haunting story. Baraka’s theater is aggressive and provocative, yet lyrical in its theatrical effect. His prolific output of essays and poetry includes Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (1961) The Dead Lecturer (1964), Black Magic (1969) and Hard Facts (1976); his work is collected in Selected Plays and Prose and Selected Poetry (both 1979). Two other works appeared in 1979: a collection of poetry AM/TRAK and Spring Song. Reggae or Not, prose writings, appeared in 1981. Baraka’s later works have become increasingly polemical and separatist, causing many white liberals to desert him. He also published The Music: Reflections on Jazz and Blues (1987), Shy’s Wise: The Griot’s Tale (1994), and Jesse Jackson and Black People (1994).”

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

James Baldwin

(1924-1987) American novelist and essayist. Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, about the religious awakening of a fourteen-year-old black youth, was based closely on Baldwin’s own experience as a young storefront preacher in Harlem. His subsequent novels, including Giovanni’s Room (1956), Another Country (1962), Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968) and If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), are movingly written accounts of emotional and sexual suffering and growth, often played out against the background of social intolerance toward freely expressed sexuality (particularly homosexuality) as well as racism. Baldwin was a distinguished essayist whose nonfiction works include Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), and The Fire Next Time, all passionately angry indictments of an American society that institutionalizes race discrimination. In his own protest against inhumane conditions, Baldwin left the U.S. at twenty-four to live in France, where most of his work was written; he returned to America in 1977. He also wrote plays, such as The Amen Corner (1955), Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), and One Day, When I Was Lost (1973), a script based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Baldwin’s sixth novel, Just Above My Head (1979), is a thirty-year saga of a group of Harlem friends whose individual odysseys through wars, poverty, and the civil rights struggle bring them to various fates. In 1985 he published The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-Fiction, 1948-1985, and in 1986, Evidence of Things Not Seen, an analysis of racism in the light of the Atlanta murders of black children.”

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


Everyday Edit: Duke Ellington

Here is an Everyday Edit worksheet on Duke Ellington which Mark’s Text Terminal routes to your from the good people at Education World. That hyperlink will take you to a year’s worth of Everyday Edit worksheets–for free!–if you find them useful in your practice.

Claude Browne

(1937-2002) American writer. Brown’s reputation rests primarily on his best-selling autobiographical novel, Manchild in the Promised Land, which depicts his upbringing in Harlem, experiences in a succession of correctional institutions, and eventual escape from the ghetto when he goes to college. The Children of Ham (1976) is a collection of sketches of a group of Harlem adolescents and their attempts to survive in a living hell dominated by heroin.”

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