Category Archives: English Language Arts

This category contains domain-specific material–reading and writing expository prose, interpreting literature etc.–designed to meet the Common Core standards in English language arts while at the same time being flexible enough to meet the needs of diverse and idiosyncratic learners.

Oscar Wilde on Journalism

“There is much to be said in favor of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

Oscar Wilde

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Common English Verbs Followed by an Infinitive: Afford

Here is a worksheet on the verb afford when it is used with an infinitive. I cannot afford to spend time on the development of potentially useless curricular materials.

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.

Cultural Literacy: Mores

This year, kind of out of the blue, I was delegated the responsibility of teaching a sociology class. I suppose it’s a good thing I have some knowledge of the topic, but I am still developing the curriculum as the school year proceeds. This Cultural Literacy worksheet on mores, thus, is a recent fruit of these labors. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that students, by the time they reach high school, ought to understand mores as both a concept and as a potential way of being in the world–especially if one consents to a society’s mores (i.e., as long as one is not agreeing to, say, cannibalism).

In any case, this is a half-page document with a reading of two sentences and two comprehension questions.

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.

The Weekly Text, Friday 2 December 2022: History of Hip-Hop Prelude Lesson

During the pandemic lockdown, on 27 August 2020, I posted a trove of documents under the title A Tentative Start to a Unit on the History of Hip-Hop. Basically, it was a longish essay larded with documents with which I’d been struggling for years to synthesize into a real unit. Last year, the impetus and time such an endeavor requires came together; I was able to assemble a seventeen-lesson, reasonably cogent unit out of the materials, augmented with newer material that I published in that original post in the late summer of 2020.

My aim in this unit is to situate Hip-Hop in the broader global oral tradition. I began this unit initially, and begin it now, with these two apercus from Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour) from the seminal Hip-Hop group Public Enemy:“We’re almost like headline news…. Rap music is the invisible TV station that Black America never had….”; “Rap is the CNN of young Black people.” So, to start off this unit, here is the prelude lesson to the History of Hip-Hop Unit along with the worksheet for prompting discussion of the statements above from Chuck D.

From the planning materials folder for this unit, here is the unit planthe lesson-plan template, and the worksheet template so that you can add lessons or alter them to fit the needs of your classroom. When I passed this unit by some colleagues, they all asked questions along the lines of “No Bob Dylan?” A fair question, since there is abundant evidence of Dylan’s influence on Hip-Hop. Another possible lesson would call upon students to make the connection between Dub music and Hip-Hop; there is, I think, a reason beyond fashion cool that Jay-Z was seen in a t-shirt bearing the Tuff Gong Recording Studios logo. So, as I assembled the materials for this unit, I did so with the idea that ultimately I might add lessons, or, indeed, break this into two units.

I also cached some Cultural Literacy and context clues worksheets in this unit’s planning materials folder for future use. Here they are if you want them:

Cultural Literacy: active voice; aka; aphorism; blank verse; circumlocution; comedy; complex sentence; complex-compound sentence; compound sentence; conjunctions; contraction; couplet; cultural imperialism; demagogue; denotation; double entendre, and four-letter word.

Context Clues: ad hominem; charisma-charismatic; infer, and oppress.

Finally, as I have mentioned to the point of tedium on this blog, all but one of the documents in this sixteen-lesson unit are formatted in Microsoft Word. That means you can adapt, alter, revise, edit, and generally manipulate them to suit the needs of your classroom.

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.

Cultural Literacy: Ukraine

I’ve meant to get to this for some time, so here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Ukraine. This is a two-page document with a nine-sentence reading and 15 comprehension questions. I think I can safely assume that the timeliness of this raises no questions or arouses no skepticism. This is a pretty good (I did Eurasian studies as an undergraduate, so I do know the turf fairly well) general introduction to the history of the Ukraine.

However, I would say beware the opening sentence, which is a doozy of a compound. If you’re dealing with emergent or struggling readers, it might be best to recast this sentence without the succession of clauses separated by semicolons–and to turn those clauses into complete sentences separated by periods. Like most of the documents you’ll find on this site, this one is formatted in Microsoft Word, so you can manipulate it to suit the needs of your students.

Now that I’ve said that, let me bring to this material a modest critical focus. The reading characterizes the Cossacks as “Ukrainian fugitives” who “organized resistance movements.” Toward the end of the reading, after observing that “Ukraine was traditionally home to a large Jewish population,” the text rightly reports that “Many Jews left Ukraine under oppressive conditions in the nineteenth century, and thousands more were exterminated by the Nazis in World War II.” I think it’s important to enter into the record here, so to speak, the fact that the “oppressive conditions” in Ukraine were perpetrated by the Cossacks, who participated in pogroms across the Russian Empire.

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.

Voltaire on Stupidity and Etiquette

“To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”

Voltaire

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Common English Verbs Followed by an Infinitive: Ask

OK, last but not least on this gloomy Sunday morning, here is a worksheet on the verb ask used with an infinitive. I ask you to evaluate these dubious worksheets.

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.

Cultural Literacy: Realism

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on realism in literature and art. This is a half-page document with a reading of two sentences, the second of which is longish compound, and two comprehension questions. Once again, just the basics.

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.

The Doubter’s Companion: Abasement

“Abasement: In a society of courtiers or corporatists, the question is not whether to abase or to be abased, but whether a favorable balance can be struck between the two.

Simple folk may have some difficulty mastering the skills involved, but the sophisticated innately understand how the pleasure of abasing others can be heightened by being abased themselves.

The illusion among the most skilled is that they can achieve ultimate pleasure through a type of ambition or drive, which they call competence. This causes them to rise higher, and so to win ever-greater power. But what is the value of this status in a highly structured society devoid of any particular purpose except the right, for a limited time, to give more orders than are received? Courtiers used to scurry around palace corridors with much the same illusion of importance.

When the time comes to retire from the functions of power, many collapse into a psychic crisis. They feel as if they have been ejected into a void. This is because society has not been rewarding them for their competence or their knowledge, but for their occupation of positions of power. Their very success has required a disembodied abasement of the individual. And when they leave power, the agreeable sense of purpose which it conveyed simply withers away.

Of course, power must be wielded or there is no civilization. But in a society so devoted to power and run by hierarchies of expertise, the elites are unconsciously addicted to an abstract form of sadomasochism. This may explain why success so often translates into triumphalism and constant complaints about the incompetence of others. The underlying assumption of most civilizations, including our own, is the exact opposite. Success is supposed to produce a flowering of modesty and concern for others.”

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

Cohesion (n)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the noun cohesion. It means “the act or state of sticking together tightly, especially unity <the lack of unity in the Party —Times Lit. Supp.>,” “union between similar plant parts or organs,” and “molecular attraction by which the particles of a body are united throughout the mass.” This word tends to show up more commonly in its adjectival form, cohesive (“exhibiting or producing cohesion or coherence”). As this document is formatted in Microsoft Word, you can easily convert it to cohesive if that better suits your needs.

Otherwise, stay tuned, as I will eventually get around to writing a worksheet for cohesive. I suspect this one, on cohesion, was a word of the day at Merriam-Webster at some point, which is how it ends up in my warehouse.

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.