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.

Ruben Dario

“Ruben Dario: (pen name of Felix Ruben Garcia Sarmiento, 1867-1916) Nicaraguan poet and essayist, famed as the high priest of modernismo. One of his favorite sayings was ‘Art is not a set of rules but a harmony of whims.’ Because he wrote verse as a child, he became known in Central America as ‘the boy poet.’ In 1886 he went to Chile, where he published his first major work, Azul (1888), a collection of verse and prose sketches that bore the imprint of the French Parnassians and revealed the fondness for lush, exotic imagery that was to characterize his work. In 1890 he returned to Central America and the first of his two unhappy marriages. After a short visit to Spain in 1892, he moved to Buenos Aires. The appearance of Prosas Profanas (1896; tr 1922), in which the influence of the French symbolists is fused with that of the Parnassians, marked the highpoint of the modernist movement. In 1898 Dario went again to Spain, now as a correspondent for La nacion, a Buenos Aires newspaper. He was acclaimed by intellectuals of Spain’s Generacion del 98, who, like Dario, were profoundly affected by the outcome of the Spanish-American War. Cantos de vida y esperanza, generally regarded as his best work, appeared in 1905. It shows the technical excellence and lyric beauty of his earlier poetry, but there is a greater freedom and a new feeling for the native themes, which he had previously rejected. Dario’s concern for ‘our America’ is also evident in ‘A Roosevelt,’ a poetic diatribe against the U.S., motivated by the seizure of Panama in 1903, and in Canto a la Argentina (1910). Dario’s later work reveals a growing disillusionment and despair, Although he was named Nicaraguan minister to Spain in 1908, his last years were marred by financial difficulties and poor health, due in part to his heavy drinking. In 1915, after an unsuccessful lecture tour of the U.S., he was stricken with pneumonia in New York and died soon after his return to Nicaragua. Dario’s influence on Spanish poetry can be measured by the statement of Pedro Henriquez Urena that ‘of any poem written in Spanish, it can be told with certainty whether it was written before him or after him.’ The Selected Poems of Ruben Dario appeared in English translation in 1965.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Che Guevara

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Che Guevara. This is a full-page worksheet with a reading of five sentences and six comprehension questions. With this worksheet, I can say that the document joins a growing body of materials on Che Guevara on this blog.

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.

Mt. Aconcagua

“Mt. Aconcagua: Mountain, western Argentina, on the Chilean border. At 22,384 feet (6,960 meters) high, it is the highest peak of the Andes and of the Western Hemisphere. It is of volcanic origin but is not itself a volcano. The summit was first reached in 1897.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Cultural Literacy: Gringo

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the term “gringo.” This is a half-page worksheet with a reading of single compound sentence and two comprehension worksheets.

The reading offers no background on this term. Some years ago, for some reason, I read some on the origins of the word. While this Wikipedia page describes “gringo” as a slur. I never heard it or took it that way when I traveled through South America. Often, I thought, it was said in jest.

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.

Book of Answers: Jorge Luis Borges

“From what country did Jorge Luis Borges hail? Argentina”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Cultural Literacy: Banana Republics

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the term “Banana Republics.” This is a half-page worksheet with two simple sentences and two comprehension questions. The reading note that the “…term banana republic is often used in a disparaging sense” because “it suggests an unstable government.”

I’ve traveled a little bit in South America, and I never heard this term used there. In fact, the American writer O Henry coined the term to characterize the fictional nation of Anchuria, in his short story “The Admiral.” Given the United States government’s tendency to meddle in the affairs of the sovereign nations of Latin America, the epithet “Banana Republics” is a bitter irony indeed. If these nations suffered from unstable governments, in many cases it is the United States–and the United Fruit Company–that has destabilized them.

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.

Pablo Picasso on Precocity

[Comment to Herbert Read while viewing an exhibition of children’s drawings:] “When I was the age of these children I could draw like Raphael: it took me many years to learn how to draw like these children.”

Pablo Picasso, Quoted in Times (London), 27 Oct. 1956

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Cultural Literacy: Barcelona

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Barcelona. This is a full-page worksheet with a reading of three compound sentences and five questions. It’s a solid reading exercise, I think, for students who might struggle with sorting out the finer details in a passage of text. As a full-page worksheet, it might serve well as independent practice.

But you can do anything you want with it: like almost everything else on this blog, this document is formatted in Microsoft Word, suitable for export to a word processor of your choice, or edited and adapted for your classroom.

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.

Dulce Maria Loynaz

“Dulce Maria Loynaz: (1903-1997) Cuban poet and prose writer. Born in Havana to a father who was a general in the struggle for Cuban independence, she showed her poetic gifts early, publishing her first poems in La Nacion at age seventeen. She studied civil law, and practice until 1961. In her major books, Versos, 1920-1938 (1938), Juegos de agua: Versos del agua y del amor (1947), Poemas sin nombre (1953), Carta de amor a Tut-ank-Amen (1953), and Ultimos dias de una casa (1958), the poet is intensely concerned with the beauty and evocative capacity of language which she uses to express nostalgia for places, scenery, and people, and to sing of the beauty of Cuba. Her devotion to language manifested itself in a process of distillation, though which she moved away from the formal elements of poetry, such as rhyme and verse forms, toward a poetic prose. In fact, her novel Jardin (1951) is characterized by the kind of lyrical expression on which her poetry is built. These qualities also pervade her travel book, Un Verano en Tenerife (1958). She received the Cervantes Prize in 1993.”

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

The Weekly Text, 8 October 2021, Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Los Angeles

Here on the fourth Friday of Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, is a reading on Los Angeles along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

This second-largest city in the United States, known in the vernacular by its initialism, L.A., was founded as a city in 1781, but claimed as Spanish territory by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542. The city became Mexican territory in 1821 after the Mexican War of Independence. Then, in 1848 (a momentous year in world history, to say the least), after the Mexican-American War, following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States purchased the territory that became the state of California two years later, in 1850.

The city is a rich producer and repository of Chicano culture. This is the municipality, after all, that played a role in giving the world the nonpareil Los Lobos.

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.