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.

Tolkien’s 20 Rings of Power

J.R.R. Tolkien’s works are deeply embedded within a lifetime of mythological and philological scholarship that merges strains of Celtic, Norse, Zoroastrian, Chinese, and Byzantine storylines with his own imagination. At the heart of his Lord of the Rings trilogy is the Dark Lord Sauron, who has made twenty rings of power: Three for the Elves; Seven for the Dwarfs; Nine for the Kings of Men; and One, forged in Mount Doom, which will allow him to control all the nineteen ring wearers as explained by the secret rune verse, ‘One ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One ring to bring them all, And in the darkness bind them.’

The ‘Kings of Men’ become the nine (another significant Tolkien number) dark riders—a mounted hit squad devoted to the service of the Dark Lord Sauron. Originally led by the witch-king of Angmar and the easterner Khamu, they were given rings to bind them into obedience to Sauron, and their character, shape, and substance are gradually subsumed until they become spectral Nazgul, ‘ring wraiths.’”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Common Errors in English Usage: Every (adj)

Here is a worksheet on the use of every, which is an adjective, but which readily joins with words like body and one to give us nouns like everybody and everyone. These are singular nouns, so they take singular verb forms. That’s the gist of this worksheet–but there is a small excursus on the use of their with these nouns in the interest of avoiding gendered pronouns, and therefore sexism in language.

The worksheet consists of 10 modified cloze exercises, which you may modify further, as this is an open source document formatted in Microsoft Word. Which, like all of the documents under the header of Common Errors in English Usage, are informed by Paul Brians’ excellent book of the same name, which he has posted on the Washington State University website

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.

Eclecticism

“Eclecticism: A theory taught in the late 16th century by the Carracci at their academy in Bologna, based on the idea that the painter should choose the best of various schools and masters and combine these qualities in his own work. In a general sense, borrowing from a variety of a visual sources in the creation of a work of art or architecture.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Urbane (adj)

It’s the Word of the Day at Merriam-Webster today, so here is a context clues worksheet on the adjective urbane. It means “notably polite or polished in manner.” You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Merriam-Webster offers suave as a synonym.

This is not, I guess, a frequently used word in English. But it does show up in educated discourse, particularly in periodicals and newspapers. In any event, whether one teaches urbane or suave, the concept of “notably polite or polished in manner” is one students ought to have a word to represent.

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 Devil’s Dictionary: Absurdity

“Absurdity, n. [1.] A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion. [2.] The argument of an opponent. A belief in which one has not had the misfortune to be instructed.” 

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Cultural Literacy: Fiscal Year

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the fiscal year in both concept and practice. It’s a half-page worksheet with a reading of two sentences and three questions.

In other words, it’s a short, basic, but effective general introduction to the fiscal year. I wrote this because I worked in a economics-and-finance-themed high school in Lower Manhattan. But the truth of the matter is that I don’t think I ever had a need to use it. Maybe you will.

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.

A Japanese Proverb on Diligent Study

“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher.”

Japanese Proverb

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

A Learning Support on Writing the Exclamatory Sentence

Here is a learning support on writing the exclamatory sentence. I wrote this one myself, synthesizing a range of material and editing it down to a single page. You will find in the text, of course, support for using the exclamation point in this kind of sentence.

But a single page it is, which is not to say that the text can’t be cut into pieces and repurposed into worksheets. It’s a Microsoft Word document, so it’s yours to do with as you wish.

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.

Term of Art: Sensorimotor Stage

“sensorimotor stage: A developmental stage in which a child had little ability with language or the use of symbols, but experiences the world through sensation and movement. It is the first of four stages in the theory of cognitive development as described by child psychiatrist Jean Piaget. The sensorimotor stage lasts from birth until about age two.

Infants are normally born with a range of reflexes that ensures their survival, such as sucking and grasping. As the infant adapts these reflexes over time, the child can begin to interact with environment with greater efficiency. By the end of this stage, the child is able to solve simple problems, such as looking for a lost toy or communicating simple needs to a parent or another child. It is also during this stage that the infant develops a sense of object permanence—that awareness that things and people continue to exist even when they cannot be perceived. For example, before the age of two if a parent hides a toy under a pillow in front of the child, the child will not understand that the toy still exists under the pillow. Once a sense of object permanence is developed, the child will understand that the toy hidden under the pillow still exists, and will lift up the pillow to retrieve the toy.

Modern technology was not available in Piaget’s time, so he often used motor tasks to test the cognitive understanding of an infant. With the availability of more advanced techniques that can track an infant’s eye movements or rate of sucking in response to stimuli, researchers now know that infants reach cognitive milestone such as object permanence.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Phoneme (n)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the noun phoneme. It means “any of the abstract units of the phonetic system of a language that correspond to a set of similar speech sounds (as the velar \k\ of cool and the palatal \k\ of keel) which are perceived to be a single distinctive sound in the language.”

Teachers best know this noun when it turns up as the basis of an adjective in the term of art “phonemic awareness.” Because of that, I have tagged this post as both a term of art and as material related to professional development. where reading instruction is concerned. At the same time, the context sentences in which I’ve embedded this word on this document is meant to lead students to its meaning. I ask for comments and peer review on every documents post on this blog. For this one, I would be especially interested in and grateful for your comments on this document–especially if you have used it with students.

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.