Category Archives: Essays/Readings

This category describes readings of any kind for either teachers or students.

Lu Hsun

Lu Hsun: (also romanized as Lu Xun; pseudonym of Chou Shu-jen, 1881-1936) Generally regarded as modern China’s finest writer. Born to a family of traditional scholars, because of the death of his father and a decline in the family fortunes, he was sent to a school that taught Western technical subjects. He later studied Western medicine in Japan, but soon realized that his people needed more than physical healing. He quit his medical studies and turned to literature, returning to China to use his writing to expose the superstitions and injustices of the early Republican period. He his best known for his two collections of short stories, Nahan (generally translated as Call to Arms), published in 1923, and Panghuang (Wandering) published in 1926. His story “A Madman’s Diary” (“K’uang-jen ji-chi) vividly and painfully chronicles the growing realization of the cannibalistic, “dog-eat-dog” nature of Chinese society. “The New Year’s Sacrifice” (“Chu-fu”) is an account of a modern intellectual’s disturbing and eye-opening return to his traditional home for the New Year’s festivities. Painfully aware of the limitations of literature for effecting real change, in 1926 he stopped writing fiction altogether. Translations of his works include Diary of a Madman and Other Stories (1990), The Complete Stories of Lu Xun (1956-60), and Selected Stories of Lu Xun (1980), as well as his seminal scholarly work, A Brief History of Chinese Fiction (1959).

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

Term of Art: Pacing Chart

“pacing chart: A graphic representation of time on task that describes what students and teachers will be doing during a course of study. The pacing chart is a customized guide that some teachers use to plan instruction in each subject and to ensure that they teach the essential skills and knowledge of each topic within a specified period of time while meeting the requirements of state standards.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

One Way to Think about Teaching Social Studies

“Social scientific research is and always will be tentative and imperfect. It does not claim to transform economics, sociology, and history into exact sciences. But by patiently searching for facts and patterns and calmly analyzing the economic, social, and political mechanisms that might explain them, it can inform democratic debate and focus attention on the right questions. It can help to redefine the terms of debate and focus attention on the right questions. It can help to redefine the terms of debate, unmask certain preconceived or fraudulent notions, and subject all positions to critical scrutiny. In my view, this is the role that intellectuals, including social scientists, should play as citizens like any other but with the good fortune to have more time than others to devote themselves to study (and even to be paid for it—a signal privilege).”

Piketty, Thomas. Trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2014.

Autoimmune Disease

Good morning on a bright and sunny day in southwestern Vermont. This seems like a good time to post this reading on autoimmune disease and its accompanying 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.

Pestalozzi’s Advice to Teachers

“Endeavor, first, to broaden your children’s sympathies and, by satisfying their daily needs, to bring love and kindness into such unceasing contact with their impressions and their activity, that these sentiments may be engrafted in their hearts.”

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) as Quoted in The Teacher and the Taught (1963)

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

Review Essay: A Lesson Plan on Ghoti and Its Others

The amount of research on reading is voluminous. Even after reading what I consider and exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) amount of this material across a period of 15 years, I still barely scratched the surface of this body of literature. At the classroom level, however, teaching practice demands keen attention to two things: decoding–i.e. recognizing the correspondence between letters and their sounds, known as phonemic awareness, and comprehension–i.e. understanding the meanings of words and applying that understanding, in synthesis, to the entire body of a text to understand it.

English is a tough language to decode. One person who recognized this and wanted to do something about it was the Irish playwright and Nobel Laureate George Bernard Shaw. Shaw was sufficiently concerned about the odd vagaries of English spelling that he actually bequeathed money in his estate for spelling reform. Indeed, there is a form of orthography known as the Shavian Alphabet (Aside: Shavian is both an adjective and a noun meaning, basically, related to George Bernard Shaw and his writings.)

In any case, one of the well-known representations of the challenges of English phonics, often erroneously (it first appeared, apparently, in a letter from Charles Ollier to Leigh Hunt) attributed to Shaw, is the word ghoti. It is possible, using English phonics, to pronounce this word as fish: take the gh from tough (i.e. f), the o from the plural women (i.e. short i), and the ti from action (i.e. sh).

Over the years, when I had a few minutes left in a class period, generally at the beginning of the school year, I would trot this out for the struggling readers and English language learners I served. After explaining–in summary of course–much of the foregoing in this essay, I would point out to students that if they struggled with English phonics and their representation in orthography, they were in very good company: George Bernard Shaw, Nobel prizewinning author whose plays are still routinely performed today.

This year, I finally wrote out this lesson plan on ghoti for use in a full class period. Here is the accompanying worksheet and the teacher’s copy of same. I added a few words, which I grabbed somewhere along the line. Now it’s yours if you can use 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.

Kyokutei Bakin

[Over the years in my classrooms, it was hard to miss the fact that students who struggled with reading, particularly the students of Asian Pacific descent I served, would nonetheless exhaust my school library’s supply of anime. In researching this post, I learned that Bakin’s best-known book, Hakkendenhas been adapted to anime. For that reason, I have tagged this as high-interest material.]

“Kyokutei Bakin: (1767-1849) Japanese fiction writer of the late-Tokugawa period. Bakin was among the most gifted writers of his time, and succeeded in establishing himself as a serious writer in an age dominated by the lowbrow entertainment genre of Gesaku. Bakin is best known for an extraordinary tour-de-force, Hakkenden (1814-1832), whose title translates, improbably, as “Eight Canine Biographies.” This high-flown historical romance of noble vengeance, with its thickly applied Confucianist morality of virtue rewarded and vice punished, ranks as Japan’s longest literary narrative. Hakkenden has retained its popularity in contemporary Japan, albeit in abridged modern editions.”

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