Category Archives: Lesson Plans

Lesson plans on topics in social studies and English, as well as what I call “learning methods focus”–lessons that use the content area to demonstrate a particular method for learning that might assist struggling students.

The Weekly Text, July 13, 2018

It’s Friday the 13th! On this day in 1787, by an act of the Congress of the Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance became law. Also on this day in 1930, soccer’s first World Cup matches were played. In 1985 on this day, the Aid concerts for Ethiopian Famine relief were held in London and Philadelphia. It’s the birthday of Jean-Luc Picard; British actor Sir Patrick Stewart is, amazingly, 78 years old today.

This week’s Text is a lesson plan, one of many, that I worked up to use with Lawrence Treat’s series of kid’s books, Crime and Puzzlement. I came across these materials in two books last year, to wit George Hillocks Jr.’s  otherwise unremarkable Teaching Argument Writing Grades 6-12: Supporting Claims with Relevant Evidence and Clear Reasoning (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2017), but also in two separate papers contained in Keith J. Holyoak and Robert G. Morrison’s (eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005). All three of these texts extolled the Crime and Puzzlement books as exemplary instructional material for teaching students to assess, analyze, and synthesize evidence in support of an argument and contention.

I ordered the first volume, broke it up and scanned texts for several of the “cases,” and tried them out in my classroom. My freshman English students jumped right into these, and clearly enjoyed them. So I knew I had to build a unit to rationalize the use of this material in my classroom.

Now, about four months later, that unit is nearing completion, and I have 72 lessons in the unit. This week’s Text offers you the first lesson plan in the Crime and Puzzlement Unit Plan. To teach this lesson, you’ll need this worksheet on the case entitled Boudoir. To “solve” the “case,” you’ll need the answer key. Depending on how you begin your class period and its duration, you may want to start the lesson with a do-now exercise, which for this lesson is this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Marie Antoinette’s probably apocryphal statement “Let them eat cake.”

Unfortunately, the Crime and Puzzlement books (there are three in total) appear to remain in copyright, so I don’t think I can ethically or legally post many of these lesson plans. If you choose to contrive your own material based on these books, I can post the unit plan (it’s not quite ready as of this writing) for you; it will contain the standards met, a lengthy, discursive justification for using these methods and materials, and other supporting documentation.

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.


Over the last week, while lazing around in northeastern Massachusetts, I read several back issues of Rolling Stone magazine. In one of the them I learned that Steven Van Zandt was on tour with his band Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. Back in the 1980s when Mr. Van Zandt was recording and releasing his albums with this group, I actually preferred them to the recordings of the band for which he was best known. I speak, or course, of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. For some reason, only the first album from Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Men Without Women, is a available on the streaming music service to which I subscribe.

And if you watched the crime drama The Sopranos, then you probably know that Mr. Van Zandt ably, and often with dark humor, played “gentlemen’s club” (ahem) owner and member of Tony Soprano’s inner circle Silvio Dante.

In other words, Steven Van Zandt is a protean talent. Reading the article on him in Rollng Stone, I learned that his current tour was expressly in appreciation of teachers, and that the proceeds from the tour would be used to continue building a website for teachers called TeachRock that provides lesson plans and curriculum on popular music. I just established an account there because it looks like very good material.

Although I’m just sayin’, you might want to take a look. And thank you, Steven Van Zandt.

The Weekly Text, July 6, 2018

On this day in 1885, Louis Pasteur and Emile Roux administered the first successful anti-rabies vaccine. Today in 1933, Major League baseball held its first All-Star Game at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Today is Malawi Republic Day, which commemorates both Malawi’s independence from Britain in 1965 and its becoming a republic in 1966. Malawi was formerly known as Nyasaland; remains of some of the earliest humans have been found in Malawi. Finally, today in 1854 the Republican Party of the United States was founded.

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan on the Latin word root agri. It means, crop, production, and field. I begin this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun farmer. And, last, this worksheet on the Latin root agri is the mainstay of this lesson. Nota bene, please, that I have previously posted this worksheet by itself without a lesson plan or accompanying short exercise.

That’s it. I don’t know about where you are, but it has been very hot here. If you live or work in New York City and environs, I hope you’re staying cool.

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.

The One-Thousandth Post on Mark’s Text Terminal

Today is Thursday, July 5th. It’s Independence Day in Algeria; in related anniversaries, today is the birthday of one of history’s nastiest colonialists, Cecil John Rhodes, who, in a characteristic act of his humility, helped himself to territory in Africa and created a nation-state he named after himself. That country is now the independent nation of Zimbabwe. Today is also Venezuelan Independence Day. All in all a good day for those seeking to shake off the oppressive hand of colonial governments.

I’m just back from a week on the North Shore of Massachusetts. This is the one-thousandth post on Mark’s Text Terminal, a milestone I didn’t think I would reach until the end of this year. I’ve been trying to figure out how to “celebrate” this, but have decided that I won’t. It took almost three years to publish this many posts. I imagine I’ll keep this blog going for awhile; at the moment, it’s one of the key sources of professional satisfaction for me, which matters.

Anyway, I offer today something I started working on about three years ago, but never really made any progress on developing. In the autumn of 2015 I was summoned to jury duty in my borough. I’ll spare you the details other than to say it was a particularly tragic case involving the murder of a child. While waiting in the jury room for what  seemed like interminable periods of time, I worked on a variety of things. Along the way, I read David Crystal’s book on what was then a favored mode of communication among my students. That book was Txting: the Gr8 Db8 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

One of my obsessions as a teacher is helping students become proficient writers. I saw in Txtng: the Gr8 Db8 the possibility of helping students develop their own understanding of the various registers in which people use language, how proper English usage works, to introduce them to the field of linguistics, and to demonstrate while texting language is perfectly appropriate for communication between social acquaintances and intimates, it is inappropriate for other kinds of communication and correspondence. At issue, in Mr. Crystal’s view, is whether or not “textese” is a language . Starting from the basic laws of linguistics, he says yes, it is. I’m not so much interested in that question per se as much as the answers it yields and their implications for proper and clear usage. The essential question for this unit (which, alas, is not on the overarching unit plan, is this: What are the characteristics of a language, and does “textese” feature them? If so, how?

So I began compiling this aggregated text sheet from the book for use in developing worksheets and learning supports. I also started outlining a unit plan to use with this material. And, finally, I started this lesson plan template. And that, esteemed reader, is as far as I got with it. In the meantime, the students in the school in which I serve took a step down–in my opinion–in terms of compositional sophistication and began communicating via Instagram and Snapchat, which rely, I gather, on images rather than text.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. I rather doubt I will take this work any further, so after I post it here, I will remove it from my computer. However, if you develop this further, I would be grateful indeed if you would let me now where you took it. 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, June 28, 2018

Today is June 28, 2018. Today is the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, nearly 50 years ago. We’ve made real progress in this country in respecting the rights of the LGBTQ community, which is not to say we don’t have more progress to make on civil rights for this and all communities. (By the way, the Stonewall Inn is still right there on Sheridan Square in the West Village. Stop in for a drink some time–it’s a very friendly place whatever your sexual orientation happens to be.) Today is the birthday of an American national treasure, the incomparable Mel Brooks. Born Melvyn Kaminsky right here in New York City, he is ninety years old today.

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan on the using the interrogative pronoun. I start this lesson with this homophone worksheet on the contraction you’re and the possessive pronoun your. If for some reason (and there are often plenty of reasons for this) the lesson goes into a second day, I like to keep nearby this Cultural Literacy worksheet on plagiarism, which I use with other lessons as well (I find one cannot emphasize the issue of plagiarism enough). The center of this lesson this scaffolded worksheet on using the interrogative pronoun. Finally, here is the teacher’s copy of the 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.

The Weekly Text, June 22, 2018

Today is June 22, the final Friday of the school year. On this day in 1941, the German army, in Operation Barbarossa, invaded its suddenly erstwhile ally, the Soviet Union. Also on this day, the United States Department of Justice was established by an act of Congress. It’s the the birthday of the late Ed Bradley, a respected journalist and stalwart of 60 Minutes, who was born in 1941.

This week’s Text is a lesson plan on postulating theses I wrote for somewhat more advanced students in our Wednesday afternoon institute class. Here is the worksheet that attends the lesson and the teacher’s copy of the worksheet. I wrote this last fall, and used it once; if ever you felt inclined to comment on Mark’s Text Terminal, I would enthusiastically welcome your comments on these documents. The unit of which they are a part is still in the developmental stage.

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.

June 21, 2018: A Weekly Text on Thursday

Today is Thursday, July 21, 2018. It’s the summer solstice! Not to be too pagan about it, but please do enjoy the holiday. I’m posting an extra text today, because next Friday, the 29th, I have no plans other than not to be in front of a computer screen.

On this day in 1945, the United States Tenth Army prevailed in the Battle of Okinawa, which had begun on April 1. Today is also the day that New Hampshire became the ninth state, by a vote of 57 to 47, to ratify the United States Constitution, leading to that document becoming the law of the land. Finally, since he has been in the news lately owing to his brother’s nuptials, and because he seems like a genuinely decent sort, Mark’s Text Terminal wishes a happy birthday to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, who turns thirty-six today.

Today’s Text is a complete lesson plan on using adverbs to modify adverbs. I start this lesson with this short exercise on the idiom “money burning a hole in one’s pocket.” Should this lesson go into a second day, here is a second short exercise, this one a on the homophones pore, poor, and pour. The mainstay of this lesson is this scaffolded worksheet on using adverbs to modify adverbs. Depending on the students you’re serving, they may need this learning support, which is a word bank to use with the cloze exercises on the worksheet. Finally, here is the teacher’s copy-answer key of the 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.