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, November 16, 2018

It’s a snow day in Springfield: I salute the administration at the city level for its good sense. Snow days in New York were rare indeed. I recall with some bitterness, actually, making my way to and from the North Bronx to Lower Manhattan in some pretty messy, aggressive storms.

Several years ago, after reading Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s book They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing (New York: Norton, 2010), I got stuck on the idea of teaching argumentation at the high school level. Accordingly, I worked up this unit plan for teaching argumentation. Unfortunately, in this school in which I was serving there was no meaningful support for this kind of work. So this unit, by my standards, is still in its preliminary stages of development. Still, the basic outlines are there for teaching the material Mr. Graff and Ms. Birkenstein so ably present in their book. Indeed, I’ve already posted a lesson from this unit on Mark’s Text Terminal.

This week’s Text is the fourth lesson plan from this unit argumentation (you can find the other three by searching Mark’s Text Terminal for “argumentation”). Like the other three I’ve published, the work for this lesson is further practice on using rhetorical forms to frame arguments. I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the Latin phrase exemplia gratia, which, as you probably know, means “for example” and turns up most commonly in English prose as the abbreviation e.g. Finally, here is the worksheet for trying out various rhetorical figures in arguments.

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.

Professor Daniel Willingham’s First Demonstration of Memory

[Nota bene, please, that I originally posted much of this material in a Weekly Text from August 28, 2015, which would have made it one of the earliest publications on this blog. This lesson continues to evolve, so I have decided to publish it once more with a couple of supplementary materials. If you have used this in your classroom, and plan to use it again, you may want to check back here every so often to see if I’ve added documents. I’ve also given this post a new title so that it is easy to search and locate on Mark’s Text Terminal.]

Is there a way we can assist our students in remembering what we teach them in the classroom? More broadly, can we help students become stronger, more effective, and therefore more satisfied learners, particularly in terms of retention (de rigeur now for hyper-tested students), by showing them how memory actually functions? The answer, or part of the answer at least, thanks to Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is yes. Professor Willingham writes a column called “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” for The American Educator, which is an excellent quarterly journal of research into pedagogical practice and educational policy issues published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). I’m amazed at the consistently cogent and useful scholarly research the AFT presents in this first-rate publication.

Anyway, in the winter 2008-2009 issue, Professor Willingham published his column under the title–clicking on this hyperlink will download of PDF of the article–“What Will Improve a Student’s Memory?” This is a cognitive science experiment in three parts that demonstrates the role of thought and memory in the learning process. So far, I’ve developed for use in teaching a lesson adapted from Professor Willingham’s First Demonstration of Memory, will help you and your students conduct the first of these three experiments, then sort out its immediate results. Through this clever and concrete demonstration, students will learn that thinking is the parent of memory–as Professor Willingham emphasizes.  I like to start the year with this lesson; in fact, I teach it on the first day of school, before discussing classroom norms and expectations, as a way of setting the tone (i.e. your learning comes first) for the year.

To get to the instructional material in the PDF, you’ll need download the article by clicking on the link above, then scroll down through the document to page 26, “Demonstration of the Three Principles.” You’ll use Demonstration 1: once you’ve read through the procedure for the demonstration. Nonetheless, here is the unit plan for all three lessons that rationalize the use of these three demonstrations of memory with students. Eventually, I’ll write the other two lessons for demonstrations two and three, and post those here as well.

To the documents for this lesson: here is the lesson plan for demonstration one. Although the PDF posted above includes the procedures for all three demonstrations, here is a typescript of the procedure for the first demonstration in Microsoft Word, should should need or see fit to alter or adapt this material for your class. This structured and numbered worksheet might hasten the process of delivering this lesson, particularly for struggling students. Over time, working with a large and homogenous group or students, I developed two supports for concluding the work on this lesson. Students will need to determine, as part of this exercise, which kinds of words they remembered. This first version of the support give students the words in the order in which they were read, and asks them to find the words they remembered by searching the list. That requires focus and the ability to sort out information; some students I have served over the years struggled with this part of the activity. So I designed a second version of the support with the words read arranged by type in columns in a table, and therefore a bit less challenging to interpret and process.

I find this lesson, taught to a well-focused class generally takes less than the 44 minutes my school has deemed adequate for conveying new information and providing students with an opportunity to use it. After finishing the procedural work, and sorting out the results of that work to assess its meaning (it’s part of the procedure in the article), I like to ask students a few questions. The big question is, of course, Why did you remember the words you rated for pleasantness? Another query I use is What can students and teachers do to work together to study words in a way helps students remember their meaning and use them in their future discourses? (Do your students understand the concept of discourse? It seems to me it’s a word and concept high school students really ought to know.) I also ask questions that prepare students for some of the work we’ll do that is animated by Professor Willingham’s first demonstration: Is there something common to words that can help us understand them as families? which helps to rationalize the use of word root worksheets. Is there a way to learn words by thinking about what they might mean?  justifies the use of do now focus on one word worksheets.

In any case, through this clever and concrete demonstration, students will learn that thinking is the parent of memory–as Professor Willingham emphasizes. I like to start the year with this lesson; in fact, I teach it on the first day of school, before discussing classroom norms and expectations, as a way of setting the tone (i.e. your learning and the means by which it is accomplished are of paramount importance in this classroom) for the year.

Most  of the vocabulary building work I’ll publish on Mark’s Text Terminal derives directly from my understanding of the cognitive mechanisms Professor Willingham’s first demonstration exposes. This lesson, if nothing else, may help you persuade resistant students that this is a useful way to learn and master new words and the concepts or things they define.

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, November 9, 2018

This week’s Text (after missing last week) is something I whipped up pretty much on the fly about three years ago when I was assigned an eight-meeting class conducted over eight weeks on math and science literacy. This literacy lesson on the polysemous word bond is, as I look at it now, an odd melange of stuff. Depending on what it is you want kids to understand, there are materials here for one extended lesson–I wrote this for a sixty-one-minute long period–or a couple of different short exercises.

The first document, because I worked in economics and finance-themed high school, is this Cultural Literacy worksheet on bond as a financial instrument. These two context clues worksheets on the verb and noun bond in the sense of attaching or joining follow; logically, I guess, this short reading and comprehension exercise on chemical bonds rounds out this deck. I also, for some reason, made up this learning support with three definitions of bond from Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition.

Now that I think about it, Bronx County summoned me to jury duty before I had a chance to use this material. The coverage teacher who used it did say students received it relatively well.

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, October 19, 2018

Things have been very hectic at Mark’s Text Terminal lately as I prepare to move this entire operation to Massachusetts. Still, the Weekly Text is a mainstay here; even during this transition, I will at the very least post something every Friday.

For this week’s Text, I offer a complete lesson plan on commonly used prepositions. This is from the sixth of my units on the parts of speech; by this time, students have become relatively proficient users of language, so I begin increasingly using, as the do-now exercises with which I begin lessons, Everyday Edit worksheets, which the good people at Education World give away on their site. For this lesson I use this Everyday Edit on Anne Sullivan, the extraordinary pedagogue who educated Helen Keller. If this lesson goes into a second day, here is another Everyday Edit on James Forten, Free Black Man.

The mainstay of this lesson is this scaffolded worksheet on commonly used prepositions. The worksheet requires for its completion this learning support on commonly used prepositions. 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, September 14, 2018

It’s second Friday of our school year here in New York. The first month of school is always a long haul as programming works out, and teachers get to know students. We’ve had one of the sides of Hurricane Florence passing through here this week, so stultifying humidity and the constant threat of rain hangs over the region.

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan introducing personal pronouns. I use this Everyday Edit worksheet on Pocahontas to begin the lesson; should the lesson go into a second day due to unforeseen circumstances I keep this Cultural Literacy worksheet on satire nearby to start the conclusion of the lesson on that second day. This is the scaffolded worksheet that is the center of the lesson, and here is teacher’s copy of same.

That’s it for this week. Tomorrow begins Hispanic Heritage Month 2018, which runs through October 15. Mark’s Text Terminal will regularly feature, as in years past, materials related to Hispanic Heritage and History for the next four or so weeks.

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.

A Complete Lesson Plan on the Greek Word Root Anthrop/o

Rain continues to fall in New York City, a manifestation of Hurricane Florence, which is about to put a beatdown on the Carolinas. I’m glad to be in my dry apartment working on posting this complete lesson on the Greek word root anthrop/o, which means man and human. I start this lesson with this context clues worksheet for the noun humanity to provide a basis for the heuristic work this scaffolded worksheet with an independent practice assignment requires of students. The context clues worksheets can serve as the prior knowledge students will need to help them understand the meaning of this Greek word root.

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.

A Complete Lesson Plan on the Paleolithic Era

Alright: I have to run off an meet a friend from Wisconsin in Manhattan. Before I do, I’ll drink a quick cup of coffee and post this complete lesson plan on the paleolithic period of human history. I begin teaching this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun artifact and this one on the noun nomad. This short reading and comprehension worksheet on the paleolithic period is the mainstay of this lesson.

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.