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 Order of Things: Big Bang Sequence

OK, folks, there is a lot of traffic on Mark’s Text Terminal today, so I’ll publish one more post before moving on to other things for the afternoon. From Barbara Anne Kipfer’s fascinating book (to me, anyway, The Order of Things, here is a lesson plan on the Big Bang sequence along with its reading and comprehension worksheet.

This is a relatively short exercise. However, like just about everything here, these are Microsoft Word documents, so you may manipulate them for your students’ needs.

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 11, 2020: The Crime and Puzzlement Case “Piggy Bank”

Because they’ve been a popular item on this site, I’ve engaged in idle speculation about the social and educational characteristics of the users of the many Crime and Puzzlement lessons I’ve posted here. I must assume these are particularly useful for homebound, younger kids and their parents.

In any case, here is another, a lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “Piggy Bank.”

I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom “beyond the pale.” To investigate this case, you’ll need the PDF of the illustration, reading, and questions. To make sure you bring the accused to the bar of justice, here is the typescript of the answer key.

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 4, 2020: A Lesson Plan on Comparative Adjectives

This week’s Text is a lesson plan on the interrogative adjectives. These are the words which, whose, and what when they are used as adjectives.

The lesson begins, in the interest of getting kids settled after a class change, with this parsing sentences worksheet on nouns; if the lesson spills over into a second day, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the concept of the ultimatum–and don’t forget to tell students that the plural is ultimata. Here is the scaffolded worksheet that is at the center of this lesson, and here is the teacher’s copy of the worksheet to make this a little easier on you.

That’s it! Have a good weekend, and Godspeed if you are returning to school soon.

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 Order of Things: Tooth Arrival/Growth

From Barbara Ann Kipfer’s The Order of Things, here is a lesson plan on the arrival and growth of teeth. You’ll need the reading with comprehension questions to complete this short reading and writing exercise, which, like all 50 of these lessons that I will eventually post here, is intended to help struggling learners experience mastery and therefore build self-confidence and competence in school.

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.

Blog Post No. 4,001: A Tentative Start to a Unit on the History of Hip-Hop

OK! I published my 4,000th post on this blog two days ago, which is something I’ve been pushing toward since the COVID19 pandemic began in March. Now that I’ve reached this point, I’ll be taking a break to look for a job, and to begin to review works in progress with an eye toward finishing some of them. And reading and resting, with an emphasis on resting often. I’ll continue to publish, just not at the frenetic pace I’ve set in the past five months. And, again, I hope I’ll have some new materials for your consideration, review, and use.

Before that, though, as has been my custom each time I’ve passed another thousand posts, I’ll publish some unfinished materials to store them for future use, and to offer users and readers of this blog some preliminary documents to develop from the ground up should they be so inclined.

Throughout my career as a teacher, and in every school in which I’ve served, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, my students have been deeply interested in Hip-Hop music. Since I’ve been present for the entire history of Hip-Hop–I remember vividly discovering the first album by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and its electrifying single, “The Message”–but I’d heard Kurtis Blow and The Sugarhill Gang before that, I knew at the beginning of the genre’s life I was hearing something new, original, and, man, oh so danceable. I started playing Hip-Hop records in 1981 when I began to DJ the occasional party. I still have Hip-Hop songs in my playlists (have you heard the song and album “Back on the Block” by Quincy Jones? You should).

So, when I showed up to teach at a school on Jackson Avenue in the South Bronx in the fall of 2003, I quickly started to think up ways to reach the students in my classroom. One thing that always stuck with me, as I watched Hip-Hop develop as a genre, was the remark Chuck D made that Rap music was the CNN of young, urban Black people (and I thank Quote Investigator for clarifying that paraphrase).

Chuck D’s aphorism became the guiding principle for the development of my unit on Hip-Hop. Broadly, I saw this unit as an exploration of the oral traditions that are common to cultures worldwide. Moreover, I wanted to situate Hip-Hop in the context of global oral traditions so that students would be able to move between the general (oral tradition) and the specific (Hip-Hop music). In any case, I knew that I could use Hip-Hop to engage my students.

When I first conceived of this unit, as I say, I was a new teacher in New York. Instead of outlining a unit plan, which at that time I still didn’t fully know how to do, let alone understand the purpose of, I just improvised. I can tell you in that improvisation, the first lesson involved a choral reading of the first twenty-five lines of Homer’s Odyssey, which I presented as the world’s first Hip-Hop song. My students were very self-conscious about choral reading, so I subsequently shortened that exercise to eight lines. I proceeded to the medieval troubadours as messengers, hewing to the greatest extent possible to the idea that musicians could be deliverers of the news in that (or any) world. From there I moved on to the Griot tradition in West Africa, then on to a review of  popular music in the United States, particularly blues songs from the world of Chess Records. Then, while continuing to focus on the oral tradition, I included material about and by The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron as the progenitors of Hip-Hop. Finally, I moved on to the earliest Hip-Hop recordings, as above, by The Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Later, as I began to deepen my research into the history that informs this unit, I also would include material (as below) on the Black Power Movement and DJ Kool Herc.

After running through this a couple of times in an improvisational mode, I began outlining a unit and preparing reading and writing work for its lessons. It was at that time that the New York City Department of Education, alas, abruptly changed the approach we were using with special needs students and struggling learners. Teaching to the Regents Examination became de rigueur, and this unit fell by the wayside.

As I look over the documents I accumulated in the run-up to writing out this unit, I can see that I envisioned an interdisciplinary reading and writing unit that analyzed the sociology of language, knowledge, and culture, and how all this was held together by music to synthesize Hip-Hop. I definitely wanted to focus on DJ Kool Herc’s ability to bring communities together in celebration with music–i.e. his famous block parties. To sum up, and move on to the documents, let me say this: the history of Hip-Hop offers a trove of possibilities for conceptual instruction that deals with continuity and change, poetry and poetics, tradition and innovation, mythology and earthbound humanity, modes of communication within and across cultures, the sociology of culture, registers of language from vernacular and dialects to the rule-bound and stylistically formal, the business of the music industry, what constitutes “news,” and the politics of, bumantity, equity, and liberation. As the music changed over the years, and I discussed these changes with a colleague (thanks for your insight, David) in New York, I saw that there was room in this unit for a discussion lesson on the corporatization and commodification of Hip-Hop driven by a question about how we got from the socially conscious lyrics of “The Message” (or, earlier, but lesser known among younger people, Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” or the beautiful “Lady Day and John Coltrane“) to songs glorifying murder, mayhem, and misogyny.

Anyway, let’s get on to the documents. First, the planning materials: here is the preliminary unit plan, which shows its age by my citation of New York State Standards. Those standards mean I started writing this before the Common Core Standards arrived and were adopted in New York State (if you need something shiny to show to an administrator, here are the Common Core English Language Arts Standards for grades 9-12 in Microsoft Word, so you can copy and paste from this document); this is the lesson plan template and this is the worksheet template. And here, as a do-now exercise, is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the troubadours.

Now the texts I accumulated, haphazardly, for this unit: here are three pages of mixed text, including a definition of “Oral Tradition” from The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theorythe first eight lines of The Odyssey from the Fagles translation of that work by Homer, and the lyrics from three classic songs–one from Willie Dixon and two from Elias McDaniel (aka Bo Diddley)–from the Chess Records catalogue that anticipate the good-natured, playful, boasting of early Hip-Hop songs. This reading on The Last Poets, that I all but certainly took from the pages of either The Source or XXL magazines–and which I did a very bad job of scanning and citing–outlines the history of these proto-Hip-Hop writers and performers. Here’s a reading on DJ Kool Herc along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. From elsewhere on this blog, here is a reading and comprehension worksheet on Public Enemy, the seminal Hip-Hop group. Finally, here is a reading on the Black Power movement and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

As always, I seek your peer review on this material. In this case there isn’t much to review. But if you do use this material or its ideas to build a unit of your own, I would be interested in hearing about that. If you need or want anything in the way of ancillary materials to develop this unit, for example a context clues or Cultural Literacy worksheet, please advise; if they’re not already available on this site, I’ll write something for you and attach it as an addendum on this post. As far as typos and the rest, if you think it’s important, please advise. When or if I use this material, I’m sure I’ll revise it extensively.

Get well soon, Jacob Blake. I deeply regret and am ashamed of the assault on your dignity and your life.

Now: on the Blog Post 5,001.

Adapted Research Papers 1: Supporting Documents

By 2008, when I started my third and final job working in the New York City Department of Education, I was (or at least I thought I was) beginning to hit my stride in preparing differentiated instruction for struggling learners. When I arrived at my new posting, however, I found I needed to create some sort of differentiation for a research paper project that was a joint requirement of the global studies and English departments.

So, I got right to it. The theme of this research paper assignment was oppression, and there were at least a dozen topics from which to choose. I chose three, made adapted research papers for them, and worked with students on them.

The next year, the scope and content of the assignment changed; the following year, it changed again. I tried to keep up, but in the end I thought it best just to write a set of broad assignments and use those. I’ve posted those in slightly different formats elsewhere on this blog.

Anyway, here are two documents I prepared as supports and instructions for working on these assignments: the first is a learning support that explains research topics and the second is the rules for completing these differentiating assignments. The five posts above this one are the assignments themselves. Let me forewarn you that this is not some of my best work; but rather than throw away these assignments, I’ll post them here in the possibility that someone might be able to use them. Like everything here, these are formatted in Microsoft Word, so you can edit, rewrite, and manipulate them to suit you and your students’ needs.

This series of documents continues for six posts above.

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 Order of Things: Tasting Areas of the Tongue

Here is a short lesson on the tasting areas of the tongue, yet another derived from the pages of Barbara Ann Kipfer’s excellent reference book The Order of Things. To work students through this lesson, you’ll need this list as reading and comprehension questions.

Is this knowledge students need to possess? Probably not. These lessons are meant as confidence-building exercises for struggling learners. They deal with knowledge a little off the beaten track–often delivered in more than one symbolic systems, e.g. numbers and words–and give students experience dealing with new materials and ideas in short exercises.

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, August 21, 2020

This week’s Text is a lesson plan on the Latin word roots man, mani and manu, all three of which mean hand. Even a cursory glance at these three words divulge their productivity in the English language: manicure, manufacture, and manual all come immediately to mind.

I open this lesson with this context clues worksheet on the noun digit in its meaning as “any of the divisions in which the limbs of most vertebrates terminate, which are typically five in number but may be reduced (as in the horse), and which typically have a series of phalanges bearing a nail, claw, or hoof at the tip — compare FINGER 1, TOE.” I wanted this do-now exercise to hint for students what the word roots in this lesson might mean.

And, at last, here is the worksheet that is the primary work 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.

Crime and Puzzlement: Buried Gold

It was 52 degrees at 5:00 this morning here in southwestern Vermont, which sure felt like an harbinger of fall. It’s warming up slowly. I feel like, as I did in my late teens and early twenties, that I should be preparing to begin a six-week apple harvest. I can’t imagine, at my age, what picking 120 bushels of apples a day would do to my body and mind.

Ok, that said, here is a lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case “Buried Gold.” I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the proverb “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” This is often attributed to Shakespeare; in fact, it comes from the pen of the Restoration dramatist William Congreve from his play The Mourning BrideI actually posted this short exercise with a parts of speech lesson elsewhere on this blog, so be on the lookout.

Here is the scan with the illustration, reading, and questions that you’ll need to conduct your investigation and therefore teach this lesson. And here, at last, is the typescript of the answer key so you can solve your case and bring the offender to the bar of justice–so to speak.

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 Order of Things: Human Bodily Systems

Moving right along, after a very unpleasant phone conversation with a charter school recruiter, here is a lesson plan on human bodily systems, another informed from text culled from Barbara Ann Kipfer’s fascinating book The Order of Things.

Here’s the list as a reading and comprehension questions that are the work 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.