Category Archives: Reference Materials

The Flipped Classroom and Its Discontents

A couple of years ago, in a “professional development” (a term I use both loosely and charitably when referring to the role it plays–or doesn’t–in the institution in which I serve) session, a colleague presented a workshop on the concept of the flipped classroom. I confess that my initial reaction was incredulity followed closely by hostility. After all, this person basically confessed (in my view) to turning over direct instruction in his classroom to a series of internet videos. To make matters worse, he presented no research to buttress his assertions about this style of teaching, save a promotional squib featuring a couple of young teachers (or actors playing young teachers) acting like fools as they extolled the virtues of the flipped classroom. I assumed this was the advertisement from the vendor supplying the material;  whatever it was, it was far from the kind of research validation I personally would need to see to consider adopting this method in my own classroom.

More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that during the latest round (over the past couple of weeks) of high-stakes state testing here in New York, while I was proctoring math tests, several students complained that they didn’t understand the material because the flipped classroom didn’t help them to learn it, let alone master it. A couple were particularly disgruntled by their experience with the flipped classroom.

About eighteen months after the presentation I attended on this, while reading Jerome Rekart’s The Cognitive Classroom (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2013),  I came upon this passage, which again aroused my skepticism about this method of instruction:

We know that even with intensive daily exposure to video instruction in language, infants fail to maintain phonemic awareness (i.e. ability to differentiate between the sounds that are particular to a specific language) of the learned language, unlike infants who received face-to-face instruction (Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu, 2003).

Whether such studies have any bearing on older children or adult learning remains to be determined. If similar results are seen with other subjects and age groups, as they have been with the acquisition of English in early childhood, it will seriously squelch the current fervor over ‘flipped classrooms,’ with their reliance of video delivery of lecture material (Sparks, 2011).

The Sparks citation refers to this article, from Education Week, by Sarah D. Sparks. Ms. Sparks ably covers the pros and cons of the flipped classroom approach. Unfortunately, what emerges is a lot of uncertainty about the method in general, and in particular whether it is effective for all students.

As it turns out, there is a plethora of research on the flipped classroom. Even a search on ERIC (Education Research Information Services) limited to peer-reviewed articles with their full text available on that website turns up dozens of articles on the effectiveness of “flipping” a classroom. And a search of the Internet using the term “problems with flipped classrooms” also turns up page after page or articles on flipped classrooms, some of them balanced analyses like this article from Mary Beth Hertz at Edutopia; some are skeptical, as is Robert Talbert’s blog post from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Many, however, are corrosively critical, like this article from Professor Jonathan Rees of Colorado State University.

As both a teacher and a blogger, I really have no horse in this race. Because I serve students who struggle, this method of instruction would be flatly inappropriate for my classroom. What concerns me is the unquestioning acceptance of a pedagogical method that clearly shows mixed results; moreover, I have never much cared for the magpie-like fascination among some teachers and educational administrators for every shiny new thing that comes along.

We owe our students and their parents (the property tax payers who underwrite our salaries, incidentally) better than this. If we want to be treated like professionals, we must actually conduct ourselves as professionals. That means we don’t just uncritically accept every pedagogical fad that comes down the pike. We must review the research, consider methods of application of new pedagogical strategies, and finally and most importantly, consider the needs of our students.

If we fail to do so, there is a nice solid noun to describe what we’re doing: malpractice.

Halcyon Days

“A time of happiness and prosperity. Halcyon in Greek is the word for kingfisher, compounded in hals, “the sea,” and kyo, “to brood on.” The ancient Sicilians believed that the kingfisher laid its eggs and incubated them on the surface of the sea for fourteen days before the winter solstice. During this time the waves of the sea were always unruffled.”

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

Man-Bites-Dog Story

A newspaper story having a curious human-interest, often humorous flavor, such as one profiling a person with a hobby that would seem to be a role reversal.

‘The defendant was what the N-boys like to call a Scion (of a wealthy family of former oleomargarine manufacturers, in this instance), which, in the same idiom, qualified him as a Socialite. Scions are seldom accused of procuring, which gave the case a bit of the man-bites-dog-aspect that the schools of journalism talk about.'”

A.J. Liebling, The Press

Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Auxiliary Verb

“A category of VERB that regularly accompanies full verbs such as write, run, shoot, is in is writing, has in has run, may in may be shooting. In English, auxiliary verbs are customarily divided into: (1) The primary auxiliaries be, have, do. (2) The modal auxiliaries or MODAL VERBS can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must. The marginal modal auxiliaries are also called semi-modals, are dare, need, ought to, used to. They are called marginal because they do not share all the properties of the others or do not do so regularly. Auxiliaries have four properties: (1) They are used with the negative not to make a sentence negative: Frank may buy me a sweater/may not buy me a sweater. (2) They form questions by changing positions with the subject: Wendy has invited me/Has Wendy invited me? (3) To avoid repetition they can occur without a full verb: Has Jonathan written to you yet?—Yes, he has. (4) They can emphasize the positive, in which case they carry the accent: David may not be there—His mother told he WILL be there. The same properties apply to be as a full verb (Jonathan isn’t tired) and particularly in British English as an alternative to have as a full verb (I haven’t a headache). In the absence of any other auxiliary verb do is introduced for these functions: Leslie didn’t tell Doreen; Did Leslie tell Doreen?: Yes, he did; he DID tell her.

The auxiliary be is used to form, with a following –ing participle, the progressive (is employing, may have been proving) and with a following –ed participle the passive (is employed, may have been proved). The auxiliary have is used with the a following -ed participle to form the perfect (has employed, may have been proved). The modal auxiliaries convey notions such as possibility, obligation, and permission. They are the only verbs not to have a distinctive third-person form in the present: He can/They can contrasts with He is/They are, He has/They have, He sees, They see. Like auxiliary do they are always the first verb in a verb phrase (should have apologized, could be making, did tell) and are followed by the bare infinitive. In standard English, two modal auxiliaries cannot co-occur, but they can in some non-standard varieties, such as Appalachian English, They might could dance.”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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.


Greek fabulist. According to tradition, the author of Aesop’s Fables was a Phrygian slave who probably lived from 620 to 560 BC. It is inferable from Aristotle’s mention of Aesop’s acting as a public defender that he was freed from slavery, and Plutarch’s statement that the Athenians erected a noble statue of him would tend to contradict the tradition that Aesop was deformed. There is little information on Aesop’s life, and several scholars have consequently been led to doubt that he ever existed at all. The earliest extant collections of Aesop’s stories were made by various Greek versifiers and Latin translators, to whose compilations were added tales from Oriental and ancient sources, to form what we now know as Aesop’s Fables. The majority of European fables, including those from La Fontaine, are largely derived from these succinct tales, in which talking animals illustrate human vices, follies, and virtues. Since some of Aesop’s fables have been discovered on Egyptian papyri dating from eight hundred to one thousand years before his time, it cannot be claimed that he was by any means the author of all the fables.”

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

Two Sevens Clash

Two Sevens Clash was the debut album from Culture, the roots reggae band led by Joseph Hill and produced in Kingston, Jamaica, by Joe Gibbs. Its title refers to the date of 7.7.1977—the day when ‘two sevens met’—which the Rastafarian prophet Marcus Garvey predicted would be a day of chaos and apocalypse. As the liner notes of the album read: ‘One day Joseph Hill had a vision, while riding a bus, of 1977 as a year of judgement—when two sevens clash—when past injustices would be avenged. Lyrics and melodies came into his head as he rode, and thus was born the song Two Sevens Clash which became a massive hit in reggae circles both in Jamaica and abroad. The prophecies noted by the lyrics so profoundly captured the imagination of the people that on July 7, 1977—the day when the sevens fully clashed (seventh day, seventh month, seventy-seventh year) a hush descended on Kingston; many people did not go outdoors, shops closed, an air of foreboding and expectation filled the city.’”

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.