Category Archives: The Weekly Text

The Weekly Text from Mark’s Text Terminal is where one finds manipulable (because they are in Microsoft Word format) curricular materials for use withs struggling learners.

On Parent/Teacher Conferences

“Teachers who act as if they have something to learn as well as something to contribute, establish better learning relationships with students and parents.”

Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan What’s Worth Fighting for Out There? (1998)

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

The Weekly Text, December 8, 2017

For the past couple of years, I’ve strived to conceive of a unit or two on argumentation. It has turned out to be a complicated and tricky endeavor, and I remain in struggle with several issues in its conception and execution: first and foremost, for whom am I writing this? Argumentation involves a high degree of abstraction, which is hard to adapt and differentiate, yet I have a duty to my students who struggle. Is this philosophical work in logic and epistemology, or an English Language Arts unit on rhetoric? What is the difference between a thesis and an argument? How does one postulate a thesis? How does the process of argumentation proceed? What logical progression should the lessons in a unit on argumentation follow?

This year, I am finally writing this unit. I wish I could tell you it is going smoothly, but I continue to wrestle with a lot of the issues set out above. Furthermore, despite an extensive search for books on teaching argumentation to high school students, I’ve tended to turn up either highly technical books (Stephen Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument) or relatively tedious and superficial manuals like George Hillocks’ Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12, which I found a complete waste of my time.

My fingers began typing the cliche “In the end” to begin this paragraph. However, I instantly realized that I am nowhere near the end of thinking about the issues involved in planning this kind of instruction. In fact, I expect that I’ll continue to work at these materials, either revising them, or adapting and differentiating them, for years to come.

For the moment, however, I have decided that the first unit (of two planned) will be on the rhetoric of argumentation. Fortunately, there is an excellent book to inform the materials I’m developing, namely Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. The authors supply an assortment of rhetorical templates that students may use–either directly in their own writing, or as guides to developing their own rhetorical moves in the kinds of papers high school and college classes require them to write.

In any case, one of the first things I noticed as I began teaching argumentation was–and is, alas–that students didn’t understand the difference between an argument and a quarrel. I knew I needed to begin by resolving that confusion.

That said, the first lesson in Unit 1 of Arguing Your Case (as I am calling these two units) is designed simply to help students differentiate between arguments and quarrels. Here is the lesson plan for differentiating between quarrels and arguments. I begin all my lessons, to ease the transition between classes, with a do-now exercise. For this lesson, you might want to use (since with any work on argumentation, we endeavor to endow our students with the skills to participate in academic discourse–which is what they do in most if not all of the papers they write) this context clues worksheet on the noun discourse. The mainstay of the lesson is this worksheet on distinguishing between quarrels and arguments. Finally, you might find useful 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, December 1, 2017

For English language learners, and Early Catastrophe Kids, I suppose, one of the trickiest things about the English language is its large roster of polysemous words. This is something I’ve become interested in, and have begun to develop some worksheets whose aim is to help students understand both the theory and practice of polysemous words.

So, for this week’s Text, I offer three context clues worksheets on the word frontier used as a noun. The word can also be used as an adjective (frontier settlement); it’s probably easier for students to understand frontier as a noun in its meaning as a region that forms the margin of settled or developed territory (Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition (Kindle Locations 163921-163922). Merriam-Webster, Inc.. Kindle Edition) when teaching it as an adjective in the sense limned above. However, this word has three meanings that are closely, but not exactly, connected. Frontier may be as good a place as any to begin helping students develop their own understanding of polysemy.

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 22, 2017

The minute I viewed, as a middle school student, Alain Resnais’s short but magisterial film on the Holocaust, Night and Fog (there is a lesson plan for this film elsewhere on this blog–a simple search from the home page will take you to it) I became interested, perhaps obsessed, with authoritarian political movements. As an undergraduate, I studied their manifestations in Russia; I ended up writing my honors thesis on the brewing miasma of authoritarian politicians in Russia.

Along the way, I became aware of the difficulty of any one definition of fascism. For my money, the late Professor George Mosse of the University of Wisconsin remains the best expositor and chronicler of fascism, if only because he insisted on talking about this abstract noun in the plural. There isn’t any one fascism, Mosse averred, but several. So I am circumspect about any reading claiming to be the last word on this political movement.

That said, I think this reading on fascism from the Intellectual Devotional’s Modern Culture volume is a perfect introduction to the basic elements of fascism, as well as a nice chronicle of its exponents. Here is a reading comprehension worksheet to accompany it.

Happy Thanksgiving! I’m posting this on the Wednesday before so that I may enjoy four computer-free days over the break.

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.

Rotten Rejections: The Good Earth

(The genius of publishing executives is on full display here, mainly owing to the fact that Pearl S. Buck’s novel The Good Earth would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize. Furthermore, the Nobel Committee saw fit to award Ms. Buck its prize for literature in 1938, six years after The Good Earth was published.)

“Regret the American public is not interested in anything on China.”

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

The Weekly Text, November 17, 2017

This week’s Text continues with the parts of speech, to wit a complete lesson plan introducing students to the use of conjunctions. To begin this lesson, I use this homophone worksheet on the adjective bare, along with bear as both a noun and a verb. The mainstay of this lesson is a scaffolded worksheet on coordinating conjunctions. Your students might benefit from the use of this learning support on the use of conjunctions. 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, November 10, 2017

Last Wednesday, I fell down with a fever that persisted for three days. This prevented me from posting a Weekly Text on Friday; I’m pleased to return this week with a complete lesson plan on using nouns as subjective complements. When I teach this lesson I begin with this short exercise on the homophones compliment and complement. The mainstay of this lesson is this scaffolded worksheet on using nouns as complements. Here is a learning support to aid students in the labors on this lesson. Finally, you might find useful the teachers’ copy of the worksheet.

That’s it. Now I must return to cleaning up the mess that accumulated in my absence. I hope you have much-deserved, relaxing weekend.

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.