Category Archives: Worksheets

Classroom documents for student use. Most are structured and scaffolded, and most are pitched at a fundamental level in terms of the questions they ask and the work and understandings they require of students.

Cultural Literacy: Emperor Hirohito

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Emperor Hirohito, the longest-lived and longest-reigning Japanese emperor and one of the longest-reigning monarchs in the history of the world.

Emperor Showa, as he is now known in Japan, ascended to the throne on Christmas Day, 1926. He sat on the throne, therefore, during Japan’s imperial expansion, the nation’s militarism in the 1930s, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and, of course, the “Day of Infamy,” the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In other words, he was culpable in the acts that drew the United States into World War II. He was also culpable, then, in Japanese war crimes during that conflict as well. However, the degree of his culpability appears to be subject of intense and ongoing scholarly debate.

So he presents an interesting case study in war crimes, guilt, culpability and historical memory among other concepts and topics.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Hagia Sophia

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Hagia Sophia, an august building which has actually been in the news recently.

Hagia Sophia rose in late antiquity, the year 537 to be exact, as the patriarchal cathedral of the city of Constantinople and one of the centers of the Eastern Orthodox Church. After Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, Hagia Sophia became, for nearly 500 years, a mosque in the rechristened city of Istanbul. In 1935, the secular Turkish Republic converted it to a museum. In 1985, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), added Hagia Sophia to its list of World Heritage Sites.

Just last year, Turkish authorities decided to convert Hagia Sophia back to a working mosque. As you might imagine, this was controversial: UNESCO announced that it “deeply regretted” this move; The Orthodox Church petitioned the United Nations to intervene and prevent Turkey from attempting to “erase the cultural heritage of Orthodox Christians.” Christians in Turkey fear marginalization–not exactly a new source of anxiety in this part of the world, but clearly not desirable if one wishes to avoid, say, religious strife.

So, this full-page worksheet (five questions) introduces a torn-from-the-headlines story that makes the history of this fraught building relevant to students, and a source of thought and discussion about a wide range of concepts and topics, including monotheism, paganism, Christianity and Islam, religious strife, conflicts rooted in philosophy, religion, and ideology, winners and losers in conflict, and nationalism, to name a few.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Black Hole of Calcutta

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Black Hole of Calcutta–a topic which fascinated me as a kid.

In fact, I think we kids used a potential stay in the Black Hole of Calcutta, or its equivalent on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin, as a deterrent to misbehavior. In other words, one had better not commit pranks on Halloween night lest one end up cast into the Black Hole of Calcutta. I may have gotten onto the Black Hole while reading through the reams of Classics Illustrated Comics my father accumulated as a child, then conveyed to me. But it was part of the lingua franca of my crowd, so we may have also gotten onto it by way of cartoons, or something else.

We probably assumed it was a mythological place. As it happens, the Black Hole was in Fort William, in Calcutta. The British East India Company (which if memory serves, the CUNY–John Jay College of Criminal Justice, to be exact–historian Mike Wallace, characterized as “Wal-Mart with Guns” in Ric Burns’ magisterial eight-part documentary series on New York City) built Fort Williams to protect its trade in India. In other words, a colonial, mercantilist endeavor designed to enrich England at the expense of India.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Indochina

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Indochina, which is a region rather than a nation. It’s not a word much heard anymore. When I was a child in the 1960s, however, as the Vietnam War escalated and raged, it was a fairly commonly heard locution.

The term was coined by one Conrad Malte-Brun in the early nineteenth century as a way of emphasizing the influence (as you can hear in the word itself) of Chinese and Indian culture in Mainland Southeast Asia. Later, the modifier French was added to give us French Indochina, obviously a reflection of France’s colonial presence in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In other words, this is a term invented by Europeans to describe several distinct ethnicities and cultures–another Orientalist trope.

If you find typos in this document, 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, May 7, 2021, Asian-Pacific Heritage Month Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Mao Zedong

This week’s Text, in observation of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month 2021, is a reading on Mao Zedong along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

His image, when I was in high school, was instantly recognizable–though I must stipulate that I ran with a crowd that tended to have his one of his various complimentary portraits displayed. Back then, and perhaps now, he was a demigod a certain sort of political aficionado–the forgiving sort, to be sure. While Mao is unquestionably a world-historical figure, his balance sheet tips toward liability, especially in the light of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward. If one considers the Chinese Annexation of Tibet and its subsequent corollary, the Sinicization of that nation, Mao emerges, in terms of both domestic policy and statecraft, as an unmitigated disaster.

One could plan on unit on Mao and use it to examine a number of conceptual processes of history, including, war, revolution, peace, types of tyranny, utopias and their drawbacks and downfalls, the individual and the collective, political theory and practice, free and regulated markets, capitalism and communism–well, this list could go on at some length.

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.

Cultural Literacy: Chiang Kai-shek

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Chiang Kai-shek, the Generalissimo, as he was known for his service to the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.

Like Mao Zedong (of which more tomorrow), Chiang is a controversial figure. His record of imposing the White Terror on the island of Taiwan says quite a lot about him, I think. 38 years is a long run of martial law by any standard I recognize. The Kuomintang, known for its excesses, used anxiety about the Chinese Communist Party to sustain oppression of political opposition across the period of the White Terror. As in most tyrannies, one example serves to illustrate the absurdity of the oppression, to wit the case of Bo Yang, who made the mistake of translating a Popeye cartoon in a way that didn’t conform to the Kuomintang political orthodoxy.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Brahmins

OK, on a rainy morning, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Brahmin caste in India.

I don’t know how your school or district handles global studies, or world history, or whatever it calls a social studies survey course on world history, but in New York City we took a thorough, two-year excursion through the seven continents, the four oceans, and the seven seas. One social studies teacher with whom I co-taught did a very nice job of exposing and examining the caste system in India–and by implication, in the United States.

In any case, as the short reading on this half-page worksheets explains, the proper noun Brahmin has entered the English language as a descriptor of a wealthy and/or eminent person. If nothing else, the three questions on this document will lead students toward that understanding, thereby building their vocabularies.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Azerbaijan

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Azerbaijan. This is a full-page worksheet with seven questions, so it has utility beyond the classroom do-now exercises for which most of the Cultural Literacy materials on this blog were meant to serve.

Why would a teacher need such a thing? I don’t know that one would. On the other hand, the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies between Azerbaijan and Armenia, is contested territory that has produced armed conflict between these two nations. As the Soviet Union was dismantling itself and falling apart simultaneously at the same time in the late 1980s and 1990s, a number of ethnic and territorial conflicts, long suppressed by the Pax Sovietica, flared up not only across the Union, but in Eastern European lands controlled by the Soviet Empire as well. The atrocious dissolution of Yugoslavia is but one example of this dynamic at work in the post-Soviet world.

Another is the the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. I remember following events there all through the late ’80s and early ’90s and especially in the latter period, when I was actively engaged as an undergraduate in a program of Russian and Soviet Studies. Like events in Yugoslavia, the first conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh included war crimes and genocide (clothed, as it was in Yugoslavia, in the revealingly clumsy euphemism “ethnic cleansing”). I understood that the 1994 ceasefire didn’t guarantee peace in the region; it only meant that after six years of internecine ethnic violence, the combatants had temporarily exhausted themselves.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear that on September 27, 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, hostilities between these two former Soviet republics had once again flared. Like the first war, evidence of atrocities surfaced. This time, Vladimir Putin was involved in the ceasefire agreement.Now 2,000 Russian troops  are deployed as a peacekeeping force in the contested territory. In fact, Nagorno-Karabakh, as I understand it, remains disputed, so the world may well see more fighting in the area.

Needless to say, this situation opens up a lot of space for conceptual instruction. Students can see in this, with the right materials and teaching, ancient ethnic hostilities, conflict resolution, the real political and diplomatic consequences of the dissolution of empires, war crimes as military strategy (which connects to ancient ethnic enmities), and a host of other topics in the social sciences. A unit on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict would help students to grind their own lens, so to speak, for understanding ancient enmities between nationalities, and how ethnic and territorial conflict, and the issues that drive them, persist in the world. While analysts–and both sides in the conflict, interestingly–appear reluctant to characterize the wars in Nagorno-Karabakh as religious, it does look like there has been friction between Armenian Christians and Azeri Muslims for centuries. In other words, another go-to source for mutual self-destruction to which humans have turned since time immemorial (or at least since formally organized religions have existed) and an important conceptual framework for high school students to understand.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Indira Gandhi

For the first day of the observation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021 at Mark’s Text Terminal, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Indira Gandhi. This blog will feature materials related to Asian culture, geography, politics, and personalities for the entire month of May.

By any measure, Americans of Asian Pacific descent have experienced a difficult year. At the beginning of 2020, on January 23 to be exact, the Museum of Chinese in America suffered a fire in its building at 70 Mulberry Street in Chinatown in Lower Manhattan. Fortunately, the original estimates of the devastation proved to be overestimated, and the Museum is on the mend. I attended a professional development day at the Museum several years ago. It was one of the best of such things, a twice-yearly obligation of employees of the New York City Department of Education, that I had the good fortune to encounter. Godspeed to the good people at MOCA in restoring the museum to its original state.

Unless you live in a cave, you are no doubt aware of the rising anti-Asian bigotry in the United States. This has prompted a long overdue public discourse on racism towards Asian-Americans. I particularly appreciate the inimitable Ronny Chieng’s takedown, from way back in 2016 but which has lately been trending on YouTube, of Fox News bro Jesse Watters, who visited Chinatown in that year to “report” for the execrable Bill O’Reilly show. The work of Asian feminists who are speaking frankly about the cultural and political history of fetishizing Asian women, another long overdue discussion, arrives at a propitious moment; maybe these thinkers will forge change in this area of our public life. I’d like to think that making an understanding of the term “Orientalist tropesde rigueur for high school students before they graduate from our secondary institutions might take us some distance toward recognizing this problem in our society.

I lay the blame for much of the rising anti-Asian violence on the last president of the United States, a man who wore his bigotry on his sleeve throughout the benighted four years he malingered in the White House. Calling a virus–and the last time I talked with my friends in the academic and professional genomics community about this, they assured me that viruses, unlike humans, have no ethnicity–the “Kung Flu” is an obvious slur, intended, it appears, to bait the kind of bigots who immediately began parroting it. Likewise, COVID, caused by a coronavirus, is not a “Chinese Virus,” though that particular lie and slur has contributed to violence against Americans of Asian descent. The president bought himself a mendacious Barbie doll who stepped up to defend him and his trashy mouth. Even NBC News, not exactly an institution of the woke left, spoke up on the president’s appalling rhetoric.

Man, I am glad he is gone. I’ll stipulate that anti-Asian racism has a long and sordid history in the United States, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the World War II internment of the Nisei, to our current ugly moment. But for a president to rile up his or her followers with racist slurs? Well, if you can defend that, I’d like to hear why. Actually, on second thought, never mind. Everyday life offers up a smorgasbord of degrading ignorance and stupidity; I don’t need to go looking for it.

Finally, my sympathies–which I understand is more or less useless–to Americans of Asian descent everywhere. And my deepest condolences to the friends and families to the victims of the Atlanta Massacre. The perpetrator, by the way, was a professing Christian (how that works escapes me) who I don’t doubt for a minute was motivated by the racist, anti-Asian rhetoric that is clearly au courant in the United States.

If you find typos in this document, 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, April 30, 2021: A Lesson Plan on the Relative Pronouns

This week’s Text is a lesson plan on the relative pronoun. I open this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on limericks; in the event that you extend the lesson into a second day, here is an Everyday Edit worksheet on Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights jurist and Supreme Court Justice. (Incidentally, if your students respond favorably to that Everyday Edit–mine generally did–you will find that the good people at Education World give away a yearlong supply of them.) This scaffolded worksheet on relative pronouns is the principal work of this lesson. Finally, here is the teacher’s copy of the worksheet to ease delivering this lesson.

The relative pronouns in common use are who, whom, whose, what, which, that, and the –ever forms: whoever, whatever, whichever, and whomever, and they are what this lesson addresses. So, if you want your students to develop an understanding of using these words, I hope these documents abet that cause.

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.