Tag Archives: Black History

Historical Term: Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism: Movement originating in the West Indies which takes its name from Ras (a term of respect in Africa) Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975) crowned Emperor of Ethiopia with the title Haile Selassie in 1930. Haile Selassie has a mystical role in the cult as has Ethiopia itself: as the one part of African that was never colonized, it is seen as the spiritual home of the black man. Life in the West Indies or in Britain is seen as time in Babylon by analogy with the sufferings of the Israelites as slaves in exile.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

Book of Answers: Zora Neale Hurston

“What did Zora Neale Hurston do before becoming a novelist? Hurston was a folklorist who studied with anthropologist Franz Boas at Barnard College. In Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938), she compiled black traditions of the South and the Caribbean. Her novels include Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Blog Post 2000!

I started this blog in 2015, mostly because I found serious discourse about students, teaching, learning, and curriculum in the school in which I served at the time left a great deal to be desired. In the first three years I maintained this site, in other words up to July of 2018, I published 1,000 posts. Since last July, I have published 1,000 more. I’m not sure how I did it, but here we are.

What I do know is this: when I feel dissatisfied with the professional environment in which I am working, I tend to use these pages as an outlet for my professional curiosity and, yes, I suppose, ambition. If I am to be honest, I also turn to this blog, as I once did to personal journals, when I am anxious.

Last November, I made the grievous mistake of accepting the position of “literacy interventionist” (I don’t speak or read bureaucratese; if I did, that position title would have been a dead giveaway for what came next) in an utter disaster of a school, the High School of Commerce, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Starting from my first day of work, when the principal who hired me was absent, and had left no word with her subordinates–or anyone, really–that I would arrive, I have been both professionally dissatisfied and anxious: the former because this school is a place where professionalism and engagement are pretty much subordinated to mindless personal ambition; the latter because I am concerned, as I have been similarly concerned in the past when working in troubled schools led by less than competent principals who can destroy a teacher’s career with their own incompetence, that I had inadvertently put my career at risk.

So, you can see why I produced 1,000 posts this year. I am in the last part of my working life, and at this point I just want to work in a school whose administration and faculty doesn’t see children as abstractions, as data points on a graph, to advance their own careers. I became a teacher to help kids, not play power games and office politics.

In any case, here we are at Blog Post 2000. I have a number of documents to post, all from the first third of my career, when I was just figuring out how to assess students’ abilities and design instruction that challenged them, but didn’t frustrate them.

So, for starters, here is a learning support on the kinds of questions that drive research projects.

Next, here is a learning support on writing notecards for research papers. I don’t know if teachers still require students to keep analog note-cards in the real world, but the social studies teacher with whom I taught sophomore global studies in Manhattan at the beginning of this (2018-2019) school year still–to his credit–required them. Whatever you do in your classroom, perhaps this structured note-card blank will help students learn and master this task essential to the craft of research.

This sample outline learning support and this style sheet on using structured outlining blanks, you will notice, are basically the same material. The style sheet accompanies these structured outlining blanks.

Finally, here is a document I call the research paper in miniature. I use this document to show students, in essence, what a research paper is, why the authors of these kinds of papers must cite sources, and even ask them to infer the argument (i.e. the origins of rock and roll are in the blues and other African musical forms) from the paragraph they read. As I write this, I realize that I have a lesson plan to rationalize the research paper in miniature, so I’ll post that as a Weekly Text sometime over the summer when I have a chance to revise it.

That’s it. I emptied out the folder for Blog Post 2000. Now to start working on my next thousand posts.

Bessie Smith

It’s finally starting to feel like spring in New England, for which I am grateful. In celebration of spring, and of Women’s History Month 2019, here is a reading on Bessie Smith, the justly named “Empress of the Blues,”  with an accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension 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.


(1987) A novel by Toni Morrison, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It is the story of a runaway slave whose desperation forces her to slash her infant daughter’s throat with a handsaw rather than see the child in chains. But eighteen years after the child’s death, a young woman appears and the characters believe she is the slain infant returned to earth. Set in the pre- and post-Civil War era outside Cincinnati, Beloved is developed through a series of flashbacks to the Sweet Home Plantation. The main characters are Sethe, the heroine who is literally haunted by the baby daughter she killed; Beloved, the ghost of Sethe’s child; Paul D., a former slave who knew Sethe when they were together at Sweet Home; and Denver, one of Sethe’s other three children.”

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

Everyday Edit: Gwendolyn Brooks

Moving right along with Women’s History Month 2019, here is an Everyday Edit worksheet on Gwendolyn Brooks (and if you like this, the good folks at Education World will give you a yearlong supply of them).

Also, here is a PDF of Ms. Brooks’ linguistically elegant poem “We Real Cool.”


Zora Neale Hurston on Melancholy

“I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”

Zora Neale Hurston

World Tomorrow “How It Feels to be Colored Me”

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.