Tag Archives: building vocabulary/conceptual knowledge

The Weekly Text, March 5, 2021, Women’s History Month 2021 Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Kate “Ma” Barker

In observance of Women’s History Month 2021, here is a reading on Ma Barker along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

While I understand she is not exactly a feminist icon, this has tended to be relatively high-interest material among the students I’ve served over the years. I expect a phrase from the opening sentence, to wit, that Kate “Ma” Barker was the “…matriarch of a notorious family of midwestern bank robbers” contributes to student interest in this short text. But it might also be that fact that she was “proclaimed a public enemy” and that she and her gang was “the target of a nationwide hunt until the gang was cornered in Florida and gunned down by the FBI.” I know that some kids found fascinating the criminal culture of the Barker family–all four of Mrs. Barker’s apparently half-witted sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur, and Fred, were “in and out of jail for bank robbery, car theft, and other crimes.” Finally, many students who have used these documents, especially young men, found fascinating the life and criminal career (which apparently included, while Karpis resided at Alcatraz Penitentiary, giving guitar lessons to Charles Manson) of Alvin “Creepy” Karpis, a member of the Barker-Karpis Gang, as it became known after Karpis joined forces with the Barkers.

If nothing else, I guess, there is a lot of solid vocabulary in this reading: matriarch, notorious, and proclaim among others. As far as Women’s History is concerned, well, Ma Barker was a woman, and she is unquestionably part of history.

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, February 19, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on George Washington Carver

This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observance of Black History Month 2021, is this reading on George Washington Carver along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Today is the final Friday of Black History Month for this year; on Monday, March 1, this blog turns the corner to Women’s History Month.

Professor Carver is a staple of Black History, and usually observations of him tend to emphasize his interest in the peanut and its infinite varieties. While I don’t want to minimize those accomplishments–I for one would be very interested in knowing what Professor Carver’s recipes have added to the gross domestic product of the United States since their inception–I think it’s important to remember that George Washington Carver was a sophisticated agronomist who understood the need to rotate crops in southern fields so that cotton wouldn’t exhaust the topsoil. Alone, this area of his scholarly career makes Professor Carver an early environmentalist.

And all of this he accomplished while on the faculty of Tuskegee University in Alabama, in the heart of the Jim Crow South. If we White Americans are going to he honest with ourselves, we must stipulate that being a smart Black man in Alabama in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries could be dangerous indeed. For Americans of African descent, subservience and deference were the orders of the day in the Jim Crow South. His commitment to educating poor farmers also would have put him in the crosshairs of, say, the Ku Klux Klan.

So let’s all tip our hats to this great man.

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, February 19, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week III: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Robert Johnson

This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observation of Black History Month 2021, is this reading on Robert Johnson with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

If your students know anything about Robert Johnson, it is probably the legend that surrounds his acquisition of his breathtaking facility in playing the guitar: to wit, that he made a deal with the devil himself. In exchange for endowing Robert Johnson with preternatural ability in playing the guitar, the devil took ownership of Robert Johnson’s soul. This has been the stuff of popular culture for a long time, and I’ll cite Walter Hill’s 1986 film Crossroads–a title derived from one of Mr. Johnson’s best-known songs, made a rock-and-roll standard by the British trio Cream–as a conspicuous example. The number of guitarists Robert Johnson inspired is as impossible to overstate as the influence of his songs in American popular music over the years.

Put another way, this is probably very high-interest material for some students. If you want to consider the role of Papa Legba in Robert Johnson’s crossroads story, you and your student very likely have the makings of a synthetic research paper. There are, in the final analysis, West African cultural touchstones behind the story of Robert Johnson’s encounter with the devil at the crossroads.

Incidentally, the great music writer Robert Palmer, in his book Deep Blues, reported that Robert Johnson was given an “ice course.” i.e. a glass of poisoned whiskey, by a jealous husband in a rural juke joint. You probably won’t be surprised that there is a lot of speculation on this floating around on the Internet. As the headline to one of these articles rightly puts it, “The only solid fact about Robert Johnson is his music….” Which, in fact, is a pretty good place to start in writing about this towering figure in American culture.

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, February 12, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week II: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Hank Aaron

This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observation of Black History Month 2021,  is a reading on Hank Aaron and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

This is one of the very first of these document sets I prepared, and it includes a short numeracy exercise on Mr. Aaron’s statistics. As you surely know, we lost Mr. Aaron on January 22 of this year, just a couple of weeks shy of his eighty-seventy birthday. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time in my life when Hank Aaron wasn’t someone I thought about on a regular basis.

If you or your students are interested in Mr. Aaron, stay tuned; I plan to exhaust my storehouse of material on him before Black History Month 2021 is over.

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, February 5, 2020, Black History Month 2021 Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Huey P. Newton

Here, for the first Weekly Text in observance of Black History Month 2021, is a reading on Huey P. Newton along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

In the mid-1970s, among my crowd in high school, Huey P. Newton was a bona fide hero. He co-founded, with Bobby Seale (another of our heroes), the Black Panther Party, (a heroic organization), which among many other things, fed breakfast to impoverished children and challenged the kind of police brutality that brings us events like the patently racist and sadistic murder of George Floyd in 2020.

It’s quite possible that your students may know Huey’s name. A panoply of rappers, including Tupac Shakur, Dead Prez, The Flobots, Public Enemy, Ab-Soul, Buddy and A$AP Ferg, and the great Kendrick Lamar have alluded to Huey in their rhymes. Pop artists like St. Vincent, Ramshackle Glory, Bhi Bhiman, and the Boo Radleys have also mentioned Huey in their songs. The character of Huey Freeman in Aaron McGruder’s brilliant comic strip and television show The Boondocks, a favorite of many students I’ve served over the years, is named for Huey P. Newton.

My own personal favorite pop-culture reference to Huey occurs in the 1979 film Richard Pryor: Live in Concertwhich Eddie Murphy regards as the greatest stand-up comedy performance ever captured on film. At the 1:06:54 mark (thanks to Wikipedia for that) of Mr. Pryor’s performance, he calls out to raise the house lights and introduces the audience to Huey P. Newton–who, alas, does not appear on camera.

Finally, I found Spike Lee’s production of Roger Guenveur Smith’s celebrated solo performance in A Huey P. Newton Story to be utterly riveting. Mr. Smith uncannily captures Huey’s deep intellect and abiding compassion, but also his essential shyness and even diffidence. I highly recommend this film.

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.

A Lesson Plan on Cooking Conversions from The Order of Things

This week’s Text is a lesson plan on cooking conversions from The Order of Things. This worksheet with a list as a reading and several comprehension questions (with room to add several more in this Microsoft Word-formatted open source, easily manipulable document) is the principal reading and writing work of the 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.

The Holocaust

I’m not proud of the fact that somehow that it nearly escaped my notice that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On January 27, 1945, the Red Army, conducting the Vistula-Oder Offensive, fought its way through eastern Poland and along the way liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp. In a time when Holocaust denial is actually taken seriously, and white supremacist thugs storm the United States capitol wearing “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirts, now is the time to make sure young people understand this depraved moment in history.

So here is a reading on the Holocaust and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet in observance and remembrance of this civilizational catastrophe.

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.

Common Errors in English Usage: Perspective (n), Prospective (adj)

Here is a worksheet on sorting out the use of the noun perspective and the adjective prospective. These are a couple of words worth knowing and being able to use properly–especially for high school seniors who are in the process of becoming prospective students at post-secondary institutions. Incidentally, since these are very near homophones, and may indeed sound like homophones to English language learners, I’ve tagged this post as such.

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.

Leo Tolstoy

Here is a reading on Leo Tolstoy and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Do high school students read Tolstoy–or any of the big Russian authors, for that matter? I prepared these documents last week after a high school chum of mine mentioned in correspondence that he’d read Anna Karenina at our high school. Ours was a somewhat unusual (and unusually small) school, but not that far out of the mainstream–though I did read Richard Brautigan for the first time there.

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, January 22, 2021: A Lesson Plan on the Predicate Adjective

It’s an important syntactical structure and area of English usage, so I have written several lessons on the predicate adjective; I want students to have this sentence structure and its parts, especially linking verbs, down cold. So, this week’s Text is yet another lesson plan on the predicate adjective.

I open this lesson with this worksheet on the Latinism N.B., or nota bene. The first time I saw this abbreviation on a piece of my Russian language homework in college, I looked it up and mastered its use. It is a phrase students ought to know. This is the scaffolded worksheet on using the predicate adjectives at the center of the lesson, and here is the teacher’s copy of the worksheet for ease of teaching this lesson.

There are two learning supports (ultimately, I’d plan to make four, for, again, scaffolded teaching and learning). The first one is organized to provide extra support for students who need it; the second one is less organized and structured and therefore places greater demand on heuristics and the ability to search for just the right word.

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.