Tag Archives: building vocabulary

Abstain (vi)

OK, last but not least this morning, here is a context clues worksheet on the verb abstain, which is in fact Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day today. It is only used intransitively, and it is a word students probably ought to know and be able to use.

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: Populism

If there was ever a time where students ought to be receiving rigorous instruction in civic and politics, it’s now. And I don’t mean to say that this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the political philosophy of populism is the solution to that deficit in civics instruction, but it’s a start, especially for struggling learners and emergent readers. If paired with a context clues worksheet on demagoguery, which I’ll write and post tomorrow morning.

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.

Rambunctious (adj)

It was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day yesterday; I found to my surprise that I don’t already have a context clues worksheet on the adjective rambunctious. I don’t think I need to defend this as a word kids ought to know over time. Whether or not it requires a context clues worksheet–this seems like a word that the circumstances of most schools and classrooms offer many opportunities to drop into that most natural of contexts, casual conversation. A teacher could mention, simply in passing, that students’ exuberant behavior is rambunctious. That’s enough with this word, I would think.

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.

James Madison

A few years back, I read several news accounts like this one from CNN that indicated that Americans, particularly those who fancy themselves experts on the subject, know vanishingly little about the United States Constitution

This reading on James Madison and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet will go only a short distance to ameliorate ignorance of the U.S. Constitution, but it will serve as a reasonable introduction to deeper inquiry into this quintessential document from the American Enlightenment

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: Habeas Corpus

As I worked on revising a number of blog posts this morning, I listened to news coverage of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the indecent haste with which our legislative branch moves to replace her.

Now, I think, would be a good time to post this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the legal concept of habeas corpus–an important element of any civil society.

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.

Menagerie (n)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the noun menagerie. If you’re planning a trip to the zoo, that would be a good time to teach students this nice solid noun. In any case, it is a word students ought to know by the time they walk the boards at their graduation ceremony.

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, September 25, 2020: Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 Week II–A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on American Imperialism

This week’s Text–and it may seem odd as an offering for National Hispanic Heritage Month–is this reading on American Imperialism and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. The United States has violated the sovereignty of Latin American nations repeatedly since the early-nineteenth century. This meddling in the affairs of Latin America arguably began with the theology of Manifest Destiny and the foreign policy of the Monroe Doctrine.

Even the easygoing researcher will locate dozens of examples of United States involvement in Latin America. Three are most salient for the purposes of this blog post, mostly for their egregiousness: the 1954 coup in Guatemala that overthrew the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz; ten years later, the 1964 Brazilian coup that toppled the leftist government of Joao Goulart; and, in my own historical memory, the 1973 coup against the democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende. The latter, incidentally, has been extensively documented, with Henry Kissinger’s role in the Chilean coup examined by, among others, the late Christopher Hitchens and, most comprehensively, by the National Security Archive.

Finally, I’ve always found it useful to turn to one of American history’s most famous quotes, from General Smedley D. Butler, on American imperialism:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

(Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier (Port Townshend, Washington: Feral House, 2003.)

Enough said.

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.

Review Essay: Online Learning, with a Cultural Literacy Worksheet and Some Questions on the Last Mile

Online learning was touted as the next big thing in education when I became a teacher in 2003. As it happened, I entered the profession, after abandoning a doctoral candidacy at the University of Wisconsin, via the New York City Teaching Fellows, an alternative certification route contrived to bring new teachers into New York, which is chronically short of teachers.

Fellows in the Program were required to complete a Master’s Degree at an institution to which the Program assigned them. I ended up in what I basically regard as a diploma mill; part of my experience as a graduate student in this institution involved classes conducted partially online. Having spent, by that time, a great deal of time in graduate seminars, I saw the online component as a poor substitute for an actual face-to-face seminar, where one is required to think and communicate extemporaneously–a hallmark of an educated person by any standard I’m prepared to recognize.

So, thinking that online learning was at best laughable, I waited for it to die its richly deserved natural death. It turns out I underestimated the power of commerce over art, of marketing over facts, and of credulity over careful analytical thought. 

Online learning did indeed take off, and brought us, among other things, as one careful blogger has observed, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow Scandal (and if you need more documentation of this large-scale ripoff, you can find it here). One of the reasons I was compelled to leave my teaching job in New York City was this post on the “flipped classroom” I wrote and sent to an assistant principal and his coterie of friends pushing this bad idea at our school; I wrote it at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, and when I returned the following year to a campaign of harassment, I just walked away. I was, I am pleased to say, later vindicated in my assessment of the “flipped classroom.”

The coronavirus pandemic brought online learning back, and I’m sure I don’t need to belabor the fact–to parents or students–that little has improved (if there was indeed anything to improve) in this method of delivering instruction. In fact, I think few people remain who need to be convinced that online learning has been, is, and will remain, a disaster. The news reporting on this fact has been nothing short of a deluge: an Internet search using a phrase like “problems with online learning” will return pretty much all the information you’ll need about the failure of online learning.

Which brings me to this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Last Mile. This is a fairly broadly used term now, but for the purposes of this worksheet, and the thrust of this essay, it refers to the last mile of wire required to bring information at high speeds to households, particularly those in rural areas. The last mile is the most expensive distance to cover where the economics of telecommunications technology and labor is concerned. Because of resistance in wires that carry electrical signals, it is also the hardest to deliver because the signal slows and weakens as it travels along the length–resistance increases along that distance–of the wire conducting it.

So, there are two areas of critical inquiry related to the Last Mile problem. I haven’t written them into the questions on the worksheet above, but since this is a Microsoft Word document, you can alter it as you wish. The first critical issue is the economics and politics of the Internet. As the world becomes more dependent on the Internet, the question arises about its ownership: should the Internet be a public utility, or a public good? Much has been written about data as the new oil–but should it be? This question is urgent as the coronavirus pandemic continues and online learning becomes de rigueur in many places around the world. The Latinism cui bono? (“to whom is it a benefit?”) applies here. Who benefits from the Internet, and who should? I know that my own monthly charge for high-speed internet just went up twenty bucks a month, so I have some sense of who benefits: Comcast. As companies and government agencies transfer their customer service functions to the Internet–and therefore to their customers–and public education moves increasingly online, this question takes on new urgency.

The second critical issue is a science-related question. If you follow science news, you probably know that superconductivity is a perennial area of research and discovery in physics. The question for a student interested in this is simple: what materials will increase conductivity across the Last Mile and make delivery of high speed Internet possible to the most remote locations? Can this be done through the air, as in a 5G cellular data connection, or is wire necessary? The student might also ask, or be asked: What is resistance? What is conductivity? How does one reduce resistance and increase conductivity? Even more: What is an electrical circuit? How does electricity “travel”?

Internet access has been a big problem for some families here in rural Vermont. There is very little competition (if any in some markets) among internet service providers, so in general there is very little motivation to make high speed internet access available in remote locations. This has, of course, impeded students’ educational progress. So the big question here, to my mind, is this: How far do we let corporations control something like the Internet that has become an essential part–especially during this pandemic–of our lives?

Enough said. I’m not sure how this simple blog post turned into this prolix slog. 

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.

Andy Warhol

We’ve had early frosts in Vermont. According to Vermont Public Radio’s excellent weather service, “An Eye on the Sky,” these are some of the earliest killing frosts in this state in decades.

All of this is the long way around to say that while I wait for the air to warm this morning before I go out on my constitutional, I’ll take a minute to post this reading on Andy Warhol and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Whatever one thinks of Mr. Warhol or his artistic output, there is no denying his presence and perhaps even his importance 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.

Cultural Literacy: Populist Party

It’s important to remember that Populism is a fairly dense concept and does not refer to either end of the political spectrum that ranges, in our vernacular, from “right” to “left,” or from radical to conservative. Indeed, there can be both right-wing and left-wing populists. As my late, dear, friend Lloyd Mueller use to say, “Populism is the cynical manipulating the stupid.”

So this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Populist Party in the United States doesn’t delve very deeply into the broader subject of Populism. It is a short introduction to one manifestation of Populism in the United States in the nineteenth century. It is, however, an introduction to the concept of Populism; moreover, as a short exercise, it will probably suffice to supply students with the information needed to answer the kind of superficial question about the Populist Party that appears on the standardized tests that  plague teaching, learning, and intelligence.

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.