Tag Archives: fiction and literature

Book of Answers: Alice in Wonderland

“Who was the model for Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Alice Liddell, daughter of Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.”

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


“Modernismo: A literary movement that arose in Spanish America in the late 19th century and was subsequently transmitted to Spain, In their quest for pure poetry, the modernists displayed a dazzling technical virtuosity and technical perfection that revolutionized Spanish literature.

According to some critics, the publication of Jose Marti’s Ismaelillo (1882) marks the beginning of the movement. Others assert that, while Marti exerted enormous influence on Spanish-American writing and thought, his poetry is so individual that he cannot be considered even a precursor of modernism. There is no disagreement, however, as to the dominant role of Ruben Dario, whose work defined and stimulated modernism in America and in Spain. The publication of his Azul (1888) is sometimes said to signify the birth of modernism, and Prosas profanas (1896) is held to show modernism at its zenith. Other early modernist poets (often considered precursors of this movement) were Manuel Gutierrez Najera, Jose Ascuncion Silva, and Julian del Casal, the Cuban. Modernists of the later, post-1896 phase include Leopoldo Lugones, Jose Enrique Rodo, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Jose Santo Chocano, Amado Nervo, and Rufino Blanco Fombona.

In rebellion against romanticism, from which, however, they were not always able to free themselves, the modernists drew their initial inspiration and technique from European, particularly French, sources. From French Parnassians and symbolists, such as Gautier, Coppee, and Verlaine, came their pessimism and melancholy, their belief in art for art’s sake, their zeal for technical excellence and musicality, their love of exotic imagery and a vocabulary in which swans (one of Dario’s favorite symbols), peacocks, gems, and palaces abound. Another distinctive characteristic of the modernists was their unceasing experimentation with old and new verse forms, In their desire to escape from the sordidness of reality, the early modernists usually shunned political and native themes. Their successors, however, inspired no doubt by impassioned verses that Dario hurled at Theodore Roosevelt in his ode to Argentina, turned increasingly to American subjects, as exemplified by Chocano’s Alma America (1906). In prose writing, particularly the essay, modernismo fostered a new simplicity and elegance, the finest examples of which are to be found in the works of Rodo.”

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

The Weekly Text, March 13, 2020: Women’s History Month 2020, Week II–A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Toni Morrison

For Week II of Women’s History Month 2020, here is a reading on Toni Morrison with its 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.

Blog Post No. 3,001: A Trove of Documents for Teaching Stephen King’s Novella “The Body”

In keeping with something resembling a tradition at Mark’s Text Terminal, I am posting this mass of unfinished material as I round the corner to the next thousand posts here.

My first exposure to Stephen King was the film adaptation of his novella “The Body,” which director Rob Reiner rendered as “Stand By Me.” I thought it was a brilliant rite-of-passage story. So when the credits rolled and I noticed that he was the source, I needed to revise upward my opinion of Mr. King: I’d tended to think of him as a pulp novelist working in the horror genre, something he himself would probably own. I’m no stranger to pulp novels; a glance at my Goodreads shelves discloses that I read far too many mystery and thriller novels. Horror really isn’t my thing–I find everyday life plenty scary–so I never read any of Stephen King’s novels. Of course I was aware of his presence in American culture–how could one miss him?

After I began teaching high school students in 2003, I began to think about a unit on “The Body.” There was something about the universality of experience in the story that I thought would appeal to the New York City kids I was teaching–even though the story is set in rural Maine in the late 1950s.. Moreover, I saw a chance to write a comparative unit that incorporated both text and film, with an analysis of each for its strengths and weaknesses. I also wanted to use the story to build vocabulary, procedural knowledge, and a love of reading in the minds of my academic charges.

So, around 2011, I read the story, watched the movie again, and sat down to plan. What follows is the fruit of my labor. As you will quickly perceive, this unit simply got away from me. I tried to do too many things, across too long a span of time, to sustain the dramatic tension of of the story, let alone kids’ attention and interest, let alone following the narrative itself.

After I post all this material, I plan to remove it from my hard drive. Therefore, the only extant copies of it will be here in cyberspace, or perhaps on your own hard drive, should you choose to take this material.

Let’s start with the supporting material. First of all, here is the (incomplete) unit plan. I imagine I planned to use this body of text emendations to fill in lesson plans, but quite possibly the unit plan as well; it looks like something I typed up during a time-wasting faculty meeting, then emailed to myself. Next, here is a list of big exegetical questions I conceived to drive discussions; this too, alas, is incomplete. Finally, for this paragraph, here is the lesson plan template for this unit’s lessons.

Regular readers and users of this blog know that I use a lot of context clues worksheets as a means of building procedural knowledge in reading. Unsurprisingly, then, I had big plans for using them here. At this time, although I didn’t realize it, I was on my way to changing from teaching ten new vocabulary words at a time to one, which is much more appropriate for the struggling learners in whose service I have tended to work. This is the list of vocabulary words, by chapters of the novella, that I planned to teach. Here are the worksheet templates for teaching multiple words in one class session as well as only one word per class session.

Before getting to the lessons themselves, here are a learning support on basic literary terms and a worksheet template for independent practice (i.e. homework).

Now, onto the lessons. The first several are complete, but the majority are not (as I said, this really did get away from me). In the interest of preventing this post from becoming more turgid than it already is, I’ll present this in list form. All the material, lesson plans, do-nows, worksheets, and anything else related to each lesson (in Word, so you may do with them as you wish) will be consolidated into one document for easy downloading and cataloguing. These will be in two sections: finished materials and unfinished materials. Keep in mind that the unfinished materials are really only templates awaiting full development; in fact, as I review the materials, I notice that the only undeveloped part of each lesson is the multiple-word context clues worksheets. As above, I doubt very much those worksheets are even appropriate for this unit, particularly if you are teaching it to struggling learners.

I. Finished Materials

Lesson 1: This lesson deals with the the concept of a rite of passage.

Lesson 2: This lesson introduces students to, or reinforces their understanding of, the concept of metaphor.

Lesson 3: This lesson introduces students to, or reinforces their understanding of, the concept of simile.

Lesson 4: This lesson begins the reading of the novel and is a critical exegesis of chapters 1 and 2.

Lesson 5: This lesson takes students through an analysis of chapters 3 and 4.

Lesson 6: This lesson guides students through an exegesis of lessons 5 and 6.

Lesson 7: Nota bene, please, that although I prepared materials for this lesson, an exegesis of chapter 7, I didn’t actually teach it. It is a story within the story and is of questionable propriety, even for high schoolers. It really does not bear on the narrative, so it can be skipped. If you’ve read this novella, or are planning to teach it, you will definitely understand what I’m circumlocuting here.

Lesson 8: This lesson guides students through a lengthy context clues worksheet and a relatively short exegesis of chapter 9.

Lesson 9: This lesson deals with chapter 10.

Lesson 10: This lesson guides students through an analysis of chapter 11.

Lesson 11: Students will perform an an exegesis of chapter 12 in this lesson.

Lesson 12: This lesson takes students through a close reading of chapter 13.

II. Unfinished Materials

Here is all the rest of the material I wrote for this unit. Most of it is incomplete and arguably superfluous. But it is work, and someone may have use for it. I assembled as simply–and this the greatest possible brevity–as I could.

Lesson 13 (Chapter 14); Lesson 14 (Chapter 15); Lesson 15 (Chapter 16); Lesson 16 (Chapter 17); Lesson 17 (Chapter 18); Lesson 18 (Chapter 19); Lesson 19 (Chapter 20); Lesson 20 (Chapter 21); Lesson 21 (Chapters 22, 23, 24); Lesson 22 (Chapter 25); Lesson 23 (Chapter 26); Lesson 24 (Chapter 27); Lesson 25 (Chapter 28); Lesson 26 (Chapters 29,30, 31); Lesson 27 (Chapter 32); Lesson 28 (Chapter 33); Lesson 29 (Chapter 34).

That’s it! I avoided looking at this unit for several years out of fear of its quality. As I scrolled through and collated each lesson while preparing this post, I definitely felt that my anxiety was well-founded: most of it is overdeveloped, and yet somehow underdeveloped at the same time, if that is possible. As a unit, it is uneven at best. But I think it has potential as the start of something, or I would not have posted it. If nothing else, it is a pile of text that might be used for a variety of purposes beyond the unit itself.

Finally, I should mention that “The Body” is part of an omnibus called Different Seasons. Three of its four stories have been produced as films: “The Body, “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Apt Pupil.” The fourth story, “The Breathing Method,” I learned while researching this post, will appear as a film this (2020) year. In the course of preparing the foregoing unit on “The Body” I ended up reading all four stories in this collection, and they are all first rate. Pulp novelist or no, I think there is a very good chance Stephen King’s place in American literary history will be as a worthy inheritor of Edgar Allan Poe’s mantle.

If you find typos in these documents, fix them for your own use. The chances that I will have a chance to use this material again, let alone develop it further, are slim to none. I hope you find this material useful. If you use it or develop it further, and are so inclined, please advise. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, January 24, 2019: A Trove of Documents for Teaching Lord of the Flies

On January 6, I published 56 documents for teaching Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart.  In last week’s Text, I published a similar set of documents for teaching Elie Wiesel’s Night.

This week’s Text is a batch of documents for teaching William Golding’s Lord of the FliesI wrote these materials, but never marshalled them into a coherent unit plan, over a two-year period beginning a little over 12 years ago; after that, I never used them again, so it has been about ten years since I laid eyes on this stuff. In any case, let’s get these documents uploaded into this post.

Because I was working in global studies and United States history classrooms at the the same time that I was co-teaching the English class dealing with this novel, I perceived instantly that Golding’s novel was Thomas Hobbes’s “state of nature” nightmare, where life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” For that reason, I asked the English teacher with whom I was teaching to make an explicit connection between Hobbes and Lord of the Flies. To that end, here is a reading on Hobbes and its (extended, you’ll notice, if you’ve previously picked up these things from Mark’s Text Terminal) accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I also wrote, to follow up on students’ understanding of the Hobbesian dystopia depicted in Lord of the Flies, this independent practice worksheet that I suspect I would have assigned at about the middle of the novel. The reading and worksheet above began the unit, I’m quite sure.

Next, here are 12 context clues worksheets–one for each chapter. I’m not sure why I compiled this complete vocabulary list for the novel, let alone kept it around. Perhaps I intended them as a learning support? I just don’t remember. I have learned the hard way not to throw away work, no matter how pointless or useless it appears at second glance, so that explains that document’s presence here.

These 12 comprehension worksheets drive a basic understanding of Lord of the Flies and its allegory.

Finally, here are three quizzes on the novel. You will note that these are numbered 2, 3, and 4. If there was ever a number 1, it is lost to time. Also, these aren’t exactly some of my best work, and may well reflect my contempt for my co-teacher’s (and the administrator under whom we served) insistence on quizzes as an assessment tool. I vastly prefer expository writing–i.e. papers–as a means of assessing understanding.

And that’s it. Every document in this post is in Microsoft Word, so these are documents you can manipulate for your own–and your students’–needs.

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 17, 2020: A Trove of Documents for Teaching Night by Elie Wiesel

Mark’s Text Terminal is undergoing a cleaning of its digital storage locker. A couple of weeks ago I posted a trove of materials for teaching Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart; two weeks hence, I’ll post another cache of documents for teaching William Golding’s Hobbesian nightmare, Lord of the Flies.

This week’s Text is an assortment of documents I wrote between ten and twelve years ago for teaching Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, Night. I’ve not used these materials in ten years, so I am moving them off my hard drive and onto Mark’s Text Terminal for storage–and to offer them to others for their use.

I’ll start by uploading this reading on Night (from the Intellectual Devotional series) and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I’ve definitely posted these documents elsewhere on this website; since they are in this unit’s folder, I’ll include them here because it makes sense to do so.

As I write this post, I realize that when I walked into a new job at the High School of Economics & Finance in Lower Manhattan in the fall of 2008 (exciting times at that moment in the Financial District, as the world economy was about to fall off a cliff on account of worthless mortgage securities peddled fraudulently–and you who did this know who you are), I came into a situation in which my co-teacher, whom I’d not met, was out, and I needed to get some materials together right away to keep busy those young people whose education I was charged with delivering. For that reason, my first move was to write this prelude for group work to furnish kids with some context for understanding the Holocaust, and therefore for understanding Night.

Somewhere in this process I wrote this unit plan, which looks incomplete to me. I also wrote these eight lesson plans, only the first three of which, I regret, are complete. Still, the other five are solid templates, and wouldn’t be hard to finish.

Here are eight context clues worksheets, one for each chapter of Night, along with their eight sets of definitions for your class linguist.

Finally, here are the eight comprehension worksheets I used to guide the reading of the book.

Every document attached to this post is in Microsoft Word, so they are at the disposal of you and your students.

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, May 31, 2019: Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2019, Week V–A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Hindu Epics

Well, we’ve reached the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2019. I’d say May has passed quickly, but I suspect that for most classroom teachers like me, May is, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the cruelest month.

To ring out the month, here is a reading on the Hindu Epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, along with the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that attends it.

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, April 19, 2019: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on John Steinbeck

OK, as we reach the end of spring break (boo hoo!) here is a short reading on John Steinbeck and the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it.

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, March 29, 2019: Women’s History Month 2019 Week V–A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on J.K. Rowling

Today marks the end, on Mark’s Text Terminal, of Women’s History Month 2019. When I return on Monday, it will be April Fool’s Day. Here is a reading on J.K. Rowling and its attendant vocabulary building and comprehension worksheet.

I would think this is high interest material, as Ms. Rowling and her books remain interesting to kids.

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: Salman Rushdie

On this Thursday morning, Mark’s Text Terminal offers you this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Salman Rushdie.

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.