Tag Archives: high interest materials

The Weekly Text, February 15, 2019

When I first began work in Lower Manhattan in 2008, for the first time in my career, I worked with students who were reading—decoding and comprehending—at grade level or very close to it. The primary challenge to serving these students revolved around the issues of interest and choice; they could read, they simply chose not to because they were completely uninterested in the material assigned them.

Back then, there was a Borders bookstore just east of the school in which I worked on Trinity Place, over on Broadway, right across from Trinity Church. I often found myself there during my lunch break. In the course of my browsing, it occurred to me that I might be able to co-opt kids into reading by supplying them with high interest articles from what looked like the two leading Hip-Hop magazines of the day, to wit XXL and Vibe. I say “looked like” because these two periodicals, while ostensibly about Hip-Hop music, also contained a number of features of interest to young, inner-city residents. Not only that, but the prose was really first-rate.

And bingo! Students who had theretofore been failing English began to read articles and submit—completed!—the comprehension worksheets I wrote to attend them.

Still, I knew these assignments ultimately would suffer from expiration dates. As I mentioned in a blog post a year or so ago, I remember the time before Hip-Hop was part of popular music’s landscape. That means, of course, that I have seen a lot of rappers come and go. So, it was only a matter of time before these readings and worksheets became obsolete. While students may know who 50 Cent is, but as far as they’re concerned, he is not as au courant as whoever is the newest and flashiest star in the Hip-Hop firmament.

Like many rappers (I ask again, how many people remember Kool Moe Dee, a rapper I really liked in the 1980s), Borders was a casualty of time and circumstance—in its case, the 2008 economic collapse that took the bookseller, like electronics superstore chain Circuit City—down the drain. Over time, I’ve disposed of all the materials I accumulated after students began, once again, turning up their noses at those articles and worksheets. Vibe appears to have survived the transition to digital media,  as did  XXL. I just haven’t the time to keep up with the always rapidly changing rises and falls of stars in Hip-Hop.

However, I did keep one article, Jay-Z’s resume, because I understood that it had value as a well-constructed example of such a document. Moreover, across time, it became clear that unlike many rappers, (and his resume tends to affirm this, I think), Jay-Z is a permanent part of the global cultural landscape. So here is a PDF of Jay-Z’s resume scanned directly from the pages of  Vibe (and the hyperlink at the beginning of this paragraph is a web page with a better reproduction of the document). If you think it might be easier to use, you might consider sacrificing some authenticity an use this typescript of Jay-Z’s resume I prepared, in Word format. I sought to keep the fonts and formatting consistent while assembling a graphically presentable and readable document.

For both teachers and students, I also prepared this glossary of key words used in the document. Finally, here are two comprehension worksheets to attend these documents.

You’ll notice, as of this writing, that no lesson plans or do-nows accompany these materials. I have a lesson plan template made and a few preliminary questions formulated, but this work, without a lesson plan, remains incomplete. As a rule, indeed, a relatively rigid one here at Mark’s Text Terminal, I don’t like to post incomplete work. I do so now because Jay-Z has been in the news a good deal lately for a variety of things–primarily political stances–and I think students should know what self- and community advocacy look like. If you use this material, check back here occasionally for an addendum that will render the assembled document an complete lesson plan.

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.

 

Lorraine Hansberry

When I lived in The Bronx I would occasionally get off the 2 or the 5 train to at West Farms Square-East Tremont Avenue to look at the Manhattan skyline. Just below and to the east and south of that very high station, sits the Lorraine Hansberry School. In the past couple of years, some new high-rise apartment buildings have gone up there, so the view is now obscured. But the school remains, thank goodness.

Lorraine Hansberry has crossed my radar screen several times recently: she was the subject of a PBS American Masters series, and she is featured prominently in Raoul Peck’s superlative documentary, James Baldwin: I Am Not Your Negro. Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin were great friends, and her early death was a great tragedy for him, and for the theater.

Here, hot off the press, is a reading on playwright Lorraine Hansberry and its attendant 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.

The Weekly Text, February 8, 2019

OK, for the second Friday of Black History Month 2019, here is a high-interest reading on seminal Hip-Hop group Public Enemy and the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it.

Years ago, I set out to write a reading and writing unit on the History of Hip-Hop, starting from a pithy remark Chuck D made to characterize Hip-Hop, to wit that the musical genre in its manifestations was “CNN for Black people.” Even though the seriously alienated students in whose service I contrived this material took great interest in it, the principal of the school forbade me from teaching it. I have yet to revisit that material and take it further, as I have no reason to think any of the principals I’ve worked for since would have allowed me to present this high-interest, differentiated material.

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.

Miles Davis and Fusion Jazz

When I was in high school, one of the ways one exercised one’s will to power was to possess more, and deeper, cultural knowledge. This was particularly true of music. The more obscure and unlistenable prog-rock band and recordings one could find, the more social capital one possessed. I won’t bore you with the details of this; if I mentioned the names of some of these rock groups, you almost certainly wouldn’t know them. That’s how arcane this knowledge was and is, and how ephemeral and transient the music turned out to be.

That was never true, however, of one of the masterpiece albums a friend of mine played for me when I was about 16. Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew is simply a seminal album: it broke new ground, and still sounds fresh and innovative today. It also gave rise to a new genre of music–jazz fusion, or fusion jazz–depending on which word one wants modifying the other.

Here is a reading on Miles Davis’ invention of and contributions to fusion jazz with a vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet to accompany it. I’ve found students with even a modest interest in music find this material interesting.

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.

Richard Pryor

OK, here, on an seasonably warm morning (34 degrees at 4:25 AM in Massachusetts) is a reading on the late, great, Richard Pryor and its attendant 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.

Crime and Puzzlement: A Matter of Diamonds

Ok, dawn just arrived here in the Northeast. I seem to be getting away with it so far, so let me offer up another lesson plan on the Crime and Puzzlement case A Matter of Diamonds. I open this one with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the noun phrase and concept of pecking order. You’ll need the illustration, text, and questions for the case, which I’ve scanned directly from the book. Finally, here is teacher’s copy and answer key to solve the case.

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.

Looney Tunes

Their characters are American icons at this point, and people (well, at least I do) still watch them, so here is a reading on Looney Tunes and its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. For some reason, it still surprises me that this particular reading is of very high interest to students. In the ten years I’ve used this material in the classroom, kids regularly ask for 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.