Tag Archives: high-interest materials

Wright Brothers

Here is a reading on the Wright Brothers along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Over the years, several students I’ve served were highly interested in aeronautics and aviation, so I’ve tagged these documents as high-interest 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.

The Weekly Text, April 2, 2021: A Lesson Plan on the Crime and Puzzlement Case “Picture Gallery”

Since they continue as some of the most downloaded items on Mark’s Text Terminal, here is another case from the pages of the Crime and Puzzlement books, this one a lesson plan on the “Picture Gallery” whodunit.

I start this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Dylan Thomas’s immortal lines, some of the best-known in the history of poetry, “Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I don’t teach younger children, but I’ll hazard a guess that this do-now exercise may well be inappropriate for them. Needless to say, your call. To conduct your investigation into the larceny at the picture gallery, you’ll need this PDF of the illustrations and questions that constitute the forensic material in this crime. Finally, to determine whether your detectives used evidence judiciously to allege a crime and arrest a suspect, here is the typescript of the answer key.

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: Isadora Duncan

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Isadora Duncan. This is a short worksheet, three questions, that could be expanded to include a couple more. I expect this would be high-interest material to certain students, so I’ve tagged it as such.

And, of course, Ms. Duncan’s rich life, in the hands of an interested student, is the stuff of a variety of avenues of inquiry, from modern dance to the life of a bohemian, and beyond. Incidentally, did you know that her sister Elizabeth Duncan was also a dancer? Or that her brother Raymond Duncan was as well? Finally, a second brother, Augustin Duncan was an actor and theatrical director who continued to perform and direct even after he had gone blind.

So, a couple of big questions that come out of even this cursory knowledge of the Duncan family are What is an artistic family? and How does an “artistic family” become artistic?

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: Lizzie Borden

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Lizzie Borden. If you are my age (or perhaps younger–do kids still recite this?), you might remember her from this piece of doggerel, recited on finer playgrounds during recess from the horrors of the elementary school classroom:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
She gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
Lizzie Borden got away
For her crime she did not pay.”

I wrote this worksheet for this year’s Women’s History Month 2021 which is under way now. So I’ve never used it in the classroom. But it’s a safe bet that it will be a high-interest item–especially if paired with a deeper examination of the facts of Lizzie Borden’s case, and the fact that one may, if one chooses, lodge at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/Museum while traveling through Fall River, Massachusetts.

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, 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.

Hank Aaron

“Aaron, Hank: (orig. Henry Louis) (1934-2021) U.S. baseball player. Born in Mobile, Alabama, he played briefly in the Negro and minor leagues before joining the Milwaukee Braves in 1954. He would play outfield most of his career. By the time the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1965, he had hit 398 career home runs; in 1974 he hit his 715th, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. He played his final two seasons (1975-76) with the Milwaukee Brewers. His records for career home runs (755), extra-base hits (1,477), and runs batted in (2,297) remain unbroken, and only Ty Cobb and Pete Rose exceeded him in career hits (3,771). He is renowned as one of the greatest hitters of all time.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Cultural Literacy: Muhammad Ali

Here is Cultural Literacy worksheet on Muhammad Ali. He was the greatest, you know? This is a full-page worksheet that can be used as independent practice.

Muhammad Ali really requires (or I hope he doesn’t) much explanation or amplification. He was ubiquitous in the media in my childhood, meeting with The Beatles and appearing in a series of photographs with them, and writing a poem with Marianne Moore in addition to his public and principled refusal to fight in the Vietnam War (even as a little kid, this thrilled me). So when an actor friend argued that Ali was one of the most exposed figures in the history of media, I had to agree. My friend’s point, though, was this: it took real courage for Canadian actor Eli Goree to take on the role of Ali; how does one portray such a profound, well-known, and ultimately sui generis personality? If you want to see, take a look at Regina King’s great new film, One Night in Miami on Amazon.

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, 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.

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige on a Balanced Social Life

“Go very lightly on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.”

“How to Keep Young,” Colliers, 13 June 1953

Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige

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

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.