Tag Archives: learning support

The Participle

“In grammatical description, the term for two non-finite VERB forms, the –ing participle (known traditionally as the present participle) and the –ed participle (known traditionally as the past participle or the passive participle).

The -ing (present) participle: This verb form ends with the inflection –ing and is used in combination with a form of the auxiliary form be for the progressive continuous, as in: am driving, was playing, will be going, has been talking. It is also used as the verb in an –ing participle clause as in: Marvin and Jane liked playing with their grandchildren; Despite his protestations, Stanley was not averse to having a birthday party; John and Linda were happy to see Daniel behaving himself during the meal; After giving her lecture, Venetia had lunch with me at the College; The young man driving me to the shopping center was Jeremy.

 The –ed (past) participle: This verb form ends with the inflection spelled –ed, -d, or –t for all regular verbs and many irregular verbs, but many irregular verbs form it with an –en or –n inflection (as in stolen, known) or with a change in the middle vowel (as in sung, in which it is often identical with the simple past form, as with sat), or a combination of the two methods (as with written). The –ed participle combines with a form of the auxiliary form have for the perfect: has cared, had said, may have walked. It combines with a form of the auxiliary be for the passive: is paid, was told, are being auctioned, could not have seen. It is also used as the verb in an –ed participle clause. I had my study redecorated; Asked for his opinion, Tom was non-committal; Among the objects recovered from the ship was a chair stamped with the captain’s initials.

Attributive Uses: Both participles may be used in the attributive position like an adjective, but only if the participle indicates some sort of permanent characteristic: running water, the missing link, a broken heart, lost property. The phrase The Laughing Cavalier is possible as the name of a picture (the man is laughing all the time), but Who is that laughing man? would be odd in most contexts. The –ed participle usually has a passive meaning (listed buildings, burnt almonds, written instructions), but it may also be used actively with some intransitive verbs (an escaped prisoner). Some participles that are not permanent enough to be used attributively alone are acceptable when modified (their long-awaited visit).

Participles and Word Formation: There is a range of usage between participles that which remain fully verbal (running in swiftly running water) and those that in some contexts are completely adjectival (interesting in a very interesting idea; disappointed in a very disappointed man). There are also some participle-like formations for which there are no corresponding verbs: an unexplained discrepancy, an unconvincing narrative, for which there are no conventional verbs *to unexplain and *to unconvince; a bearded man; a forested hillside; a blue-eyed man; a one-armed bandit are common constructions which are aspects of word-formation rather than grammar.

Participial Clauses: Traditionally known as participial phrases, such clauses function in various ways: (1) they can follow noun phrases (like abbreviated relative clauses): ‘The train (which is) now standing at Platform 5 is…,’ ‘The food (that was) served on the plane was….'(2) They can function rather like finite subordinate clauses, with or without a conjunction, and with various meanings, often of time (‘While running for the train, he lost his wallet’) reason (‘Jostled by the crowd, he did not really see what happened’), or result (‘The train started suddenly, throwing an elderly passenger to the floor’). (3)  They can follow an object verb of the senses: ‘We could all hear him singing in the bath;’ ‘He didn’t see that soap lying on the floor.’ Occasionally this multiplicity of functions may lead to ambiguity: ‘I witnessed a sergeant push his way past supporters drinking openly in the aisle’ (letter to Daily Telegraph, 27 May 1988).

The Dangling Participle: When a participial clause contains its own subject it is called an ABSOLUTE CLAUSE, as in ‘Weather permitting, we’ll go sailing this weekend.’ When, as is more usual, such a clause does not contain a subject, it normally refers grammatically to the subject of the main clause: in ‘I made my way, depressed, to the ticket office,’ it is clear who was depressed, and in ‘The woman on the chair beside was tipped onto my lap, complaining all the time’ it is clear who was complaining (both from Colin Thubron, Behind the Wall, 1987). Failure to maintain such a clear relationship leads to the so-called dangling, hanging, misrelated, or unattached participle, as in: ‘Her party was the first to discover that there were no sleepers left. The entire section had been booked. Faced with a forty-four-hour journey, this was far from good news’ (Patrick Marnham, So Far from God, 1985).

With participles that attach themselves to the wrong noun, the effect may be momentarily confusing even if the writer’s meaning is clear: ‘[Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s] celebrity on television was so great that, boarding an empty bus late one rainy night when in a white tie with rows of medals, a conductress arranged with the driver to take him to the door of Wheeler’s small house off Haymarket’ (Anthony Powell, To Keep the Ball Rolling, 1982). Here, the meaning may be fairly obvious, but on first reading it is the conductress who boards the bus. In the following example, it is the lines that apparently provided the clues: ‘By taking a great many observations and analyzing them statistically, the lines gave crucial clues about the intervening space between us and the quasars, and therefore of the universe’s early history’ (in “Bonfire of the Cosmos,” Observer, 16 April, 1989). Sometimes, the pictures presented are simply absurd: ‘After traveling by road all day…, the 123-room Sahara is an air-conditioned all-mod-cons watering hole’ (Daily Telegraph, 22 September 1984); ‘There, coasting comfortably down the attractive green coastline, the town of Malacca with its prominent hill was very evident’ (Tim Severin, The Sinbad Voyage, 1982).

Participial Prepositions and Conjunctions: Apparent exceptions to the rule that participles should be properly attached are a number of participial forms that now function as prepositions, such as following in ‘There was a tremendous cleaning up to do following the storm,’ and including in ‘We all enjoyed ourselves, including the dog;’ and participle forms that are now conjunctions, such as providing (that) and provided (that) in ‘Everything will be all right providing/provided you don’t panic,’ and given in ‘Given the difficulties, I’d say it was a success.’”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

A Learning Support on Historical Ages and Eras

While I’ve used it for text for classroom posters, I’m not sure how otherwise useful this learning support on historical ages and eras really is in the classroom.

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.

A Glossary of English Language Arts Terms

The other day, while rummaging around in a folder containing learning supports for English Language Arts lessons, I found this glossary of critical terms for use in English classes. I have no idea whence I excerpted this; the lack of citation troubles me. In any case, it is a list of conceptual terms mostly at the center of what English Language Arts teachers profess, and particularly, in many cases (aesthetic impact as a term of art comes immediately to mind) for advanced students.

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.

Professor Daniel Willingham’s First Demonstration of Memory

[Nota bene, please, that I originally posted much of this material in a Weekly Text from August 28, 2015, which would have made it one of the earliest publications on this blog. This lesson continues to evolve, so I have decided to publish it once more with a couple of supplementary materials. If you have used this in your classroom, and plan to use it again, you may want to check back here every so often to see if I’ve added documents. I’ve also given this post a new title so that it is easy to search and locate on Mark’s Text Terminal.]

Is there a way we can assist our students in remembering what we teach them in the classroom? More broadly, can we help students become stronger, more effective, and therefore more satisfied learners, particularly in terms of retention (de rigeur now for hyper-tested students), by showing them how memory actually functions? The answer, or part of the answer at least, thanks to Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, is yes. Professor Willingham writes a column called “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” for The American Educator, which is an excellent quarterly journal of research into pedagogical practice and educational policy issues published by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). I’m amazed at the consistently cogent and useful scholarly research the AFT presents in this first-rate publication.

Anyway, in the winter 2008-2009 issue, Professor Willingham published his column under the title–clicking on this hyperlink will download of PDF of the article–“What Will Improve a Student’s Memory?” This is a cognitive science experiment in three parts that demonstrates the role of thought and memory in the learning process. So far, I’ve developed for use in teaching a lesson adapted from Professor Willingham’s First Demonstration of Memory, will help you and your students conduct the first of these three experiments, then sort out its immediate results. Through this clever and concrete demonstration, students will learn that thinking is the parent of memory–as Professor Willingham emphasizes.  I like to start the year with this lesson; in fact, I teach it on the first day of school, before discussing classroom norms and expectations, as a way of setting the tone (i.e. your learning comes first) for the year.

To get to the instructional material in the PDF, you’ll need download the article by clicking on the link above, then scroll down through the document to page 26, “Demonstration of the Three Principles.” You’ll use Demonstration 1: once you’ve read through the procedure for the demonstration. Nonetheless, here is the unit plan for all three lessons that rationalize the use of these three demonstrations of memory with students. Eventually, I’ll write the other two lessons for demonstrations two and three, and post those here as well.

To the documents for this lesson: here is the lesson plan for demonstration one. Although the PDF posted above includes the procedures for all three demonstrations, here is a typescript of the procedure for the first demonstration in Microsoft Word, should should need or see fit to alter or adapt this material for your class. This structured and numbered worksheet might hasten the process of delivering this lesson, particularly for struggling students. Over time, working with a large and homogenous group or students, I developed two supports for concluding the work on this lesson. Students will need to determine, as part of this exercise, which kinds of words they remembered. This first version of the support give students the words in the order in which they were read, and asks them to find the words they remembered by searching the list. That requires focus and the ability to sort out information; some students I have served over the years struggled with this part of the activity. So I designed a second version of the support with the words read arranged by type in columns in a table, and therefore a bit less challenging to interpret and process.

I find this lesson, taught to a well-focused class generally takes less than the 44 minutes my school has deemed adequate for conveying new information and providing students with an opportunity to use it. After finishing the procedural work, and sorting out the results of that work to assess its meaning (it’s part of the procedure in the article), I like to ask students a few questions. The big question is, of course, Why did you remember the words you rated for pleasantness? Another query I use is What can students and teachers do to work together to study words in a way helps students remember their meaning and use them in their future discourses? (Do your students understand the concept of discourse? It seems to me it’s a word and concept high school students really ought to know.) I also ask questions that prepare students for some of the work we’ll do that is animated by Professor Willingham’s first demonstration: Is there something common to words that can help us understand them as families? which helps to rationalize the use of word root worksheets. Is there a way to learn words by thinking about what they might mean?  justifies the use of do now focus on one word worksheets.

In any case, through this clever and concrete demonstration, students will learn that thinking is the parent of memory–as Professor Willingham emphasizes. I like to start the year with this lesson; in fact, I teach it on the first day of school, before discussing classroom norms and expectations, as a way of setting the tone (i.e. your learning and the means by which it is accomplished are of paramount importance in this classroom) for the year.

Most  of the vocabulary building work I’ll publish on Mark’s Text Terminal derives directly from my understanding of the cognitive mechanisms Professor Willingham’s first demonstration exposes. This lesson, if nothing else, may help you persuade resistant students that this is a useful way to learn and master new words and the concepts or things they define.

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, November 9, 2018

This week’s Text (after missing last week) is something I whipped up pretty much on the fly about three years ago when I was assigned an eight-meeting class conducted over eight weeks on math and science literacy. This literacy lesson on the polysemous word bond is, as I look at it now, an odd melange of stuff. Depending on what it is you want kids to understand, there are materials here for one extended lesson–I wrote this for a sixty-one-minute long period–or a couple of different short exercises.

The first document, because I worked in economics and finance-themed high school, is this Cultural Literacy worksheet on bond as a financial instrument. These two context clues worksheets on the verb and noun bond in the sense of attaching or joining follow; logically, I guess, this short reading and comprehension exercise on chemical bonds rounds out this deck. I also, for some reason, made up this learning support with three definitions of bond from Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition.

Now that I think about it, Bronx County summoned me to jury duty before I had a chance to use this material. The coverage teacher who used it did say students received it relatively well.

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 Learning Support on Using Context for Understanding

Because by now it is a truism that context determines meaning, I won’t bother to ornament this post with the myriad quotes about that maxim. Moreover, I think the preponderance of posts containing context clues sheets on this site affirms my insistence on using context to help students understand meaning–particularly of the vocabulary words they must possess in order to achieve in school.

While rummaging through the archives just now, I round this learning support on using context for understanding. It’s really just a squib that I copy and paste into worksheets in various iterations in order to support students in mastering this way of knowing. Looking at it, I can see how it could serve as the basis for a variety of worksheets.

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.

Master List of Greek and Latin Word Roots

This year, for the first time, I am teaching English Language Arts to a group of high school seniors. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it has been one hell of a good time. I have all but no experience teaching upperclassmen, as my practice tends to focus on building academic literacy and skills in freshmen so that they may make it to the senior class.

At my school, the school I am incidentally four working days from departing, the Class of 2019 shows great promise. Three years ago these children arrived, and now have become extraordinary young adults, ready to go forth and contribute to the dignity and freedom of humanity.

The two classes I teach have assented to word root worksheets on Friday, which has been a routine of my classroom practice for several years. This morning I post this master list of Greek and Latin Word roots so that it is easily searchable for this group of kids–or anyone else that wants or needs it.

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.