Tag Archives: readings/research

Term of Art: Theory Theory

“theory theory: The idea that very young children actively construct and test theories about how the world works. According to this concept, a child holds an established theory until he or she encounters and anomaly that forces a paradigm shift and the adoption of a new theory. Theory theory is an application of the ideas first expressed by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. See also paradigm.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Real Numbers

Here is a reading on real numbers along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I want to state unequivocally that not only am I not a math teacher, I was a terrible math student. I consider my lack of understanding of the fundamentals of mathematics–by which I mean, I suppose, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry–something a personal failing. And while I have always found Fran Leibowitz’s indictment of algebra (“In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra”) humorous, it is pretty thin gruel when I attempt to take some comfort in my own ignorance of the subject.

At a couple of points in my otherwise comfortably math-free teaching career, I have been called upon to teach math (which for me means arithmetic, or even basic numeracy) to small classes of special needs students. Hence the origins of these documents.

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.

Rotten Reviews: On Robert Frost

“If it were thought that anything I wrote was influenced by Robert Frost, I would take that particular work of mine, shred it, and flush it down the toilet, hoping not to clog the pipes.”

James Dickey

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.   

Man of Letters

“Man of Letters: A well-educated, well-read, civilized and perhaps learned person—who may also be a writer (e.g. a belle-lettrist). ‘A man of capital letters,’ on the other hand, is one who thinks he is these things but is, in fact, very limited. Pope’s victims in The Dunciad might be called ‘men of capital letters’. See also BELLES LETTRES; LITERATI.”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Book of Answers: The Transcendentalists’ Resting Place

Where are Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne buried? In Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Massachusetts.

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


“Anachronism: [Stress: “a-NA-kronizm’] In rhetoric, the appearance of a person or thing in the wrong epoch, such as the clock in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Linguistic anachronisms are generally a matter of awareness, context, and expectation: for example, the archaism wight (person, man) may be appropriate at a seminar on the Elizabethan poet Spenser, but is incongruous and probably unintelligible elsewhere. Similarly, a character in a period novel who says OK long before the phrase was current rings false for anyone who knows (or senses) that its time is out of joint.”

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

Academie Francaise

“Academie Francaise: The French academy. Originating in secret meetings of literary men in Paris around the year 1630, the Academy was established by order of the king, at Cardinal Richelieu’s urging, in 1635. Made up of forty members, supposedly the most distinguished living men of French letters, the Academy took as its purpose the protection and perfection of the French language and began compiling an authoritative dictionary in 1639; the task has not yet been completed. The Academy also undertook the composition of definitive treatises on grammar, poetry, and rhetoric. Ordered by Richelieu to censure Corneille’s Le Cid, the Academy early adopted a policy of advocating old rules and traditions at the expense of innovation and change. In the late 18th century, the Philosophes gained a majority in the Academy and briefly influenced it with their views. Inactive during the Revolution, the Academy was reestablished in 1803 by Napoleon as part of the Institut de France and two years later took up headquarters in the Palais Mazarin, which it still occupies. Inevitably, the Academy is a conservative body, reflecting the tastes of its membership—those, by definition, of age and secure reputation, including many of the most significant names in past and present French literature, criticism, and philosophy, the membership nonetheless reveals several surprising omissions, most regrettably that of Moliere. In this century, the Academy may be said to have fairly represented the cultural life of France and, in general, to have exercised a beneficent effect upon the preservation of the language. In 1981 Marguerite Yourcenar became the first woman to be elected to the Academy.”

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

An Introductory Learning Support on Using the Comma

Here is an introductory learning support on using the comma. This is the first of fifteen of these I will post in the next few weeks, which I expect merits an explanation.

Somewhere, either in Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring, or Tropic of Capricorn (I read all three in one compulsive gulp about thirty years ago), i.e. Henry Miller’sObelisk Trilogy,” the author asserts (I paraphrase, but closely, because in spite of hours of research, I cannot find the direct quote online, and I don’t want to spend the money or time to buy the books and find the sentence) that it’s easier to describe the philosophy of Nietzsche than it is to teach adequately the proper use of the comma. Oscar Wilde famously made his own remarks about the use of the comma, which is a little easier (but much more complex in its origin) to track down, which I was able to do thanks to the excellent website Quote Investigator.

Commas tend to bedevil me as well; indeed, I have had a tendency to overuse them. For years, I have meant of create an extensive reference library on the multitudinous uses of the comma in prose. Using what I think is the best punctuation manual in print, I have at last done so. As I post each of them, should you choose to download them, you will notice they vary considerably in length. After thinking about this for several weeks, I decided to use the same major subdivisions that the author uses in her manual.

However, as you may see, there are numerous minor subdivisions within most of these documents. It may be that these need to be broken up further. Because these are Microsoft Word documents, you are able to manipulate these materials to suit your needs. If I’d broken them up myself, this project would have taken much longer than it did, which was plenty long per se.

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.

32 Grains of an English Coin

“Thirty-two grains of English wheat, taken from the middle of an ear of corn (so as to confound cheats and counterfeiters) was the official weight of an English silver penny according to the reforms of old King Offa of Mercia (757-796), undertaken in parallel with those of the Emperor Charlemagne in mainland Europe. Twenty of these pennies should weigh in at an ounce (to give the equal of the old Latin solidus coin of the Romans and the English shilling) and twelve such ounces produced the royally approved standard of a Tower Pound, worth 240 silver pennies. All of which said, in 1284 King Edward I switched the currency off the wheat standard back to the barley grain.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.


OK, science and health teachers, here is a reading on reproduction along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. As is generally true of the readings from the Intellectual Devotional series, this one-page reading is a remarkably thorough introduction to reproduction in the plant and animal kingdoms.

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.