Tag Archives: readings

Artificial Sweeteners

OK, to wrap up on this cool, autumnal morning in southwestern Vermont, here is a reading on artificial sweeteners 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 Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“A cult radio serial by Douglas Adams (1952-2001), broadcast in 1978 and 1979. The story begins with the imminent destruction of Earth to make way for a hyperspace express route, and the escape of Earthling Arthur Dent and his exterrestrial friend Ford Prefect by hitching a ride on a Vogon spacecraft. The programme combined the comic with the surreal and introduced a host of eccentric characters. In 1981 the serial was adapted for television. The fictional book mentioned in the title gives handy tips to space travellers, and is frequently quoted; its verdict on the Earth is ‘mostly harmless.’ It transpires that the Earth was originally constructed to solve the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, to which the answer turns out to be 42.

Adams went on to adapt and extend the idea in book form, characteristically producing a “trilogy in five parts’: A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), and Mostly Harmless (1992).”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

How Confusing is the Mapping in English?

“The principle may not come naturally, but surely we could make the particulars easier. If you were creating an alphabet for English from scratch, you would probably create 44 letters and match each speech sound with one letter. We’d call that one-to-one matching. Written English, alas, was not created from scratch. Our language is a mongrel: Germanic origins, heavily influenced by the Norman invasion and later by the adoption of Greek and Latinate words. That’s a problem because when we borrowed words, we frequently retained the spelling conventions of the original language. The result is that English uses a many-to-many matching. One letter (or letter combination) can signify many sounds, as the letter ‘e’ does: red, flower, bee.”

Excerpted from: Willingham, Daniel T. The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Cultural Literacy: Socioeconomic Status

It’s Friday afternoon. In the process of cleaning off desktops virtual and tangible, I found this Cultural Literacy worksheet on socioeconomic status. If there was ever a time in the history of the United States (or the world, I suppose, for that matter) that people ought to be cognizant of this term and the deep well of concepts attached to it, it’s now.

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, October 18, 2019

This week’s Text, in the ongoing observation of Hispanic Heritage Month 2019 at Mark’s Text Terminal, is a reading on Pueblo Civilization and the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it.

As I am wont to do, I debated with myself the relevance of Pueblo Civilization to Hispanic Heritage. I’m confident that these first nation peoples were part of the same ethnic group as the Mayans–who of course became a subject population to the Spanish Empire. In any case, if anyone with the bona fides to do so could weigh in on this, I would of course be grateful.

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 lexicon is a collection, or stock, of words. This stock may be characteristic of an individual, a profession, a philosophy, or a ‘style’ (such as, say, a sermon), or it may be as unrestricted as an unabridged dictionary. A lexicon is usually to be distinguished from a glossary in being less focused and less restrictive. It could be argued, for instance, that this glossary need not, even ought not, contain the word lexicon in that, as is the case with many or the words discussed here, it is not a word with a special meaning within the analysis of rhetoric. I would respond that insofar as it is a word used to describe the range of vocabulary from which a given discipline or individual chooses, it is a word that can be useful to the rhetor. See ARGOT.”

Excerpted from: Trail, George Y. Rhetorical Terms and Concepts: A Contemporary Glossary. New York: Harcourt Brace, 2000.

Coordination and Subordination

“I want to pause here to digress on the seemingly underwhelming concepts of coordination and subordination. I will ask you to stifle your yawn as I acknowledge that they are easy to dismiss–ancient, faintly risible, uttered once long ago by acolytes of sentence diagramming in the era of chalk dust. They smack of grammar for grammar’s sake, and almost nobody cares about that. Teachers instead seek mostly to simply make sure the sentences work and dispense with the parsing of parts. It is so much simpler to tell kids to go with ‘sounds right’ (an idea that inherently discriminates against those for whom the sounds of language are not happily ingrained by luck or privilege) or to make the odd episodic correction and not worry about the principle at work.

But coordination and subordination are in fact deeply powerful principles worth mastering. They describe the ways that ideas are connected, the nuances that yoke disparate thoughts together. It is the connections as much as the ideas that make meaning. To master conjunctions is to be able to express that two ideas are connected but that one is more important than the other, that one is dependent on the other, that one is contingent on the other, that the two ideas exist in contrast or conflict. Mastering that skill is immensely important not just to writing but to reading. Students who struggle with complex text can usually understand the words and clauses of a sentence; it is the piecing together of the interrelationships among them that most often poses the problem. They understand the first half of a sentence but miss the cue that questions its veracity in the second half. And so without mastery of the syntax of the relationships–which is what coordination and subordination are–the sentence devolves–for weak readers–into meaninglessness.”

Doug Lemov

Excerpted from: Hochman, Judith C., and Natalie Wexler. The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking through Writing in All Subjects and Grades. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.