Music Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 (page 3)
Music Critical Reading
Questions 1–7 are based on the following passage.
The following passage discusses the unique musical traditions that developed along the Rio Grand in colonial New Mexico.
From 1598 to 1821, the area along the Rio Grand that is now the state of New Mexico formed the northernmost border of the Spanish colonies in the New World. The colonists lived on a geographic frontier surrounded by deserts and mountains. This remote colony with its harsh climate was far removed from the cultural centers of the Spanish Empire in the New World, and music was a necessary part of social life. The isolated nature of the region and needs of the community gave rise to a unique, rich musical tradition that included colorful ballads, popular dances, and some of the most extraordinary ceremonial music in the Hispanic world.
The popular music along the Rio Grand, especially the heroic and romantic ballads, reflected the stark and rough nature of the region. Unlike the refined music found in Mexico, the music of the Rio Grand had a rough-cut "frontier" quality. The music also reflected the mixing of cultures that characterized the border colony. The close military and cultural ties between the Spanish and the native Pueblos of the region led to a uniquely New Mexican fusion of traditions. Much of the music borrowed from both European and native cultures. This mixing of traditions was especially evident in the dances.
The bailes, or village dances—instrumental music played on violin and guitar—were a lively focus of frontier life. Some bailes were derived from traditional European waltzes, but then adapted to the singular style of the region. The bailes had an unusual melodic structure and the players had unique methods of bowing and tuning their instruments. Other bailes, such as indita (little Indian girl) and vaquero (cowboy), were only found in New Mexico. The rhythms and melodies of the indita had definite Puebloan influences. Its themes, which ranged from love to tragedy, almost always featured dramatic interactions between Spanish and Native Americans. Similarly, the Matachines dance drama was an allegorical representation of the meeting of European and Native American cultures. Its European melodies, played on violin and guitar, were coupled with the use of insistent repetition, which came from the Native American tradition.
In addition to the bailes, waltzes—the Waltz of the Days and the Waltz of the Immanuels—were also performed to celebrate New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Groups of revelers went singing from house to house throughout the night to bring in the New Year. In New Mexico, January 1 is the Feast of Immanuel so the singers visited the houses of people named Manuel or Manuela. Many songs were sung on these visits but especially popular were the coplas, or improvised couplets, composed on the spot to honor or poke fun of the person being visited.
Like in the New Year's celebration, music was central to many social rituals in colonial New Mexico. In the Rio Grand region, weddings were performed in song in a folk ceremony called "The Delivery of the Newlyweds." The community would gather to sanction the new couple and "deliver" them in song to each other and to their respective families. The verses of the song, played to a lively waltz, were improvised, but followed a familiar pattern. The first verses spoke about marriage in general. These were followed by serious and humorous verses offering practical advice to the couple. Then all the guests filed past to bless the couple and concluding verses were sung to honor specific individuals such as the best man. At the wedding dance, la marcha was performed. In this triumphal march, couples formed into single files of men and women. After dancing in concentric circles, the men and women lined up opposite one another with their hands joined overhead to form a tunnel of love from which the new couple was the last to emerge.
By the turn of the twentieth century, styles were evolving and musical forms popular in previous eras were giving way to new tastes. The ancient romance ballads were replaced by newer forms that featured more local and contemporary events. The extraordinary indita was no longer performed and the canción, or popular song, had begun its rise. However, many of the wedding traditions of the colonial era are still in practice today. The music that was so central to life in the remote colony of New Mexico has much to teach us about the unique and vibrant culture that once flourished there.
- The primary purpose of the first paragraph is to
- describe the geography of New Mexico.
- instruct readers about the history of the Spanish colonies along the Rio Grand.
- introduce readers to the unique culture and musical traditions along the Rio Grand.
- list the types of music that were prevalent in colonial New Mexico.
- explain the unique musical traditions of the New Mexican colonies.
- In line 23, the word singular most nearly means
- According to the passage, the musical tradition found in New Mexico was the result of all the following EXCEPT
- distance from cultural centers.
- the blending of cultures.
- the geography of the region.
- the imposition of European culture on native traditions.
- unique ways of playing instruments.
- The New Year's celebration and wedding ceremony described in the passage share in common
- offering of practical advice.
- use of a lively march.
- use of improvised verses.
- visiting of houses.
- singing and dancing.
- According to the passage, the main purpose of the "Delivery of the Newlyweds" was to
- sanction and bless the new couple.
- form a tunnel of love.
- marry couples who did not want a Church wedding.
- offer advice to the new couple.
- sing improvised songs to newlyweds.
- Which of the titles provided below is most appropriate for this passage?
- Wedding Marches and New Year's Waltzes of the Rio Grand
- The Fading Era of Colonial Music in New Mexico
- Cowboy Songs of the Past
- Between Deserts and Mountains New Mexico Sings a Unique Song
- The Extraordinary Popular and Ceremonial Music of the Rio Grand
- The author's attitude toward the music of colonial New Mexico can best be described as
Questions 8–16 are based on the following passages.
In Passage 1, the author describes the life and influence of blues guitarist Robert Johnson. In Passage 2, the author provides a brief history of the blues.
There is little information available about the legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson, and the information that is available is as much rumor as fact. What is undisputable, however, is Johnson's impact on the world of rock and roll. Some consider Johnson the father of modern rock; his influence extends to artists from Muddy Waters to Led Zeppelin, from the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers Band. Eric Clapton, arguably the greatest living rock guitarist, has said that "Robert Johnson to me is the most important blues musician who ever lived. [ . . . ] I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson." While the impact of Johnson's music is evident, the genesis of his remarkable talent remains shrouded in mystery.
For Johnson, born in 1911 in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, music was a means of escape from working in the cotton fields. As a boy he worked on the farm that belonged to Noel Johnson—the man rumored to be his father. He married young, at age 17, and lost his wife a year later in childbirth. That's when Johnson began traveling and playing the blues.
Initially Johnson played the harmonica. Later, he began playing the guitar, but apparently he was not very good. He wanted to learn, however, so he spent his time in blues bars watching the local blues legends Son House and Willie Brown. During their breaks, Johnson would go up on stage and play. House reportedly thought Johnson was so bad that he repeatedly told Johnson to get lost. Finally, one day, he did. For six months, Johnson mysteriously disappeared. No one knew what happened to him.
When Johnson returned half a year later, he was suddenly a first-rate guitarist. He began drawing crowds everywhere he played. Johnson never revealed where he had been and what he had done in those six months that he was gone. People had difficulty understanding how he had become so good in such a short time. Was it genius? Magic? Soon, rumors began circulating that he had made a deal with the devil. Legend has it that Johnson met the devil at midnight at a crossroads and sold his soul to the devil so he could play guitar.
Johnson recorded only 29 songs before his death in 1938, purportedly at the hands of a jealous husband. He was only 27 years old, yet he left an indelible mark on the music world. There are countless versions of "Walkin' Blues," and his song "Cross Road Blues" (later retitled "Crossroads") has been recorded by dozens of artists, with Cream's 1969 version of "Crossroads" being perhaps the best-known Johnson remake. Again and again, contemporary artists return to Johnson, whose songs capture the very essence of the blues, transforming our pain and suffering with the healing magic of his guitar.
There are more than fifty types of blues music, from the famous Chicago and Memphis Blues to the less familiar Juke Joint and Acoustic Country Blues. This rich variety comes as no surprise to those who recognize the blues as a fundamental American art form. Indeed, in its resolution to name 2003 the Year of the Blues, the 107th Congress has declared that the blues is "the most influential form of American roots music." In fact, the two most popular American musical forms—rock and roll and jazz—owe their genesis in large part (some would argue entirely) to the blues.
The blues— neologism attributed to the American writer Washington Irving (author of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow") in 1807— evolved from black American folk music. Its beginnings can be traced to songs sung in the fields and around slave quarters on southern plantations, songs of pain and suffering, of injustice, of longing for a better life. A fundamental principle of the blues, however, is that the music be cathartic. Listening to the blues will drive the blues away; it is music that has the power to overcome sadness. Thus "the blues" is something of a misnomer, for the music is moving but not melancholy; it is, in fact, music born of hope, not despair.
The blues began to take shape as a musical movement in the years after emancipation, around the turn of the century when blacks were technically free but still suffered from social and economic discrimination. Its poetic and musical forms were popularized by W. C. Handy just after the turn of the century. Handy, a classical guitarist who reportedly heard the blues for the first time in a Mississippi train station, was the first to officially compose and distribute "blues" music throughout the United States, although its popularity was chiefly among blacks in the South. The movement coalesced in the late 1920s and indeed became a national craze with records by blues singers such as Bessie Smith selling in the millions.
The 1930s and 1940s saw a continued growth in the popularity of the blues as many blacks migrated north and the blues and jazz forms continued to develop, diversify, and influence each other. It was at this time that Son House, Willie Brown, and Robert Johnson played, while the next decade saw the emergence of the blues greats Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Johnny Lee Hooker.
After rock and roll exploded on the music scene in the 1950s, many rock artists began covering blues songs, thus bringing the blues to a young white audience and giving it true national and international exposure. In the early 1960s, the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Cream, and others remade blues songs such as Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" and Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go" to wide popularity. People all across America—black and white, young and old, listened to songs with lyrics that were intensely honest and personal, songs that told about any number of things that give us the blues: loneliness, betrayal, unrequited love, a run of bad luck, being out of work or away from home or broke or broken hearted. It was a music perfectly suited for a nation on the brink of the Civil Rights movement—a kind of music that had the power to cross boundaries, to heal wounds, and to offer hope to a new generation of Americans.
- In Passage 1, the author's main goal is to
- solve the mystery of the genesis of Johnson's talent.
- provide a detailed description of Johnson's music and style.
- provide a brief overview of Johnson's life and influence.
- prove that Johnson should be recognized as the greatest blues musician who ever lived.
- explain how Johnson's music impacted the world of rock and roll.
- The information provided in the passage suggests that Johnson
- really did make a deal with the devil.
- was determined to become a great guitarist, whatever the cost.
- wasn't as talented as we have been led to believe.
- disappeared because he had a breakdown.
- owes his success to Son House and Willie Brown.
- The word neologism in Passage 2, line 10 means
- a new word or use of a word.
- a grassroots musical form.
- a fictional character or fictitious setting.
- the origin or source of something.
- the evolution of a person, place, or thing.
- In Passage 2, the sentence People all across America—black and white, young and old, listened to songs with lyrics that were intensely honest and personal, songs that told about any number of things that give us the blues: loneliness, betrayal, unrequited love, a run of bad luck, being out of work or away from home or broke or broken hearted (lines 43–47), the author is
- defining blues music.
- identifying the origin of the blues.
- describing the lyrics of a famous blues song.
- explaining why blues remakes were so popular.
- making a connection between the blues and the Civil Rights movement.
- In the last paragraph of Passage 2 (lines 37–50), the author suggests that
- the blues should be recognized as more important and complex musical form than rock and roll.
- the golden age of rock and roll owes much to the popularity of blues cover songs.
- music has always been a means for people to deal with intense emotions and difficulties.
- a shared interest in the blues may have helped blacks and whites better understand each other and ease racial tensions.
- the rock and roll versions of blues songs were better than the originals.
- Both authors would agree on all of the following points EXCEPT
- listening to the blues is cathartic.
- Robert Johnson is the best blues guitarist from the 1930s and 1940s.
- the blues are an important part of American history.
- "Crossroads" is one of the most well-known blues songs.
- blues music is deeply emotional.
- The passages differ in tone and style in that
- Passage 1 is intended for a general audience while Passage 2 is intended for readers with a musical background.
- Passage 1 is far more argumentative than Passage 2.
- Passage 1 is often speculative while Passage 2 is factual and assertive.
- Passage 1 is more formal than Passage 2, which is quite casual.
- Passage 1 is straight-forward while Passage 2 often digresses from the main point.
- Which of the following best describes the relationship between these two passages?
- specific : general
- argument : support
- fiction : nonfiction
- first : second
- cause : effect
- Which of the following sentences from Passage 2 could most effectively be added to Passage 1?
- In fact, the two most popular American musical forms—rock and roll and jazz—owe their genesis in large part (some would argue entirely) to the blues. (lines 7–9)
- A fundamental principle of the blues, however, is that the music be cathartic. (line 15–16)
- Thus "the blues" is something of a misnomer, for the music is moving but not melancholy; it is, in fact, music born of hope, not despair. (lines 17–19)
- It was at this time that Son House, Willie Brown, and Robert Johnson played, while the next decade saw the emergence of the blues greats Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Johnny Lee Hooker. (lines 33–36)
- After rock and roll exploded on the music scene in the 1950s, many rock artists began covering blues songs, thus bringing the blues to a young white audience and giving it true national and international exposure. (lines 37–40)
Questions 17–26 are based on the following passage.
This passage describes the formative experiences of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's remarkable musical talent was apparent even before most children can sing a simple nursery rhyme. Wolfgang's older sister Maria Anna, who the family called Nannerl, was learning the clavier, an early keyboard instrument, when her three-year-old brother took an interest in playing. As Nannerl later recalled, Wolfgang "often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was always striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good." Their father Leopold, an assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg Court, recognized his children's unique gifts and soon devoted himself to their musical education.
Born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756, Wolfgang was five when he learned his first musical composition—in less than half an hour. He quickly learned other pieces, and by age five composed his first original work. Leopold settled on a plan to take Nannerl and Wolfgang on tour to play before the European courts. Their first venture was to nearby Munich where the children played for Maximillian III Joseph, elector of Bavaria. Leopold soon set his sights on the capital of the Hapsburg Empire, Vienna. On their way to Vienna, the family stopped in Linz, where Wolfgang gave his first public concert. By this time, Wolfgang was not only a virtuoso harpsichord player but he had also mastered the violin. The audience at Linz was stunned by the six-year-old, and word of his genius soon traveled to Vienna. In a much-anticipated concert, the children appeared at the Schönbrunn Palace on October 13, 1762. They utterly charmed the emperor and empress.
Following this success, Leopold was inundated with invitations for the children to play, for a fee. Leopold seized the opportunity and booked as many concerts as possible at courts throughout Europe. After the children performed at the major court in a region, other nobles competed to have the "miracle children of Salzburg" play a private concert in their homes. A concert could last three hours, and the children played at least two a day. Today, Leopold might be considered the worst kind of stage parent, but at the time it was not uncommon for prodigies to make extensive concert tours. Even so, it was an exhausting schedule for a child who was just past the age of needing an afternoon nap.
Wolfgang fell ill on tour, and when the family returned to Salzburg on January 5, 1763, Wolfgang spent his first week at home in bed with acute rheumatoid arthritis. In June, Leopold accepted an invitation for the children to play at Versailles, the lavish palace built by Loius XIV, king of France. Wolfgang did not see his home in Salzburg for another three years. When they weren't performing, the Mozart children were likely to be found bumping along the rutted roads in an unheated carriage. Wolfgang passed the long uncomfortable hours in the imaginary Kingdom of Back, of which he was king. He became so engrossed in the intricacies of his make-believe court that he persuaded a family servant to make a map showing all the cities, villages, and towns over which he reigned.
The king of Back was also busy composing. Wolfgang completed his first symphony at age nine and published his first sonatas that same year. Before the family returned to Salzburg, Wolfgang had played for, and amazed, the heads of the French and British royal families. He had also been plagued with numerous illnesses. Despite Wolfgang and Nannerl's arduous schedule and international renown, the family's finances were often strained. The pattern established in his childhood would be the template for the rest of his short life. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart toiled constantly, was lauded for his genius, suffered from illness, and struggled financially, until he died at age 35. The remarkable child prodigy who more than fulfilled his potential was buried in an unmarked grave, as was the custom at the time, in a Vienna suburb.
- The primary purpose of the passage is to
- illustrate the early career and formative experiences of a musical prodigy.
- describe the classical music scene in the eighteenth century.
- uncover the source of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's musical genius.
- prove the importance of starting a musical instrument at an early age.
- denounce Leopold Mozart for exploiting his children's talent.
- According to the passage, Wolfgang became interested in music because
- his father thought it would be profitable.
- he had a natural talent.
- he saw his sister learning to play.
- he came from a musical family.
- he wanted to go on tour.
- What was the consequence of Wolfgang's first public appearance?
- He charmed the emperor and empress of Hapsburg.
- Leopold set his sights on Vienna.
- Word of Wolfgang's genius spread to the capital.
- He mastered the violin.
- Invitations for the "miracle children" to play poured in.
- The author's attitude toward Leopold Mozart can best be characterized as
- vehement condemnation.
- mild disapproval.
- glowing admiration.
- veiled disgust.
- In line 40, the word lavish most nearly means
- The author uses the anecdote about Mozart's Kingdom of Back to illustrate
- Mozart's admiration for the composer Johann Sebastian Bach.
- the role imagination plays in musical composition.
- that Mozart was mentally unstable.
- that Mozart was an imaginative child.
- that Mozart's only friends were imaginary people and family servants.
- The author suggests that Mozart's adult life
- was ruined by repeated illness.
- was a disappointment after his brilliant childhood.
- was nothing but misery.
- ended in poverty and anonymity.
- followed the pattern of his childhood.
- In line 57, the word lauded most nearly means
- Each of the following statements about Wolfgang Mozart is directly supported by the passage EXCEPT
- Mozart's father, Leopold, was instrumental in shaping his career.
- Wolfgang had a vivid imagination.
- Wolfgang's childhood was devoted to his musical career.
- Wolfgang's illnesses were the result of exhaustion.
- Maria Anna was a talented musician in her own right.
- Based on information found in the passage, Mozart can best be described as
- a workaholic.
- a child prodigy.
- a sickly child.
- a victim of his father's ambition.
- the greatest composer of the eighteenth century.
- c. The first paragraph introduces the topic of the passage, the musical traditions of colonial New Mexico. Choices a and d are too narrow, and choice b is too broad. Choice e is the purpose of the entire passage, not the first paragraph alone.
- d. Singular means of or relating to a single instance, or something considered by itself. Although strange and superior can be synonyms for singular, the author emphasizes throughout the passage that the music is unique. Unusual is closest in meaning to unique. Also, note that in the next sentence the author states that the bailes had unusual melodic structures and the players had unique methods of bowing and tuning their instruments.
- d. The passage does not explicitly state that European culture was imposed on native traditions. Rather, it states that the cultures mixed to give rise to the music.
- c. The passage clearly states that both ceremonies used improvised verses. The New Year's celebration included improvised couplets, composed on the spot (lines 40–41) and the verses of the song [of the wedding ceremony], played to a lively waltz, were improvised (lines 48–49). Each of the other choices is true for one of the ceremonies but not both.
- a. The sentence following the first mention of the ceremony states its purpose: the community would gather to sanction the new couple (lines 46–47). It is stated that the guests file past to bless the couple (line 42). Choices b, d, and e are all part of the ceremony but not its main purpose. Choice c is not explicitly supported by the text.
- e. This title indicates that the passage covers both popular and ceremonial music and introduces the main theme of the passage: the unique (extraordinary) musical tradition of the Rio Grand region. The other choices are all too narrow (choice d), or are totally inappropriate (choice c).
- b. The introductory and final paragraphs of the passage reveal the author's admiration for the music. In line 8 the author describes the musical tradition as unique, rich and lines 9–10 he or she calls the ceremonial music some of the most extraordinary . . . in the Hispanic world." In line 62, the author describes the indita as extraordinary. Although he or she describes the tradition in positive terms, awe overstates the case.
- c. In Passage 1, the author provides a limited chronology of Johnson's life (paragraphs 2, 3, and 4) and briefly describes his influence on blues and rock and roll (paragraphs 1 and 5).
- b. In paragraph 3 of Passage 1, the author describes how Johnson was not very good at playing the guitar but that he wanted to learn and so spent his time in blues bars watching the local blues legends (lines 19–20). That he disappeared for some time and then returned as a first-rate guitarist (lines 26–27) also suggests Johnson's determination.
- a. In lines 10–12 of Passage 2, the author describes how the blues came to be called the blues—thus neologism means a new word or new meaning or use of a word.
- d. This sentence states that the blues remakes were enjoyed by all kinds of people—black and white, young and old (line 43)—and suggests why the songs were so popular by describing how the lyrics touched a common emotional chord in listeners, all of whom have had the blues from one or more of the sources listed in the sentence.
- d. The author states that the blues was a music perfectly suited for a nation on the brink of the Civil Rights movement because it was music that had the power to cross boundaries, to heal wounds, and to offer hope to a new generation of Americans (lines 47–50). The previous sentence states that the music was popular with both the black and white, young and old (line 43). Thus, the author suggests that this shared musical experience helped promote understanding across racial boundaries and thereby ease racial tensions.
- b. Neither author explicitly states that Robert Johnson is the best blues guitarist of his era, although this is implied by the author of Passage 1, who states that Johnson's impact on the world of rock and roll is indisputable (lines 3–4) and quotes Eric Clapton as saying Johnson is the most important blues musician who ever lived (lines 8–9). However, the author of Passage 2 simply lists Johnson in the same sentence as his mentors Son House and Willie Brown (lines 33–34), without suggesting that any one of these artists was better than the other.
- c. Passage 1 states from the beginning that there is little information about Johnson and that the information that is available is as much rumor as fact(lines 2–3). There is also no definitive answer regarding how Johnson acquired his talent (paragraph 4), and the author uses the word purportedly in lines 34–35 to further emphasize the speculative nature of the narrative. Passage 2, on the other hand, provides many specific facts in the form of names and dates to present a text that is factual and assertive.
- a. Passage 1 describes the life and influence of one specific blues artist, while Passage 2 provides a general overview of the history of the blues.
- c. At the end of Passage 1, the author describes the reason so many artists record Johnson's songs: his music capture[s] the very essence of the blues, transforming our pain and suffering with the healing magic of his guitar (lines 41–42). This sentence "proves" the idea stated in Passage 2 that 'the blues' is something of a misnomer. This is the only sentence from Passage 2 that fits the focus of Passage 1; the others concern the development or defining characteristics of the blues.
- a. The passage is a neutral narration of Mozart's childhood and the beginnings of his musical career. Choices c, d, and e can be eliminated because the author does not take a side or try to prove a point. Choice b is incorrect because the author does not make any generalizations about the classical music "scene."
- c. The passage clearly states that Wolfgang took an interest in the clavier when his sister was learning the instrument.
- c. The passage states (lines 18–19) that Wolfgang's first public appearance was at Linz and that after this concert word of his genius traveled to Vienna. The passage states earlier that Vienna was the capital of the Hapsburg Empire.
- b. The author's tone toward Leopold is mild—neither strongly approving nor disapproving. In a few places, however, the author conveys some disappointment, especially lines 34–36 in which she states that Leopold set an exhausting schedule for Wolfgang.
- c. Lavish means expended or produced in abundance. Both wasteful and extravagant are synonyms for lavish, but, because it is modifying palace, extravagant is the more logical choice.
- d. The author's language emphasizes Mozart's imagination. The phrase engrossed in the intricacies of his make-believe court suggests a child with a lively imagination. None of the other choices is directly supported by the text.
- e. The text directly states that the pattern established in his childhood would be the template for the rest of his short life. Choice d could be misleading as the text states that Mozart was buried in an unmarked grave. However, it also states that this was customary at the time so one cannot infer that he died an anonymous pauper.
- b. Lauded means praised or blessed. The meaning of the word can be inferred from the structure of the paragraph. The paragraph begins by summing up Mozart's childhood, and then describes how the features of his childhood were mirrored in his adult life. In his childhood Mozart played for, and amazed, the heads of the British and French royal families and likewise as an adult he was lauded for his genius. From the structure, one can infer that to be lauded is something positive. Of the positive choices, praised makes more sense in the sentence than coveted.
- d. The author does not directly state that Mozart's illnesses were the result of exhaustion. She may imply this by describing Mozart's exhausting schedule and then stating that he became ill on tour. However, she does not make the connection explicit.
- b. The main point of the passage is to describe Mozart's experiences as a child prodigy, or a highly talented child. Choices a and c are too narrow in scope, and choices d and e are not explicitly stated in the passage.
For more practice on music critical reading questions, review:
- Music Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 1
- Music Critical Reading Practice Exercises Set 2 You are here
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