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Common Core Standards: ELA

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading

Reading CCRA.R.5

The relationships among the parts of a text and between each part and the whole text often play a role in the meaning of the text as a whole.  For example, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”conceals until the end the fact that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person.  Detective stories also depend on the “surprise” ending that reveals “whodunit.”  These stories maintain their suspense by where they place certain information, and they lose it if that information is revealed too soon in the text.  The ability to analyze a text’s structure provides information about the type of text it is and where to find certain information, like the solution to a mystery.

Example 1

The Sound of Pulling Texts Apart

Very carefully, you stack the small rectangular blocks together one by one. As you slide a single part out you realize how important that piece was to the structural integrity of the wooden tower. It begins to wobble and you know if any other section is removed the whole thing while lose shape and purpose. Another cornerstone is removed and… Jenga! It is undeniable that each piece of a text is imperative to the meaning as a whole; take out one and the entire thing begins to lose its form and become unclear. Understanding how each part of the text is important is vital in comprehension and analysis.

Example 2

Everlasting Format

It should be obvious to students that if one part of the puzzle is removed, the picture becomes unclear. It should also be obvious that if you put the puzzle together out of order, the picture will be unclear. Thus, authors make specific choices about the pieces of the text they include and the order in which they are presented. This standard asks students to analyze those choices and understand how they influence the central idea and effect of the overall text.

Here are some ideas for introducing students to text structure in both non-fiction and fiction/literary texts:

  • If you’ve ever gone to the movies after slamming a Venti beverage of choice from Starbucks, you know how frustrating it is to miss a chunk of the plot while you run to the bathroom. Well, a poorly structured text is just as confusing, so authors work hard to structure their texts in a way that best communicates their meaning. As readers, it’s our job to analyze the text’s structure in order to better understand the meaning and overall development of ideas. When conducting this analysis, we need to look for the “flow” or relationship between the sentences and paragraphs and try to understand the author’s purpose in organizing the information this way. Some common structures5 in non-fiction or technical texts include:
    • Cause and Effect: The information will be ordered according to cause-effect relationships – use a flow chart to follow.
    • Sequence: Literally a chain of information given in sequential order, often some version of chronological order – a flow chart or timeline is also good here.
    • Compare and Contrast: Two or more items in a text are evaluated for similarities and differences – use a Venn diagram or make a columned chart to write out observations.
  • In fictional texts or poetry you need to be able to identify how each section is important to the overall development of the plot or theme. How do all these smaller pieces connect to form one, cohesive, meaningful whole? This is all about discerning the purpose of each part of the text. Why does the author choose to include this section or scene? Why are the details presented in this order? How does our experience or understanding of the text change if these pieces are missing or reordered?

5 Text Structures Retrieved February 25, 2012. From http://teacher.scholastic.com/reading/bestpractices/nonfiction/fiveTextStructures.pdf

Example 3

X Amount of Words

Once your students know the rules and how to set up a game, playing is easy and possibly even enjoyable. If you can show them how to look at a text as an object that can be taken apart and put back together in a specific way, then it becomes a kind of equation. Consider the job of tracking the structure and explaining its significance a game that students should play to win.

Quiz Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

If you answer these questions that follow the text, then I will give you a cookie. Not really, but did you notice how I used a cause-effect structure there to convince you to act?

  1. Analyze the following passage, and then answer the questions that follow.

    In April of 2011 almost every TV in England, and a fair few in America, were tuned in to the royal event of the year to see one lucky lady walk down the aisle. It was the enchanting and extravagant wedding of Kate and William—sigh—the young hearts of the world weep. The spotlight, however, was unexpectedly stolen by the elegant, white-wearing sister of the bride, Pippa Middleton. The alluring Pippa has perhaps become more popular than her duchess sister as a result of the interest sucking affair. Followed, photographed, and fawned over, Pippa has been reaping the benefits of that white dress as she is treated like a majestic celebrity.

    Are you Pippa crazy? Yeah, we’re not either…Which statement best describes the structure of the text?

    Correct Answer:

    The passage displays a cause and effect relationship in regards to Pippa’s renowned appearance.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (B). The text explains that the cause (the royal wedding or association with the royal family) that led to an effective rise in Pippa’s popularity. The text does not give a detailed description of Pippa’s life, nor does it compare her life to her sister’s. Option (D) is incorrect because there is a clear structure to the short paragraph.

  2. Choose the answer that best explains the correlation between the following sentences and the paragraph as a whole:

    I. “In April of 2011 almost every TV in England, and a fair few in America, were tuned in to the Royal event of the year to see one lucky lady walk down the aisle.”                                         II. “The spotlight, however, was unexpectedly stolen by the elegant, white-wearing sister of the bride, Pippa Middleton.”

    Correct Answer:

    The sentences offer a humorous misdirection by presenting the subject as Kate, and then revealing that the true topic of the paragraph is Pippa.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (C). The key in this answer is the word misdirection, as well as the mention of the topic which is the link. Options (A) and (B) are incorrect because the passage is not presenting a detailed factual account or an argument but rather is reporting on popular opinion. Option (D) is incorrect because obviously there is a relationship.

  3. Identify how the following sentence relates to the rest of the paragraph: “It was the enchanting and extravagant wedding of Kate and William—sigh—the young hearts of the world weep.”

    Correct Answer:

    In the context of the paragraph this sentence gives an ironic reference to Pippa.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (A). This offers an incongruity between the presumed literal meaning (that the text will focus on the newlyweds), and the meaning that is interpreted when the context of the entire paragraph is understood (that the text is focused on Pippa, who is not getting married). Option (B) gives a narrowed description of the sentence and neglects to discuss it in the context of the whole paragraph. Option (C) doesn’t make sense because the tone is consistent. Option (D) is incorrect because this isn’t the topic sentence, and the paragraph is not understood because of this one sentence; the sentence is understood because of the rest of the paragraph.

  4. Analyze the following poem, and then answer the questions that follow. 

    When walking down the lane one sunny day
    A girl of twelve looked on three graves she dug
    She did not dare their names or plots to say
    Now all of them are full of worm and bug

    She spied the darkest deeds of every one
    With greed and malice walking side with them
    The first swift justice cooked until well done
    The second floating down where naught could swim

    The last met fate while walking down that road
    But too it met with thunder, steel, and wheel
    Now all are underground as she foretold
    And none can they now chatter, hiss, or squeal.

    The people with light hearts do merry make
    Now vanquished are the monkey, pig, and snake.

    Did you get it? Choose the answer that describes the connection the first three stanzas have to the overall structure.

    Correct Answer:

    The first three stanzas are organized so that a story or plot is explained. A sense of repugnance towards the girl builds through reflection of previous events.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (A). Modeled after many of Shakespeare’s sonnets, this poem tells a story of a girl who possibly killed the three people the graves are for. The stanzas build up this idea by reflecting on the reasons for their deaths. Options (B) and (D) both offer a structure that is typically used in non-fiction and is clearly not related to the structure of the poem. Option (C) is completely wrong; there are no drastic changes in time, and we as readers do not empathize with the girl. At least, not really. I mean, we know they’re greedy and all, but murder seems a bit harsh, right?

  5. Now for the obvious remaining question: Choose the answer that best describes the function of the last couplet in relation to the rest of the poem.

    Correct Answer:

    The last two lines refute the idea of murder in the first three stanzas and shift the mood from aversion to relief.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (B). The last line of the poem reveals that the graves are for animals and invites a new, more lighthearted reading of the poem. Answer (A) is wrong because the final lines clearly refute the idea of murder. Option (C) is wrong because the mood definitely changes. Option (D) is wrong because the poem does not follow a problem-solution structure. All done. In the words of the philosopher Homer Simpson: “Woohoo!”

More standards from College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading - Reading