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Common Core Standards: ELA

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing

Writing CCRA.W.1

1. Text Types and Purposes: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

While Mom might be able to get away with “Because I said so!” as a logical explanation for her side of an argument, most other people need to provide some kind of proof to back up what they want to say. This standard explains just what constitutes a good written argument—from claim to proof.

First, the writer must make a claim. Whether it’s stating that vampires in stories reflect the culture’s fear of people who are different or stating that the conch shell in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies represents civilization and order, the claim tells the reader the author’s belief or opinion. A claim must be something someone can disagree with. No one would argue with the “claim” that gravity makes objects fall down, so there is no point writing an argument to prove it.

Second, this claim must analyze or look at a substantive topic or text. In other words, the claim the writer is making must be about something important. So, a claim examining what vampires symbolize in stories is in, while a claim arguing whether or not vampires sparkle is out!

Third, the writer must create arguments using valid reasoning. This means that the argument must follow logic and present a reason that anyone could be convinced by. For example, if you claim that the conch stands for civilization because your brother says so, that is not valid. It doesn’t matter just how smart and wonderful your brother might be, this reasoning is not going to convince people. You must give reasons based on evidence from the book, and your reasons must follow logical thought processes.

Finally, there has to be evidence that is relevant and sufficient. Relevant evidence is connected to your argument somehow. For your claim that vampires represent a culture’s fears, quoting Bram Stoker’s Dracula is relevant, but quoting an article about Robert Pattinson’s favorite restaurant is not. Sufficient evidence means that you have enough proof of what you are saying. There are plenty of instances in Lord of the Flies when the conch is used to bring everyone together—exploring those instances would be sufficient evidence.

Example 1

1. In the case of Goldilocks vs. The Three Bears, it is necessary to prove which party is at fault for Goldilocks’ Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following her visit to the home of The Three Bears.


Goldilocks' PTSD is a result of her own actions, and The Three Bears bear no responsibility for her trauma.(This is the claim. Notice that the claim reflects a belief that someone could disagree with.)
Her inability to return to work picking flowers in the woods is the result of her own actions in the home of The Three Bears.(This shows that the topic is substantive. Goldilocks has lost work because of her problems—which is a serious issue.)
On the day in question, Goldilocks chose to enter the abode of the Bear family despite the fact that she was uninvited, unwelcome, and no one was home. In short, she committed the felony of breaking and entering. From there, she systematically destroyed the possessions of The Three Bears. In particular, Baby Bear suffered the greatest losses—his porridge, his favorite chair, and the security of his own bed.(This evidence is relevant. It makes it clear that Goldilocks harmed The Three Bears through her illegal entry, which means their frightening her is justified—and is not their fault.
No one is disputing that Goldilocks was frightened by the return of the bears: “At the sound of the Baby Bear's voice the little girl awoke with a start. She sat up and glanced about her. Then she sprang out of bed, and dashed down the stairs and out of the house as fast as her legs would carry her.” Clearly, the Bears’ appearing suddenly while she slept was enough to scare her silly. But as she was sleeping in another family’s house after having eaten their breakfast and ruined their chairs, it is her own fault that she was in a position to be so frightened.(Between the quotation from the story and the description of the losses suffered by Baby Bear, there is sufficient or enough evidence that Goldilocks had no expectation of calm in another person’s house.)
If Goldilocks can no longer perform her duties as a flower-gatherer, it is because she is guilty of trespassing.(The reasoning for arguing that Goldilocks has only herself to blame is valid).

Example 2

2. In this example, identify the claim. Explain how it is substantive. How is the reasoning valid? What relevant evidence is used? Is there sufficient evidence of the Bears’ responsibility?

The Three Bears are entirely to blame for Goldilocks’ trauma and subsequent inability to enter the woods to pick flowers. The little girl only wanted to eat and rest before she tried to find her way home again, and by frightening her after a day full of ordeals, the Bears traumatized a minor in their own home.

On the day in question, the Bears left their home unlocked and their breakfast open on the table in order to go for a walk. By leaving the doors unlocked, the Bears lost any expectation of home privacy.

When Goldilocks happened upon their house, she was already exhausted and scared from being lost in the woods. “The little girl went up to the door and knocked. There was no answer. She knocked again. Still no answer. And so she opened the door and went in. She was very tired and hungry.” Clearly, the little girl knew that she should announce her presence before entering. It was not her fault that the Bears were not at home to answer. Finding the door unlocked, the little girl did the only thing she could—she went in and made herself comfortable.

When the Bears returned to find their breakfast eaten, their chairs moved and broken, and their beds rumpled and slept in, they should not have been surprised. They had left their door open. By then scaring the worn out little girl sleeping in Baby Bear’s bed, they committed an atrocious breach of hospitality.

Goldilocks’ current mental state is completely the fault of the Three Bears. If they did not want any visitors in their home, they should not have left it unlocked. For that matter, they should not have left the house at all!

Quiz Questions

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

  1. In this excerpt from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the monster is talking to his creator, Victor Frankenstein, about his feelings. Read it and then answer the questions that follow:

    “‘I am malicious because I am miserable. Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind? You, my creator, would tear me to pieces and triumph; remember that, and tell me why I should pity man more than he pities me?... I will revenge my injuries; if I cannot inspire love, I will cause fear, and chiefly towards you my archenemy, because my creator, do I swear inextinguishable hatred. Have a care; I will work at your destruction, nor finish until I desolate your heart, so that you shall curse the hour of your birth.

    ‘If any being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundredfold; for that one creature’s sake I would make peace with the whole kind! But I now indulge in dreams of bliss that cannot be realized. What I ask of you is reasonable and moderate; I demand a creature of another sex, but as hideous as myself; the gratification is small, but it is all that I can receive, and it shall content me. It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another. Our lives will not be happy, but they will be harmless and free from the misery I now feel. Oh! My creator, make me happy; let me feel gratitude towards you for one benefit! Let me see that I excite the sympathy of some existing thing; do not deny me my request!...

    ‘If I have no ties and no affections, hatred and vice must be my portion; the love of another will destroy the cause of my crimes, and I shall become a thing of whose existence everyone will be ignorant. My vices are the children of a forced solitude that I abhor, and my virtues will necessarily arise when I live in communion with an equal. I shall feel the affections of a sensitive being and become linked to the chain of existence and events from which I am now excluded.’”

    What claim is the monster making in this excerpt?

    Correct Answer:

    He is unhappy because no one loves him.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is D. Though it is true that he hates Frankenstein and wants to destroy him if he does not help him (A and C), the monster’s basic claim is that his unhappiness stems from the fact that all human beings hate him on sight. Once he has a bride who is similar to him (and just as ugly), they will cut themselves off from the world and love each other. That will end the monster’s murderous tendencies.


  2. What relevant evidence does the monster use to back up his claim?

    Correct Answer:

    “Am I not shunned and hated by all mankind?”

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is A. The fact that all humans hate the monster is the reason he is so miserable. This backs up his claim that love will make him happy. B is not correct because that is simply his plan for dealing with the fact that no one loves him. C is simply his statement about how he dreams of anyone caring for him. D is incorrect because he is pleading with Frankenstein to show some sympathy. And E is simply his demand from his creator.


  3. What is an example of invalid or illogical reasoning on the monster’s part?

    Correct Answer:

    He is forced to hurt and destroy others because everyone hates him.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. Though it is true that everyone hates the monster, that does not force him to be violent. The monster makes that choice for himself, and he has no one to blame for his own actions but himself. It is true, logical and valid that being hated makes the creature miserable, that having someone to share his life would help him be happier, and that Frankenstein, as his creator, is responsible for his appearance and therefore his unhappiness, and he owes his monster a chance at happiness.


  4. Which of these substantive and basic human desires does the creature’s claim touch upon?

    Correct Answer:

    Desire for friendship

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. The creature has no desire for power, spirituality or solitude. He does desire vengeance, but that is not the basis of his claim. He seeks vengeance because of his lack of friendship.


  5. The monster assumes several things about his future. Which of the following assumptions does he make with no relevant evidence to back it up?

    Correct Answer:

    That his wife’s love will keep him happy and non-violent.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is A. The monster does not have any evidence that his wife will love him. Just because they are both hideous does not mean that she will accept him. Also, even if she does love him, it does not guarantee that he will no longer feel angry and vengeful. The monster knows his creator is upset about having created him. He knows that he can hurt Frankenstein through his awesome physical violence. The monster has had plenty of evidence that human beings are horrified and frightened of him. And the monster knows that only Frankenstein knows the secret of creating life.


  6. Read the following excerpt from “The Declaration of Independence,” and then answer the questions that follow:

    “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

    What is the overall claim the writers of the Declaration are making?

    Correct Answer:

    The colonies feel they must change their government to end the King’s tyranny.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is E. The document was written for the purpose of explaining that claim. Though the Declaration does state A, B and C, none of those represent the overall claim. Answer D is simply incorrect.


  7. Which of the following statements would not represent relevant evidence of the King’s tyranny?

    Correct Answer:

    He has suffered from mental illness.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is C. Though it was true that King George III was somewhat cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, it did not have anything to do with why the colonists felt that he was tyrannical. The other four answers are evidence of the King’s tyranny given by the writers of the Declaration.


  8. The claim that the colonists have the right to change their government is based upon what valid reasoning?

    Correct Answer:

    All men have the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is A. The writers of the Declaration reach the claim that they have the right to rebel based upon the valid reason that all men have certain rights and that they should have a government that protects those rights. B is incorrect because it simply gives the reason for why they are providing Britain with this Declaration. C simply states that they are willing to provide evidence of their complaints. D does not accurately reflect what the writers said—not all truth is self-evident. E is factually incorrect.


  9. Which of these substantive issues does the Declaration touch upon?

    Correct Answer:

    Desire for autonomy.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is D. The writers of the Declaration were hoping for the Colonies to be able to govern themselves.


  10. What do the writers of the Declaration feel is a sufficient reason for abolition of a government?

    Correct Answer:

    A long sequence of abuses and usurpations without the consent of the governed.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is B. The writers make it clear that government should not be abolished lightly (A and E). But at the same time, if the abuses are tolerable compared to the possible problems overthrowing a government may cause, it might be more sensible to grin and bear it. However, a government may be overthrown if it has abused the people over and over again.


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