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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources



Grades 9-10

Language L.9-10.6

L.9-10.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

In each grade, the Common Core Standards encourage students not only to learn age-appropriate ways of using language, but also to work on putting their skills together into a workable whole. For example, a student who doesn’t recognize the word “citation” isn’t going to get very far in using the MLA Handbook, even if he or she knows how to choose a style guide and look things up in it just fine.

This standard, therefore, is about putting information together to create and develop knowledge. It requires students to think about what they already know and use it to get information and knowledge they don’t yet have. The lecture format may still be popular in schools, but in advanced studies and in the job world, the people who can formulate questions and find the answers are the ones who get ahead.

P.S. If your students need to brush up on their spelling and grammar, send 'em over to our Grammar Learning Guides so they can hone their skills before conquering the Common Core.

Example 1

Sample Activities for Use in Class

1. Fill In the Blanks

Give students a copy of the following passage, or another passage of your choosing:

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We four affectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.

--Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Have students read the passage to themselves. When they come across a word or phrase that they don’t understand or doesn’t seem to make sense in context, they should write the word or phrase on a list (on a separate sheet of paper and/or on this handout) and underline the unknown word or phrase. Once everyone has completed their reading and list, choose one or two students to read the passage aloud. However, instead of saying the words or phrases they don’t recognize, students should insert a “zzz” noise whenever they come to an underlined word or phrase.

Once students are done reading, ask them, and the class as a whole, what they think is going on in the passage. Then, have students look up their confusing words and phrases in a dictionary or on the Internet. Next to each entry on their lists, they should write a few words or a phrase that explains to them what the confusing word or phrase means. Once students have looked up the words or phrases they don’t recognize, have one or two students read the passage out loud, inserting the definition for each confusing word or phrase. The discussion of what’s going on in the passage should go much more smoothly after this exercise.

Example 2

2. Know Your Jargon

Split students into two or more groups, and give each group several print or online specialty dictionaries and other reference materials. Each group should use these materials to create five to ten flash cards that have the word printed on one side, but nothing written on the back. Instead, have the students write down the words and their definitions on a separate sheet of paper - their “answer key.” Once each group has finished making its flashcards, have the groups swap cards.

Each group now takes its new deck of cards and dives into its research materials to find the definition of each word, which should be written on the back of the card. Groups may not ask one another where the word comes from, what it means, or which reference they should use to find out what it means. Instead, students should examine the words and discuss with one another which references are most likely to contain the words.

Once the groups are finished defining the words, have each group read its vocabulary words and the definitions the group found out loud. The group that originally made the cards should follow along with its “answer key” to see how closely the second group came to getting the definitions right. Discuss as a class which definitions are right or wrong, which words have more than one definition, and how to decide which reference works are best for finding out what certain words mean.

Quiz 1 Questions

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

Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.

My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister - Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle - I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.

"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!"

A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
"O! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it, sir."

"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"

"Pip, sir."

"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"

"Pip. Pip, sir."

"Show us where you live," said the man. "Pint out the place!"

  1. Pip explains that he got his nickname because his “infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.” Based on the context, Pip MOST likely means that:

    Correct Answer:

    He couldn’t pronounce his own name correctly when he was very young.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - His “infant tongue” and what it could “make” and not make is a great clue that he is talking about what he could and couldn’t pronounce.

  2. In the second paragraph, Pip describes his impression of his parents as having been “unreasonably derived” from their tombstones. In context, the phrase “unreasonably derived” is most likely synonymous with which word or phrase?

    Correct Answer:

    based on

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - Pip is telling us that his first impressions of his dead parents were “derived” from their tombstones—so “based on” is the closest synonym.

  3. The two words “unreasonably” and “derived” are what parts of speech?

    Correct Answer:

    an adverb and a verb

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - The verb is “derived” and since “unreasonably” describes it, it’s an adverb.

  4. In the second paragraph, Pip describes “five little stone lozenges” near his parents’ tombstone. Which of the following reference sources would MOST likely give you the definition of “lozenge” Pip means to use here?

    Correct Answer:

    An encyclopedia of tombstone designs, materials, and symbols

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Cough drops are often called “lozenges” due to their shape, but that doesn’t make sense in context, making (b) the better answer.
    • (b) - This would probably describe a “lozenge”-shaped tombstone as one that was elliptical in shape, which is what Pip is describing here.
    • (d) - This would define “lozenge” as a shape, but probably also as a cough drop and/or other additional definitions. It wouldn’t stick to the definition Pip means here, which makes (b) the better answer.

  5. Pip’s father’s tombstone contains the inscription “Also Georgiana Wife of the Above.” Based on the context, who was Georgiana?

    Correct Answer:

    the wife of Pip’s father and also Pip’s mother

    Answer Explanation:

    All the other answers are possible, but they aren’t supported by any evidence in the context of the story or the tombstone itself, making (d) the best answer.

  6. In the third paragraph, Pip refers to his father, Philip Pirrip, as “late of this parish.” If you didn’t know what a “parish” was, where might you look it up based on the context?

    Correct Answer:

    in a standard dictionary, because it seems to be a general term for some kind of place

    Answer Explanation:

    • (d) - a “parish” is a church district; “late of this parish” means “he was a member of this church before he died.” Often, one had to be a member of a particular church in order to be buried in that church’s graveyard. *correct answer
    • (e) - The verb is “perish.”

  7. The man Pip meets at the end of this passage is covered in mud, wearing an “iron” on his leg, and threatens Pip to make him stay quiet. Based on these contextual clues, the man is MOST likely:

    Correct Answer:

    an outlaw

    Answer Explanation:

    He’s been sleeping outdoors and doesn’t want to attract attention to himself; the “iron” here is most likely a shackle or chain, not the kind used to press clothes.

  8. The man orders Pip to “Pint out the place” where Pip lives. “Pint”, here, most likely means:

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - The man is mispronouncing “point” and saying “pint.” The best way to make sense of this is to read it in context.

  9. If you were writing a paper about how this meeting with the outlaw changes Pip’s outlook on life during the rest of the book, which style guide should you use when you cite this book?

    Correct Answer:

    The MLA handbook

    Answer Explanation:

    Great Expectations is literature, so MLA applies here

  10. Since this book is available for free online, you decide to use an online copy for your paper instead of a print copy. How will this change the information about this book you include in your Works Cited page on your paper?

    Correct Answer:

    The Internet citation will include the website hosting the book and the URL, or web address, for that website.

    Answer Explanation:

    Book citations, naturally, don’t have website information.

Quiz 2 Questions

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

  1. Kara says that her neighbor, Mr. Dalloway, is “eccentric.” Stella says that Mr. Dalloway is “parsimonious.” Jason has no idea what either one of them means. Which source is LEAST likely to help Jason understand what “eccentric” and “parsimonious” mean?

    Correct Answer:

    an atlas

    Answer Explanation:

    An atlas is a book of maps; it’s not likely to explain human behavior.

  2. Someone who is “sage” is considered wise. “Sage” is also a kind of herb used in cooking and also for incense. A writer probably means the first definition of “sage,” instead of the second, if his writing uses the word “sage” as what part of speech?

    Correct Answer:

    an adjective

    Answer Explanation:

    “Sage” when referring to people can also be a noun, but “sage” as in the herb is rarely used as an adjective.

  3. Mai Lin wants to study anthropology, criminology, and zoology in college. The suffix “-ology” most likely means what?

    Correct Answer:

    a study of something

    Answer Explanation:

    (a) - This is the meaning that all three words share.

  4. To change the words “anthropology,” “criminology,” and “zoology” from a description of a thing to a description of a person who does that thing, which suffix would you add in place of the -y ?

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - That would be “anthropologist,” “criminologist,” and “zoologist.”

  5. Instead of studying anthropology, Mai Lin has decided to study what was going on in the world before anthropology was invented. Which of the following prefixes should she NOT use to describe her study of “before anthropology”?

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - This prefix means “around” or “near,” but not “before.”

  6. Which of the following sentences is a compound sentence AND contains a word with a prefix that means “not”?

    Correct Answer:

    The way my parents handle my brother is outrageous, and it’s totally inappropriate.

    Answer Explanation:

    A compound sentence is two independent clauses joined, usually by a comma and a conjunction. This is the only option that meets those criteria and contains a word whose prefix means “not” - “inappropriate.”

  7. Which of the following words is NOT spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:


  8. All of the following words have a prefix attached so that they mean “not correctly,” but which one is correct?

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - This is the only correct way to add a prefix to “correctly” and make it mean “not correctly”.

  9. Which of the following sentences uses a colon correctly, but also has two misspelled words in it?

    Correct Answer:

    To find a first edishun book that’s really valuble, my sister says, you need to look for three things: condition, condition, and condition.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - This sentence correctly places the colon after an independent clause and before a list, and it also has two misspelled words: “edishun” for “edition” and “valuble” for “valuable”.

  10. Which of the following words is not spelled correctly?

    Correct Answer:

    All four words are spelled correctly

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - Yep, they’re all spelled correctly, but you might not be familiar with some of them since they do not occur frequently in common speech and writing.

More standards from Grades 9-10 - Language