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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 11-12

Reading RH.11-12.2

RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

A New Scope

Reading a passage or text can be fruitless if your students don’t understand the core ideas. They could be munching on the reading for minutes before they hit it, and then it all becomes much more relevant. But that isn’t the only skill they have to master; they also must be able to dip into the details and supporting ideas as well. When summed up together, main ideas and details combine to make a healthy and delicious brain snack. Remember, a reading a day keeps the stupid away.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example

Return of the Fruit

Regardless of the kind of source, secondary or primary, deciding what the central information of a reading is can be simpler than peeling an orange; seriously, you need nails like a honey badger to get into those, and honey badger don’t even care about oranges. Here are a few tricks to add to your bag:

  • Always read the headings and sub-headings of a text. In many historical texts in particular, there is a structure that practically throws the central ideas in your face.
  • Read the first few and last few lines a couple of times. Generally speaking, in shorter readings that are information based, the central ideas and important information will be lead to by a thesis or guiding statement. This can be different in letters.
  • When you find it, write it...in separate notes, in the margin, on your friend’s arm...it doesn’t matter; just write it down with your mad paraphrasing skills.
  • Once you’ve written down the key idea, following up with the details is easy. This all may reek of obviousness like a rotten banana peel, but it is easy to get started on a reading and forget to stop for notes and annotations. Don’t fall into the habit of reading without note-taking; sometimes you have to stop and smell the peel.

Sum Wars

The second half of the standard asks students to summarize. What this is not: a dinky retelling of what students read in mostly direct misquotes from the text—fail. Don’t make it a lemon. This should be a detailed rundown of the reading, in students’ own words with appropriate quotes that connect the ideas in the reading plainly. Think massive sweet melon, with tons of details, rather than the sour lemon with little substance.

  • Often times you can’t beat a chart. I mean you physically could if you taped one to a watermelon and had a sledge hammer handy, but let’s get serious. Creating a chart or graphic organizer that displays all of the major ideas and connects them through accurate notation and summary would be very beneficial, especially for heavier readings.

Drill

Read the following Primary Source document, then answer the questions and complete the tasks that follow.  

Spiffy Document6

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address,
given November 19, 1863
on the battlefield near
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war ... testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated ... can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate ... we cannot consecrate ... we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain ... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ... and that government of the people ... by the people ... for the people ... shall not perish from this earth.”

3. Write a detailed summary in which you acknowledge the main claim of the provided speech and summarize the sub-points being asserted. You must use at least two quotes that appropriately link to the points and purpose summarized. [Hard]

6. Lincoln, Abraham (1973). Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Project Gutenberg. Retreived March 7, 2012, from http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext90/getty11h.htm

Drill 2

From Sun Tzu on the Art of War1
By Lionel Giles, M.A.

“III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM

1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

[The equivalent to an army corps, according to Ssu-ma Fa, consisted nominally of 12500 men; according to Ts`ao Kung, the equivalent of a regiment contained 500 men, the equivalent to a detachment consists from any number between 100 and 500, and the equivalent of a company contains from 5 to 100 men. For the last two, however, Chang Yu gives the exact figures of 100 and 5 respectively.]

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

[Here again, no modern strategist but will approve the words of the old Chinese general. Moltke's greatest triumph, the capitulation of the huge French army at Sedan, was won practically without bloodshed.]

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans;

[Perhaps the word "balk" falls short of expressing the full force of the Chinese word, which implies not an attitude of defense, whereby one might be content to foil the enemy's stratagems one after another, but an active policy of counter- attack. Ho Shih puts this very clearly in his note: "When the enemy has made a plan of attack against us, we must anticipate him by delivering our own attack first."]

The next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces;

[Isolating him from his allies. We must not forget that Sun Tzu, in speaking of hostilities, always has in mind the numerous states or principalities into which the China of his day was split up.]

The next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;

[When he is already at full strength.]

and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.”

1. Giles, Lionel (2012). Sun Tzu on the Art of War. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/132/pg132.html

2. Using details and direct quotes from both primary source documents provided, write a 2 - 3 paragraph response in which you:[Hard]

a) Link at least two of the common ideas in the texts and explain how the information in both may be interpreted as a shared concept.
B)Summarize the two documents together, relating the key details between the two.

Quiz 1 Questions

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

Read the following Primary Source document, then answer the questions and complete the tasks that follow.  

Spiffy Document6

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address,
given November 19, 1863
on the battlefield near
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war ... testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated ... can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate ... we cannot consecrate ... we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ... that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain ... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ... and that government of the people ... by the people ... for the people ... shall not perish from this earth.”

6. Lincoln, Abraham (1973). Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Project Gutenberg. Retreived March 7, 2012, from http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext90/getty11h.htm

  1. What is the central idea of this speech?

    Correct Answer:

    The central idea of the text is the continuation of the long-fought war that Lincoln and all of the soldiers present on the battlefield are participants in, with an ultimate goal pertaining to the role of government.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (c). This answer gives a blanket idea that encompasses the sub-points of paragraphs 4, (a), and 5 (b) respectively. Option (d) addresses purpose explicitly, and can be disregarded as a correct option according to the language in the question.


  2. Choose which of the details quoted below best connect to the idea, Lincoln was attempting to appeal to the mass of soldiers with fallen comrades, while still pursuing his political agenda.

    • i. “…conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
    • ii. “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live.”
    • iii. “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
    • iv. “... and that government of the people ... by the people ... for the people ... shall not perish from this earth.”

    Correct Answer:

    Options i, ii, and iv

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (b). All of the quotes provided may be used in connection with the idea presented. The details offer information for all portions of the idea. Anything including option iii is incorrect because this line does not address the idea given, and therefore would offer no support in connection to it.


Quiz 2 Questions

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

From Sun Tzu on the Art of War1
By Lionel Giles, M.A.

“III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM

1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

[The equivalent to an army corps, according to Ssu-ma Fa, consisted nominally of 12500 men; according to Ts`ao Kung, the equivalent of a regiment contained 500 men, the equivalent to a detachment consists from any number between 100 and 500, and the equivalent of a company contains from 5 to 100 men. For the last two, however, Chang Yu gives the exact figures of 100 and 5 respectively.]

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

[Here again, no modern strategist but will approve the words of the old Chinese general. Moltke's greatest triumph, the capitulation of the huge French army at Sedan, was won practically without bloodshed.]

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy's plans;

[Perhaps the word "balk" falls short of expressing the full force of the Chinese word, which implies not an attitude of defense, whereby one might be content to foil the enemy's stratagems one after another, but an active policy of counter- attack. Ho Shih puts this very clearly in his note: "When the enemy has made a plan of attack against us, we must anticipate him by delivering our own attack first."]

The next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces;

[Isolating him from his allies. We must not forget that Sun Tzu, in speaking of hostilities, always has in mind the numerous states or principalities into which the China of his day was split up.]

The next in order is to attack the enemy's army in the field;

[When he is already at full strength.]

and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.”

1. Giles, Lionel (2012). Sun Tzu on the Art of War. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved March 8, 2012, from http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/132/pg132.html

  1. Consider the title, content, and annotations (in italics) given in the primary source above. Chose the option that best exemplifies the central idea of the text Sun Tzu on the Art of War.

    Correct Answer:

    The excerpt attempts to relay the psychological, physical, and emotional resources to consider when fighting a war.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (c). This answer identifies the subtle ideas in several of the points, and relates them all together as a statement on the central topic. Options (a) and (b) are too simplistic and narrow; option (d) is pretty much the exact opposite of the right answer.


Aligned Resources