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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Reading RH.9-10.1

RH.9-10.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

The Secret Life of the American Gossip Girl

So in first period today, Chloe told Brianna that she liked Mark…but Brianna told Stephanie that Chloe looooved Mark, then Stephanie told Jake who told Ross who is best friends with Mark… Sound familiar? All of this drama is due to a misinterpretation of a primary source: Chloe’s original statement. All of the rumors spread following this statement are considered secondary sources, secondhand information reporting on the original event. Knowing the difference is essential in analyzing a text, and may even help you keep some friends when the school soap opera begins.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example

Pretty Little Lesson

Let’s say you’re writing on an important historical event, like the 2000’s Thumb Wrestling Championship . If you reference in your analysis, a speech given by the previous year’s thumb war champ, then that would be primary. But, if you also reference a text such as Oscar Villalon’s “The Way of the Thumb” (2007)ii, about winning strategies and tactics in this audacious sport, then that would be secondary. Think of it as how far removed the source is from the action; if someone creates, is present for, or reports on the action first-hand as it’s happening, then they are a primary source. However, if someone writes a criticism or commentary on any of the historically reported information, then it is a secondary source because it’s once removed from the original information.

How I Met Your Paper

The difference between the two kinds of documents is why the little bit on the end of the standard is important, “attending to such features as the date and origin of the information,” showing that you know which is which and can discuss the sources correctly. Once you’ve sorted out your sources, it’s time to analyze them or break them down in order to determine what they mean and why they matter. Don’t forget our favorite part: cite text evidence! You need to cite specific portions of the text that support your analysis or interpretation of the text or the subject. Referencing the text doesn’t ever go away for the rest of your educational days; you should write a poem about it, then reference your own poem in an essay about primary and secondary sources—it would blow your teacher’s mind.

  • Shmoop tip of the day: Keeping colored sticky notes when reading multiple documents is like having a life vest on in the middle of the ocean; you have to keep your head above the flood of information. Tracking what’s what in this way can be a boon to your sanity… and to your analysis.

The Primary Diaries

Still not sure about what’s what? There are several ways to conquer this textual shortcoming. Original stuff (no posers), such as art of any mode, speeches, letters, autobiographies= primary, the epicenter of the knowledge explosion. People who like to talk about the original works by quoting it, alluding to it, referencing it, analyzing it= secondary, in the wake of the knowledge. Don’t let yourself get confused in the aftermath of the big info bang.

Quiz Questions

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

Synthesize the following documents and answer the questions that follow.

Document 1
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.”

Document 2
Megan Taber
March 6, 2012

Lincoln’s short speech to the soldiers at Gettysburg was given shortly after he pushed through a limited proclamation, emancipating slaves in confederate states. Thus, it is no coincidence that the chin-strap bearded President uses trendy words like “liberty” and “freedom” to get everyone’s attention and conveniently remind them of why they were there. Almost everyone knows the first line, “Four score and seven years ago,” though it isn’t just when your grandma was born; this is when the Declaration of Independence was written. Lincoln is throwing back to 87 years prior to that moment, speaking to a half illiterate crowd about the founding documents in order to prove his point about rights for all men. I’m sure if he had the opportunity to throw this little presentation into a PowerPoint and give out candy for a pop quiz, he would have, but since he was in the middle of a battlefield with tired, hungry, and scantly bathed men he had to keep it brief and to the point; they weren’t dying for giggles. There was a reason for the many already dead and the many soon to be; Abe was just being honest.

This does sound a bit like any rousing battle speech in a movie given before the slow-motion deaths with some really nice instrumental music behind it, but Lincoln was the American Classic. There are some anti-Lincoln commentaries out there. Many believe Lincoln was a liar and a hypocrite at these words; they claim that the speech was a dedication for only those fighting for his cause of a united nation, and therefore mocked the Southern states’ fallen soldiers. The last lines of his speech beg the question of whether he was truly giving a loaded address or if he was attempting to state that these men have died and will die in the name of government for its own sake (for the people, by the people, yadda yadda…). The jury on Lincoln’s rep is currently out with many in the anti-Abe camp hoping to sully his good name as it is ingrained Americana. Perhaps a break from the hatred and a look at the man’s breadth of work would be in order.

  1. I hope you paid attention. Which statement best describes the first document?

    Correct Answer:

    The first document is a transcription of a speech, and therefore a primary source that is from the 19th century.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (a). This is the only answer that correctly identifies the writing as a primary source, with specific information about the date by the way. Option (b) states the document is a secondary source… nope. Option (c) claims the writing is a commentary, which if you recall that awesome explanation earlier, commentaries on historical information or documents are secondary sources. Option (d) is nothing but lies and deceit.


  2. A little bit of the same. Which statement best describes the second document?

    Correct Answer:

    The second document is a secondary source referencing the primary source given as document one.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (b). This identifies the document as a secondary source; it’s a rather silly commentary on the speech (helloooo- primary) given by Lincoln. Option (a) is out because it refers to the document as a primary source. Option (c) is a shameless misdirection with word play. Option (d) is totally wrong; that person wasn’t there listening to the speech, unless they have a Tardis.


  3. Not for the novice: Choose the line that best supports the statement: The second document is a satirical commentary on the well-known address with an agenda to negate Lincoln’s growing notoriety.

    Correct Answer:

    “The jury on Lincoln’s rep is currently out with many in the anti-Abe camp hoping to sully his good name as it is ingrained Americana.”

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (d). This quote would be the most appropriate support for the statement given. Option (a) really has nothing to do with the point of the article. Option (b) is a misquotation taken out of context, and would do the exact opposite of the intended statement. Option (c) is quoted from the first document and would not be sufficient support for the statement.


  4. You have to admit, the beard is pretty nice. Determine which analytical statement best applies to the following quote from the first source: “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.”

    Correct Answer:

    The speaker is appealing to the audience’s patriotism with his reference to the founding document’s time and purpose.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (b). This is an appropriate analysis of the given quote. Option (a) may be applicable, but it isn’t as specific as the second option. The third option, (c) is ridiculous; when did Jews get involved? Option (d) is more of an incorrect interpretation of the quote rather than an analytical statement.


  5. You may want to use the bathroom before reading this one: Which quotes from both the first document by Lincoln and the commentary about the address best illustrate a defense of Lincoln?

    • I. “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”
    • 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. “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain”
    • IV. “…they weren’t dying for giggles. There was a reason for the many already dead and the many soon to be; Abe was just being honest.”
    • V. “The last lines of his speech beg the question of whether he was truly giving a loaded address or if he was attempting to state that these men have died and will die in the name of government for its own sake (for the people, by the people, yadda yadda…).”

    Correct Answer:

    All of these quotes would be applicable to an analysis and defense of Lincoln.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (d). All of the listed citations may be used to affirm Lincoln’s positive intention and reputation; it helps that the second document is a pro-Lincoln writing. However, even negative quotes could be used if the analysis is correctly written. Option (c) is incorrect; using citations well and with moderation in an analysis is a good thing. Options (a) and (b) simply split up the quotes from the two documents; there is no reason for this, other than to see if you’re paying attention. Quotes from both primary and secondary sources are preferred when writing on an historical event or personality.


Aligned Resources