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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy See All Teacher Resources



Grade 9-10

Reading RH.9-10.3

RH.9-10.3. Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

American Incident

Everyone knows that when a show is super popular it’s likely that a spin-off will also make its way into the prime-time lineup. For the trendy, the hugely popular Kourtney and Khloe take Miami sprang from Keeping up with the Kardashians; for the nostalgic, the military-sleuth-comedy NCIS is a branch off JAG; and for the geek chic, sci-fi cult hit Torchwood is the derivation of Doctor Who. The point of all of these spin-offs is the continuation of a story-line based on a character or group of characters from the original. Therefore any of the events in the original show are direct causes of the initial events in the new show (then it usually takes on a life of its own). This cause and effect relationship is also present in longer texts, and should be recognized and explained as such.


Dancing With the Sequence

In this standard, we are essentially looking for causality. To study and examine a text through the events or major action is something you’ve been doing for a while, ever since you first learned about the plot pyramid back in elementary school.

  • Sequence of Events: History is all about the chain of events, one thing happens, and then another. This can be broken down and analyzed for causality, and you can then have an informed discussion of the text at hand.
  • Cause and Effect: Many historical texts are built on a cause/effect structure as historians try to understand how the events throughout history are related to one another. Understanding the causes and effects of a war or the formation of a new government is super important to our understanding of the historical context in which we live.
  • In sequence, but not cause/effect: Because all of history is a sequence of events, we have to be careful not to assume that events that precede other events always have a causal relationship. There may also be situations in which there is no clear direct causality, but simply another unrelated action that occurs. Assuming everything is the result of a previous action could lead to flawed interpretation of a text.

The Amazing Ace

So the next time you’re flipping through the channels looking for something to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, keep in mind your neglecting to study may be the cause of an ineffective performance on your next test. That would be a very unfortunate series of events for your educational aspirations.

Quiz Questions

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

Cause: Read the following short passage and answer the questions that follow. Effect: You will be a better person (ok maybe that’s a little exaggerated).

Short Reading

(1) Sorting through the twisted wreckage of their dilapidated ship for the third time, Mike hoped to find something that would help him make a better shelter. His brother, Robbie, was more knowledgeable about nature, and he had built a shelter mostly out of items he found on the island. Mike wished he could find a volleyball so he could draw a sad face on it and throw it at him. After their boat ran aground and Mike thought matters couldn’t get worse, his rancorous brother started arguing about ancient history, as if being wrecked on an island wasn’t enough chaos for one day. Mike failed to see what how Robbie’s fickle, promiscuous girlfriend was at all relevant at the moment. Mike wasn’t sorry for anything and Robbie knew it, so he couldn’t muster forgiveness. The wreck seemed to rekindle Robbie’s anger for a year-old spite. After realizing that they still had a few supplies intact, that they were fortunate to have landed on solid ground, and that they would most likely be rescued in a couple of days, their next recourse was to yell at each other. The argument had ended in nasty name-calling and separate shelters.

(2) Mike shifted a warped piece of metal onto the beach where it was immediately swallowed by the softened sand and waves. He caught a flicker of red out of the corner of his eye and realized it was the emergency kit. They hadn’t done a thorough search of everything so he wasn’t surprised Robbie missed it, especially since he slid away to build his shelter after the last round of heel biting. Mike looked over at Robbie and wanted to shout out to him, but he decided to contain his excitement over discovering the kit. He still hadn’t built his fire, and he could see Robbie’s smug smile from where he was standing. Mike grabbed the emergency kit, tucked it under his arm, and retreated back to his cloth and blow-up raft shelter. It wasn’t much, but he felt more secure in the familiar plastic and vinyl rather than a shelter of logs and leaves. Opening the sack, he hoped he would find food, as he didn’t wish to have to eat off the island. Instead he found some locator lights, a few first aid materials, an emergency thermal blanket, and a GPS. He was saved. He glanced over at Robbie’s shelter and saw he was looking right at him. Mike turned his back and set the GPS, then put it out of sight. He stood up and walked towards Robbie. Feeling a little light-hearted with his secret rescue on the way he decided to antagonize his brother.

(3) “Hey do you have anything to eat?” Robbie growled at him as he approached. This was the most he had talked in the last twelve hours, so Mike took advantage of the opening.

(4) “No, what are you doing?” He took the time to inspect Robbie’s little set up. His shelter was made out of natural materials and though he wouldn’t admit it to Robbie, it looked a lot sturdier than his own. He circled Robbie’s fire looking for a place to sit.

(5) “Don’t sit here; go back to your own camp. I don’t want to talk to you.” Robbie was trying to eat a fish he caught and cooked, but he didn’t know how to skin it properly, and he lacked the proper tools.

(6) “Oh come on Robbie-poo,” Mike stuck out his bottom lip in a mock pout. Robbie threw the fish at him and yelled some obscenities. Mike was coming down from his emergency-kit-high really quickly with that outburst. He didn’t particularly like being fish-faced.

(7) “What is your problem man?”

(8) “You’re my problem, Mike. I’m tired of putting up with your crap. Just leave me alone. All you ever do is mess things up, first my girlfriend, now the boat.” Robbie hit a nerve with that one.

(9) “Whoa skipper! What makes you think the boat was my fault? How does hitting a bad storm equal Mike screwed up?” He knew the girlfriend was his fault, and he felt it was a good mistake to make, but this was crossing the line. The sun was setting and everything looked reddish from the fading blaze. The fire seemed enhanced by it, and the water was streaked with crimson shapes emanating from the break. Mike’s anger was starting to build, though it was hardly as severe as Robbie’s instinctual fury.

(10) “You saw the equipment indicated a storm ahead of us; it’s not that difficult to read! I’m sick of you, and I’m stuck with you out here in the middle of nowhere.” Mike was truly offended by the accusatory statement, but he didn’t want to show it. He also had little patience for Robbie’s hyperbole; he was just making outrageous statements out of anger at this point, and they were far from nowhere.

(11) “Stop being such a drama queen.” He did think Robbie was being a bit queen-ish. If he didn’t have a little bit of leftover glee for the GPS, Mike probably would have punched Robbie, reigniting the war again.

(12) “Why are you still crying about her anyway? It’s not like she was a difficult catch.” Mike knew the moment he said it he would get some physical retaliation, and Robbie didn’t disappoint. As Robbie lunged at him, Mike pushed him in the same direction, throwing him face-first in the sand. Robbie sprang up and threw a fist-full of sand back at Mike, stinging his eyes. Mike could hardly see him as their little dance moved away from the fire and into the gathering darkness.

(13) “This isn’t a game Mike, I cared about her!” Robbie’s emotion was swelling beyond dignity now. He didn’t care; there was no one there to see. Mike paused at the passionate declaration but quickly regained his apathetic demeanor.

(14) “She didn’t want a cry-baby.” He thought this was going too far, but he was growing tired of this redundant squabble. The only reason Robbie’s girlfriend left him was because she was honestly interested in someone else, not Mike. Mike never dated her or wanted to; he just let Robbie think he did so he could lord it over him. Mike intended to tell him at the beginning, but the argument had escalated to the point that Robbie wouldn’t believe him now anyway. Mike refused to admit to Robbie that it was all a ruse, so he did what was easy and kept to the lie.

(15) Robbie hung his head at his brother’s words, and stood silent and thinking for a full minute before slowly looking Mike right in the eye. “You go back to your ridiculous shelter and you stay there. I don’t want to see or hear from you again. When I get out of this absurd situation, it will be as if you are dead. You’re dead.” Robbie hissed the words quickly, putting a strong emphasis on the last words, like it was a threat. Mike was stunned at his tone. He knew Robbie wasn’t exaggerating now. He tried not to show his guilt and remorse at the way things spiraled out of control. Feigning indifference, backed away.

(16) Mike decided that if he wasn’t wanted, he wouldn’t bother. He walked back into his camp, sweating, and still hungry. He checked that the GPS was still on and transmitting. The little light on the device shone starkly against the darkness. The ocean roaring in the blackness made Mike uneasy, like a child with a monster under his bed. He reached for an indicator light and cracked it. Placing the light next to his raft, he saw something move. He jumped as he realized it was the slithering body of a snake. Mike grabbed a rock, but the snake slid quickly into the darkness and he guessed that the light scared it off. He cracked the remaining lights and put them around the raft. Checking once again for snakes and animals, he warily settled in. That night, Mike slept restlessly with thoughts of food, Robbie’s ex-girlfriend, wild animals, and sun burn dancing in his head.

(17) Mike didn’t realize how much his brother’s comment stung until the next morning, a poison going right to his core. Bad dreams lingering, he was disinclined to go and reconcile with Robbie, and as the day wore on he let the resentment take hold. Brooding over the situation, Mike realized it had been nearly three days without much more than the one protein bar and two bottles of water they each had. He was beginning to feel beyond hungry. He reassured himself that it wouldn’t be long now before someone tracked down their signal. Feeling ambivalent toward his own needs and Robbie’s lasting anger, Mike began to pace back and forth in the fierce heat.

(18) Unable to stand the hunger any longer, Mike decided to look for food. He glanced over at Robbie who was still lying under his shelter. Mike grabbed a sharpened stick and waded out into the blue water. He didn’t really think he would catch anything; he had never been one for hunting or fishing. Mike struggled for several hours and began to lose hope. The sun was high above him now, an unimpeded eye staring him down, the sweltering heat heavy on his shoulders. He threw the stick down in the water out of frustration. Robbie was perched like a bird in his nest, staring at Mike from under his shelter; he looked like he was chewing something. On the verge of giving in and trying to tell Robbie the truth, Mike started to tread back to shore when he felt an incredible shock of pain across his abdomen, and then across his leg. He froze. He knew immediately what the invisible culprit was. Mike forced himself to torturously step through the water while the box jellyfish injected more venom into his skin. He wanted to cry out, but couldn’t. As hot as the air was, the heat from the sting was greater and pulsed from the contact point outward until his entire body was burning with pain.

(19) Mike looked desperately at Robbie who was now gathering wood in preparation for another fire for the evening. Mike would die before he asked Robbie for help; he didn’t need him. He felt his breath tightening; he could barely draw in air before the choking feeling cheated him of it. Mike knew he had to get the jellyfish off immediately. When he got to the shore he saw there were two medium sized sea beasts attached to him, the stinging, blazing, slicing pain continuing all the time. Mike was sucking in air and feeling faint. He collapsed to his knees and saw Robbie spring up in his peripheral vision. Mike hated that he needed Robbie’s help; he wasn’t going to ask for it, yet he had mixed feelings of indignation and reprieve when he saw Robbie hurrying toward him. The sun was beginning to set and he could barely see straight. He was scarcely conscious when Robbie soaked the jellyfish and removed it, then rubbed sand over the scarring. Mike was determined not to let the jellyfish win.

(20) All Mike could do was look at his brother’s wet face, tears mingling with sweat, confusion mingling with sadness. Mike still did not say anything, and then he stopped breathing. Robbie looked over his brother’s body at the raised scars that were gathered together in rows. The deep red lines that crossed back and forth over his legs and stomach were too many to count. Robbie sat there holding his brother’s body, his mind racing to understand what just occurred. He looked out at the water; everything around him was turning black without the aid of his fire. A crisp white light abruptly appeared on the horizon. He was saved.

  1. Did you note the cause and effect sequence? No? Ok go back and read it again… What line illustrates the previous event that caused the brothers to be at odds?

    Correct Answer:

    “’All you ever do is mess things up, first my girlfriend, now the boat.’ Robbie hit a nerve with that one.”

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (b). The rationale for the egregious argument is illustrated by Robbie’s complaint about the apparent love triangle in their past. Option (b) doesn’t even indicate a negative mood. Option (c) mentions the shipwreck, which is another disagreement between the two, but it is an event that they are presently dealing with in the story timeline, therefore it is not a fitting answer to the question. Option (d) references the argument from the past, but it is not the best detail in describing that previous event.

  2. Don’t be stubborn, answer the question: Which statement describes the event(s) that may be a direct cause of the following plot development, “Mike would die before he asked Robbie for help; he didn’t need him”?

    Correct Answer:

    All of the above

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (d). All of the listed events preceding the character’s personal inability to ask for help are valid causes. Though choosing only one option may seem a valid answer, the sequence is the important factor. It may be argued that one missing event may have caused a different outcome.

  3. I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a good question, so get excited: According to the storyline, what event does not necessarily cause the death of the character Mike?

    Correct Answer:

    Mike defending himself against the unexpected presence of a snake, leading to the use of all locator flares.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (d). This event has little to do with the actual death of Mike. If discussing theme this could be used as an example that illustrates his short-minded attitude and inexperience with nature. The other three options listed lead in some way to the death of the character Mike in the story.

  4. I recommend stretching a little before this one; you might be hunched over the story a bit: Choose the analytical statement that best describes the cause and effect correlation between the development of the brother’s declining relationship as it progresses, and Mike’s difficulty coping with the challenges on the island.

    Correct Answer:

    The two simultaneous events both contribute to the same end: the aggravated rapport between the brothers causes exaggerated detestation and arrogance, while Mike’s conflict with the island enhances the frustration he already felt. The effect of all of these things is Mike’s demise.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (C). This answer specifically details the causality in the story without giving any false or ambiguous information. Options (a) and (b) give false information in regards to the details in the story, though they may seem to be viable answers because they are partially correct; remember to read carefully! Option (d) discusses the causality of Mike’s situation in a narrower scope; in other words, it does not address all aspects that the question implies. This can also be misleading because it gives details from different events.

  5. Break out the whipped cream and sporks, this one is cake: Which statement correctly identifies the sequence of events in the very short story?

    Correct Answer:

    Two brothers are shipwrecked, they fight about old problems and have a falling out, and one brother dies in part because he won’t ask for help.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (b). Though in a simplistic form, this answer outlines the basic sequence of events in the very short story. Options (a) and (b) offer misleading detail and are not acceptable, and option (c) is a fictional account of events that may have happened prior to the beginning of this story. I told you it was cake—was it scrumptious?

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