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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 11-12

Reading RI.11-12.1

Standard 1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Breakin’ it Down:

This standard looks almost the same for informational texts as it does for literature. It’s all about focusing on tiny details of a text to support a claim or an inference. The only difference here is that instead of making inferences about character motivations (as they would in literature), students need to make inferences about the author’s beliefs in the informational text or decide what the author would agree or disagree with, based on clues in the text.

At this advanced level, this standard also involves deducing the relationship between parts of a logically complex sentence. (Standardized tests often have questions that test a student’s ability to follow a syntactically difficult statement.)

Advanced informational texts also tend to trip students up because of the range of technical vocabulary in the texts, or because they use outdated language; some texts also assume that readers will have a certain amount of background knowledge about the subjects they cover. So, you will have to prepare students to logically sift through the arguments of a text, even if they are unfamiliar with the topic or language patterns.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example 1

Teacher Feature: Ideas for the classroom

1. UNDERSTUDY: The Amazing Race

Who doesn’t like a good game? Take a complicated non-fiction piece and develop questions that focus on subtle details of the text. The first one to answer all the questions correctly wins!

Now, this standard is slightly different from the 9th/10th grade informational reading standards because it pushes students to examine spots in the text where the author leaves things open-ended or uncertain or unsaid. So maybe you can raise the stakes for this game by including one of the following answer choices for each question: “Author does not address this,” or, “This is not directly discussed.” It will force students to closely read the text for unanswered questions.

Example 2

2. COLLEGIATE: Op-ed Challenge

Teaching a novel that deals with slavery? Pull a few op-ed articles or editorials about slavery from that historical time period—it would be best if you can get your hands on articles that argue for both sides of the issue. Ask students to scour the opinions for subtle similarities and differences. Also challenge them to find issues or situations that are only discussed by one author but skipped over by the other. This gives students an opportunity to use the smaller details of a text to explain the larger ideas.

Quiz Questions

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

  1. Read the excerpt below which is taken from a letter James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1788, discussing the new Bill of Rights that some wanted to add to the Constitution. Then, answer the question that follows:

    “Altho it be generally true as above stated that the danger of oppression lies in the interested majorities of the people rather than in usurped acts of the Government, yet there may be occasions on which the evil may spring from the latter source; and on such, a bill of rights will be good ground for an appeal to the sense of the community. Perhaps too there may be a certain degree of danger, that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers may by gradual & well times advances, finally erect an independent Government on the subversion of liberty. Should this danger exist at all, it is prudent to guard agst it, especially when the precaution can do no injury. At the same time I must own that I see no tendency in our Governments to danger on that side.

    It has been remarked that there is a tendency in all Governments to an augmentation of power at the expense of liberty. But the remark as usually understood does not appear to me to be well founded. Power when it has attained a certain degree of energy and independence goes on generally to further degrees. But when below that degree, the direct tendency is to further degrees of relaxation, until the abuses of liberty beget a sudden transition to an undue degree of power. With this explanation the remark may be true; and ... is ... applicable to the Governments in America. It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government have too much or too little power, and that the line which defines these extremes should be so inaccurately defined by experience.”

    Which of the following is true about the author’s beliefs regarding freedom?

    Correct Answer:

    The freedom of a country can become endangered when a Government is too powerful or not powerful enough.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nice work. This answer is almost an exact quote from the final paragraph: “liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the Government have too much or too little power.”
    • (b) - The correct answer is A. The second paragraph starts by saying that if the danger of government exists, it is important to guard against it. The first paragraph suggests that the Bill of Rights would be a good way to introduce that protection. So this can’t be right.
    • (c) - The correct answer is A. This is a tricky question because it requires very careful reading. The author says that although the majority of a people can sometimes cause oppression, there may be occasions where evil comes from ‘the latter source’ -- the latter here refers to the second item in the list above, which is acts of the government. That means he thinks government can take away freedom.
    • (d) - The correct answer is A. This answer is wrong because after discussing governments oppressing the people, he directly says: ‘I see no tendency in our governments to danger on that side’.

  2. Read this excerpt from Alexander Hamilton’s 1787 essay “The Federalist No. 1” and answer the question that follows:

    “To the People of the State of New York:

    […] You are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the union, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire [that is] in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.”

    According to this author, what is the alternative or opposite of a country choosing its government through careful reflection?

    Correct Answer:

    Having a government forced upon the people.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The author asks people to debate the constitution, which is part of choosing their government. So this can’t be right. He sets up the contrast between conflicting types of government with his question of whether people are ‘capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they…depend…on accident and force’.
    • (b) - Nope. In the text the author contrasts types of government with his question of whether people are ‘capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they…depend…on accident and force’. So the correct answer lies within that sentence.
    • (c) - Great! You noticed the contrast in his question of whether people are ‘capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they…depend…on accident and force’.
    • (d) - The correct answer is C. His description of good government actually describes one chosen by the people, so that’s not an alternative type of government. In the text the author sets up the contrast with his question of whether people are ‘capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they…depend…on accident and force’.

  3. Read this excerpt from President Obama’s 2009 Inaugural Address and answer the question that follows:

    “[…] In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

    For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

    Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.”

    President Obama praises all of the following as hard-working people who are responsible for America’s greatness EXCEPT:

    Correct Answer:

    The rich and famous

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nope. Even though he doesn’t use the term ‘immigrants’, he praises those who ‘packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life’.
    • (b) - Although he doesn’t use the word ‘farmers’, he admires those who ‘plowed the hard earth’, implying farmers.
    • (c) - In the first paragraph, he directly compliments ‘the risk-takers, the doers, and the makers of things’ – so this can’t be right.
    • (d) - Good. This is the only example of a group of people that Obama does NOT categorize has hard working. He says America has NOT been built by or bettered by those that ‘seek only the pleasures of riches and fame’.

  4. Read this excerpt from Newton N. Minnow’s 1961 speech, “Television and the Public Interest,” which was addressed to the National Association of Broadcasters. Then, answer the questions that follow:

    “It may also come as a surprise to some of you, but I want you to know that you have my admiration and my respect. Yours is a most honorable profession. Anyone who is in the broadcasting business has a tough row to hoe. […]

    Now as to your health, let's talk only of television today. 1960 gross broadcast revenues of the television industry were over 1,268,000,000 dollars […] So I have confidence in your health, but not in your product. It is with this and much more in mind that I come before you today. […]

    Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America. It has an inescapable duty to make that voice ring with intelligence and with leadership. In a few years, this exciting industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on the American people. It should be making ready for the kind of leadership that newspapers and magazines assumed years ago, to make our people aware of their world.

    Ours has been called the jet age, the atomic age, the space age. It is also, I submit, the television age. And just as history will decide whether the leaders of today's world employed the atom to destroy the world or rebuild it for mankind's benefit, so will history decide whether today's broadcasters employed their powerful voice to enrich the people or to debase them.”

    Mr. Minow uses the word ‘health’ to refer to which aspect of the television industry?

    Correct Answer:

    Its financial success.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is C. This question requires you to carefully analyze how the word ‘health’ is used in the second paragraph. When he uses the term health, it is directly followed by a summary of profits and nothing else. Even though he judges many other qualities, the term ‘health’ in his speech corresponds to finances.
    • (b) - The correct answer is C. This answer is incorrect for the same reasons as the previous choice.
    • (c) - Yes! When he uses the term ‘health’, it is directly followed by a summary of profits.
    • (d) - Nope; see above.

  5. Which of the following is true, based on Mr. Minow’s speech?

    Correct Answer:

    He believes that television has the potential to be destructive.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nice work! The final sentence of the text indicates that he believes television has the power of destruction, just like the atom bomb! Yikes!
    • (b) - This is incorrect. He voices his dissatisfaction with the television industry when he says: ‘I have confidence in your health, but not in your product.’
    • (c) - Nope. In fact, he notes the exact opposite when he says: ‘this exciting industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on the American people.’
    • (d) - The correct answer is A. He actually thinks that television should live up to the standards of print media when he says to get ‘ready for the kind of leadership that newspapers and magazines assumed years ago.’

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