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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 11-12

Reading RI.11-12.6

Standard 6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.

Breakin’ it Down:

This standard asks students to figure out the author’s point of view or purpose for writing the text. In many informational texts, the author directly discusses his or her opinion on the topic and gives plenty of evidence to back it up. But occasionally, when the text is especially tough, students might have to scour the text for critical or judgmental words to discern the author’s attitude.

Sometimes, the author presents a balanced or neutral point of view that may be harder for students to identify. This standard may be especially difficult with regard to scientific texts that present point of view only through their interpretation of data or evidence.

Example 1

Teacher Feature: Ideas for the classroom

1. UNDERSTUDY: Word Wars

Get out those highlighters! As students are reading informational texts, have them highlight words and phrases that indicate judgment or opinion. Then have students use their lists to determine the overall message or tone of the piece.

Note: The nuances of tone can be hard to describe. It may be helpful to review those tone word lists that are suggested by AP exams and other college entrance tests.

Example 2

2. COLLEGIATE: Messin’ with History

Give students a historical text that is highly judgmental or opinionated (maybe a document on the removal of Native Americans, or a justification for slavery in the colonies.) Have students black out the most opinionated words and phrases and change the wording. Analyze how the substitutions might have changed the message of the piece or even the course of history!

Quiz Questions

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

  1. Read this extract from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1858, and then answer the questions that follow:

    “While I was at the hotel today, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great Laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. 

    I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position, the negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen, to my knowledge, a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men.”

    Lincoln’s argues that his theories of race relations will be successful based on:

    Correct Answer:

    personal examples and experiences

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nice work. If you read carefully, the only evidence he has that blacks and whites can live peacefully is his own experience: ‘I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes.’
    • (b) - Even though he touches on politics, he does not claim to have any court cases to back up his theories.
    • (c) - There is no scientific evidence discussed anywhere in this speech. Try again.
    • (d) - Even though he seems to have the crowd’s support because of their applause and laughter, he makes no reference to having public support for his ideas.

  2. Which of the following statements accurately describe Lincoln’s opinion of race relations?

    Correct Answer:

    He believes that blacks and and whites can live peacefully if they live separately.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - If you are a careful reader, you will notice that he said, ‘I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position, the negro should be denied everything’. So this answer is not the best choice.
    • (b) - In the beginning of his speech he says, ‘I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes.’ So he cannot believe in equal voting rights.
    • (c) - Even though he does seem to favor separation of races, he definitely doesn’t favor equality. He directly says: ‘There must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race’.
    • (d) - Correct. This answer can be figured out based on his comments at the end of his speech: ‘My understanding is that I can just let [negroes] alone… So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes.’

  3. Read this excerpt from George P. Marsh’s 1847 Address given to the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, and then answer the questions that follow:

    “It is through the mechanic arts alone, that we can become truly independent of foreign nations, and establish an interchange between the producer, the manufacturer, and the consumer, which shall increase the wealth and lighten the burdens of each, by retaining among ourselves the net profits of labor, and thus avoiding the drain of the precious metals for supplies. […]

    The progress of agriculture, within the last half century though great in itself and full of future promise, has been but a tardy movement, in comparison with the swift advancement of the mechanic arts. The steamboat, the locomotive, the power loom, and the power press, have all been brought into use since the beginning of the present century, and what a revolution have they wrought upon the face of the globe! How they have brought together and linked different states and countries! What millions have they clothed, and what millions enlightened!”

    Choose the statement that accurately represents one of the author’s opinions:

    Correct Answer:

    Mechanic arts are progressing at a superior pace to agriculture.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - He says even though agriculture is full of promise, it has been a ‘tardy movement, in comparison with the swift advancement of the mechanic arts’. So mechanic arts win the speed race!
    • (b) - Correct!
    • (c) - Nowhere does it say that other countries are making mechanical inventions. It only says that mechanic arts will allow the nation to become independent from other nations.
    • (d) - In the final lines, he is actually referring to mechanic arts, and not to agriculture. Try again.

  4. Which of the following statements would the author agree with based on his statements in the text?

    Correct Answer:

    Travel is easier because of mechanic arts.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Even though agriculture isn’t the author’s preference, he does say that it is ‘great in itself and full of future promise.’
    • (b) - There is nothing here that suggests that people aren’t working hard because of the inventions. If anything, his words in the final paragraph suggest that these inventions are making life better.
    • (c) - Right! In the last paragraph, after referring to steamboats and locomotives, the author notes ‘how they have brought together and linked different states and countries!’
    • (d) - Nope. If you look back at the first paragraph, he claims that mechanic arts will ‘lighten the burdens of each’ person.

  5. Read this excerpt from Rev. Peter Fontaine’s “Defense of Slavery in Virginia” (1757). Then, answer the question that follows:

    “As to your second query, if enslaving our fellow creatures be a practice agreeable to Christianity, it is answered in a great measure in many treatises at home, to which I refer you. I shall only mention something of our present state here.

    Like Adam, we are all apt to shift off the blame from ourselves and lay it upon others, how justly in our case you may judge. The Negroes are enslaved by the Negroes themselves before they are purchased by the masters of the ships who bring them here. It is, to be sure, at our choice whether we buy them or not, so this then is our crime, folly, or whatever you will please to call it.

    But our Assembly, foreseeing the ill consequences of importing such numbers among us, has often attempted to lay a [tax] upon them which would amount to … £10 or £20 a head; but no governor dare pass such a law, having instructions to the contrary from the Board of Trade at home. By this means they are forced upon us, whether we will or will not.”

    Why does the Reverend believe the people of Virginia wanted to stop bringing slaves to their land?

    Correct Answer:

    They were worried about the consequences of the slaves outnumbering them.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - This answer requires very careful reading. Nowhere does he actually say that enslaving fellow humans is wrong.
    • (b) - He never actually answers the question of whether slavery disagrees with Christianity, so that can’t be the reason he gives against slavery.
    • (c) - Right! If you read very carefully, you’ll see that he mentions the people were ‘foreseeing the ill consequences of importing such numbers among [them]’. Their real concern was the problems with having a large population of slaves, so they want to slow down the process with heavy taxes on slaves.
    • (d) - Virginians never actually approve a tax on slaves. Even though they discuss it, he says ‘no governor dare pass such a law.’ So this answer can’t be right.

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