Common Core Standards: ELA
Standard 8: Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).
Breakin’ it Down:
Unlike the other standards, this one is extremely specific in that it isolates a genre of texts that should be studied: major legal and political texts. This could include any texts that shaped the laws, culture, or institutions of the country.
If possible, you might want to team up with the history department to see which texts students have already studied through a historical lens. Sometimes, students are more excited to take on a lengthy text if they already recognize its importance in history.
But, in short, this Standard is not unlike Standard #6. It involves analyzing the point of view and logic used to support the arguments in major historical documents. The question that students should be able to answer with regard to any of these texts is: What did the author(s) believe and how did they arrive at those conclusions?
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Using this Standard
- 1984 Teacher Pass
- A Rose For Emily Teacher Pass
- Fences Teacher Pass
- Heart of Darkness Teacher Pass
- King Lear Teacher Pass
- Narrative of Frederick Douglass Teacher Pass
- Of Mice and Men Teacher Pass
- Othello Teacher Pass
- The Aeneid Teacher Pass
- The Bluest Eye Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales General Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Lottery Teacher Pass
- The Old Man and the Sea Teacher Pass
- Their Eyes Were Watching God Teacher Pass
Teacher Feature: Ideas for the classroom
1. UNDERSTUDY: The writing may be old school, but the ideas sure aren’t!
Well, the good news is that the ideas in seminal U.S. documents are still shaping pretty much every aspect of society. So there’s always a relevant connection between these documents and something happening today. This standard is easy to tie into the novels and core texts of your class because they frequently touch on topics in great literature: human rights, freedom, wealth and ownership, government and control, and so on.
Focus on a plot event in a novel or play and use a legal document or other non-fiction text to explain why the characters may be acting in a certain way or facing a certain dilemma. For instance, you could incorporate historical documents on race-based laws if you’re reading A Raisin in the Sun.
2. COLLEGIATE: All Rise!
Transform your classroom into a courtroom! This standard is the perfect opportunity to combine reading standards, speaking skills and listening skills, along with fine-tuning logical reasoning. Give students ample time to study a selected set of political and social texts that would pertain to the case you’ve designed. The more dissenting and conflicting texts you can find, the better. Then present a court case to your students and ask them to dig for quotes and evidence that would be relevant to the case.
Assign each student an identity or role that they will take on to evaluate the case: defense, prosecution, social protesters, historical figures who may be bystanders, journalists, etc. Then give students time to prepare a written document that synthesizes and interprets important pieces of the historical documents. This is a literacy test, so it’s all about finding the right combination of quotes from the documents and developing unique interpretations.
When you are grading these assignments, a few suggested criteria you can use to ensure mastery of the standard might be:
- correctly identified the main ideas or opinions of relevant texts
- pulled relevant and concise quotes
- originally or effectively interpreted evidence
- addressed counter-arguments
- refuted opposing evidence.
Really, it’s up to you what skills you want to emphasize. The important part is that students are grappling with complex U.S. documents and thinking about how they shape society.
Quiz QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
- Beloved: Back to the Source
- Teaching A Rose for Emily: Dramatizing "A Rose for Emily"
- Teaching 1984: It's Not Over Until the Fat Lady Sings
- Teaching Fences: Write an Omitted Scene and a Critical Review
- Teaching Heart of Darkness: Orson Welles Did It, and So Can You
- Teaching The Lottery: The 'Burbs
- The Old Man and the Sea: Making It Political
- The Story of an Hour: One Hour Literary Analysis
- Teaching Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Fed-up Fred and Honest Abe: Researching the Tensions Between Douglass and Lincoln
- Teaching Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: What Would Douglass Say Today?
- Teaching Of Mice and Men: Becoming Slim (or Curley, or Candy, or Lennie, or George, or Crooks, or ...)
- Teaching Othello: Paul Robeson’s Historic Performance of Othello
- Teaching The Aeneid: Now About that Ending…
- Teaching The Bluest Eye: Sweet Little Shirley Temple: The Bluest Eye and Hollywood
- Teaching The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue & Frame Story: Portrait of a Pilgrim
- Teaching King Lear: What Would King James I Think of King Lear?
- Teaching Their Eyes Were Watching God: Making an Ad to Hook New Readers on Their Eyes Were Watching God
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