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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 9-10

Reading RI.9-10.3

Standard 3: Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

Breakin’ it Down:

Students must be able to follow the author’s logic, no matter how many twists and turns the text takes. This standard is about mapping out the author’s main arguments or points.

(This standard is very, very similar to Standard 5, so you can probably smoosh these together as you teach them.)

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example 1

Teacher Feature: Ideas for the classroom

1. HATCHLING: Text mapping

Teaching the art of outlining a text is a great way to approach this standard. Have your students slow down and analyze each small section of a longer work. For each section or paragraph, have students write a one-sentence summary before they move on. It will help them master the standard, and also help you pinpoint the exact point where they misunderstood what they were reading.

Example 2

2. TAKE FLIGHT: Put the pieces together

Turn this standard into a game of logic! Take a non-fiction text and remove topic sentences or main idea statements from different sections of the reading. Ask students to put the sentences back in their correct places based on the details and clues in the rest of the text.

This is also fun if you can find a technical text with subheadings. Remove the subheadings and challenge students to put them back as quickly as possible. You’ll be training them to pay closer attention to text structure and subtle details of writing.

Quiz Questions

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

  1. Read the excerpt below from President Roosevelt’s speech, “Four Freedoms”. Then, answer the question that follows:

    “The happiness of future generations of Americans may well depend upon how effective and how immediate we can make our aid felt. The Nation's hands must not be tied when the Nation's life is in danger.

    […] In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

    The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

    The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

    The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

    The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.

    That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.”

    The president structures his argument by:

    Correct Answer:

    Proposing a general vision for the future and then giving specific examples to back it up.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is B. This answer can be easily ruled out because there are no questions presented anywhere in the speech!
    • (b) - Nice work! He starts by saying he wants a world based on four freedoms. Then he gives a detailed description of what each of those freedoms look like.
    • (c) - The correct answer is B. He never presents any ideas that aren’t his. The only content in this speech is what he wants for the future world. He never presents any ideas that conflict with his own.
    • (d) - The correct answer is B. Well, this speech is all about freedom, but he isn’t giving multiple definitions of freedom. He is giving multiple examples of what those freedoms should look like in the world.

  2. Read the excerpt below from Susan B. Anthony’s speech, “On Women’s Right to Vote”. Then, answer the questions that follow:

    (In the 1800s, women in the United States had few legal rights and did not have the right to vote. This speech was given by Susan B. Anthony after her arrest for casting an illegal vote in the presidential election of 1872.)

    “Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen's rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.

    The preamble of the Federal Constitution says: 

    ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’

    It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men. […]

    The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall [take away] their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.”

    Which of the following accurately describes the structure of the author’s argument?

    Correct Answer:

    She begins with an explanation of how her rights were violated. Then she uses a quote from a historical document to prove her rights, followed by an analysis of how the specific words used in the document support her cause.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - This is correct. The first paragraph explains her situation, and then she quotes the rights of citizens in the Constitution. The last paragraph is all about the word ‘person’ and who should be included in that term.
    • (b) - The correct answer is A. You know this answer can’t be right because she never describes her time in prison. Don’t be tricked just because it says she was arrested.
    • (c) - The correct answer is A. Even though the first two statements seem like they might work, there are no statistics anywhere in the text, so that rules this answer out!
    • (d) - The correct answer is A. Sorry, but there’s no court case here. The middle section is just a quote from the Constitution. Even though the first and last parts of this answer seem true, the middle statement makes it the wrong answer.

  3. Which statement accurately describes the final paragraph of the text?

    Correct Answer:

    The author argues that the constitution defines all people as citizens, therefore proving that both women and Negroes should have all the rights and privileges of citizens.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is B. The author is talking about the word citizen, but she is definitely NOT trying to argue that men and women are physically equal. The point is that they should have equal privileges and rights in society.
    • (b) - Good! The paragraph starts by defining women as persons, and persons as citizens. Then she argues that no state can take away the rights of any person, women and Negros included.
    • (c) - The correct answer is B. This answer is actually the opposite of what the author is saying. She is arguing that women are people and nobody would dare to say otherwise!
    • (d) - The correct answer is B. She is not actually predicting that anything will change. She is simply stating her opinion about the problems with the present laws.

  4. Read the excerpt below from President Roosevelt’s speech, “Four Freedoms”. Then, answer the questions that follow:

    “I address you, the Members of the Seventy-seventh Congress, at a moment unprecedented in the history of the Union. I use the word ‘unprecedented,’ because at no previous time has American security been as seriously threatened from [outside] as it is today.

    Since the permanent formation of our Government under the Constitution, in 1789, most of the periods of crisis in our history have related to our domestic affairs. Fortunately, only one of these--the four-year War Between the States--ever threatened our national unity.

    It is true that prior to 1914 the United States often had been disturbed by events in other Continents. We had even engaged in two wars with European nations and in a number of undeclared wars in the West Indies, in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific for the maintenance of American rights and for the principles of peaceful commerce. But in no case had a serious threat been raised against our national safety or our continued independence.

    […] Even when the World War broke out in 1914, it seemed to contain only small threat of danger to our own American future. But, as time went on, the American people began to visualize what the downfall of democratic nations might mean to our own democracy.

    During sixteen long months this assault has blotted out the whole pattern of democratic life in an appalling number of independent nations, great and small. The assailants are still on the march, threatening other nations, great and small.

    Therefore, as your President, performing my constitutional duty to ‘give to the Congress information of the state of the Union,’ I find it, unhappily, necessary to report that the future and the safety of our country and of our democracy are overwhelmingly involved in events far beyond our borders.

    In times like these it is immature--and incidentally, untrue--for anybody to brag that an unprepared America, single-handed, and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world.

    Therefore, the immediate need is a swift and driving increase in our [weapons] production.”

    In order to show the severity of the coming war, the speaker:

    Correct Answer:

    Describes conflicts in the past, showing how small they were in comparison.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Correct! He reminds Americans of wars in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and the War of 1914. But he ends by saying that in none of those wars ‘had a serious threat been raised against our national safety’.
    • (b) - The correct answer is A. He does say that the enemy is threatening nations and ‘blotting out democratic life’, but he does not actually describe any kind of torture in detail.
    • (c) - The correct answer is A. Even though he asks for an increase in weapons production, he doesn’t actually say that America is unable to make the weapons.
    • (d) - He does tell Americans that the enemy has ‘blotted out the whole pattern of democratic life in an appalling number of independent nations’, but he doesn’t say it was because their weapons weren’t good enough. Make sure you have evidence for your answer choice!

  5. In the speech, the President draws a connection between:

    Correct Answer:

    America’s military preparedness and the security of America’s future.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is B. Even though the president talks about past conflicts, he never refers to previous wars as failures or gives any evidence that America didn’t succeed.
    • (b) - Right! He says that it is unwise to think that ‘unprepared America’ can fight off an attack. He also ends by asking Americans to prepare by increasing the amount of weapons they are producing.
    • (c) - The correct answer is B. This can’t be right because the president is arguing that the enemy is threatening the lives and values of democratic countries, including America. They don’t share much of anything!
    • (d) - The correct answer is B. This is easy to eliminate because there is nothing personal about the speech at all—no sappy childhood stories, no references to his parents. This speech is completely focused on the history of wars.

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