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Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 9-10

Reading RI.9-10.6

Standard 6: Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

Breakin’ it Down:

This standard asks students to figure out the author’s point of view or purpose for writing the text.

In most informational texts, the authors discuss their opinions on the topics in a clear and forthright manner, and also give plenty of evidence to support their arguments. But occasionally, an author can be subtler, and students are going to have to scour the text for tone, and for critical or judgmental words that point to the author’s attitude.

The second part of this standard focuses on rhetoric, which can be a lengthy topic to cover in class. For 9th and 10th graders, it might help to focus on rhetorical devices that show up frequently in informational texts and speeches, such as:

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example 1

Teacher Feature: Ideas for the classroom

1. HATCHLING: War of the words

Get out those highlighters! As students read opinion pieces, have them highlight words and phrases that show judgment. (Make sure students also highlight or write down what each of those words are describing.) Then, have students isolate just those words and phrases, and separate them into general categories: positive, negative, neutral.

Wars have been started over single words! Encourage students to explain how just a single word from the list can instantly show the author’s opinion on a topic. It is also helpful to give students a list of “tone words” (for instance: earnest, whimsical, sarcastic, indignant, and so on) to help them pinpoint the most precise description of the author’s attitude.

Example 2

TAKE FLIGHT: Great speeches scavenger hunt

When you’re reading a novel in class, it’s always helpful to give students primary documents from the time period at hand. So, a great way to integrate this standard into your teaching is to pick contrasting speeches or opinion pieces about a hot topic from the book: racism, sexism, the distribution of wealth, and so on.

Give students time to dissect each text and figure out the author’s stance. Have them record the rhetorical devices that they notice in each text. This opens the door for an awesome historical discussion of a tough subject, while also giving them a chance to practice this standard!

Quiz Questions

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

  1. Read the excerpt below from an opinion piece written by Henry H. Curran in 1926. It’s called “The Wet Side of Prohibition” and first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune:

    “Excessive drinking among young people is a natural consequence of our Prohibition Laws. This is not evidence of depravity on their part, but a youthful reaction against the challenge of restraint. It is smart to drink. It is smart to carry a flask. Before prohibition the lad who took liquor on the hip to a party was almost unknown. Today he is a common figure.”

    Which of the following accurately describes the author’s opinion of the Prohibition Laws?

    Correct Answer:

    The laws are causing young people to drink more and not less, which makes the laws ineffective.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nope! The author actually believes the opposite: that young people are drinking more in order to challenge the new laws.
    • (b) - Well – the author does mention parties. But this author is not actually arguing that the laws directly cause people to party.
    • (c) - Well done! He says that excessive drinking is a CONSEQUENCE OF the laws, meaning that they aren’t doing their job! At the end, he also says that since the passing of the laws, everyone is now carrying and drinking liquor.
    • (d) - Nope. Even though he does talk about young people’s reaction to the law, nowhere is he arguing that the law should only be enforced within a certain age group.

  2. Read the excerpt below from “A Defense of Slang” by Gelett Burgess. Then, answer the questions that follow:

    “Could Shakespeare came to Chicago and listen curiously to "the man in the street," he would find himself more at home than in London. In the mouths of messenger boys and clerks he would find the English language used with all the freedom of unexpected metaphor and the plastic suggestive diction that was the privilege of the Elizabethan dramatists; he would say, no doubt, that he had found a nation of poets. There was hardly any such thing as slang in his day….

    Slang has been called ‘poetry in the rough,’ and it is not all coarse or vulgar. There is a prosaic as well as a poetic license. The man in the street calls a charming girl, for instance, a ‘daisy’…. Surely this is not inelegant, and such a reference will be understood a century hence without a foot-note.”

    Which word best represents the author’s feelings about people who use slang?

    Correct Answer:

    Poets

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nope. The word ‘daisy’ is not describing people who use slang. This is just an example of a slang term that might be used to describe a pretty girl.
    • (b) - This answer is the opposite of the author’s feelings. He describes slang as NOT inelegant.
    • (c) - Woohoo! That’s right. He is constantly comparing slang to poetry and thinks those who use slang are modern poets.
    • (d) - The correct answer is C. This word is describing how Shakespeare would view those who use slang, not how the author would view them.

  3. Which of the following describes the author’s attitude towards slang?

    Correct Answer:

    He believes slang is a creative and poetic part of modern language.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nope. He actually calls modern slang users a ‘nation of poets’. He also says there was ‘hardly any such thing as slang’ in Shakespeare’s day, making this answer wrong.
    • (b) - Don’t get tripped up just because Chicago shows up in the text! If you read the first sentence, he is simply making the point that common people, like those on the streets of Chicago, use slang.
    • (c) - Yes! This is the correct answer because he refers to slang as ‘poetry in the rough’ and refers to the people using slang as a ‘nation of poets’. He also says slang is not vulgar.
    • (d) - This is definitely not his attitude. He actually says slang is NOT all coarse or vulgar.

  4. Read the excerpt below from Zora Neale Hurston’s “How it Feels to be Colored Me”. Then, answer the questions that follow:

    “I am colored but I offer nothing in the way of extenuating circumstances except the fact that I am the only Negro in the United States whose grandfather on the mother's side was not an Indian chief. […]

    But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all but about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world. I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.

    Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave said ‘On the line!’ The Reconstruction said ‘Get set!’ and the generation before said ‘Go!’ I am off to a flying start and I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep. Slavery is the price I paid for civilization, and the choice was not with me. It is a bully adventure and worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it. No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. It is thrilling to think, to know that for any act of mine, I shall get twice as much praise or twice as much blame. It is quite exciting to hold the center of the national stage, with the spectators not knowing whether to laugh or to weep.

    The position of my white neighbor is much more difficult. No brown specter pulls up a chair beside me when I sit down to eat. No dark ghost thrusts its leg against mine in bed. The game of keeping what one has is never so exciting as the game of getting.”

    Which statement best describes the author’s attitude in the essay above?

    Correct Answer:

    She is thankful for the opportunities that arose from her ancestors’ painful history.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Even though the author refuses to let the past make her depressed or sorrowful, she never says that slavery wasn’t painful for others. In fact, she describes slavery as a ‘terrible struggle’, so this answer isn’t correct.
    • (b) - Her entire essay is about not looking back at the past. She says she does not weep or feel ‘great sorrow’ about the past.
    • (c) - This is correct! This attitude can best be seen when she says, ‘The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. The terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave….’ She also says that slavery was ‘worth all that I have paid through my ancestors for it’.
    • (d) - This answer is the OPPOSITE of her attitude. She gives many examples of how she refuses to let her past or her color hold her back and make her sad.

  5. Based on her essay, what would the author most likely say about those who complain about their history of slavery?

    Correct Answer:

    Stop dwelling on the past and use your new opportunities to find greatness.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Nice work! The message of her essay centers on taking advantage of opportunities and having the power to take center stage. She says ‘The world is to be won’ and ‘No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory’, implying that people in her situation should focus on their new power rather than ‘look behind them and weep’.
    • (b) - Her message is actually to stop living in the past when she says ‘I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep.’ So she wouldn’t encourage others to continuously think about the past.
    • (c) - The correct answer is A. Her entire essay is about moving on and finding greatness. Even though the white neighbor is discussed in the final paragraph, her message is that they are already haunted by the thoughts of what they’ve done. She wouldn’t encourage revenge.
    • (d) - This can’t be right because her message is actually to stop living in the past when she says, ‘I must not halt in the stretch to look behind and weep.’ In fact, she argues that people get power from seeking new glory and ‘holding the center of the national stage.’

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