© 2015 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

CHECK OUT SHMOOP'S FREE STUDY TOOLS: Essay Lab | Math Shack | Videos

Common Core Standards: ELA

Grades 9-10

Reading RI.9-10.8

Standard 8: Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

Breakin’ it Down:

It’s CSI for English! Crime novels, thrillers, and detective stories have been a societal obsession for centuries because we love solving puzzles and looking for clues. So, think of this standard as a way to give students a chance to hone their sleuth skills!

The goal is to get students looking for faulty arguments or unsupported claims. You’ll usually stumble across these types of logical problems when authors get too bold with their claims. Have students on the look out for words like: all, completely, definitely, none, without a doubt, and so on.

Example 1

Teacher Feature: Ideas for the classroom

HATCHLING: The Art of a Critique

Show students that being a critic (food critic, movie critic, or even toy critic) involves critical reading and writing. After digging into a text and figuring out the author’s main points and evidence, ask students to question everything. Here are some questions you could give them to help them along:

  • What convinced you and what didn’t? Explain. 
  • Where were the claims too big for the evidence?
  • Which piece of evidence or example was the strongest? Why?

Example 2

TAKE FLIGHT: What’s not there?

The funny thing about informational texts is that you have to teach students to look for omissions in addition to having them look at what’s on the page. Have them look for missing counter-claims, and brainstorm a list of questions or perspectives on the topic that were not addressed by the text.

If it’s a political or scientific text, give them the task of figuring out what evidence they could collect or what interviews they could conduct to discredit the author. Let the mud slinging begin!

Quiz Questions

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

  1. Read the excerpt below from President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, and answer the question that follows:

    “At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

    On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war - seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.”

    Which of the following claims in Lincoln’s speech could not be supported by historical evidence?

    Correct Answer:

    All thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is D. Evidence could be collected to show that a group of people was trying to take down the city. You need to find a claim that is so big that it couldn’t possibly be proven.
    • (b) - You could definitely prove that a war happened, so this can’t be right.
    • (c) - You could definitely prove the location where a speech was made, so this isn’t right.
    • (d) - Exactly right! When he makes claims like ‘all thoughts’ were directed at the war, or ‘all dreaded it’, these claims are impossible to prove. In order to emphasize the power and importance of the war, he says all people hated it and tried to stop it. But this statement cannot be taken literally or proved.

  2. Read the excerpt below from the essay, “Is the use of standardized tests improving education in America?”. Then, answer the question that follows:

    “Standardized tests have been a part of American education since the mid-1800s. Their use skyrocketed after 2002's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) mandated annual testing in all 50 states. US students slipped from 18th in the world in math in 2000 to 31st place in 2009, with a similar decline in science and no change in reading. Failures in the education system have been blamed on rising poverty levels, teacher quality, tenure policies, and increasingly on the pervasive use of standardized tests.

    Proponents argue that standardized tests are a fair and objective measure of student ability, that they ensure teachers and schools are accountable to taxpayers, and that the most relevant constituents – parents and students – approve of testing.

    Opponents say the tests are neither fair nor objective, that their use promotes a narrow curriculum and drill-like ‘teaching to the test,’ and that excessive testing undermines America's ability to produce innovators and critical thinkers.”

    The author makes the case that standardized testing is an important issue by:

    Correct Answer:

    Presenting the major arguments both for and against standardized testing.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is B. This author is not speaking directly to the reader at all, and the text is very technical, not personal.
    • (b) - Woohoo! Well done. The first paragraph gives some background on testing, which is then followed by a paragraph explaining why some people support it and a paragraph about what some oppose it. This author is all about giving a balanced argument.
    • (c) - The correct answer is B. Even though the beginning of the text mentions the history of testing, the word only in this answer makes it incorrect. The rest of the article moves on to present arguments of those that oppose and support testing.
    • (d) - The correct answer is B. Predicting the future is not the main structure of the argument. Instead, this argument is focused on what both sides are saying about present problems with testing.

  3. The following is an extract from a statement made by President Roosevelt, announcing that the 18th amendment, the law prohibiting the drinking or selling alcohol, has officially been overturned.

    “I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America pursuant to the provisions of Section 217 (a) of the said Act of June 16, 1933, do hereby proclaim that the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was repealed on the fifth day of December, 1933.

    Observance of this request, which I make personally to every individual and every family in our Nation, will result in the consumption of alcoholic beverages which have passed Federal inspection, in the break-up and eventual destruction of the notoriously evil illicit liquor traffic.

    I ask the wholehearted cooperation of all our citizens to the end that this return of individual freedom shall not be accompanied by the [disgusting] conditions that obtained prior to the adoption of the 18th Amendment and those that have existed since its adoption. Failure to do this honestly and courageously will be a living reproach to us all.

    […] We must remove forever from our midst the menace of the bootlegger and such others as would profit at the expense of good government, law and order.

    I trust in the good sense of the American people that they will not bring upon themselves the curse of excessive use of intoxicating liquors, to the detriment of health, morals and social integrity.”

    Which of the President’s claims could be challenged as logically false?

    Correct Answer:

    If people obey the new law, it will result in the destruction of illegal alcohol trafficking.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - This can definitely be proved, so this answer is out.
    • (b) - We could collect plenty of evidence to back this up. Look for an answer that the President would have a hard time proving.
    • (c) - Nice work! You probably noticed that the President is making a claim about what will definitely happen in the future. Although it sounds convincing, there is no way for him to prove this.
    • (d) - The correct answer is C. There is no logical problem here. The law is allowing Americans to start drinking alcohol legally again, without being monitored by the government. That means they are getting more individual freedom back.

  4. Read the excerpt below from Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet”. Then, answer the questions that follow:

    “Before we try and explain what is meant by the ballot or the bullet, I would like to clarify something concerning myself. I'm still a Muslim; my religion is still Islam. That's my personal belief. […]

    Although I'm still a Muslim, I'm not here tonight to discuss my religion. I'm not here to try and change your religion. I'm not here to argue or discuss anything that we differ about, because it's time for us to submerge our differences and realize that it is best for us to first see that we have the same problem, a common problem, a problem that will make you catch hell whether you're a Baptist, or a Methodist, or a Muslim, or a nationalist. Whether you're educated or illiterate, whether you live on the boulevard or in the alley, you're going to catch hell just like I am. We're all in the same boat and we all are going to catch the same hell from the same man. He just happens to be a white man. All of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man, economic exploitation at the hands of the white man, and social degradation at the hands of the white man.

    Now in speaking like this, it doesn't mean that we're anti-white, but it does mean we're anti-exploitation, we're anti-degradation, we're anti-oppression. And if the white man doesn't want us to be anti-him, let him stop oppressing and exploiting and degrading us. Whether we are Christians or Muslims or nationalists or agnostics or atheists, we must first learn to forget our differences. If we have differences, let us differ in the closet; when we come out in front, let us not have anything to argue about until we get finished arguing with the man. If the late President Kennedy could get together with Khrushchev and exchange some wheat, we certainly have more in common with each other than Kennedy and Khrushchev had with each other.”

    What proof does Malcolm X give to show that it is possible for people with differences to work together?

    Correct Answer:

    President Kennedy was able to sit down with Khrushchev – and they had very little in common.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - Correct! The final line says ‘we certainly have more in common than [they] had with each other’. If you aren’t familiar with this part of history, Khrushchev (former president of Russia) and Kennedy came close to starting a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s a great example of mortal enemies finding a way to sit down and talk.
    • (b) - The correct answer is A. Even though Malcolm X says he is not looking to change anyone’s religion, there is no guarantee about what the other groups want to do. So this answer is out.
    • (c) - The best answer is A. Even though at first glance, this seems like proof that they can work together, he is not suggesting they resolve their differences, but just hide them in front of the white man.
    • (d) - The correct answer is A. This isn’t a good piece of evidence to show that the different groups can cooperate. In his speech, he doesn’t say the educated and illiterate are sitting down and shaking hands. Look for a more concrete example of opposites working together.

  5. The speaker argues that people of all religions are similar because:

    Correct Answer:

    They are all suffering from oppression at the hands of the white man.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - The correct answer is C. Even though this seems like it could be a possible answer, be careful. Malcolm X directly said he is not anti-white at the start of the final paragraph.
    • (b) - The correct answer is C. Even though this speech mentions the ballet, there is nothing in this part of the speech to suggest that they can’t vote. Make sure you can always find direct evidence for the answer you choose.
    • (c) - Yes. He makes this point numerous times by saying, ‘All of us have suffered here, in this country, political oppression at the hands of the white man.’ He also says, ‘we all are going to catch the same hell from the same man…the white man.’
    • (d) - The correct answer is C. He actually says that some of the people are educated but some are illiterate. This is not a quality that they all share.

Aligned Resources