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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources

Grades 11-12

Reading RL.11-12.1

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Breakin’ it Down:

It’s no accident that this is the first reading standard from sixth through twelfth grade. This is the gateway standard, the standard that leads to all other standards. If your students can master this, they are well on their way to mastering many of the other reading standards because they are all about a close reading of the text to support inferential thinking.

This standard asks students to use evidence two ways:

  1. Cite strong evidence to prove what the text says explicitly.
  2. Cite strong evidence to support inferences, including inferences where there is no clear correct interpretation. In other words, make a case for your interpretation.

When it comes to citing text evidence, we recommend that you don your drill sergeant uniform. Insist that students support their thinking with quotes from the text, whether they are writing about the text or discussing it in class. Will they get tired of it? Yes. Will they complain? Probably. But remind them that the texts they are reading in eleventh and twelfth grade are difficult and complicated. There are many potential interpretations, and you want students to think for themselves and come to their own conclusions about the text. However, they have to be able to defend their ideas. Treat your classroom like a courtroom. Require that students present evidence and build a case for any claim they make. Make it fun, but don’t back down. Your students are about to head into college, and they need to be prepared to enter those upper levels of academic dialogue. The best thing you can do is make them experts at using text evidence.

NOVICE: Where’s Waldo?

Your scholars should be able to find the evidence on the page, even if it’s slightly hidden or wearing a disguise. Give students a basic inference or claim, such as “The main character is selfish.” Then ask them to read through the text and find the right evidence to support the given idea. Also, make sure students know how to cite evidence correctly using MLA or APA conventions. They’ll thank you for this once they get to college.

INTERMEDIATE: Put together the puzzle.

Once students master the novice level, they should be able to read through a text and make their own inferences about characters, events, or situations, and then go back and find lines from the text to support their detective work. Make sure their evidence will hold up in court!

ALL-STAR: Cliff-Hangars and Head-Scratchers.

Sometimes the author will purposely include ambiguity or unanswered questions. The most elite students will be able to identify the unanswered question, craft an intelligent theory, interpretation, or prediction, and find clues in the text to support their ideas. The most difficult questions on this standard usually involve students inferring the author’s tone or attitude about the topic under discussion.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard


The Daily Grind: Teaching the Standard

We recommend you create two different training circuits to test this standard. The first comes in the form of multiple-choice questions that ask students to find or interpret evidence. Use your class novels or textbook readings to craft questions that push students to break out their microscopes and scrutinize specific lines of the text. Here are some sample questions to help get you started:

  • Which line best supports the author's idea that Silly Putty is the greatest modern invention?
  • Which of the following decpicts the main character as a Beatles fanatic?
  • Which line of the poem best reveals the narrator's obsession with reality television?
  • Based on the narrator's monologue, he can best be described as... 
  • From the author's description of disco music, it can be inferred that...
  • Based on the dialogue, Ms. Piggy and Kermit will probably do what after their honeymoon?
  • In the second paragraph, the author's tone towards the death penalty can best be described as...

The second training circuit is short response questions that ask students to craft a written argument that makes a claim (inference) and supports that claim with text evidence. Here are some models to get you started:

NOVICE (Give the students an idea or observation and have them collect evidence to support it.)
  • Throughout the story the narrator has been making selfish decisions. Using evidence from the text, prove that she cares more about herself than anyone else
INTERMEDIATE (Give students a clue about what to look for, but leave it open for interpretation.)
  • During the novel, the character seems to be making decisions that make the lives of others harder. Pick specific examples from the text and explain why you believe she made those decisions. Use direct quotes to support your ideas.
ALL-STAR (Sorry kids, you're on your own.)
  • The narrator in our novel has to make many big decisions. Find specific examples in the text where she is dealing with decision-making and make an inference about her personality based on those examples. Support your inference with text evidence.

Quiz Questions

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

  1. Which lines from Madonna’s tear-jerking biography explain the inspiration behind her song lyrics?

    Correct Answer:

    “In a recent interview, she delved into the heartbreaks and misfortunes that fueled her creative powers and led to some of the greatest hit-singles of the 80s and 90s.”

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (C). Even though the quote does not use the word inspiration, it shows that rough times led her to create those hit singles. Answer (A) is only focused on her clothes, and (B) is discussing her love life, but neither mentions anything about her music. Even though answer (D) mentions song lyrics and says she has talked to reporters about them, it doesn’t tell us what inspired her to write her tunes.

  2. Excerpt from “Childhood Disasters” by Miranda Kozman

    My mother was never known for her fine cuisine. She often slaved over the stove, only to end with a steaming pot of inedible food remnants. In my younger days, I would fling open my lunch bag with anticipation. I envisioned what would be inside the Tupperware—maybe a juicy peach, perhaps a delicately assembled turkey and cheese sandwich. But I soon learned to expect an unidentifiable lump of something that looked like a cross between bologna and creamed corn. This was always neatly packed with a note scribbled on the napkin—Delicious and nutritious! Just for you my love. That was the year that I began the daily routine of forgetting my lunch on the bus, or in the coat closet, or (on the best days) in the bus shelter, where a bum would inevitably and unwittingly drag it away. I made sure to collapse in a pitiful pile of tears each time just to cover my tracks.

    The whole neighborhood knew when my mother had been cooking. The stench of burnt bread or over-spiced stews often wafted and lingered all the way to the bus stop down the street. As a child, I was frequently overcome with a gagging sensation as the bus doors flung open at the corner of Brandberry and Parkway. My sister always followed behind me, grumbling and plotting how she would get her food to the trash can without being seen. Because of my mother’s culinary endeavors, Saturday night, pizza night, became a holy day in our household. Mother must have been convinced pizza was our hands-down favorite food. As the clock inched closer to dinnertime each Saturday night, my sister and I would begin our elaborate act of becoming the most helpful children this side of the Mississippi. We would excitedly offer to grab the pizza menu, place the order ourselves, and set the table. On days when it looked like mother might be reaching for the pots and pans, we even offered to pay for the pizza delivery from our own pockets.

    Based on evidence from the text, it can be inferred that…

    Correct Answer:

    the children do not want to tell their mother how awful her cooking is.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (B). There is a ton of evidence that points to this answer. The girls try to find ways to avoid the food instead of being honest: ‘losing’ their lunch, pretending to be sad about losing the lunches, sneaking food to the trash, and offering to pay for pizza instead of eating her cooking. Don’t be fooled by answer (A); the girls don’t like getting off the bus because of the smell. That doesn’t mean they don’t like getting on the bus. If you chose (C) or (D), you fell into the logical assumption trap. We know that the neighbors can smell her cooking and that the narrator doesn’t like her mother’s cooking, but we don’t have enough evidence to prove that (C) and (D) are correct. Be careful here. These assumptions may make sense logically, but you have to have evidence that would stand up in court.

  3. Based on the excerpt, the narrator can best be described as…

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (B). We know that she lies about losing her lunch, she pretends to cry, and she puts on a show every pizza night. Sounds like a pretty sneaky character to us. Answer (A) seems like something the narrator might be feeling, but if you look back in the text, there is no clear evidence that she is ashamed of the cooking, only that she avoids eating it. Even though the narrator is hopeful that she will get something great in her lunch at the beginning of the story, the rest of the passage shows she has clearly given up hope in her mom’s cooking. Can you blame her?

  4. Adapted from The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
    courtesy of The Project Gutenberg

    Roderick Usher had been one of my companions in boyhood, but many years had elapsed since our last meeting. A letter, however, had lately reached me in a distant part of the country—a letter from him—which, in its wildly importunate nature, had admitted of no other than a personal reply. The MS gave evidence of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily illness—of a mental disorder which oppressed him—and of an earnest desire to see me, as his best and indeed his only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his malady. It was the manner in which all this, and much more, was said—it was the apparent heart that went with his request—which allowed me no room for hesitation; and I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singular summons.

    Although, as boys, we had been even intimate associates, yet I really knew little of my friend. His reserve had been always excessive and habitual. I was aware, however, that his very ancient family had been noted, time out of mind, for a peculiar sensibility of temperament, displaying itself, through long ages, in many works of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds of charity, as well as in a passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more than to the orthodox and easily recognizable beauties, of musical science.

    Based on evidence in the passage, readers can infer that the narrator…

    Correct Answer:

    is not very excited about seeing his old friend.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (B). You have many clues that his friend, Roderick Usher, will not be the best visitor: a possible mental disorder, they don’t know very much about each other, his friend seems nervous and agitated, etc. All of the other answer choices pertain to Usher, not the narrator. This can be tricky, especially with a difficult writer like Poe. You’re probably thinking, “Could his sentences be any longer?” We understand. Our advice is to always go back and double-check the evidence if there are multiple characters involved or if the writing in the passage is especially challenging.

  5. The clues in the second paragraph lead the reader to infer that Roderick Usher’s family…

    Correct Answer:

    is relatively wealthy.

    Answer Explanation:

    The correct answer is (A). His family is associated with famous art, music, and “deeds of charity,” all of which usually require money. Music is mentioned in conjunction with the family, but answer (C) goes too far. Be careful with words like all. While the family is associated with musical science, there is not enough evidence to make you think that everyone in the family is musical, and there’s no evidence that they are American. We also don’t get any information about the closeness of the Usher family or their feelings about Roderick’s visit. This was a tricky one because the inference is a little less obvious. How did you do?