Common Core Standards: ELA
RL.9-10.2. Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
This second Common Core State Standard for ninth- and tenth-grade literature requires skills that are similar to those required for the first standard in this group. Instead of requiring students to support their own interpretations of the text by using textual details, however, this standard requires students to figure out what the author’s point is, and then examine the details and summarize the text. An “objective” summary is merely one that describes the text (see also “expository writing”) without commenting on the author’s point, his or her ability to support it, and whether or not the reader agrees.
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Using this Standard
- 1984 Teacher Pass
- A Raisin in the Sun Teacher Pass
- A Rose For Emily Teacher Pass
- A View from the Bridge Teacher Pass
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Teacher Pass
- Animal Farm Teacher Pass
- Antigone Teacher Pass
- Beowulf Teacher Pass
- Brave New World Teacher Pass
- Death of a Salesman Teacher Pass
- Fahrenheit 451 Teacher Pass
- Fences Teacher Pass
- Frankenstein Teacher Pass
- Great Expectations Teacher Pass
- Hamlet Teacher Pass
- Heart of Darkness Teacher Pass
- Julius Caesar Teacher Pass
- King Lear Teacher Pass
- Lord of the Flies Teacher Pass
- Macbeth Teacher Pass
- Moby Dick Teacher Pass
- Narrative of Frederick Douglass Teacher Pass
- Of Mice and Men Teacher Pass
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Teacher Pass
- Othello Teacher Pass
- Romeo and Juliet Teacher Pass
- Sula Teacher Pass
- The Aeneid Teacher Pass
- The As I Lay Dying Teacher Pass
- The Bluest Eye Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales General Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Miller's Tale Teacher Pass
- The Canterbury Tales: The Wife of Bath's Prologue Teacher Pass
- The Cask of Amontillado Teacher Pass
- The Catch-22 Teacher Pass
- The Catcher in the Rye Teacher Pass
- The Crucible Teacher Pass
- The Great Gatsby Teacher Pass
- The House on Mango Street Teacher Pass
- The Iliad Teacher Pass
- The Lottery Teacher Pass
- The Metamorphosis Teacher Pass
- The Odyssey Teacher Pass
- The Old Man and the Sea Teacher Pass
- The Scarlet Letter Teacher Pass
- The Tell-Tale Heart Teacher Pass
- Their Eyes Were Watching God Teacher Pass
- Things Fall Apart Teacher Pass
- To Kill a Mockingbird Teacher Pass
- Twilight Teacher Pass
- Wide Sargasso Sea Teacher Pass
- Wuthering Heights Teacher Pass
Sample Activities for Use in Class
1. Pass out copies of Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall”. Read, or have students read, the poem aloud.
Next, have students (individually or in groups) go over the poem - pencil, pen, or crayons in hand - and put a star beside the line or lines that they think contain the main idea of the poem. (The lines could be adjacent, repeat one another, or be completely separate; this is a good time to use the Mysterious Teacher Smile when asked which it is, and let students figure it out on their own.) While reading, students should also underline the lines that they think support the main idea they’ve identified.
Once everyone is more or less finished, choose three to five students (or a representative from each student group) to write a short summary of the poem on the board or somewhere else the rest of the class can see it. The summary can consist of just the main idea lines, followed by bullet points for each of the “supporting” lines. Then, discuss whether each student’s or group’s summary makes sense, and why (or why not). Possible discussion questions include:
1. Is the main idea of this piece “something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” “good fences make good neighbors,” some other line or lines, or some combination of the above?
2. Is it possible that both “something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “good fences make good neighbors” are equally true in the context of the poem?
3. If so, what parts of the poem support this idea? Which parts don’t support it?
4. If not, what parts of the poem tell you this is not the case?
5. Just what is this poem about, anyway? (Note: there are multiple correct answers; like the first standard, a “right” answer under this standard has less to do with factual accuracy and more to do with how well the student supports his or her answer based on the text.)
For example, the poem may be simultaneously: 1. “about” the speaker’s emerging belief that the wall may be unnecessary because it gets torn down by natural forces each year and because there are no animals to keep from eating one another’s crops, and; 2. “about” his neighbor’s failure so far to “look behind” the idea that the wall should be there simply because it’s there, that “good fences make good neighbors”, or his failure to realize that they might be equally good neighbors without the fence - or perhaps not, if the fence-mending is the only time they speak.
Part of the “trick” of this particular activity is getting students to realize that a poem can also have a main idea and supporting details - they’re not limited to the world of non-fiction writing to find these elements. If your students are particularly recalcitrant to grasp this fact, it may help to do the second activity first.
2. Create a list or a stack of flashcards that contains the main ideas of several pieces of writing that your students have read in class recently, or that you believe most or all of them have been exposed to, such as fairy or folk tales. Pass out the list or cards, assigning one “main idea” to two or three students who could work in groups—or not, depending on how you prefer them to work.
Give students a few minutes to read their main ideas and jot down supporting details from the story, poem, or essay they are working on. For instance, if students have a main idea that reads, “It’s shocking to find how much the world has changed when you wake up after sleeping for twenty years,” they may jot down supporting details such as: “Rip doesn’t realize the American Revolution has happened,” “Rip gets in trouble for announcing his loyalty to King George III and not knowing who George Washington is,” and so on. (The text, of course, is Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle.”) Referring to books or notes is okay.
Once students have made their notes, choose one student per main idea (or one student from each group) who will read out the main idea and his or her supporting points. Since all the texts should be ones that students have read and are (one hopes) familiar with, the entire class should be able to discuss what the text is, whether that main idea is supported by the points the student chose, and if not, what other points from the story would be stronger support for the main idea. You may wish to give the other students who wrote on the same main idea precedence when asking for comments, since they’re the ones who are most likely thinking about that particular text.
Quiz 1 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
I. Questions 1 - 10 are based on the following extract from Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea:
He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a fish the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky and the boy had gone at their orders in another boat which caught three good fish the first week. It made the boy sad to see the old man come in each day with his skiff empty and he always went down to help him carry either the coiled lines or the gaff and harpoon and the sail that was furled around the mast. The sail was patched with flour sacks and, furled; it looked like the flag of permanent defeat.
The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.
Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.
Quiz 2 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
II. Questions 1 - 10 are based on the following passage:
Merchant of Syracuse, plead no more;
I am not partial to infringe our laws:
The enmity and discord which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,
Who wanting guilders to redeem their lives
Have seal'd his rigorous statutes with their bloods,
Excludes all pity from our threatening looks.
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
'Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed
Both by the Syracusians and ourselves,
To admit no traffic to our adverse towns Nay, more,
If any born at Ephesus be seen
At any Syracusian marts and fairs;
Again: if any Syracusian born
Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,
His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose,
Unless a thousand marks be levied,
To quit the penalty and to ransom him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
Therefore by law thou art condemned to die.
- Shakespeare, A Comedy of Errors, I.i.