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Common Core Standards: ELA - Literacy

Grade 9-10

Writing WHST.9-10.10

Write routinely over extended time frames (time for reflection and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Set the Stage

This standard asks students to write routinely in all subject areas. The standard specifies that students should be writing both short and long-term assignments:

  • Short-term Tasks – Students should regularly be asked to summarize, analyze, and respond to texts in short written assignments so that writing becomes a routine step in the thinking and discussion process for your class. These short assignments will help students to read critically and articulate and support their thinking within a limited time frame, thus improving those on-their-feet thinking skills.
  • Long-term Tasks – Students should also regularly be engaged in extended writing projects that require in-depth research, analysis, and argument. In these assignments, the writing process should be emphasized, encouraging students to plan, draft, and revise their writing and thinking throughout the project.

In both short and long-term assignments, students should always consider their task, purpose, and audience and make choices that are appropriate for the given rhetorical context. It’s important that students are given a variety of contexts for which to write (the task shouldn’t always be a formal paper and the audience shouldn’t always be you) so they develop dexterity adjusting their voice and style for many different writing occasions.

Example

Dress Rehearsal

You enter the classroom, and your world history teacher is playing “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” You think you are in a time warp. You remember singing that rhyme in kindergarten and wonder, “What’s up with that?” Mr. Meister explains that the song is actually about feudalism, a protest of sorts, and he challenges you to determine who the “master” is, who the “dame” is, and who the “little boy who lives in the lane” is in the historical context of the song. Your task is to write a summary of your findings, analyze it, and then draw conclusions about the song. The assignment is due at the end of the hour. No problem.

To figure this out, you read about feudalism in your textbook. This system involved politics, power, and peasantry. Large-scale government was replaced by local authority. High-ranking noblemen, called lords, gave lower-ranking noblemen, called vassals, grants for land.

The lesser lord was allowed to use, but not own, the property in order to support his household and family. In exchange for the land grant, called a fief, the vassal promised to defend the lord in times of conflict and war.

The social hierarchy was in this order: the king and queen, the clergy and nobles, knights, merchants, and peasants. Where would you fit in? The clergy was rich, holding many pieces of land. Warfare was typical during the Middle Ages, contests of wills generally between lords or lords and vassals.

Knights helped in the battles, armed heavily with armor requiring the use of massive horses. Wars were hard on the peasants, and the church often intervened to keep their suffering to a minimum by limiting when battles could be fought and what could be destroyed, and by prohibiting civilian involvement.

Justice was meted out through trials of battles, the swearing of oaths, or trials by ordeal. These tests might involve a duel between the parties, the use of character witnesses in court, or grueling tests of courage and strength. Only the strong would survive…or not.

In a summary, you include major ideas: a description of feudalism, the social hierarchy, and the justice system. You provide details to describe these points, and for your conclusion, you determine that the “master” was the king, the “dame” was the vassal, and the “little boy who lives in the lane” was a peasant. The latter was protesting the taxes that had to be paid to their rulers.

To extend this same assignment, your teacher has asked the class to read “The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales” by Geoffrey Chaucer. Through this literary connection, you are asked to describe how the poem reflects the social structure of the Middle Ages. You have time to read the prologue and examine it for the members of a feudal society.

First, you make a four column chart labeled “Character,” Description,” Level of Society,” and Chaucer’s attitude toward the character. As you read, you fill in the chart with the occupations of the twenty-seven characters, including a monk, priest, nun, merchant, knight, farmer, and yeoman. 

Next, you consider this information and write an analysis of what the descriptions mean. Who does Chaucer most admire? You favor the Bright Knight. Who does Chaucer disrespect? The Miller is shady. Do the members of each level live up to expectations? Not the clergy, that’s for sure.

When finished with your draft, you might find that you need to do more research, revise by adding or deleting details, and reflect further on your drawn conclusions. With a two-week deadline on this paper, you’ll have plenty of time to do a thorough job. You’ll confidently show that the poem reflects Chaucer’s view of a feudal society.

Source:

Miller, Sue et al. World History: The Human Journey. Texas: Holt Rinehart and Winston, 2001.

That’s a Wrap

They’ve done it! Your students have taken two different tasks with varying time frames and adjusted their writing and research as the occasion warranted. Keep giving them assignments like these, and they’ll be masters of the realm in no time.

Drill

Analysis of Tasks
Determine which of the following tasks need a shorter time frame and which tasks need an extended time frame. Write (S) for short and (E) for extended.

1. Write an essay in which you determine the relevancy of the film Invictus to Americans living in the 21st century.
2. Summarize a lesson on personal finance which explains how to buy your first car.
3. Create a photo essay with captions examining the life of Abraham Lincoln.
4. After choosing from a list of biology topics, write an academic research paper.
5. Create a CD in which you record music that develops the struggles of immigrants in America. Explain your selections.
6. Read full-length essays on Aristotle’s view and Darwin’s view of creation/evolution. Write a script in which the two discuss their theories.
7. Read and summarize Chapter 15 in your biology textbook.
8. Make a list of contributions that the Greeks made to society which are still being used in the 21st century.
9. Define and describe the scientific method.
10. Prepare a political pamphlet in which you argue for or against hand gun control.

Answers/Explanations: 

1. The correct answer is (E). This one will require an analysis of the film as well as some research into 21st century connections, so it’s definitely an extended task.

2. The correct answer is (S). A quick summary is a short task; you can do that in your sleep by now.

3. The correct answer is (E). You’ll need to first research the life of Lincoln and then find and arrange relevant photos that develop your examination of his life.

4. The correct answer is (E). Academic research? Settle in, folks; it’s always long-term.

5. The correct answer is (E). This sounds like fun, but it will also be a lot of work. You’ll need to research the struggles of immigrants first in order to choose and explain the right songs for this project.

6. The correct answer is (E). This one will take you some time; Aristotle and Darwin are no joke and researching/interpreting their views is a tall order.

7. The correct answer is (S). Another summary; no problemo.

8. The correct answer is (S). This may be a long list, but it shouldn’t take you long to compile it.

9. The correct answer is (S). Definitions and descriptions are akin to summaries. Easy peasy.

10. The correct answer is (E). To develop an argument will usually take more time and more in-depth research. After all, you’ve got to support your claims and be ready to beat back those counterarguments with stunning facts.