Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts : Describe the Overall Structure of Events, Ideas, Concepts, or Information in a Text: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.5

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Describe The Overall Structure Of Events, Ideas, Concepts, Or Information In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.5

Passage and table adapted from "Why Leaves Change Color" on "Northeastern Area," a website by the USDA Forest Service. <https://www.na.fs.fed.us/fhp/pubs/leaves/leaves.shtm>.

There are two main types of trees: coniferous trees and deciduous trees. Coniferous trees have small, needle-like leaves. They keep these leaves all year. One example of a coniferous tree is a pine tree, which has green needles during all seasons. In contrast, deciduous trees lose their leaves every autumn. Before these leaves drop and blow away, they change from green to colors like red, orange, yellow, and brown.

Have you ever wondered why deciduous leaves change color in the fall? This color change is caused by a chemical process in the cells of tree leaves.

Green leaves are green because they contain a green molecule, chlorophyll. This is a very important molecule in the natural world. Leaves use this molecule to turn carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water into sugar and oxygen in a process called “photosynthesis.” So, chlorophyll lets the plant store energy as sugar, which it can use as food. It also lets the plant provide food for anything that eats it, like a cow, a bird, or even a human! 

So, what does chlorophyll, a green molecule, have to do with autumn leaf colors? Deciduous leaves also contain molecules of other colors, but the chlorophyll in the leaves covers them up in the summer. In the fall, deciduous trees stop making chlorophyll. Eventually there is no more chlorophyll in their leaves. The colors of the other molecules show through. The colors of these other molecules are the colors we see in autumn leaves. The next time you see colorful leaves in the fall, you’ll know more about the chemistry at work!

The first paragraph of this passage is best described as __________.

Possible Answers:

an explanation of the cause behind a particular effect

a comparison of two things

a description of a problem

a sequence of events told in chronological order

Correct answer:

a comparison of two things

Explanation:

This question asks you to describe one particular paragraph in the passage: the first one. What is happening in the first paragraph? What is being discussed?

There are two main types of trees: coniferous trees and deciduous trees. Coniferous trees have small, needle-like leaves. They keep these leaves all year. One example of a coniferous tree is a pine tree. In contrast, deciduous trees lose their leaves every autumn. Before these leaves drop and blow away, they change from green to colors like red, orange, yellow, and brown.

The first paragraph tells the reader about two types of trees. One of these types keeps their leaves all year, and the other loses their leaves every autumn. The answer choice that most accurately describes of this paragraph is "a comparison of two things." The first paragraph is not "a sequence of events told in chronological order," "an explanation of the cause behind a particular effect," or "a description of a problem." The entire passage could be summarized as "an explanation of the cause behind a particular effect," but since we are only looking at the first paragraph, this is not the correct answer. The first paragraph by itself is not "an explanation of the cause behind a particular effect." It focuses on a comparison.

Example Question #2 : Describe The Overall Structure Of Events, Ideas, Concepts, Or Information In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.5

Passage 1: Adapted from "The Busy Blue Jay" in True Bird Stories from My Notebooks by Olive Thorne Miller (1903). 
The following passage is from a book in which the author talks about raising and releasing into the wild birds that had been captured and sold as pets. 

One of the most interesting birds who ever lived in my Bird Room was a blue jay named Jakie. He was full of business from morning till night, scarcely ever a moment still.

Jays are very active birds, and being shut up in a room, my blue jay had to find things to do, to keep himself busy. If he had been allowed to grow up out of doors, he would have found plenty to do, planting acorns and nuts, nesting, and bringing up families. Sometimes the things he did in the house were what we call mischief because they annoy us, such as hammering the woodwork to pieces, tearing bits out of the leaves of books, working holes in chair seats, or pounding a cardboard box to pieces. But how is a poor little bird to know what is mischief?

One of Jakie’s amusements was dancing across the back of a tall chair, taking funny little steps, coming down hard, “jouncing” his body, and whistling as loud as he could. He would keep up this funny performance as long as anybody would stand before him and pretend to dance, too.

My jay was fond of a sensation. One of his dearest bits of fun was to drive the birds into a panic. This he did by flying furiously around the room, feathers rustling, and squawking as loud as he could. He usually managed to fly just over the head of each bird, and as he came like a catapult, every one flew before him, so that in a minute the room was full of birds flying madly about trying to get out of his way. This gave him great pleasure.

Wild blue jays, too, like to stir up their neighbors. A friend told me of a small party of blue jays that she saw playing this kind of a joke on a flock of birds of several kinds. These birds were gathering the cherries on the top branches of a big cherry tree. The jays sat quietly on another tree till the cherry-eaters were busy eating. Then suddenly the mischievous blue rogues would all rise together and fly at them, as my pet did at the birds in the room. It had the same effect on the wild birds; they all flew in a panic. Then the joking jays would return to their tree and wait till their victims forgot their fear and came straggling back to the cherries, when they repeated the fun.

Consider the last two paragraphs of the passage. Which of the following best describes how they relate to one another?

Possible Answers:

The first paragraph describes something a tame blue jay does, and the second paragraph shows how wild blue jays act similarly.

The first paragraph describes the different noises a tame blue jay makes, and the second paragraph describes how wild blue jays make similar sounds.

The first paragraph describes something wild blue jays do, and the second paragraph shows how a tame blue jay acts similarly.

The first paragraph describes the different noises wild blue jays make, and the second paragraph describes how a tame blue jay makes similar sounds.

Correct answer:

The first paragraph describes something a tame blue jay does, and the second paragraph shows how wild blue jays act similarly.

Explanation:

Before you answer this question, look at how the answer choices relate to one another. They are different combinations of two options: either they focus on something wild and tame blue jays do, or they focus on noises that wild and tame blue jays make. Then, they differ in the order in which they talk about wild blue jays and tame blue jays. Noticing these patterns can be very helpful in analyzing the passage. Once we've identified these patterns, we only need to answer two questions about the passage's last two paragraphs:

1.) Are they talking about actions blue jays do or noises they make?

and

2.) In what order are wild blue jays and tame blue jays discussed?

If we know this information, we'll know enough to answer the question correctly. Let's look at the two paragraphs this question concerns.

My jay was fond of a sensation. One of his dearest bits of fun was to drive the birds into a panic. This he did by flying furiously around the room, feathers rustling, and squawking as loud as he could. He usually managed to fly just over the head of each bird, and as he came like a catapult, every one flew before him, so that in a minute the room was full of birds flying madly about trying to get out of his way. This gave him great pleasure.

Wild blue jays, too, like to stir up their neighbors. A friend told me of a small party of blue jays that she saw playing this kind of a joke on a flock of birds of several kinds. These birds were gathering the cherries on the top branches of a big cherry tree. The jays sat quietly on another tree till the cherry-eaters were busy eating. Then suddenly the mischievous blue rogues would all rise together and fly at them, as my pet did at the birds in the room. It had the same effect on the wild birds; they all flew in a panic. Then the joking jays would return to their tree and wait till their victims forgot their fear and came straggling back to the cherries, when they repeated the fun.

These two paragraphs describe how different blue jays make other nearby birds panic seemingly for fun. This is an action that involves more than making certain noises, so the paragraphs are talking about actions blue jays do, not noises they make. In addition, the first of the two paragraphs is talking about a tame blue jay—one that lived in the author's bird room. The latter of the two paragraphs talks about wild blue jays.

Considering what we learned through our analysis, the correct answer to this question is "The first paragraph describes something a tame blue jay does, and the second paragraph shows how wild blue jays act similarly."

Example Question #3 : Describe The Overall Structure Of Events, Ideas, Concepts, Or Information In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.5

Passage 2: Adapted from "Cyanocitta cristata: Blue Jay" in Life Histories of North American Birds, From the Parrots to the Grackles, with Special Reference to Their Breeding Habits and Eggs by Charles Bendire (1895)

The beauty of few of our local birds compares to that of the Blue Jay. One can’t help admiring them for their amusing and interesting traits. Even their best friends can’t say much in their favor, though. They destroy many of the eggs and young of our smaller birds. A friend of mine writes, “The smaller species of birds are utterly at [the Blue Jay’s] mercy in nesting time. Few succeed in rearing a brood of young. It is common in the woods to hear Vireos lamenting for their young that the Jay has forcibly carried away. Vast numbers of eggs are eaten and the nests torn up.”

Still, I cannot help admiring Blue Jays, because they have good traits as well. They are cunning, inquisitive, good mimics, and full of mischief. It is difficult to paint them in their true colors. Some writers call them bullies and cowards. Perhaps they deserve these names at times, but they possess courage in the defense of their young. But it is unfortunate that they show so little consideration for the feelings of other birds.

It is astonishing how accurately the Blue Jay is able to imitate the various calls and cries of other birds. These will readily deceive anyone. They seem to delight in playing tricks on their unsuspecting neighbors in this manner, apparently out of pure mischief. They are especially fond of teasing owls, and occasionally hawks; however, sometimes this has disastrous results for the Blue Jays.

Which of the following best describes the structure of Passage 2?

Possible Answers:

The author describes the behavior of a tame blue jay kept inside a house.

The author compares and contrasts the blue jay with other types of birds.

The author discusses some of the positive and negative characteristics of the blue jay.

The author tries to convince the reader that the blue jay has no positive qualities.

Correct answer:

The author discusses some of the positive and negative characteristics of the blue jay.

Explanation:

Let's consider each of the answer choices and figure out which one best describes Passage 2.

"The author compares and contrasts the blue jay with other types of birds." - Passage 2 focuses mostly on the blue jay. It only mentions other birds when describing how the blue jay interacts with them. It doesn't specifically try to compare and contrast the blue jay with other types of birds, so this answer is not the correct one.

"The author tries to convince the reader that the blue jay has no positive qualities." - The author discusses many of the blue jay's negative traits; however, he does not attempt to convince readers that the blue jay has no positive qualities. We can tell this because the first paragraph states, "One can’t help admiring them for their amusing and interesting traits." Similarly, the second paragraph says, "Still, I cannot help admiring Blue Jays, because they have good traits as well." If the author wanted to convince readers that the blue jay has no positive qualities, the passage wouldn't suggest multiple times that blue jays have not only negative qualities, but positive ones too.

"The author describes the behavior of a tame blue jay kept inside a house." - If this answer choice sounds correct, you might be thinking of Passage 1! This is a good description of a different passage, but it doesn't accurately describe Passage 2, which is presented with this particular question. No mention is made of a tame blue jay kept inside of a house. So, this answer choice is not correct.

"The author discusses some of the positive and negative characteristics of the blue jay." - This is the correct answer! Throughout this passage, the author describes the blue jay by pointing out its negative features and its positive ones.

All Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 28 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
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