Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts : Determine the Main Idea and Summarize a Text: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.2

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All Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Determine The Main Idea And Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.2

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.

Which of the following best summarizes the passage?

Possible Answers:

The author describes the behavior of a blue jay she kept as a pet.   

The author explains why blue jays are her favorite birds.

The author explains in detail the circumstances that led to her raising and releasing wild birds.

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

Correct answer:

The author describes the behavior of a blue jay she kept as a pet.   

Explanation:

To summarize a passage, a statement must relate to each part of it in some capacity. It can't be too specific, or it won't relate to each paragraph. It also can't be too general; if a lot of other topics could be described by the statement besides those that the passage talks about, the statement is probably not a good summary. Of course, statements that summarize the passage have to also be accurate to what is stated in the passage. With these things in mind, let's look at this question's answer choices.

"The author compares and contrasts the blue jay with other kinds of birds." - The author only talks about blue jays in this passage, so this statement isn't a good summary of the passage.

"The author explains why blue jays are her favorite birds." - The author talks about blue jays in the passage, but she never claims that blue jays are her favorite bird. This isn't the correct answer.

"The author explains in detail the circumstances that led to her raising and releasing wild birds." - This answer isn't correct. The author never explains how she came to raise and release wild birds.

"The author describes the behavior of a blue jay she kept as a pet." - This is the correct answer! In this passage, the author relates some of the things that a blue jay she kept in her bird room did—in other words, she describes the blue jay's behavior.

Example Question #4 : Reading: Informational Text

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!

Which of the following statements best states the main idea of this passage?

Possible Answers:

Deciduous trees' leaves change color in the fall because a balance of colorful molecules in them changes.

Photosynthesis is a process that is crucial to nature.

Deciduous trees' leaves are green in the summer because of chlorophyll, a green molecule.

Coniferous trees are very different from deciduous trees.

Correct answer:

Deciduous trees' leaves change color in the fall because a balance of colorful molecules in them changes.

Explanation:

When figuring out the main idea of a passage, it is important to make sure that the statement relates to each part of the passage. The correct answer will need to have something to do with each paragraph. Let's look at each of the answer choices and figure out which one is best.

"Coniferous trees are very different from deciduous trees." - This is the main idea of the first paragraph of the passage, but this statement doesn't have anything to do with the concepts discussed in the second, third, or fourth paragraphs of the passage. It isn't the best statement of the main idea of the entire passage, so it's not the correct answer.

"Photosynthesis is a process that is crucial to nature." - The second paragraph of the passage talks about photosynthesis as a process that is very important in nature, but photosynthesis isn't mentioned in the first paragraph, the third paragraph, or the fourth paragraph. This sentence isn't the best statement of the entire passage's main idea, so it's not correct.

"Deciduous trees' leaves are green in the summer because of chlorophyll, a green molecule." - This sentence mentions deciduous trees' leaves specifically, so it has something to do with the passage's first paragraph. It also talks about chlorophyll, which is discussed in the passage's third paragraph. It doesn't talk about how deciduous leaves change color in the fall, though, which is the main topic of the second and fourth paragraphs. So, this isn't the best answer.

"Deciduous trees' leaves change color in the fall because a balance of colorful molecules in them changes." - This is the correct answer! This answer choice mentions deciduous leaves, relating to the topic of the first paragraph. It then talks about the source of their color change in the fall, the topic of the rest of the passage. It mentions "a balance of colorful molecules," so it relates to the discussion of chlorophyll in paragraph 3. 

All Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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