Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts : Determine the Meaning of General Academic and Domain-Specific Words or Phrases in a Text: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.4

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All Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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Example Question #1 : Determine The Meaning Of General Academic And Domain Specific Words Or Phrases In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.4

A Look Into Space

Did you know that we used to think that there were nine planets that made up the solar system? Up until 2006, Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet and was located furthest away from the sun in our solar system. However, since 2006 Pluto has been considered to be a “dwarf planet” because it is too small to be considered a planet. Now that Pluto is not considered a planet, only eight planets are left to make up our solar system. The order of the planets from the sun is as follows: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. 

Mercury is the planet closest to the sun; however, can you believe that Mercury is not the planet with the hottest temperatures in our solar system? Well, believe it because Venus is the planet with the highest temperatures! The only award that sets Mercury apart from any other planet in the solar system is that it is the smallest planet. 

Earth is the planet where you and I live. Earth is the only planet currently known to be the home of living things. However, Mars does show some signs that there may be water on the planet, which is necessary for living things to grow and live on Mars. Maybe one day we will learn that aliens really do live on Mars!

Jupiter is the largest planet is the solar system, but it has the shortest days out of all of the planets because it turns so quickly. A day on Earth is 24 hours long, but a day on Jupiter is less than 10 hours long and a day on Saturn is just over 10 hours long. If we lived on Jupiter or Saturn, then we would spend most of the day in school! 

Uranus is not the furthest planet from the sun, but it is the coldest. Even though Uranus is the coldest planet, Neptune might have the worst weather. One storm on Neptune lasted for about 5 years! Could you imagine a storm lasting for 5 years on Earth? 

One fun thing about science is that we are always learning something new because science can change. We could learn more unknown, fun facts about the solar system in the future! 

According to the passage, what does a "dwarf planet" mean?

Possible Answers:

A moon

A small planet 

A galaxy 

A large planet 

Correct answer:

A small planet 

Explanation:

We can use context clues in the text to determine what "dwarf planet" means. First, let's find "dwarf planet" in the text. 

"Did you know that we used to think that there were nine planets that made up the solar system? Up until 2006, Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet and was located furthest away from the sun in our solar system. However, since 2006 Pluto has been considered to be a “dwarf planet” because it is too small to be considered a planet. Now that Pluto is not considered a planet, only eight planets are left to make up our solar system. The order of the planets from the sun is as follows: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. "

The bolded sentence tells us that Pluto is considered a "dwarf planet" because it is too small to be considered a planet. This means that "dwarf planet" means "small planet". 

Example Question #2 : Determine The Meaning Of General Academic And Domain Specific Words Or Phrases In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.4

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.

The word "Vieros" is used near the end of the first paragraph. It is underlined in the passage. Based on the way this word is used in the passage, which of the following is closest to the meaning of "Viero"?

Possible Answers:

A young bird that has just hatched from an egg

A species of bird

A bird's nest

A bird's egg

A long feather that makes up part of a bird's wing

Correct answer:

A species of bird

Explanation:

You don't need to have outside knowledge of what a "viero" is in order to answer this question correctly. The question is testing whether you can look at how the word is used in the passage and figure out what it must mean based on the words around it. With that in mind, let's start by looking at the sentence in which the word "Vieros" is used.

"'It is common in the woods to hear Vireos lamenting for their young that the Jay has forcibly carried away.'"

Consider where this sentence appears in the passage. It is found in a quotation from the author's friend. The author's friend is talking about the behavior of blue jays. Specifically, he or she is describing how blue jays are not very nice to smaller birds. Let's look at that entire part of the passage:

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.”

The two sentences that appear before the one that mentions Vieros are talking about "smaller species of birds." This tells us that this is probably the topic of the sentence that talks about Vieros. The preceding sentences say that "Few succeed in rearing a brood of young," meaning "few smaller species of birds." We are then told about Vieros "lamenting for their young" that the blue jay has carried off. Based on this evidence, we can conclude that a "Viero" is "a species of bird."

Example Question #3 : Determine The Meaning Of General Academic And Domain Specific Words Or Phrases In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.4

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!

In which of the following places would you be most likely to see a "tupelo"?

Possible Answers:

In a garden

In a cave

In the ocean

In a forest

Correct answer:

In a forest

Explanation:

The passage does not say anything about "tupelos," but the table mentions the word "tupelo." It has an entry under "Types of Trees" called "Black Tupelo." It has leaves that turn dark red in the fall. This tells us that a "tupelo" is a type of tree. Where would you be most likely to see a specific type of tree? "In a forest" is the most likely place to see a specific type of tree, so it is the correct answer.

Example Question #4 : Determine The Meaning Of General Academic And Domain Specific Words Or Phrases In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.4

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.

The author uses the word "business" in the first paragraph. It is underlined in the passage. Which of the following words are closest to the meaning of the underlined word "business"?

Possible Answers:

Food

Money

Company

Concern

Energy   

Correct answer:

Energy   

Explanation:

You may assume that you know what "business" means when you read this question; however, it's important to find the word as it's used in the passage to figure out how the author is using it. Words can have more than one meaning. Looking at the clues in the passage around where the word is used can help you determine the particular meaning the author is using.

Let's look at the sentence in which the underlined word "business" appears:

"He was full of business from morning till night, scarcely ever a moment still."

Sometimes, to figure out what a particular word means, we need to look at the sentences around the one in which it is used. This isn't the case here: we have all of the information we need to figure out what the author means by "business." If you thought that "business" meant a company that sells goods or services, at this point you can see that this isn't what the author means. The sentence is talking about a bird being full of "business," so it wouldn't make sense for "business" to mean company in this instance. "Company" isn't the correct answer. "Money" doesn't make any sense either, so it isn't correct either.

We're left with three answer choices: "concern," "food," and "energy." While it's possible for someone to be "full of concern," this isn't how the author is using the word "business." We're not told anything that allows us to conclude that Jakie the blue jay is concerned about anything in particular in this sentence. We're also not told anything that would lead us to conclude that "business" means food in this sentence. It's possible for someone or something to be "full of food," but the sentence isn't talking about food.

Narrowing down our answer choices leaves us with one answer, the correct one: "energy." The author is using "business" to mean energy. How can we tell this? She writes after the comma that Jakie was "scarcely ever a moment still." This connects to her statement that he was "full of business from morning till night," allowing us to figure out that by "full of business" the author means busy or full of energy.

Example Question #1 : Determine The Meaning Of General Academic And Domain Specific Words Or Phrases In A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.4

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.

What does the author mean by the underlined sentence, "The beauty of few of our local birds compares to that of the blue jay"?

Possible Answers:

Few local birds are as hard to spot in the wild as the blue jay.

Few birds appear as drab and uninteresting as the blue jay.

The blue jay is more beautiful than most local birds.

The blue jay is noisier than most local birds.

Correct answer:

The blue jay is more beautiful than most local birds.

Explanation:

In the underlined sentence, the author is making a comparison between blue jays and other local birds. By looking at the sentence carefully, we can figure out what is specifically being compared. The sentence doesn't mention anything about blue jays and other birds being hard to spot in the wild, so this isn't the correct answer. It also doesn't talk about how noisy blue jays are compared to other birds, so "The blue jay is noisier than most local birds" isn't correct either. It uses the word "beautiful," so it is comparing how the author views the prettiness of the blue jay to how the author views the prettiness of other birds. The passage states that the beauty of only "few" of the local birds "compares" to the blue jay's. This is one way of saying that only a few of the local birds are as beautiful as the blue jay. Put another way, the author is suggesting that the blue jay is more beautiful than most of the other local birds. This is the correct answer!

All Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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