Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts : Explain how an Author Uses Reasons and Evidence to Support Points: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.8

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Example Question #1 : Explain How An Author Uses Reasons And Evidence To Support Points: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.8

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!

Consider the underlined statement, in which the author claims that chlorophyll "is a very important molecule in the natural world." In which of the following sentences does the author provide evidence supporting this statement?

Possible Answers:

"Deciduous leaves also contain molecules of other colors, but the chlorophyll in the leaves covers them up in the summer."

"This color change is caused by a chemical process in the cells of tree leaves."

"The next time you see colorful leaves in the fall, you’ll know more about the chemistry at work!"

"[Chlorophyll] also lets the plant provide food for anything that eats it, like a cow, a bird, or even a human!"

Correct answer:

"[Chlorophyll] also lets the plant provide food for anything that eats it, like a cow, a bird, or even a human!"

Explanation:

To answer this question correctly, we need to figure out which of the answer choices provides information that helps convince readers that the author is correct when he or she claims that chlorophyll "is a very important molecule in the natural world." To support this statement, the correct answer needs to talk about the same concepts, so it needs to discuss chlorophyll and its importance in nature.

The answer choice "The next time you see colorful leaves in the fall, you’ll know more about the chemistry at work!" doesn't mention chlorophyll at all, so it's not correct. "This color change is caused by a chemical process in the cells of tree leaves" has something to do with chlorophyll even if it doesn't mention the molecule directly, but causing color changes in leaves doesn't seem to cause any other important changes in nature, so this isn't the best answer. Similarly, the answer choice "Deciduous leaves also contain molecules of other colors, but the chlorophyll in the leaves covers them up in the summer" describes how chlorophyll makes leaves appear green in the summer, but it doesn't tell us anything about why this is important in nature, so it's not the best answer either.

The best answer and the correct one is "[Chlorophyll] also lets the plant provide food for anything that eats it, like a cow, a bird, or even a human!" This talks about how chlorophyll plays an important role in nature by allowing plants to provide food for other living things. This sentence provides an example of how chlorophyll plays an important role in nature, so it provides evidence supporting the claim that chlorophyll plays an important role in nature.

Example Question #2 : Explain How An Author Uses Reasons And Evidence To Support Points: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.4.8

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.

From what source does the author get his information about how blue jays can be mean to other birds?

Possible Answers:

From conclusions he has drawn based on observing other types of birds

From what a friend has said when writing to him

From illustrations of blue jays that he has viewed

From a scientific article about blue jays

Correct answer:

From what a friend has said when writing to him

Explanation:

The author talks about how blue jays can be mean to other birds in the first paragraph, which says, "Even their best friends can’t say much in their favor, though. They destroy many of the eggs and young of our smaller birds." After this, it states, "A friend of mine writes . . . " and then begins providing more information about how blue jays are mean to other birds in the form of a quotation from the author's friend. For example, the quotation says, "Vast numbers of eggs are eaten and the nests torn up." Based on this evidence, we can tell that the author gets his information about how blue jays can be mean to other birds "From what a friend has said when writing to him." The passage doesn't mention any scientific articles about blue jays or illustrations about blue jays, and the author doesn't ever describe other types of birds that he himself has seen in person and use this information to figure anything out about blue jays.

All Common Core: 4th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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