Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze the Strength and Reasoning of Claims While Evaluating Written Arguments: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.8

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Example Question #1 : Analyze The Strength And Reasoning Of Claims While Evaluating Written Arguments: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.7.8

“Stone Trees”

Have you ever seen a stone tree? While the idea of a stone tree may sound fantastic, fallen trees can turn to stone in very specific circumstances, producing what scientists call “petrified wood.” “Petra” means stone in ancient Greek, so something “petrified” has been turned to stone. You may have heard the word “petrified” used to describe someone so scared that they have frozen as if turned to stone, but scientists use the word literally to refer to actual stone. Petrified trees are stone trees, not scared trees!

 

A Type of Fossil

Like ancient skeletons of dinosaurs and other organisms preserved in the earth, petrified wood is a type of fossil; however, there is a big difference between petrified wood and most fossils. Most fossils are imprints of creatures or partial remains of them, such as their skeletons. In contrast, the process of petrification recreates an entire preserved tree in stone. It’s very cool to see a petrified tree close-up, because it is still precisely life-size; you can get an idea of how big the tree was when it was alive, and even see individual tree cells that have been preserved. You can even count the tree rings in some petrified trees and estimate how old the tree grew to be before it was petrified.

 

From Tree to Stone

In order for a tree to become petrified wood, it must have died and been buried a very long time ago. This has to have happened in a specific environment, though, or petrified wood would not be so rare. The tree has to be buried in such a way that oxygen cannot get to its bark and wood. If oxygen can get to the tree, it will rot instead of turn to stone. 

The environment has to have two more specific characteristics to produce petrified wood: there has to be water in the ground around the tree, and that water has to contain minerals. If mineral-containing water is present, water will go into and out of the tree’s cells and, over time, the minerals in the water will accumulate in the tree’s cells. When the tree’s cells eventually decay, the minerals are left. Petrified wood can be a rainbow of different colors, with each color corresponding to different elements in the tree’s preserving environment that affect the color of the minerals that form its stone.

Petrified wood is found all over the world, and there are even entire forests of petrified trees that you can travel to go see today. One national park in the United States, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, is famous for its many petrified trees. The next time you see a tree, remember, after a few million years in the right environment, it could turn to stone!

In which of the following sentences does the author of the passage provide evidence supporting the claim that petrified wood is rare and only forms in specific environments? 

Possible Answers:

“Petrified wood can be a rainbow of different colors, with each color corresponding to different elements in the tree’s preserving environment that affect the color of the minerals that form its stone.”

"Like ancient skeletons of dinosaurs and other organisms preserved in the earth, petrified wood is a type of fossil; however, there is a big difference between petrified wood and most fossils."

“It’s very cool to see a petrified tree close-up, because it is still precisely life-size; you can get an idea of how big the tree was when it was alive, and even see individual tree cells that have been preserved.”

“This has to have happened in a specific environment, though, or petrified wood would not be so rare.”

“If oxygen can get to the tree, it will rot instead of turn to stone.”

Correct answer:

“If oxygen can get to the tree, it will rot instead of turn to stone.”

Explanation:

One way to approach this question is to imagine that you're trying to convince a friend that petrified wood is rare and only forms in specific environments. Which of the answer choices could you point to in the passage to help convince your friend that you are correct?

"Like ancient skeletons of dinosaurs and other organisms preserved in the earth, petrified wood is a type of fossil; however, there is a big difference between petrified wood and most fossils." - This answer choice talks about fossils and petrified wood; it says nothing about the specific environment petrified wood needs in order to form.

"It’s very cool to see a petrified tree close-up, because it is still precisely life-size; you can get an idea of how big the tree was when it was alive, and even see individual tree cells that have been preserved.” - This answer choice describes some characteristics of petrified wood, but doesn't mention the environment it needs to form at all.

“Petrified wood can be a rainbow of different colors, with each color corresponding to different elements in the tree’s preserving environment that affect the color of the minerals that form its stone.” - This answer choice also describes petrified wood. It mentions "the tree's preserving environment," but doesn't tell us anything about it other than that different elements in it produce different colors of minerals in petrified wood.

“This has to have happened in a specific environment, though, or petrified wood would not be so rare.” - This answer choice talks about the "specific environment" in which petrified wood forms, but it doesn't actually tell us what makes this environment "specific."

"If oxygen can get to the tree, it will rot instead of turn to stone.” - This is the correct answer. Petrified wood forms when trees are preserved in environments where oxygen cannot get to them to make them rot. Instead, over time, they become petrified wood. 

Example Question #2 : Analyze The Strength And Reasoning Of Claims While Evaluating Written Arguments: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.7.8

“The Petrified Forest of Arizona” by E.A. J. Seddon, Associate Editor, Southern Division in The Mountain States Monitor, September 1918.

The Petrified Forest of Arizona is an area covered with the fossil remains of prehistoric trees. The name “Petrified Forest” is somewhat of a misnomer: the word “forest” suggests standing trees, but these trees fell over long ago and have been preserved in stone. At one time, they formed part of a forest of gigantic trees. They proudly reared their heads above the surrounding country, but they were conquered and laid low by some force of nature.

Then began the process of embalming and preserving these fallen monarchs. They were buried thousands of feet beneath the bottom of an inland sea. This was a vast pickling vat where the wood was slowly converted into living gems. We can tell this because volcanic cones and mineral springs still exist in the area. 

Water containing minerals slowly forced its way into the trunks and limbs and roots of the fallen monarchs under a terrific pressure. Eventually, the woody material was gradually replaced by silica, a type of rock. Iron oxides were present in the silica. These oxides created brilliant and beautiful brown, yellow, and red colors in the rock. 

Eventually, the sediment containing the petrified trees was thrown up from nature’s subterranean chemical laboratory. The wrappings of the dead monarchs were slowly washed away by erosion and corrosion. Then the glorious sun shone upon the trees once again. They were no longer rulers of the kingdom of flora, but preserved for all time as agate, jasper, opal, and other forms of silica.

The passage could be improved if the evidence presented in which of the following sentence pairs were explained more?

Possible Answers:

“Then the glorious sun shone upon the trees once again. They were no longer rulers of the kingdom of flora, but preserved for all time as agate, jasper, opal, and other forms of silica.”

“Water containing minerals slowly forced its way into the trunks and limbs and roots of the fallen monarchs under a terrific pressure. Eventually, the woody material was gradually replaced by silica, a type of rock.”

“The name “Petrified Forest” is somewhat of a misnomer: the word “forest” suggests standing trees, but these trees fell over long ago and have been preserved in stone. At one time, they formed part of a forest of gigantic trees.”

“This was a vast pickling vat where the wood was slowly converted into living gems. We can tell this because volcanic cones and mineral springs still exist in the area.”

“At one time, they formed part of a forest of gigantic trees. They proudly reared their heads above the surrounding country, but they were conquered and laid low by some force of nature.”

Correct answer:

“This was a vast pickling vat where the wood was slowly converted into living gems. We can tell this because volcanic cones and mineral springs still exist in the area.”

Explanation:

“The name “Petrified Forest” is somewhat of a misnomer: the word “forest” suggests standing trees, but these trees fell over long ago and have been preserved in stone. At one time, they formed part of a forest of gigantic trees.” - These sentences go together well and neither seems to present evidence, so this isn't the correct answer.

“Then the glorious sun shone upon the trees once again. They were no longer rulers of the kingdom of flora, but preserved for all time as agate, jasper, opal, and other forms of silica.” - These sentences conclude the passage. They are primarily descriptive, and neither presents evidence supporting a claim.

“At one time, they formed part of a forest of gigantic trees. They proudly reared their heads above the surrounding country, but they were conquered and laid low by some force of nature.” - The first sentence in this pair tells readers that the petrified wood found in the Petrified Forest of Arizona was originally part of a forest. The second sentence personifies the trees as it describes them being knocked down. This doesn't seem like the correct answer either, as no evidence for a claim is presented.

“Water containing minerals slowly forced its way into the trunks and limbs and roots of the fallen monarchs under a terrific pressure. Eventually, the woody material was gradually replaced by silica, a type of rock.” - These sentences appear as the passage is describing part of the process of petrification. It lists two sequential steps in the process, but not a claim and evidence.

 “This was a vast pickling vat where the wood was slowly converted into living gems. We can tell this because volcanic cones and mineral springs still exist in the area.” - This is the correct answer! The first sentence describes the area in the Petrified Forest of Arizona was "a vast pickling vat" in which conditions were right for petrification to take place. The second sentence states that the reason we know this to be the case is that "volcanic cones and mineral springs still exist in the area." The passage does not make it clear why the presence of volcanic cones and mineral springs means that the area had conditions in which petrification could take place. If this connection were explained more clearly, the passage would make more sense to readers and be improved.

All Common Core: 7th Grade English Language Arts Resources

1 Diagnostic Test 27 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
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