Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How a Text Connects and Distinguishes Individuals, Events, and Topics: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.3

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Example Questions

Example Question #7 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from “Introduced Species That Have Become Pests” in Our Vanishing Wild Life, Its Extermination and Protection by William Temple Hornaday (1913)

The man who successfully introduces into a new habitat any species of living thing assumes a very grave responsibility. Every introduced species is doubtful gravel until panned out. The enormous losses that have been inflicted upon the world through the perpetuation of follies with wild animals and plants would, if added together, be enough to purchase a principality. The most aggravating feature of these follies in transplantation is that never yet have they been made severely punishable. We are just as careless and easygoing on this point as we were about the government of Yellowstone Park in the days when Howell and other poachers destroyed our first national bison herd. Even though Howell was caught red-handed, skinning seven Park bison cows, he could not be punished for it, because there was no penalty prescribed by any law. Today, there is a way in which any revengeful person could inflict enormous damage on the entire South, at no cost to himself, involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money, yet go absolutely unpunished!

The gypsy moth is a case in point. This winged calamity was imported near Boston by a French entomologist, Mr. Leopold Trouvelot, in 1868 or 69. The scientist did not purposely set the pest free. He was endeavoring with live specimens to find a moth that would produce a cocoon of commercial value to America, and a sudden gust of wind blew his living and breeding specimens of the gypsy moth out of his study through an open window. The moth itself is not bad to look at, but its larvae is a great, overgrown brute with an appetite like a hog. Immediately Mr. Trouvelot sought to recover his specimens. When he failed to find them all, he notified the State authorities of the accident. Every effort was made to recover all the specimens, but enough escaped to produce progeny that soon became a scourge to the trees of Massachusetts. The method of the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar was very simple. It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence.

The gypsy moth spread with alarming rapidity and persistence. In time, the state of Massachusetts was forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire. It was awful! Up to this date (1912) the New England states and the United States Government service have expended in fighting this pest about $7,680,000!

The spread of this pest has been slowed, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out. Today it exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date. It is steadily spreading in three directions from Boston, its original point of departure, and when it strikes the State of New York, we, too, will begin to pay dearly for the Trouvelot experiment.

Howell’s story is different from that of Mr. Trouvelot’s in that __________.

Possible Answers:

Howell sought to capture insects while Trouvelot sought to release them

Howell acted alone while Trouvelot worked with a group

Howell could be punished by law, while Trouvelot could not

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

Howell worked for a zoo while Trouvelot was a scientist

Correct answer:

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

Explanation:

According to the passage, what did Howell do? He was caught skinning bison in Yellowstone National Park and there was no way to punish him, a point about which the author is frustrated. What did Mr. Trouvelot do? He accidentally released gypsy moths into the United States, where they’ve caused a lot of trouble since. Nothing in the passage says that Mr. Trouvelot worked in a group, so we can eliminate the answer “Howell acted alone while Mr. Trouvelot worked with a group.” Similarly, while the passage says that Mr. Trouvelot was a scientist (an entomologist), nothing says that Howell worked for a zoo, so “Howell worked for a zoo while Trouvelot was a scientist” can’t be correct. The author brings up Howell’s story as an example of someone who couldn’t be punished by law for what the author considers an egregiously bad act, so “Howell could be punished by law, while Mr. Trouvelot could not” can’t be correct either. Howell’s story has nothing to do with insects and Mr. Trouvelot released his gypsy moths on accident, so “Howell sought to capture insects while Trouvelot sought to release them” cannot be the correct answer. This leaves us with one answer choice, the correct one: “Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident.”

Example Question #1 : Analyze How A Text Connects And Distinguishes Individuals, Events, And Topics: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.3

Adapted from “Feathers of Sea Birds and Wild Fowl for Bedding” from The Utility of Birds by Edward Forbush (ed. 1922)

In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries. These materials have been used as filling for beds and pillows. Such feathers are perfect insulators of heat, and beds, pillows, or coverlets filled with them represent the acme of comfort and durability. 

The early settlers of New England saved for such purposes the feathers and down from the thousands of wild-fowl which they killed, but as the population of people increased, the quantity of feathers furnished in this manner became insufficient, and the people sought a larger supply in the vast colonies of ducks and geese along the Labrador coast. 

The manner in which the feathers and down were obtained, unlike the method practiced in Iceland, did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply. In Iceland, the people have continued to receive for many years a considerable income by collecting eider down (the small, fluffy feathers of eider ducks), but there they do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” Ducks line their nests with down plucked from their own breasts and that of the eider is particularly valuable for bedding. In Iceland, these birds are so carefully protected that they have become as tame and unsuspicious as domestic fowls In North America. Where they are constantly hunted they often conceal their nests in the midst of weeds or bushes, but in Iceland, they make their nests and deposit their eggs in holes dug for them in the sod. A supply of the ducks is maintained so that the people derive from them an annual income.

In North America, quite a different policy was pursued. The demand for feathers became so great in the New England colonies during the middle of the eighteenth century that vessels were sent to Labrador for the express purpose of securing the feathers and down of wild fowl. Eider down having become valuable and these ducks being in the habit of congregating by thousands on barren islands of the Labrador coast, the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews. As the ducks molt all their primary feathers at once in July or August and are then quite incapable of flight and the young birds are unable to fly until well grown, the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs. Otis says that millions of wildfowl were thus destroyed and that in a few years their haunts were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their numbers were so diminished that feather voyages became unprofitable and were given up. 

This practice, followed by the almost continual egging, clubbing, shooting, etc. by Labrador fishermen, may have been a chief factor in the extinction of the Labrador duck. No doubt had the eider duck been restricted in its breeding range to the islands of Labrador, it also would have been exterminated long ago. 

The author compares the methods of collecting duck feathers and down in Iceland and in North America in the passage. Which of the following is the most significant effect of this comparison on the rest of the passage?

Possible Answers:

It makes the Icelandic method look ineffective.

It makes the Icelandic method seem old-fashioned.

It makes the North American method look like it would only work in a country to which Eider ducks are native.

It makes the North American method look needlessly complex.

It makes the North American method look needlessly violent and inhumane.

Correct answer:

It makes the North American method look needlessly violent and inhumane.

Explanation:

How does the author describe the Icelandic method of collecting eider down? The author interrupts his story about the demand for feathers in North America to contrast it against the Iceland, saying that the North American method "did not tend to conserve and protect the source of supply." He goes on to note that the Icelandic people do not “kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," and instead, receive a renewable income based on down they collect every year. By protecting the ducks, they encourage them to trust people and make down collection easier. 

Notice that this is the first method we hear about in the passage, even though the start of the passage only concerns North America (New England, specifically). After hearing about the Icelandic method first, the reader has in his or her mind that this method is one option for collecting feathers. It treats the ducks well and results in a renewable resource. At this point, the author steps back to talking about the North American feather-collection method, drawing a sharp contrast: "In North America, quite a different policy was pursued." He then describes the Labrador feather voyages and uses language that encourages the reader to pity and empathize with (feel for) the ducks: "the birds became the victims of the ships’ crews," the author claims, and later, he describes how "the hunters were able to surround the helpless birds, drive them together, and kill them with clubs." Notice how he uses the words "victims" and "helpless." In the last paragraph, we learn that the Labrador duck has gone extinct, due to causes the author relates to the feather voyages. 

This description leaves readers with a very sour impression of the North American method of collecting feathers. The author's description emphasizes its violence and cruelty, and the fact that he describes the peaceful Icelandic method immediately before makes it look like such violence might have been avoided, playing it up even further. The contrast the author creates does not make the Icelandic method seem "old-fashioned" as much as it makes the North American method look "needlessly violent and inhumane." That is the best answer.

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