Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze the Strength, Reasoning, and Relevance of Claims While Evaluating Written Arguments: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.8

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Example Question #1 : Analyze The Strength, Reasoning, And Relevance Of Claims While Evaluating Written Arguments: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.8

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.

Which of the following aspects of the passage is LEAST relevant to the author's argument that invasive species can be expensive to fight and difficult to stop? 

Possible Answers:

“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!”

Description of the gypsy moth caterpillar as “a great, overgrown brute” and “the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar"

“Today [the gypsy moth] exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date.”

“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.”

“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!”

Correct answer:

Description of the gypsy moth caterpillar as “a great, overgrown brute” and “the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar"

Explanation:

“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." - Here, the author imagines the amount of money that has been spent in fighting accidentally introduced invasive species throughout the world and says that it would be "enough to purchase a principality"—that is, the land owned by a prince, effectively a small country. This conveys to the reader that a lot of money has been spent fighting such species. This claim is relevant to the author's argument about how expensive it can be to fight invasive species.

“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!” - This sentence tells readers that by inflicting the South with a destructive invasive species, a person could "involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money." Thus, this answer is also related to the author's argument about the expenses of fighting invasive species.

“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!” - Here, the author presents a financial fact: the total that some states and the U.S. government have spent fighting the gypsy moth. This evidence is very relevant to the author's claims about how fighting invasive species can be expensive.

“Today [the gypsy moth] exists in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and it is due to reach New York at an early date.” - Here, the author presents facts about the range to which the gypsy moth has spread. This statement is relevant evidence in his argument that invasive species can be difficult to stop.

Description of the gypsy moth caterpillar as “a great, overgrown brute” and “the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar" - This is the correct answer, as these excerpts only provide visual description of the gypsy moth caterpillar. While such description helps skew the audience against the moth by portraying it in a negative way, the description is not relevant to the author's argument about how invasive species can be expensive to fight and difficult to stop.

Example Question #2 : Analyze The Strength, Reasoning, And Relevance Of Claims While Evaluating Written Arguments: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.8

Passage 1

It’s a great time to be green! Environmentally friendly practices have become very popular with shoppers. Business owners can capitalize on this trend by accurately advertising how their products are good for the environment, such as by using recycled materials.

Many shoppers associate the color green with sustainability. So, consider using eye-catching green details on your products when describing how they help the environment. You may want to incorporate symbols of nature into your advertising as well. Popular symbols associated with sustainability include leaves, trees, and flowers. These details may not seem important, but they are. The visual way in which a sustainability claim is made can make the difference between a shopper trying your product or leaving it on the shelf.

Some people want to regulate sustainability claims. This is a bad idea. Increased regulation would be an unnecessary burden on businesses. It would slow the time it takes them to adapt to trends. If every advertising decision had to be approved by a regulating body, a lot of time would be wasted. Just think how ridiculous it would be if you wanted to use a blue logo instead of a red one and had to fill out paperwork approving that decision! The threat of increased regulation is all the more reason to emphasize the greenness of your products today.

 

Passage 2

Environmentalism has become very popular lately. As a result, many products are emphasizing “green” status—that is, how they help protect the environment. This trend has been accompanied by an ugly shadow: “greenwashing.” “Greenwashing” is the practice of making false claims about a product’s sustainability. Companies can say that a product is “greener” than it really is. These false claims are made so that the product can appeal to shoppers.

As a result, shoppers have become less confident about all sustainability claims. There’s no way to tell from packaging and advertisements if a product is actually helping the environment or just claiming to do so. And it’s not easy to research products in the aisles of a supermarket or department store! It’s certainly extra work that many shoppers won’t do. Instead, they ignore “green” claims completely.

Competition and “greenwashing” have also encouraged companies to prioritize appearing green over actually being green. As a result, money is spent on making products appear to be something they are not instead of on actually improving the products and making them more sustainable.

So, what can we do? We need to start by regulating sustainability claims. This way, consumers can be confident that claims they see are true, since false claims would not be allowed on packaging. This will be a step in the right direction.

One flaw in the argument of Passage 1 is that __________.

Possible Answers:

it conflates the colors of logos with the validity of claims about sustainability

it claims that green-colored logos are always more effective than logos of other colors when it comes to making sustainability claims and presents no evidence that this is the case

it states that “greenwashing” is not a problem but offers no evidence to back up this claim

it suggests that sustainable products are more expensive to produce than non-sustainable products, but doesn’t explain why

it argues both that regulation might increase and that it should not increase without explaining how these positions can agree

Correct answer:

it conflates the colors of logos with the validity of claims about sustainability

Explanation:

This question asks us to identify a flaw in the argument that Passage 1 puts forward. If you find it difficult to pick out the correct answer by identifying it from passage evidence, you can narrow down the answer choices until you can arrive at the correct one by process of elimination. Let's approach the question that way and consider each of the answer choices.

"it suggests that sustainable products are more expensive to produce than non-sustainable products, but doesn’t explain why" - Passage 2 never makes this particular claim, so this answer is incorrect.

"it argues both that regulation might increase and that it should not increase without explaining how these positions can agree" - This answer choice is a bit tricky; while the passage does make each of these claims, the positions don't contradict one another. Someone can hold the opinion that while something might increase, it should not, and that person's opinion wouldn't be contradictory. This isn't the correct answer.

"it claims that green-colored logos are always more effective than logos of other colors when it comes to making sustainability claims and presents no evidence that this is the case" - This answer choice is incorrect because it restates one of the passage's suggestions in absolute terms where the passage qualifies its recommendation. The passage states, 

Many shoppers associate the color green with sustainability. So, consider using eye-catching green details on your products when describing how they help the environment. You may want to incorporate symbols of nature into your advertising as well. Popular symbols associated with sustainability include leaves, trees, and flowers.

Nowhere in these sentences does the passage claim that using a green details is always more effective than using details of other colors. The passage uses qualifying terms: it refers to "many," not "all" shoppers, and says "consider using" green details. It isn't correct to claim that the passage says green-colored details are always more effective.

"it states that “greenwashing” is not a problem but offers no evidence to back up this claim" - This is another somewhat tricky incorrect answer choice. While Passage 1 is against increasing the regulation of sustainability claims and Passage 2 supports increasing regulation because of the problems "greenwashing" presents; however, Passage 1 never actually mentions "greenwashing," so it certainly doesn't claim that it isn't a problem; it just doesn't address it at all.

The correct answer is that Passage 1 "conflates the colors of logos with the validity of claims about sustainability." This error occurs in the third paragraph, which states:

Some people want to regulate advertising claims about sustainability. This is a bad idea. Increased regulation would be an unnecessary burden on businesses. It would slow the time it takes them to adapt to trends. If every advertising decision had to be approved by a regulating body, a lot of time would be wasted. Just think how ridiculous it would be if you wanted to use a blue logo instead of a red one and had to fill out paperwork approving that decision! The threat of increased regulation is all the more reason to emphasize the greenness of your products today.

The paragraph starts by talking about the idea of regulating "advertising that says products are good for the Earth." The passage then argues that this would be "an unnecessary burden" because it would slow down businesses. Then, the passage makes an error by generalizing the problem: " If every advertising decision had to be approved by a regulating body, a lot of time would be wasted." The issue at hand is whether sustainability claims specifically need to be regulated, not "every advertising decision"! That's a much broader category. It is from this overgeneralization that the passage draws its example of blue logos and red logos, which have nothing to do with sustainability claims. This answer is correct because this is the error that the passage's argument makes.

All Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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