Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Structurally Analyze a Paragraph: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.5

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Example Question #1 : Structurally Analyze A Paragraph: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.5

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.

The main reason the author mentions Howell’s story at the end of the first paragraph is __________.

Possible Answers:

to suggest that the loss of bison is a more important problem than those caused by the gypsy moth

to attack Howell’s actions as reprehensible

to argue for putting a fence up around Yellowstone National Park to keep out poachers

to lament the loss of the United States’ first national bison herd

to provide an account that shows how bad it is that environmental offenders cannot be legally punished

Correct answer:

to provide an account that shows how bad it is that environmental offenders cannot be legally punished

Explanation:

This question may initially seem tricky because Howell’s story accomplishes many of the answer choices’ statements: the author does attack Howell’s actions as reprehensible, and he does lament the loss of the United States’ first national bison herd; however, this are consequences of the story, not reasons why the author brought it up in the first place. The only answer choice that explains why the author mentions the story is “to provide an account that shows how bad it is that environmental offenders cannot be legally punished,” so this is the correct answer.

Example Question #2 : Structurally Analyze A Paragraph: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.5

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.

Which of the following most accurately describes the role of the underlined sentence, also shown below?

“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.”

Possible Answers:

It subtly revisits the comparison between the Icelandic and North American methods of collecting feathers and down.

It tells readers for the first time in the passage that collecting duck feathers can be dangerous to the ducks depending on the method used to collect the feathers.

It suggests that the effect a method of feather-collecting has on a duck species is unique to that particular species.

It suggests that Labrador ducks are hardier and healthier than eider ducks.

It suggests that the down of eider ducks is more valuable than the feathers of Labrador ducks.

Correct answer:

It subtly revisits the comparison between the Icelandic and North American methods of collecting feathers and down.

Explanation:

The underlined sentence compares the eider duck with the Labrador duck, as we can tell from the sentence that precedes it:

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.

We can immediately determine that this sentence does not "suggest that the effect a method of feather-collecting has on a duck species is unique to that particular species." It is comparing, not contrasting, the two types of duck and suggesting that if the eider duck had the same breeding range as the Labrador duck, that it would also have gone extinct. Similarly, we can ignore "It suggests that Labrador ducks are hardier and healthier than eider ducks" and "It suggests that the down of eider ducks is more valuable than the feathers of Labrador ducks." Both of these answers again suggest that the passage is emphasizing some sort of distinction when it is actually emphasizing a similarity. "It tells readers for the first time in the passage that collecting duck feathers can be dangerous to the ducks depending on the method used to collect the feathers" is not correct either, because this is certainly not the first time this idea has been presented to readers in the passage. The entire third paragraph details how millions of ducks were killed for their feathers on the Labrador feather voyages. The only remaining answer is the correct one: this sentence "subtly revisits the comparison between the Icelandic and North American methods of collecting feathers and down." Eider ducks are discussed when the author describes the Icelandic feather-collecting method, and Labrador ducks are described when he describes the Labrador feather voyages that were undertaken in North America. By suggesting that the eider duck could have met with the same fate as the Labrador duck did, the author highlights how the eider duck was not driven to extinction due to the feather-collecting method used. By comparing the type of ducks mentioned as part of each method's description, the author revisits the comparison that forms such a major part of the passage.

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