Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts : Analyze How Particular Sections of the Text Develop the Author’s Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.5

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All Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts Resources

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Example Questions

Example Question #10 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from The Hypocrisy of American Slavery (1852) by Frederick Douglass

Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions. Then would my task be light and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you, that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation (Babylon) whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin.

Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

My subject, then, fellow citizens, is "American Slavery." I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing here, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this Fourth of July.

What purpose does the author's reference to the conduct of the biblical city of Babylon serve?

Possible Answers:

To make a comparison

To give a warning 

To suggest a corrective measure

To urge revolutionary action

Correct answer:

To give a warning 


Douglass compares the behavior of the biblical city of Babylon, and the negative consequences of that behavior, to warn against the America falling into the same conduct and ultimate fate. The author asks “Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you . . .” Here he explicitly states that he is issuing a warning. While the statement contains a direct comparison, the overall function of the sentence is to act as a warning. It is key to distinguish, in this case, the primary overall purpose of the reference, not simply to identify the form that reference takes.

Example Question #21 : Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Symbolic Logic (1896)

“Classification,” or the formation of Classes, is a Mental Process, in which we imagine that we have put together, in a group, certain Things. Such a group is called a “Class.” This Process may be performed in three different ways, as follows:

(1) We may imagine that we have put together all Things. The Class so formed (i.e. the Class "Things") contains the whole Universe.

(2) We may think of the Class "Things," and may imagine that we have picked out from it all the Things which possess a certain Adjunct not possessed by the whole Class. This Adjunct is said to be “peculiar” to the Class so formed. In this case, the Class "Things" is called a “Genus” with regard to the Class so formed: the Class, so formed, is called a 'Species' of the Class "Things": and its peculiar Adjunct is called its “Differentia.”

As this Process is entirely Mental, we can perform it whether there is, or is not, an existing Thing which pos- sesses that Adjunct. If there is, the Class us said to be “Real;” if not, it is said to be “Unreal,” or “Imaginary.”

[For example, we may imagine that we have picked out, from the Class "Things," all the Things which possess the Adjunct "material, artificial, consisting of houses and street"; and we may thus form the Real Class "towns." Here we may regard "Things" as a Genus, "Towns" as a Species of Things, and "material, artificial, consisting of houses and streets" as its Differentia. Again, we may imagine that we have picked out all the Things which possess the Adjunct "weighing a ton, easily lifted by a baby"; and we may thus form the Imaginary Class "Things that weigh a ton and are easily lifted by a baby."]

(3) We may think of a certain Class, not the Class "Things," and may imagine that we have picked out from it all the Members of it which possess a certain Adjunct not possessed by the whole Class. This Adjunct is said to be “peculiar” to the smaller Class so formed. In this case, the Class thought of is called a “Genus” with regard to the smaller Class picked out from it: the smaller Class is called a “Species” of the larger: and its peculiar Adjunct is called its “Differentia.”

[For example, we may think of the Class "towns," and imagine that we have picked out from it all the towns which possess the Attribute "lit with gas"; and we may thus form the Real Class "towns lit with gas." Here may regard "Towns" as a Genus, "Towns lit with gas" as a Species of Towns, and "lit with gas" as its Differentia. If, in the above example, we were to alter "lit with gas" into "paved with gold," we should get the Imaginary Class "towns paved with gold."]

A Class, containing only one Member is called an “Individual.”

[For example, the Class "towns having four million inhabitants," which Class contains only one Member, viz. "London."]

Hence, any single Thing, which we can name so as to distinguish it from all other Things, may be regarded as a one-Member Class.

[Thus "London" may be regarded as the one-Member Class, picked out from the Class "towns," which has, as its Differentia, "having four million inhabitants."]

A Class, containing two or more Members, is sometimes regarded as one single Thing. When so regarded, it may possess an Adjunct which is not possessed by any Member of it taken separately.

[Thus, the Class "The soldiers of the Tenth Regiment," when regarded as one single Thing, may possess the Attribute "formed in square," which is not possessed by any Member of it taken separately.]

What is the purpose of the highlighted section in the passage's overall argument?

Possible Answers:

It provides a solution to a perceived counter-argument

It supports the thesis with an allegorical example

It provides and illustrative example

It provides a key definition

Correct answer:

It provides a key definition


Here, you are being asked to analyze a particular section of the text in terms of its relevance to the overall passage and rhetorical strategies employed by the author. 

The best place to begin, then, is by reading that section and making your own independent assessment of it. Fortunately for us, the selection here is only one sentence long, so it shouldn't take us too long. The first notable feature of our sentence is that "Class," the term being discussed is capitalized, emphasizing it as a key term. The class (defined earlier in the passage) is here modified as "containing only on member," and then given a name "Individual." Again, there is a notable textual feature associated with this term; it has been placed between quotation marks. These clues, in addition to the literal meaning of the sentence, push us toward our own independent understanding that the purpose of this section is provide a key definition. And, lo and behold, that answer is available to us!

Example Question #22 : Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from Mark Twain’s “A Defense of General Funston” (1802)

We are made, brick by brick, of influences, patiently built up around the framework of our born dispositions. It is the sole process of construction; there is no other. Every man and woman and child is an influence; a daily and hourly influence which never ceases from work, and never ceases from affecting for good or evil the characters about it--some contributing gold-dust, some contributing trash-dust, but in either case helping on the building, and never stopping to rest. The shoemaker helps to build his two-dozen associates; the pickpocket helps to build his four dozen associates; the village clergyman helps to build his five hundred associates; the renowned bank-robber's name and fame help to build his hundred associates and three thousand persons whom he has never seen; the renowned philanthropist's labors and the benevolent millionaire's gifts move to kindly works and generous outlays of money a hundred thousand persons whom they have never met and never will meet; and to the building of the character of every individual thus moved these movers have added a brick. The unprincipled newspaper adds a baseness to a million decaying character-fabrics every day; the high-principled newspaper adds a daily betterment to the character-fabric of another million. The swiftly-enriched wrecker and robber of railway systems lowers the commercial morals of a whole nation for three generations. A Washington, standing upon the world's utmost summit, eternally visible, eternally clothed in light, a serene, inspiring, heartening example and admonition, is an influence which raises the level of character in all receptive men and peoples, alien and domestic; and the term of its gracious work is not measurable by fleeting generations, but only by the lingering march of the centuries.

Washington was more and greater than the father of a nation, he was the Father of its Patriotism--patriotism at its loftiest and best; and so powerful was the influence which he left behind him, that that golden patriotism remained undimmed and unsullied for a hundred years, lacking one; and so fundamentally right-hearted are our people by grace of that long and ennobling teaching, that to-day, already, they are facing back for home, they are laying aside their foreign-born and foreign-bred imported patriotism and resuming that which Washington gave to their fathers, which is American and the only American--which lasted ninety-nine years and is good for a million more. Doubt--doubt that we did right by the Filipinos--is rising steadily higher and higher in the nation's breast; conviction will follow doubt. The nation will speak; its will is law; there is no other sovereign on this soil; and in that day we shall right such unfairnesses as we have done. We shall let go our obsequious hold on the rear-skirts of the sceptred land-thieves of Europe, and be what we were before, a real World Power, and the chiefest of them all, by right of the only clean hands in Christendom, the only hands guiltless of the sordid plunder of any helpless people's stolen liberties, hands recleansed in the patriotism of Washington, and once more fit to touch the hem of the revered Shade's garment and stand in its presence unashamed. It was Washington's influence that made Lincoln and all other real patriots the Republic has known; it was Washington's influence that made the soldiers who saved the Union; and that influence will save us always, and bring us back to the fold when we stray.

And so, when a Washington is given us, or a Lincoln, or a Grant, what should we do? Knowing, as we do, that a conspicuous influence for good is worth more than a billion obscure ones, without doubt the logic of it is that we should highly value it, and make a vestal flame of it, and keep it briskly burning in every way we can--in the nursery, in the school, in the college, in the pulpit, in the newspaper--even in Congress, if such a thing were possible.

The proper inborn disposition was required to start a Washington; the acceptable influences and circumstances and a large field were required to develop and complete him.

What function does the second paragraph serve in the overall structure of the passage?

Possible Answers:

It provides a space for addressing anticipated counter-arguments to the author's claims

It focuses the general claims of the first paragraph on a particular example

It provides general claims about the nature of human development

It provides an analogy to support the claims made in the first paragraph

Correct answer:

It focuses the general claims of the first paragraph on a particular example


This question asks you to analyze the role of a single paragraph in the larger structure and argument of the passage. Authors do not just say things at random intervals; the things they say and the order in which they say them are carefully planned. Each section of text will relate to the sections and content that came before. So, the first thing to do, given the nature of the question, is to figure out what the overall structure and argument of the passage are. Once you've got a clear picture of the whole of the text in your mind, it will be extremely easy to slot in any given paragraph into its overall textual role.

The passage opens by asserting the author's vision of the "sole process of construction" for people. This sets out the author's fundamental thesis and principles. These claims are general in nature, they are about the development of all people, in general, not a specific person. Thus, we can eliminate the answer choice that ascribes this purpose to the second paragraph, since it's clearly the function of the first paragraph. No two paragraphs will fulfill exactly the same function in a text. 

From this foundation of general claims, the author then uses the second paragraph to provide a particular example, in the form of George Washington. It makes sense, as a flow of a passage, to start with broad notions, before exploring those broader claims on an individual basis.

Example Question #23 : Common Core: 10th Grade English Language Arts

Adapted from "Walter Raleigh" by Wilbur F. Gordy (1917)

[Raleigh] therefore fitted out two vessels, which were to sail to the land north of Florida, then occupied by Spain, and bring back reports of the country. The captains of these vessels arrived in Pamlico Sound, and landed on an island, which they found rich in grapes and woods and abounding in deer and other game. The explorers received kind treatment from the Indians, two of whom accompanied the voyagers to England on their return. Queen Elizabeth was so pleased with the good reports from the new country that she called it Virginia in honor of herself—the Virgin Queen.

The next year, 1585, Raleigh sent out to Virginia seven vessels and one hundred colonists, under his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, and Ralph Lane. They landed on Roanoke Island, and made a settlement there, but the colony was not prosperous. At the outset, by unwise and cruel treatment they made enemies of the natives. It is related that, an Indian having stolen a silver cup from one of the colonists, the Englishmen burned an entire village and ruined the corn belonging to its people. Such punishment was out of all proportion to the petty offence. It is not surprising, therefore, that from that time the settlers found the Indians unfriendly.

Very soon Grenville sailed back to England, leaving the colony in charge of Ralph Lane. The colonists instead of building houses and tilling the soil to supply food, were bent upon finding gold. Hence they listened with eager interest to a story that the Indians told of the Roanoke River. According to this story, the river flowed out of a fountain in a rock so near the ocean that in time of storm the waves dashed over into the fountain. The river, the Indians said, flowed near rich mines of gold and silver, in a country where there was a town with walls made of pearls. Lane and his followers foolishly started up the river in a vain search for this wonderful land. They encountered many difficulties, including hostile attacks by Indians, and suffered so much from lack of food that they had to eat the flesh of their own dogs.

The discovery of the tobacco plant introduced into England the custom of smoking, and a curious story is told of it in connection with Sir Walter Raleigh, who soon learned to smoke. One day his servant, who knew nothing of the new custom, came into his master’s room and found him smoking from a silver pipe. Believing Raleigh was on fire, the faithful servant hastily dashed a mug of ale at him to quench the flames and rescue him from death.

The wealth that lay hidden in the soil was yet , and no one felt any enthusiasm over the new colony of Virginia. Most men would by this time have lost hope. But Raleigh was not daunted. Two years later he made a second attempt to plant a colony in the New World, this time sending over three ships, with a hundred and fifty settlers, including seventeen women. John White was appointed governor of the colony. These settlers had the forethought to carry with them farming implements to use in tilling the soil. When they landed on Roanoke Island they found no trace of the fifteen men left there two years before by Sir Richard Grenville. The new settlers had not been on the island long before they were in need of help from England, and begged Governor White to return home for provisions and more settlers. White at first refused to leave them, but finally consented. A warm interest in the feeble settlement and love for his little granddaughter, born soon after the settlers arrived, persuaded him to yield. This little girl, the first white girl born in America, was named after the new country, Virginia, her full name being Virginia Dare.

When Governor White left the settlement he expected to return immediately, but upon reaching England he found his countrymen greatly excited over the coming invasion of the much-dreaded “Spanish Armada.“ Everybody was astir, and Raleigh was aroused to his fullest energy in preparation to meet the hated foe.

But, notwithstanding this, he found time to fit out two small vessels for Governor White. Although they sailed, trouble with the Spaniards compelled their return to England, and not until two years later, when he Spanish Armada had been defeated, did Governor White sail again for Virginia, this time as a passenger in a West Indianan. He landed on Roanoke Island as before, but there remained of the settlement only some chests of books, some maps, and some firearms, all of which had been ruined by the Indians.

Upon bidding Governor White farewell, the colonists had agreed to carve on a tree the name of the place to which they would go if they should decide to leave Roanoke Island. They were also to carve above the name a cross if they were in serious trouble. Governor White found the word CROATOAN cut in capital letters on a large tree, but he found no cross. Before White could sail to Croatian, which was an island not far away, he had to return to England because the captain of the vessel, having encountered stormy weather, refused to sail further. What became of the lost colonists is still a mystery. It is possible, that the Indians either killed them or captured and enslaved them.

Raleigh sent out other expeditions in search of the lost colony, but without success. He had already spent a sum equal to more than a million dollars in trying to plant this colony, and now felt that he must give up all hope of accomplishing his purpose.

What is the purpose of the bolded and underlined section of the passage?

Possible Answers:

To provide a counterargument to the claim that Raleigh was not a historically significant figure

To provide particular detail about a historically significant element of Raleigh's time in Virginia

To warn readers about the dangers of smoking

None of these

Correct answer:

To provide particular detail about a historically significant element of Raleigh's time in Virginia


Here, you are being asked to analyze the significance and purpose of a specific section of the text, and to analyze, especially, the selection in relation to the rest of the passage.

Remember, the main goal of this passage is to provide historical context and detail about a specific event, that being the early settlement of Virginia, and Walter Raleigh's role in that event. The paragraph in question, however, is focused on a particular event within that overall narrative, namely the discovery of tobacco and its proliferation as a "custom." So, which of our options best reflects the, pretty clear, role of this section of the passage.

First up, the author does not provide the claim that Raleigh was not a historically significant figure at any point. Again, this is not an argumentative passage, but rather a historical one. The treatment of smoking is clearly historical as opposed to polemical; there is nary a word about the dangers of smoking.

So, does this section give us detail about a "historically significant element of Raleigh's time in Virginia"? The answer is yes. He discovered tobacco in Virginia and it proliferated as a recreational activity in England when he brought it back, and regardless of whether that discovery was a good or a bad thing (it was a very bad thing) this is a historically important event.

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