Common Core: 6th Grade English Language Arts : Reading to Analyze Characters

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Example Question #1 : Reading To Analyze Characters

Adapted from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) (1876)

Saturday morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.

He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the boys would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work—the very thought of it burnt him like fire. At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration.

He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently—the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump—proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance—for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:

“Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!” The headway ran almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.

Tom went on whitewashing—paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: “Hi-yiYou’re up a stump, ain’t you!”

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

“Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say—I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work—wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to note the effect—added a touch here and there—criticized the effect again—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

“No—no—I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence—right here on the street, you know—but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“No—is that so? Oh come, now—lemme, just try. Only just a little—I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to; but Aunt Polly—well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it—”

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say—I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here—No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard—”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was tired, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with—and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar—but no dog—the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while—plenty of company—and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

At the beginning of the story, Tom is __________, and at the end of the story, he is __________.

Possible Answers:

calm and reasonable . . . angry and frustrated

angry and frustrated. . . calm and reasonable

sad and disappointed . . . happy and proud of himself

happy and proud of himself . . . sad and disappointed

confused and frightened . . . sad and disappointed

Correct answer:

sad and disappointed . . . happy and proud of himself

Explanation:

How does Tom feel in the first paragraph? The author tells us that "He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank . . ." At the end of the paragraph, he "[sits] down on a tree-box discouraged." Tom's clearly "sad and disappointed." At the end of the passage, how does Tom feel? We're told that he has "alacrity in his heart." If you don't know what "alacrity" means, that's ok—the passage contains other clues as to how Tom feels. In the last paragraph, we're told, "He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while—plenty of company—and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it!" Tom gets out of having to work and also gets an apple and numerous other items. He gets to relax while other people paint the fence and has a good time. This tells us that the best answer for the second part of the question is that Tom is "happy and proud of himself." So, "sad and disappointed . . . happy and proud of himself" is the best answer.

Example Question #11 : Key Ideas And Details

Adapted from “The Open Window” in Beasts and Super-Beasts by H. H. Munro (Saki) (1914)

"My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen. "In the meantime you must try and put up with me."

Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

"I know how it will be," his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat. "You will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice."

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the "nice" division.

"Do you know many of the people round here?" asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

"Hardly a soul," said Framton. "My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here."

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

"Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?" pursued the self-possessed young lady.

"Only her name and address," admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

"Her great tragedy happened just three years ago," said the child. "That would be since your sister's time."

"Her tragedy?" asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

"It is quite warm for the time of the year," said Framton, "but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?"

"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it." Here the child's voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. "Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie, why do you bound?' as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window—"

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

"I hope Vera has been amusing you?" she said.

"She has been very interesting," said Framton.

"I hope you don't mind the open window," said Mrs. Sappleton briskly. "My husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They've been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they'll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn't it?"

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic, he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who labored under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. "On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he continued.

"No?" said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention—but not to what Framton was saying.

"Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!"

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

"Here we are, my dear," said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window. "Fairly muddy, but most of it's dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?"

"A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel," said Mrs. Sappleton. "Could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost."

"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly. "He told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve."

Romance at short notice was her speciality. 

Why does Mr. Nuttel flee when he sees the hunters and their dog returning to the house?

Possible Answers:

He has social anxiety and is afraid of interacting with a large group of people.

He thinks they are ghosts.

He is extremely afraid of dogs due to a previous experience with them.

He is afraid of meeting new people.

He thinks one of the hunters is going to try to shoot him.

Correct answer:

He thinks they are ghosts.

Explanation:

Let's trace the cause of Mr. Nuttel's fear of the hunters and their dog back to its explanation in the story. Right before he sees them approaching, he sees Mrs. Sappleton's niece looking scared at their approach, too. Before that, he's talking to Mrs. Sappleton about his illness to interrupt her from talking about the hunters and their dog. Why does he think this topic is horrible? Well, Mrs. Sappleton's niece has told him that the open window is left open because Mrs. Sappleton is waiting to see if the hunters, who she said died under mysterious circumstances, come back. So, because of the niece's story, Framton Nuttel thinks the hunters are ghosts. This is the correct answer!

One incorrect answer that might look correct is "He is extremely afraid of dogs due to a previous experience with them." Where do we learn anything like this in the story? After Framton Nuttel has run away from the hunters and their dog. Because we learn it after Mr. Nuttel runs away, it can't be the cause of Mr. Nuttel's running away. Plus, this is another of the niece's made-up stories.

Example Question #1 : Reading To Analyze Characters

Adapted from “The Open Window” in Beasts and Super-Beasts by H. H. Munro (Saki) (1914)

"My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen. "In the meantime you must try and put up with me."

Framton Nuttel endeavored to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

"I know how it will be," his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat. "You will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice."

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction, came into the "nice" division.

"Do you know many of the people round here?" asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

"Hardly a soul," said Framton. "My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here."

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

"Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?" pursued the self-possessed young lady.

"Only her name and address," admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

"Her great tragedy happened just three years ago," said the child. "That would be since your sister's time."

"Her tragedy?" asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

"It is quite warm for the time of the year," said Framton, "but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?"

"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it." Here the child's voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. "Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie, why do you bound?' as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window—"

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

"I hope Vera has been amusing you?" she said.

"She has been very interesting," said Framton.

"I hope you don't mind the open window," said Mrs. Sappleton briskly. "My husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They've been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they'll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn't it?"

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic, he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who labored under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. "On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he continued.

"No?" said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention—but not to what Framton was saying.

"Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!"

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

"Here we are, my dear," said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window. "Fairly muddy, but most of it's dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?"

"A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel," said Mrs. Sappleton. "Could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost."

"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly. "He told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve."

Romance at short notice was her speciality.

Why is Framton Nuttel spending time in the country?

Possible Answers:

He is bored of society where he normally lives and has come to the country to broaden his circle of friends.

He is on a hunting trip.

He has traveled to meet with a famous psychiatrist.

He is trying to recuperate after a serious bout of the flu.

He is trying to reduce his nervousness and anxiety.

Correct answer:

He is trying to reduce his nervousness and anxiety.

Explanation:

What do we learn about the reason Mr. Nuttel is spending time in the country? The second paragraph conveys some valuable information about this when it says, "Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing." Notice the mention of "the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing." Ok, so we know that's why he's in the country, but what's a "nerve cure"? The rest of the story helps explain this. Mr. Nuttel remembers his sister saying, "You will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping." If his nerves are bad, what does that mean, in more modern language?

Consider what Mr. Nuttel says when he later interrupts Mrs. Sappleton: "The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise." He has been ordered to have "complete rest" and "an absence of mental excitement."

We can now pick out the best answer. Nowhere is it suggested that Mr. Nuttel is visiting the country to go hunting, to visit a famous psychiatrist, or to broaden his circle of friends. He's undergoing some sort of cure, but there's no mention of the flu, just of his "bad nerves." The best answer is that he is there "to reduce his nervousness and anxiety." None of the other answer choices are supported by the text, and we can infer this from the fact that he has been ordered to have "an absence of mental excitement." 

Example Question #4 : Reading To Analyze Characters

"The Ruby-throated Hummingbird"

Geographical Range and Migration

The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the sole representative of the hummingbird family in eastern North America. It is only a summer visitor in Canada and throughout the greater part of its range in the United States, excepting the southern portions of the Florida peninsula, where it winters to some extent. The majority of these birds migrate south, though, spending the winter in some of the Caribbean islands, while others pass through eastern Mexico into Central America. It usually arrives along our southern border in the latter part of March, rarely reaching the more northern States before the middle of May. It usually goes south again about the latter part of September, the males preceding the females, I believe, in both migrations. 

 

Appearance and Behavior

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have iridescent green feathers on their backs and white feathers on their bellies. The male birds have a patch of red feathers on their throats, from which the species derives its name. Both male and female Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have relatively short tails and beaks and lack any crest of feathers on their heads.

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds’ flight is extremely swift, and the rapid motions of its wings in passing back and forth from one cluster of flowers to another causes a humming or buzzing sound, from which the numerous members of this family derive their name of hummingbirds. Notwithstanding the very small size of most of our hummers, they are all extremely pugnacious, especially the males, and are constantly quarreling and chasing each other, as well as other birds, some of which are many times larger than themselves. Mr. Manly Hardy writes me that he once saw a male Ruby-throat chase a Robin out of his garden. They are rarely seen entirely at rest for any length of time, and, when not busy preening its feathers, they dart about from one place to another. Although such a small, tiny creature, it is full of energy, and never seems to tire.

They seem to be especially partial to anything red. Mr. Manly Hardy writes: "I was once camping on one of the many islands along the coast of Maine during a dense fog, which had held us prisoners for several days, as it was so thick that we could not find our way. We had been living on lobsters, and lots of their red shells lay near the fire in front of our tent, when suddenly a Hummer came out of the fog and darted down at the shells, moving from one to another, seemingly loath to leave them.”

 

What Do They Eat?

There appears to be considerable difference of opinion among various observers regarding the nature of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s food. Some contend that it consists principally of nectar sipped from flowers, as well as the sweet sap of certain trees. Others, myself included, believe that they subsist mainly on minute insects and small spiders, the latter forming quite an important article of food with them. Mr. Edwin H. Eames, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, mentions finding sixteen young spiders of uniform size in the throat of a young Hummingbird which was about two days old.

Mr. W. N. Clute, of Binghamton, New York, writes: "The swamp thistle, which blooms in August, seems to have great attractions for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. I have seen more than a hundred birds about these plants in the course of an hour. Since it has been stated that the bee gets pollen but not honey from the thistle, it would appear that these birds visit these flowers for insects. There is scarcely a flower that contains so many minute insects as a thistle head. Examine one with a lens and it will be found to contain many insects that can hardly be seen with the unaided eye, and if the Ruby-throat eats insects at all, these are the ones it would take; and because the larger ones remained the observer might conclude that none were eaten.” I could quote considerable more testimony showing that the Hummingbirds live to a great extent on minute spiders and insects, but consider it unnecessary.

That our Hummingbirds live to some extent on the sap of certain trees is undoubtedly true, but that they could exist for any length of time on such food alone is very questionable. They are particularly fond of the sap of the sugar maple, and only slightly less so of that of a few other species of trees. They are also fond of the nectar secreted in many flowers. While stationed at the former cavalry depot at St. Louis, Missouri, in 1873-74, I occupied a set of quarters that were completely overrun with large trumpet vines. When these were in bloom, the place fairly swarmed with Ruby-throats. They were exceedingly inquisitive, and often poised themselves before an open window and looked in my rooms full of curiosity, their bright little eyes sparkling like black beads. I have caught several, while busily engaged sipping nectar in these large, showy flowers, by simply placing my hand over them, and while so imprisoned they never moved, and feigned death, but as soon as I opened my hand they were off like a flash. 

 

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Passage adapted from "Ruby-throated Hummingbird" from Issue 3 of Life Histories of North American Birds, From the Parrots to the Grackles, with Special Reference to Their Breeding Habits and Eggs by Charles Bendire (1895)

Image adapted from Giltsch, Adolf, Lithographer, and Ernst Haeckel. Trochilidae. - Kolibris. [Leipzig und Wien: Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, 1904] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <https://www.loc.gov/item/2015648985>.

 

Which of the following is an accurate statement about the passage?

Possible Answers:

It uses numerical data to support its claims.

It uses both the author’s direct observations and indirect evidence gathered from other people to support its claims.

It draws its evidence only from scientists who study hummingbirds.

It uses only the author’s firsthand experience with birds to support its claims.

It uses only indirect evidence gathered from other people to support its claims.

Correct answer:

It uses both the author’s direct observations and indirect evidence gathered from other people to support its claims.

Explanation:

To answer this question correctly, let's consider what types of information mentioned in the answer choices appear in the passage. Remember, you have to be able to point to a part of the passage to prove your answers!

Does the passage use numerical data? It does not. Nowhere in the passage is evidence presented in the form of numbers or statistics. 

Does the passage use evidence only from scientists who study hummingbirds? It does not. The author never says that his evidence is being taken from scientists; he just introduces anecdotes he has gathered from other people. We're not told that these people are scientists.

Does the passage use the author's direct observations to support its claims? Yes, it does! In the last paragraph, the author provides a firsthand account of watching Ruby-throated Hummingbirds feeding at flowers near his window. He uses this as evidence that these hummingbirds like flower nectar.

Does the passage use indirect evidence gathered from other people? Yes! Several times in the passage, the author quotes other people who have observed hummingbirds and uses their observations as evidence. The story about the lobster shells in the last paragraph of "Appearance and Behavior" is one of these indirect observations, as is most of the second paragraph of the "What Do They Eat?" section.

Based on these conclusions, the correct answer is that the passage "uses both the author’s direct observations and indirect evidence gathered from other people to support its claims."

Example Question #11 : Reading

Adapted from “In Cowboy Land” in An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt (1913)

Though I had previously made a trip into the then Territory of Dakota, beyond the Red River, it was not until 1883 that I went to the Little Missouri, and there took hold of two cattle ranches, the Chimney Butte and the Elkhorn.

It was still the Wild West in those days, the Far West, the West of Owen Wister's stories and Frederic Remington's drawings. That land of the West has gone now, "gone, gone with lost Atlantis," gone to the isle of ghosts and of strange dead memories. It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered ranches, of herds of long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who unmoved looked in the eyes of life or of death. In that land we led a free and hardy life, with horse and with rifle. We knew toil and hardship and hunger and thirst; and we saw men die violent deaths as they worked among the horses and cattle, or fought in evil feuds with one another; but we felt the beat of hardy life in our veins, and ours was the glory of work and the joy of living.

I first reached the Little Missouri on a Northern Pacific train about three in the morning of a cool September day in 1883. Next day I walked over to the abandoned army post, and, after some hours among the gray log shacks, a ranchman who had driven into the station agreed to take me out to his ranch, the Chimney Butte ranch, where he was living with his brother and their partner.

The ranch was a log structure with a dirt roof, a corral for the horses near by, and a chicken-house jabbed against the rear of the ranch house. Inside there was only one room, with a table, three or four chairs, a cooking-stove, and three bunks. The owners were Sylvane and Joe Ferris and William J. Merrifield. There was a fourth man, George Meyer, who also worked for me later. That evening we all played old sledge round the table, and at one period the game was interrupted by a frightful squawking outside which told us that a bobcat had made a raid on the chicken-house.

After a buffalo hunt with my original friend, Joe Ferris, I entered into partnership with Merrifield and Sylvane Ferris, and we started a cow ranch, with the maltese cross brand—always known as "maltee cross," by the way, as the general impression along the Little Missouri was that "maltese" must be a plural. Twenty-nine years later my four friends of that night were delegates to the First Progressive National Convention at Chicago. They were among my most constant companions for the few years next succeeding the evening when the bobcat interrupted the game of old sledge. I lived and worked with them on the ranch, and with them and many others like them on the round-up.

I do not believe there ever was any life more attractive to a vigorous young fellow than life on a cattle ranch in those days. It was a fine, healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance, hardihood, and the value of instant decision—in short, the virtues that ought to come from life in the open country. I enjoyed the life to the full.

Which of the following best describes how Roosevelt discusses the West in the passage?

Possible Answers:

After a general, poetic introduction, he tells the story of his first days in the West. Then, he reflects on what his time in the West taught him.

He explains why he wanted to purchase a cattle ranch, then describes what he learned from his time living in the West. Finally, he describes his first few days living in the West.

After reflecting on what his experiences in the West taught him, he provides a general description of the “Wild West” and then begins narrating his first few days living in the West.

He describes the ranch in which he lived in the West before describing the idea of the “Wild West” in general, poetic terms.

After describing in detail the specific breed of cattle his ranch raised, he provides a general description of the “Wild West,” and then reflects on what his experiences in the West taught him.

Correct answer:

After a general, poetic introduction, he tells the story of his first days in the West. Then, he reflects on what his time in the West taught him.

Explanation:

Let's characterize each of the paragraphs contained in this passage. By doing this, we can get an idea of the general topics the passage discusses, and the order in which it discusses them.

Paragraph 1: General information about Roosevelt's travels to the West.

Paragraph 2: A long, literary description of the West as it was in that era, the "Wild West."

Paragraph 3: Chronological narrative of Roosevelt's first few days in the West.

Paragraph 4: Description of the ranch, more chronological narration of Roosevelt's first few days in the West

Paragraph 5: More chronological narrative about what Roosevelt did in the West

Paragraph 6: Reflection about how Roosevelt liked the western lifestyle and what living there taught him

Now let's consider the answer choices and see which ones can't be true.

"He explains why he wanted to purchase a cattle ranch, then describes what he learned from his time living in the West. Finally, he describes his first few days living in the West." - This answer choice is incorrect. Nowhere in the passage does Roosevelt explain his motivations behind investing in a cattle ranch. Plus, he describes his first few days living in the west before describing what he learned from living there.

"After describing in detail the specific breed of cattle his ranch raised, he provides a general description of the “Wild West,” and then reflects on what his experiences in the West taught him." - Roosevelt never describes in detail the specific breed of cattle his ranch raised, so this answer choice is incorrect.

"After reflecting on what his experiences in the West taught him, he provides a general description of the “Wild West” and then begins narrating his first few days living in the West." - Roosevelt only talks about what his experiences taught him at the end of the passage, after describing the 'Wild West' and narrating his first few days there. This answer choices is out of order, so it is also incorrect.

 "He describes the ranch in which he lived in the West before describing the idea of the 'Wild West' in general, poetic terms." - Roosevelt describes the idea of the "Wild West" before describing the ranch in which he lived, so this answer choice is incorrect because it is in the wrong order as well.

"After a general, poetic introduction, he tells the story of his first days in the West. Then, he reflects on what his time in the West taught him." - This is the correct answer. The passage includes a general, poetic introduction near its start (Paragraph 2). Then, Roosevelt tells the story of his first days in the West (Paragraphs 3–4). After that, he reflects on what his time in the West taught him (Paragraph 6).

Example Question #1 : Reading To Analyze Characters

Use the following poem to answer related questions.

Mother to Son By Langston Hughes (1922)

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

What character trait would best be used to describe the speaker of this poem (mother)?

Possible Answers:

Elated

Determined

Bitter

Discouraged

Correct answer:

Determined

Explanation:

The speaker of this poem is a mother speaking to her son about continuing on towards a goal or a better life despite a difficult journey along the way. “So boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” This text shows her encouraging her son and no matter her circumstances she is determined to keep pushing through.

Example Question #2 : Reading To Analyze Characters

Use the following poem to answer related questions.

Mother to Son By Langston Hughes (1922)

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

What comparison does the speaker make to help readers understand her on a deeper level?

Possible Answers:

The speaker compares her son to torn up, broken boards

The mother compares her life journey to climbing a staircase

The mother describes her life as a crystal staircase

The speaker compares her son to honey

Correct answer:

The mother compares her life journey to climbing a staircase

Explanation:

She used descriptive language about the bare boards with splinters and tacks that have built her staircase, or in the case of this comparison her life. She describes others as having crystal staircases that are easier to climb. She continues this climb or journey through life, despite the challenges. We can see what type of character or person she is by her choice to keep climbing.

Example Question #2 : Reading To Analyze Characters

When I was seven, my father brought home from a business trip a wooden boomerang painted with images of the Australian flag. All summer long I carried that gift with me. I was fascinated by this piece of a continent completely on the other side of the world. Despite promises that if I threw it would immediately return, I had no intention of throwing it, only carrying and admiring it. What if it became stuck in a tree or carried away by a stiff wind? There would go my connection to the magical land of kangaroos, barrier reefs, and untold other pieces of wonder.

As I walk the shores of Bondi Beach or watch the tourists purchase kangaroo-themed apparel in my adopted hometown of Sydney, I often think back to that boomerang and the world to which it opened my eyes. As an airline pilot, I am fortunate to live out my childhood dream – inspired by that boomerang – of exploring faraway lands. Whenever I do, I bring home a trinket for my young daughter such that she might be similarly struck by wanderlust.

In what ways does the main character change from the beginning to the end of the passage?

Possible Answers:

The main character becomes more bitter about the world as he/she grows up and discovers the truths that are unknown as a child.

At the beginning of the passage, the character dreams of Australia and he/she is disappointed to travel there and experience what it is really like when they arrived. The character grows older and tries to protect his/her child from that experience.

The main character does not change throughout the passage.

The main character not only grows up but discovers how to take his/her childhood dreams of magical places and make them a reality. He/she is also passing on that love of wonder and traveling to their child.

Correct answer:

The main character not only grows up but discovers how to take his/her childhood dreams of magical places and make them a reality. He/she is also passing on that love of wonder and traveling to their child.

Explanation:

The passage starts with a reflection of a childhood memory about the boomerang gift and describes how that gift affected his/her imagination and youth. The passage continues on to the present tense and the main character is an adult with their own child who they are carrying on the tradition of travel-related gifts with.

Example Question #161 : Common Core: 6th Grade English Language Arts

When I was seven, my father brought home from a business trip a wooden boomerang painted with images of the Australian flag. All summer long I carried that gift with me. I was fascinated by this piece of a continent completely on the other side of the world. Despite promises that if I threw it would immediately return, I had no intention of throwing it, only carrying and admiring it. What if it became stuck in a tree or carried away by a stiff wind? There would go my connection to the magical land of kangaroos, barrier reefs, and untold other pieces of wonder.

As I walk the shores of Bondi Beach or watch the tourists purchase kangaroo-themed apparel in my adopted hometown of Sydney, I often think back to that boomerang and the world to which it opened my eyes. As an airline pilot, I am fortunate to live out my childhood dream – inspired by that boomerang – of exploring faraway lands. Whenever I do, I bring home a trinket for my young daughter such that she might be similarly struck by wanderlust.

How do the actions of the character show their traits?

Possible Answers:

The character does not want to part with the boomerang because of the emotional importance and ties to his/her father. The character shows that he/she is a sentimental and caring person by carrying the tradition on with their own child.

The character does not demonstrate any traits through their actions.

The character moving to Australia shows how easily manipulated they are. A simple suggestion of Australia with the boomerang gift is enough to convince him/her to move across the world.

The character giving gifts to his/her daughter shows how they feel guilty for traveling for a living. The character knows that he/she is not living up to their responsibilities and hopes that gifts can overcome that.

Correct answer:

The character does not want to part with the boomerang because of the emotional importance and ties to his/her father. The character shows that he/she is a sentimental and caring person by carrying the tradition on with their own child.

Explanation:

The actions of a character in a text can lead to a deeper understanding of them as “a person” as a reader. Actions reveal more about their personalities, thoughts, and intentions. By treating the boomerang so carefully it shows the emotional side and connection the character has to the gift. When he/she continues a tradition with their own child it builds upon the support of that trait.

Example Question #1 : Reading To Analyze Characters

Jackson and his family were excited to be camping for the first time. They had never been to Yellowstone National Park and they had been anticipating this trip all year. His father packed up the car, his mother made sure they had their maps, and he and his little sister Aly hopped in the back seat of their minivan ready to go. It only took about 15 minutes until Aly got on his nerves and he put his earbuds in so he could watch videos on his phone. He must have fallen asleep because he woke up a few hours later and saw the large brown sign with white writing across the front “Yellowstone National Park.” They had arrived.

They got all checked in and found their home for the next three days, campsite number 35. Dad went to set up the tents and mom started her itinerary for all of the upcoming activities and excursions. After they got settled in it was time for the safety training class with the park ranger. The ranger went through what to do if they encountered a dangerous wild animal, got lost, ran out of supplies, or fell into the quick-moving river. Jackson looked from side to side at his family and realized he was the only one paying attention! His mom was looking at her list, Aly was dozing off, and his father was glazed over in the eyes staring into the woods. He hoped they wouldn’t need to use any of these skills!

That night after his mother and father were all tucked into their sleeping bags Jackson and Aly snuck out of their tent to look at the stars. It was a quaint evening until Jackson heard grunting and banging coming from the campsite. He peeked around a tree with his flashlight and saw a juvenile bear pawing at their coolers and trash cans. Aly started to shout and tried to take off running. Jackson covered her mouth and reminded her the ranger said not to scream or run away. She nodded and they stood still behind the tree and out of sight. The bear grew frustrated with the coolers and trash cans because Jackson had secured them with the bungee cords just as the ranger recommended. The bear padded off into the woods and they snuck back to their tents exhausted. As Jackson laid in his sleeping bag he smiled to himself thinking about how lucky they were that he had paid attention in the ranger’s safety class.

Each family member behaves differently during the safety instruction class. What do their actions reveal about them as characters in the passage?

Possible Answers:

Mother’s actions show she is a know-it-all and very difficult to be around.

Aly’s actions show she is a brat and selfish.

Father’s actions show he is wise, full of advice, and easy to talk to.

Jackson’s actions show he is intelligent and responsible.

Correct answer:

Jackson’s actions show he is intelligent and responsible.

Explanation:

Jackson was the only family member to listen during the course and take heed of what the instructor was preparing them for. He was the only character to remember the plan during the bear encounter because of it.

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