Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts : Reading: Informational Text

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Example Question #1 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from "Save the Redwoods" by John Muir in Sierra Club Bulletin Volume XI Number 1 (January 1920)

Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras King Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor. Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness. Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

Could one of these Sequoia Kings come to town in all its godlike majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders. And the same may be said of all the other Sequoia groves and forests of the Sierra with their companions and the noble Sequoia sempervirens, or redwood, of the coast mountains.

In these noble groves and forests to the southward of the Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, blasted into manageable dimensions, and sawed into lumber by methods destructive almost beyond belief, while fires have spread still wider and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting more or less [Sequoia gigantea] lumber, which looks like the redwood of the coast, and was sold as redwood. One of the smallest of these mills in the season of 1874 sawed two million feet of Sequoia lumber. Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno. The destruction of these grand trees is still going on. On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty. For the thousands of acres of Sequoia forest outside of reservations and national parks, and in the hands of lumbermen, no help is in sight. 

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra.

In which of the following sentences does the author provide the strongest evidence in support of his statement, "The destruction of these grand trees is still going on"?

 

Possible Answers:

"In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting more or less [Sequoia gigantea] lumber, which looks like the redwood of the coast, and was sold as redwood."

"Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away."

"On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty."

"Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno."

"It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra."

Correct answer:

"Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno."

Explanation:

In looking for the strongest evidence supporting this claim, we'll need to keep something in mind: the author is claiming that not only have Sequoia trees been destroyed in the past, but that this destruction is ongoing in the time he is writing. This is the gist of the sentence: the author wants to make sure his readers interpret the destruction of Sequoias as a real, existing threat at the time of writing, not just something bad that happened to the trees in the past. With this in mind, let's consider the answer choices.

"It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra." - This sentence has nothing to do with ongoing destruction of Sequoia trees. It just tells us how old some of the trees are, and how long they take to grow.

"Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away." - These sentences tell us that it's easy to destroy trees, but they don't make any particular mention of ongoing destruction of the trees that is actually occurring. This isn't the best evidence.

"On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty." - This sentence does the opposite of the one for which we're looking: it tells us about a certain group of Sequoias that has been protected, not destroyed.

"In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting more or less [Sequoia gigantea] lumber, which looks like the redwood of the coast, and was sold as redwood." - This is the trickiest incorrect answer. It describes sawmills that the author saw cutting Sequoia trees up into lumber, but it specifies that the author witnessed these sawmills at work "twenty-five years ago." Nothing in the sentence specifically suggests that the sawmills are still functioning today and creating a present threat to the Sequoia trees.

"Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno." - This is the correct answer. It tells us that new sawmills have been built in Sequoia groves since the author's observations twenty-five years ago. This suggests that not only are the old mills continuing to run and be profitable, but that more mills are sawing more Sequoia trees in the author's present day.

Example Question #1 : Cite Strongest Evidence To Support Textual Analysis And Inferences: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.1

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.

In which of the following sentences does the author offer the strongest evidence that combating invasive species can be very expensive?

Possible Answers:

"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 spread of this pest has been slowed, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out."

"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 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."

"In time, the state of Massachusetts was forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire."

Correct answer:

"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!"

Explanation:

The strongest evidence about the expensive nature fighting invasive species will need to in some way implicate or directly mention the cost of fighting the species. Let's consider each answer choice:

"The spread of this pest has been slowed, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out." - This sentence has nothing to do with the cost of fighting the gypsy moth's advancement; it just states that it is difficult to keep from advancing further.

"In time, the state of Massachusetts was forced to begin a relentless war upon it, by poisonous sprays and by fire." - This sentence tells us the methods that Massachusetts has used to combat the gypsy moth, but it doesn't tell us anything about how expensive these methods are to use.

"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." - Now we're getting somewhere: this sentence considers a hypothetical scenario that estimates the total amount of money spent fighting invasive species the world over. The author says that it would be "enough to purchase a principality." That's a lot of money! While this statement is grand it its claim, it's also an estimate and hypothetical. It's the author's claim, and it might not relate to the actual state of things. There might be better evidence in the passage, so let's look at the remaining answer choices.

"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 also uses a hypothetical scenario to play up the cost involved in fighting an invasive species. The author states that by introducing a nonnative, destructive organism to the environment of the Southern states, could "at no cost to himself, involve those states in enormous losses and the expenditure of vast sums of money." Again, this is conjecture, and while it's a reasonable claim, it doesn't have any actual real-world data supporting it.

"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!" - This is the correct answer. In this sentence, the author provides a distinct amount of money that the U.S. government and New England states have spent so far fighting the spread of the gypsy moth. Keep in mind that over seven and a half million dollars is a lot of money now, but it was worth even more in 1912 due to inflation since then. At any rate, we can tell that the author considers it to be a large sum because of the way he ends the sentence with an exclamation point to convey that this information is somehow shocking or exorbitant. This sentence provides the best evidence that fighting invasive species is expensive because it provides the actual total cost of fighting one invasive species. The other answer choices are based in the author's claims and conjectures, but this one is based in a quantitative fact. 

Example Question #1 : Cite Strongest Evidence To Support Textual Analysis And Inferences: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.1

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.

In which of the following sentences does the author provide the strongest evidence about why a large amount of feathers were able to be obtained on Labrador specifically?

Possible Answers:

"In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

Correct answer:

"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."

Explanation:

Let's consider each of the answer choices individually to figure out which one functions as the best evidence for the question's particular claim.

"In the colder countries of the world, the feathers and down of waterfowl have been in great demand for centuries." - This statement is too general to be the correct answer. It has nothing to do with Labrador specifically, which is specified in the claim.

"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." - By "this practice," the author is referring to the North American method of collecting duck feathers used during the Labrador voyages. This has to do with Labrador specifically, but doesn't tell us anything about why a large amount of feathers were able to be collected, just that the method contributed to the extinction of the Labrador duck.

"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." - This sentence suggests that the Labrador voyages were put together to meet a growing demand for feathers. This implicitly tells us that the Labrador voyages were designed to collect a great deal of feathers, but this particular sentence doesn't tell us about how this was accomplished.

"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." - Similarly to the last answer choice, this tells us that the Labrador feather voyages were put together to collect lots of feathers, but doesn't mention how this was done.

"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." - This is the correct answer. The information the author provides about the molting cycle of Labrador ducks explains why the hunters were able to kill them so easily for their feathers, and thus collect a great deal of feathers.

Example Question #1 : Determine A Main Idea, Analyze Its Development And How It Relates To Supporting Ideas, And Objectively Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.2

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 underlined sentence in the second paragraph (“The moth itself is not bad to look at, but its larvae is a great, overgrown brute with an appetite like a hog.”) introduces a supporting idea concerning the moth’s destructive potential. In which of the following sentences is that idea developed further?

Possible Answers:

"The spread of this pest has been slowed, but the gypsy moth never will be wholly stamped out." (Paragraph 4)

"The method of the big, nasty-looking mottled-brown caterpillar was very simple." (Paragraph 2)

"It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence." (Paragraph 2)

"Every effort was made to recover all the specimens, but enough escaped to produce progeny . . ." (Paragraph 2)

"When he failed to find them all, he notified the State authorities of the accident." (Paragraph 2)

Correct answer:

"It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence." (Paragraph 2)

Explanation:

What do we learn about the gypsy moth in this particular sentence? We learn that the moth is somewhat nice to look at, according to the author: "The moth itself is not bad to look at." That doesn't seem relevant at all to its destructive potential. What else do we learn? The author adds that "its larvae is a great, overgrown brute," so it sounds like it is rather large for a caterpillar. That's doesn't seem that relevant either. The sentence concludes with the phrase, ". . . with an appetite like a hog." Aha! That's significant. In comparing the caterpillar's appetite to a hog's (pig's), the author is saying that gypsy moth caterpillars have large appetites and each eat a lot. Caterpillars often eat plants, so this tells us that the gypsy moth caterpillars can consume a lot of leaves.

We now need to identify the sentence in the passage in which this supporting idea—the large appetites of gypsy moth caterpillars—is developed. The only answer choice that has to do with the appetites of gypsy moth caterpillars is "It devoured the entire foliage of every tree that grew in its sphere of influence." This is the correct answer. The idea of the caterpillars eating a lot introduced earlier in the paragraph in the underlined sentence supports the claim that they "devoured the entire foliage of every tree" that they could get to.

Example Question #1 : Determine A Main Idea, Analyze Its Development And How It Relates To Supporting Ideas, And Objectively Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.2

Adapted from "Save the Redwoods" by John Muir in Sierra Club Bulletin Volume XI Number 1 (January 1920)

Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor. Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness. Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

Could one of these Sequoia Kings come to town in all its godlike majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders. And the same may be said of all the other Sequoia groves and forests of the Sierra with their companions and the noble Sequoia sempervirens, or redwood, of the coast mountains.

In these noble groves and forests to the southward of the Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, blasted into manageable dimensions, and sawed into lumber by methods destructive almost beyond belief, while fires have spread still wider and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting more or less [Sequoia gigantea] lumber, which looks like the redwood of the coast, and was sold as redwood. One of the smallest of these mills in the season of 1874 sawed two million feet of Sequoia lumber. Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno. The destruction of these grand trees is still going on. These kings of the forest, the noblest of a noble species, rightly belong to the world, but as they are in California we cannot escape responsibility as their guardians.

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra.

Throughout the passage, the author often personifies Sequoia trees in order to elicit the reader's empathy for them. Personification is the act of describing a non-human thing as being or acting human in some way. In which of the underlined excerpts does the author NOT personify Sequoia trees?

Possible Answers:

"Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor."

"Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet . . ."

" . . . trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra."

"Could one of these Sequoia Kings come to town in all its godlike majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders."

"These kings of the forest, the noblest of a noble species, rightly belong to the world, but as they are in California we cannot escape responsibility as their guardians."

Correct answer:

"Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor."

Explanation:

Personification is the act of making a non-human thing seem human by giving it human traits, making it appear sentient, and/or portray it as performing human actions. Let's see which of the answer choices does NOT do this.

"These kings of the forest, the noblest of a noble species, rightly belong to the world, but as they are in California we cannot escape responsibility as their guardians." - The author refers to the trees as "kings of the forest," and kings are human, so this is a type of personification.

" . . . trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra." - The author uses some subtle personification in this sentence in claiming that the trees are "singing." Trees can't "sing"—only people can.

"Could one of these Sequoia Kings come to town in all its godlike majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders." - Here, the author directly imagines a Sequoia tree actively journeying into town "to plead its own cause," which is overt personification.

"Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet . . ." - In describing the removal of the tree's bark as it being "skinned alive," the author describes it in a human way. Trees have bark, not skin, and the author uses this statement to lead into a direct comparison between great trees and great people.

"Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor." - This is the correct answer. Nowhere in the underlined excerpt does the author portray the tree as having any human traits or performing any actions that it could not actually perform.

Example Question #2 : Determine A Main Idea, Analyze Its Development And How It Relates To Supporting Ideas, And Objectively Summarize A Text: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.2

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 best states the main idea of this passage?

Possible Answers:

The extinction of the Labrador duck can be traced to a definite cause.

Duck feathers and down are valuable resources, and the North American and Icelandic methods of collecting them have had vastly different consequences.

The Icelandic people collect eider down in an efficient and reasonable way.

Natural resources are precious.

The feathers and down of ducks are valuable as a source of bedding, leading to the killing of ducks to obtain it.

Correct answer:

Duck feathers and down are valuable resources, and the North American and Icelandic methods of collecting them have had vastly different consequences.

Explanation:

Questions that ask about a passage’s main idea need to encompass each of the topics it discusses while not describing them in a way that is too broad. We can ignore any answer choices that only describe parts of the passage—here, “The feathers and down of ducks is valuable as a source of bedding, leading to its collection from ducks,” “The extinction of the Labrador duck can be traced to a definite cause,” and “The Icelandic people collect eider down in an efficient and reasonable way.” This leaves us with “Natural resources are precious,” which is far too broad to accurately describe the passage’s main idea, and the correct answer, “The feathers and down of ducks is a valuable resource, and the North American and Icelandic methods of collecting it have had vastly different consequences."

Example Question #31 : Common Core: 8th Grade English Language Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

Howell worked for a zoo while Trouvelot was a scientist

Howell could be punished by law, while Trouvelot could not

Howell acted alone while Trouvelot worked with a group

Howell sought to capture insects while Trouvelot sought to release them

Correct answer:

Howell acted purposely while Trouvelot introduced the moths by accident

Explanation:

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

Example Question #1 : Reading: Informational Text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possible Answers:

It makes the North American method look needlessly complex.

It makes the Icelandic method look ineffective.

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

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

It makes the Icelandic method seem old-fashioned.

Correct answer:

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

Explanation:

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

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

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

Example Question #1 : Determine Figurative, Connotative, And Technical Word Meanings And The Impact Of Word Choice, Including Analogies And Allusions: Ccss.Ela Literacy.Ri.8.4

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 best paraphrases the underlined sentence, “Every introduced species is doubtful gravel until panned out”?

Possible Answers:

An invasive species can cause beneficial effects to its new environment as well as harmful ones.

Species that live underground should be carefully examined before being moved into new environments.

One can’t tell whether an introduced species will be helpful or harmful until it is actually introduced.

Species that live in gravel are usually harmful when placed in new environments.

One should never move a species from its natural environment into a new environment for fear of the consequences.

Correct answer:

One can’t tell whether an introduced species will be helpful or harmful until it is actually introduced.

Explanation:

Here, the author is using figurative language to describe introduced species. He metaphorically calls them “doubtful gravel until [they are] panned out.” Because he’s not speaking literally, this sentence has nothing to do with the ground or gravel itself, so we can eliminate the answer choices “Species that live underground should be carefully examined before being moved into new environments” and “Species that live in gravel are usually harmful when placed in new environments.”

What is the author getting at with his metaphor? Panning rocks and dirt allows miners to separate out valuable minerals from other matter. Think of miners “panning for gold”—it’s the same principle, except here, the author is speaking of it as applying to gravel. By calling the gravel “doubtful,” the author is expressing that you don’t know what you’re going to get with it before you “pan it out” and see if there is anything valuable in it. Applying this thinking to invasive species, the author is therefore saying that “one can’t tell whether an introduced species will be helpful or harmful until it is actually introduced.” 

If you didn’t know what panning gravel was, you could still solve this question by narrowing down your answer choices. For instance, nowhere in the passage are the beneficial effects of introduced species discussed, though the author discusses this in a previous chapter of his book. Because they’re not mentioned in the passage, we can discard the answer choice “An invasive species can cause beneficial effects to its new environment as well as harmful ones.” This is definitely not what the indicated sentence is saying; if we replaced the sentence with this answer choice, the logic of the paragraph wouldn’t make any sense.

As for the remaining answer choice, “One should never move a species from its natural environment into a new environment for fear of the consequences,” it cannot be correct because in the sentence before the one on which this question focuses, the author writes, “The man who successfully transplants or ‘introduces' into a new habitat any persistent species of living thing assumes a very grave responsibility.” Note that he doesn’t say that this should never be done; he just implies that it could go very badly. It wouldn’t make much sense if in the next sentence, the author said this should never be done. It seems more logical that he would have led with that statement, it being the stronger of the two.

Example Question #2 : Reading: Informational Text

Adapted from "Save the Redwoods" by John Muir in Sierra Club Bulletin Volume XI Number 1 (January 1920)

Forty-seven years ago one of these Calaveras King Sequoias was laboriously cut down, that the stump might be had for a dancing-floor. Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness. Now some millmen want to cut all the Calaveras trees into lumber and money. No doubt these trees would make good lumber after passing through a sawmill, as George Washington after passing through the hands of a French cook would have made good food. But both for Washington and the tree that bears his name higher uses have been found.

Could one of these Sequoia Kings come to town in all its godlike majesty so as to be strikingly seen and allowed to plead its own cause, there would never again be any lack of defenders. And the same may be said of all the other Sequoia groves and forests of the Sierra with their companions and the noble Sequoia sempervirens, or redwood, of the coast mountains.

In these noble groves and forests to the southward of the Calaveras Grove the axe and saw have long been busy, and thousands of the finest Sequoias have been felled, blasted into manageable dimensions, and sawed into lumber by methods destructive almost beyond belief, while fires have spread still wider and more lamentable ruin. In the course of my explorations twenty-five years ago, I found five sawmills located on or near the lower margin of the Sequoia belt, all of which were cutting more or less [Sequoia gigantea] lumber, which looks like the redwood of the coast, and was sold as redwood. One of the smallest of these mills in the season of 1874 sawed two million feet of Sequoia lumber. Since that time other mills have been built among the Sequoias, notably the large ones on Kings River and the head of the Fresno. The destruction of these grand trees is still going on. On the other hand, the Calaveras Grove for forty years has been faithfully protected by Mr. Sperry, and with the exception of the two trees mentioned above is still in primeval beauty. For the thousands of acres of Sequoia forest outside of reservations and national parks, and in the hands of lumbermen, no help is in sight. 

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. And few destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor can planting avail much toward restoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousand years to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra.

Which of the following is one of the effects of the author's use of the phrase "skinned alive" in the first paragraph?

Possible Answers:

The phrase suggests that removing the tree's bark caused the tree no pain.

The phrase suggests that the author is somewhat unreliable, as he believes that trees are literally sentient.

The phrase tells us that the tree had been felled when its bark was removed—a key detail.

The phrase demonstrates how the author is biased in favor of those who want to cut the Sequoia trees down for lumber.

The phrase introduces the comparison between great trees and great men that is developed later in the paragraph.

Correct answer:

The phrase introduces the comparison between great trees and great men that is developed later in the paragraph.

Explanation:

Consider the entire sentence:

Another, one of the finest in the grove, was skinned alive to a height of one hundred and sixteen feet and the bark sent to London to show how fine and big that Calaveras tree was—as sensible a scheme as skinning our great men would be to prove their greatness

The phrase "skinned alive" is certainly an attention-getting, dramatic choice of words to use to describe the bark being removed from a tree. While it describes removing the tree's bark, it doesn't suggest that removing it was painless for the tree: it conveys the bark removal in a way that makes it appear as if it were very painful for the tree. The author is certainly not biased in favor of anyone who wants to cut Sequoia trees down, and the phrase does not suggest that the tree had been felled before its bark was removed. The phrase employs vivid and creative word choice, but it doesn't encourage us to think that the author literally thinks Sequoia trees are sentient. While the author uses a lot of personification, he does this to convince people not to cut the trees down and never actually suggests that he thinks Sequoia trees are thinking beings.  The correct answer is that the author's word choice here "introduces the comparison between great trees and great men that is developed later in the sentence and paragraph." He mentions George Washington twice in the paragraph in analogies with Sequoia trees, and this phrase's personification is the start of that comparison.

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