This module is for High School Activity 2

Activity 2 – Principles in Practice: Passage 1

It is important for students to be able to determine an author's point of view and the author's purpose for writing a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6). 

Direct instruction may be necessary for students to understand such rhetorical features in order to analyze how the style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text.

In a text, a rhetorical feature is a technique that an author or speaker uses to convey to the listener or reader a meaning with the goal of persuading him or her toward considering an argument from an ethical, emotional, or logical perspective.

Now review rhetorical features and the author's perspective.

To put these principles into practice, you are going to dig into the Declaration of Independence.

In order to understand the skill of creating text-dependent questions, you will begin with an examination of the text as a whole. Read the Declaration of Independenceopens in new window.

Ultimately, this document is about 13 colonies declaring their independence from England. The author, Thomas Jefferson, demonstrates resolute thinking when he writes, “oneness,” and “alignment to Nature and God’s Will.” Through such rhetoric, Jefferson puts forth a reasoned argument for separation from an oppressive rule from England. By appealing to the readers’ need for unity, equality, and a connection to earth and heaven, he puts forth a clear, convincing, and powerful argument that such needs cannot be achieved through a continued deference to English rule.

Now, let’s look closely at the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence in order to develop, apply, and practice our understanding of text-dependent questions.

In the excerpt below, underlined words indicate Jefferson’s choice of words (diction) to mobilize the people to separate from England.

Highlighted words indicate Jefferson’s rhetorical features intended to appeal emotionally to the people’s desire to be united, equal, connected to nature and God, and ultimately free.  Remember, when an author appeals to the audience’s emotions, he or she is making an emotional appeal.          

Passage 1: Paragraph 1 of the Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

In this first paragraph, the high school reader should be directed to the rhetorical features that contribute to the power and persuasiveness of the author’s argument. Thomas Jefferson primarily uses pathos to access the audience’s beliefs and emotions regarding oneness, equality, nature, God, and respect. 

To generate a text-dependent question for this passage, think back to the steps for developing good text-dependent questions. Step One requires that the questions have students focus on core understandings. Additionally, remember to anchor your questions in the standards as articulated in Step One. Consider the standards below and the highlighted key words from each standard that must be considered when generating text-dependent question.  Please note: This particular piece of text is designated for grade 11 and 12 based on quantitative (Lexile) and qualitative measures. The text is tied to grade-specific standards from the Common Core State Standards, however, the principles with regard to generating text-dependent questions in this high school module are NOT grade specific; rather these principles are applicable to ALL high school grade levels.

Step Two allows students to build confidence with a question that is specific and manageable at the beginning of the text.

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Determine an author's point-of-view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness or beauty of the text.

Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

Highlighted words in the standards indicate key words in the standards to help guide teachers in the creation of text-dependent questions for this passage.

Please note: Given that this module deals with multiple foundational U.S. documents, Standard 9 is inherent in each of the text-dependent questions.

Check Your Understanding

Now, check your understanding of what would make a good text-dependent question for this passage.  Select an answer from the options below and click Submit.

When constructing text-dependent questions, you should have a good understanding of the kinds of responses to expect from students and a target response that best demonstrates close reading, use of accurate, relevant text support, and a deep understanding of the core ideas in the text. Select the best student response and click Submit.