The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

One last Look at CCSS Sample Tasks

on February 1, 2016

Like me, I suspect that may readers are tired of examining the student tasks recomended for specific grades in  the CCSS Appendix B.  Nevertheless, I feel obligated to complete what I started by covering the expectation for students in grades 9-12.   This time, however, I will give examples of only one task in each category because   all the tasks are very much alike in what they ask students to do.  

Grades  9-10:  Only four sample tasks are suggested for reading fictional texts in these grades. Although a different task is specified for each text named, the work expected of students is essetially the same: Analysis. Here’s one of the sample tasks.

Students analyze how the character of Odysseus from Homer’s Odyssey—a “man of twists and turns”—reflects conflicting motivations through his interactions with other characters in the epic poem. They articulate how his conflicting loyalties during his long and complicated journey home from the Trojan War both advance the plot of Homer’s epic and develop themes.

Only one task is suggested for reading informational texts.  It calls for analysis of themes and concepts.

•Students compare George Washington’s Farewell Address to other foreign policy statements, such as the Monroe Doctrine, and analyze how both texts address similar themes and concepts regarding “entangling alli- ances.”

Grades 11- 12 For reading fictional texts six sample performance tasks are suggested. Three of the tasks specify only analysis; the other two add comparing and contrasting to analysis.  Below is one of the tasks that requires both actions.

Students analyze Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote and Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Molière’s Tartuffe for how what is directly stated in a text differs from what is really meant, comparing and contrasting the point of view adopted by the protagonist in each work.

The five sample tasks for informational texts emphasize analysis.  For one of them a summary is required in addition. to analysis.  In all the sample tasks  students are expected to go further by making a judgment on the effectiveness of one or more aspects of the text. Below is the task that seems to me to require the most work.

Students analyze Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, identifying its purpose and evaluating rhetorical features such as the listing of grievances. Students compare and contrast the themes and argument found there to those of other U.S. documents of historical and literary significance, such as the Olive Branch Petition.


As a former high school English teacher my reaction to all these tasks is that they require students to beat each text read to death.  Although analysis may not be beyond most students’ ability at these grade levels–if it is done as a group endeavor led by the teacher– I feel that the tasks are beyond the limits of  students personal engagement.  Most of the documents named  would not be appealing to students when they are first introduced and, certainly, would not hold  their interest through the multi-faceted tasks described.

To end  my critique of  sample high school  tasks, I feel compelled to mention that as a college English major I was never required to examine a text in such depth and detail as required by the above sample tasks  I find it hard to believe that tasks like the ones listed in the CCSS Apprendix B are common in college classrooms today.

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