Preparing for the New York ELA Assessment The exam will be held during the first week of May. It is a two day test with three different sections. We will practice each section, along with the necessary skills, together. What are they testing me for? The test does not test how many reading and writing details you have memorized. Instead, it tests how well you understand and execute some of the ideas and skills you need to be good readers and writers. This is a very important test for you this year. Your scores will impact your scheduling next year at NFA. This is a definite. Your scores will be the deciding factor in whether on not you are able to take your chosen electives or if you are placed in an additional reading/ela skills class. Before we begin working on individual skills you will need in order to be successful on the exam, we are going to complete a full pretest of the ELA exam. During the formal exam, this will be a due day test. However, due to time constraints, it will take us several days to complete it in class. This will help you to become familiar with the format, reading selections and questions. After we have all completed the practice test, we will go through it together and learn how to best respond to each question. Test Taking Tips Tip 1: Do a “first read” of the passage. The questions on the NYS ELA test will be related to reading and listening passages. The first time you read a passage, read every word. Don’t skim or skip over anything. By reading every word, you’ll get the big picture – what the passage is mostly about. You don’t have to remember every detail. Just get a feel for the main ideas, how the passage is organized, and where important details are located. It’s okay to slow down and go back over a difficult idea, but don’t get stuck. Keep moving until you come to the end of the passage. Tip 2: Know how to answer different kinds of questions. (short answer, extended response, multiple choice, graphic organizers) Tip 3: Read every question carefully. Make sure you understand each question before you choose your answer. Don’t jump ahead and select an answer before you’ve read the entire question and all the answer choices. Tip 4: Go back and scan the passage for the correct answer. To scan means to run your eyes quickly over a page. Scanning is an important reading skill, but you need to know when to use it. When taking a language arts test, never scan during your first read of a passage. After you’ve read the entire passage, the best way to find an answer usually is to scan the passage for key words from the question. Tip 5: Choose the best answer to the question. Several of the answer choices may look good, but one will always be better than the rest. Make sure your choice is the best answer to the question being asked. Tip 6: Base your answers only on what is in the passage. In general, don’t try to use outside knowledge to answer the reading questions. You’re being tested on how well you read, not on how much outside knowledge you have about the topic of the passage. Every correct answer will be based on something stated in or supported by the passage. You can go back and look at the passage (or your notes) as much as you like. Tip 7: Don’t let difficult questions throw you off. Some questions may seem very difficult, but others will seem easy. If you come to a hard question, don’t let yourself get too worried or upset. Just do your best to answer the question, then move on. A much easier question may be just around the corner. Tip 8: Don’t leave any blanks. Even if you aren’t sure of an answer, you should always make your best guess. By answering, you at least have a chance to get the question right. Not answering is a guaranteed miss. Before you guess on multiple-choice questions, always eliminate choices that seem as if they might be wrong. Your odds of answering correctly will be greatly improved. Tip 9: Use your time wisely when answering written-response questions. Some passages will require you to write your answers in paragraph form. Read the entire passage before answering the question. Think about what you have read. Also, think carefully about what the question is asking you to do. Organize your thoughts and plan your response before you begin writing. Write you answer on the lines provided. Take enough time to answer the question thoroughly and completely. Support your answer with details from the passage and be sure to answer every part of the question. Tip 10: Relax. Most people get nervous when they have to take a test. It’s normal. You do not need to be worried because you know you’ll do your best. You can relax – and maybe even have some fun showing off your language arts skills! Lesson 1: Elements of Literature: Telling the Genres Apart Categories help us to understand things. They help us put things in order – the items in categories are alike. In literature, there are four main categories, or genres. Each has certain qualities that make it distinct. Consider the following table: Genre A literary work that: Examples Fiction uses prose to describe imaginary characters and events. Short stories Novels Nonfiction uses prose to describe real people and events. Essays Biographies Newspaper articles Poetry groups lines into stanzas and uses expressive language, rhythm, and sometimes rhyme to communicate feelings. Ballads Elegies Odes Epics Drama is meant to be performed using setting notes, stage directions and dialogue. Plays Television scripts Genre Similarities and Differences While genres group similar kinds of writing, they also help us draw comparisons. Take fiction and nonfiction. While fiction focuses on the imaginary and nonfiction on the real, both use prose, or sentences and paragraphs. Then take poetry. It can be fiction or nonfiction, but it does not use prose. Instead, it breaks lines into stanzas. Drama, for its part, can be very expressive, like poetry, and it uses prose, like fiction and nonfiction. But it’s the only genre meant to be performed, which is why it alone includes things like stage directions and setting notes. Read the passage below, and then answer the question that follows. Excerpt from: Loveliest of Trees by A.E. Housman Loveliest of trees, the cherry now Is hung with bloom along the bough, And stands about the woodland ride Wearing white for Eastertide. Now, of my threescore years and ten, Twenty will not come again, And take from seventy springs a score, It only leaves me fifty more. What genre does this literature belong in? Five at least one reason to support your answer. From A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams BLANCHE: No, now seriously, putting jokes aside. Why didn’t you tell me, why didn’t you write me, honey, why didn’t you let me know? STELLA: (carefully, pouring herself a drink) Tell you what, Blanche? BLANCHE: Why, that you had to live in these conditions! STELLA: Aren’t you being a little intense about it? It’s not that bad at all! New Orleans isn’t like other cities. Which of the following is this passage an example of? A ballad B nonfiction C drama D epic The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest left many legacies. Among them are longhouses like the one below. Named for their simple structures – these buildings were long, low, and narrow – longhouses were built in different ways and with different materials. Their main purpose was to house the families of the Native American people. They lived in large groups of parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. One longhouse alone might house 20 or more families, and each family was related to the family that originally built the longhouse. All would belong to the same clan, each named for an animal or a natural object like a river. This passage is probably part of a(n): A elegy B essay C play D novella Plot: The plot is the sequence of events of a story. Plot has four main elements each related to the next. Think of those elements as cause and effect. Consider the following chart: Conflict The main problem facing the main character or characters (introduced at the beginning of the story) Rising Action The events after the conflict but before the climax or turning point (usually most of the story) Climax The point at which the main character must decide how to address the conflict (usually the story’s most exciting event) Resolution How the main character resolves the conflict (the final part of the story) Max stared worriedly at the ground, his eyes following his scuffed sneakers as they traced the white lines of the football field, up and down, over and over. What was he going to do? He had to attend today’s game – as the school’s reporter, his attendance was mandatory. But Max’s enemy was due here, too – and any minute now. Max didn’t relish the thought of seeing Dan again – not here, not ever. The thought alone made his stomach turn. Big for his age – nearly twice the size of other boys – Dan took full advantage of his size on the playing field and off. As one of the school’s linebackers, Dan was skilled at picking out and tackling other players. But he liked to have a target in his classroom, as well. Lately, he had his sights on Max. So intent on pondering his dilemma – what would he do if Dan confronted him here?—Max didn’t notice the sky above the football field darkening. He didn’t notice the group gathering around him silently. Then, he heard them: Dan’s heavy, slow, deliberate footsteps. Max saw the towering boy’s faint shadow before he saw himself. Dan’s smirk was the first thing that caught Max’s eye as he slowly turned, taking in first Dan, then the surrounding crowd. How can the reader tell the story is reaching its climax? The theme, or central idea of a story, is an important element to consider when analyzing literature. It tends to tie a story together and give that story broader meaning. A piece of literature may have one theme or several themes. Among the themes common in literature are these: • love – caring for another person, often even more than oneself • bravery – courage in the face of real or perceived danger • greed – valuing objects and riches over all else • friendship – valuing a relationship over personal gain • loneliness – feeling the pain of being on one’s own • loyalty – being faithful The best way to identify a story’s theme is to consider the actions, thoughts, and words of the story’s characters, and their greater meaning. When a certain idea or belief, like bravery, is repeated throughout a story, it’s probably related to theme. A theme is broad enough to apply to an entire literary work, while more specific ideas, even when they’re related to the broad idea, are probably not the story’s theme. “No, really,” Jamar insisted, pressing the dollar bills into Kavi’s hands and folding the boy’s fingers around them. “Really,” he said again, this time more fervently. “I insist. I want you to have it. I already have a new skateboard, and with this, maybe now you can get one.” Kavi’s eyes widened, and his mouth dropped. For a few moments, there was only stunned silence. “But, but…” he finally stammered, trying to coax the right words out of his mouth. “But you worked all summer to earn this money. I mean, you worked really hard with no breaks!” Nodding, Jamar replied, “Yeah, I did. But what fun’s a skateboard with no one to skateboard with?” What is the theme of this passage? When authors use symbolism, they use concrete things – objects, animals, or situations – to represent other, usually abstract, things – death, love, power, confusion. An author might use the birth of a child, for example, to symbolize a new beginning or the death of a character to represent the end of an era. Authors often use doves to symbolize peace and hawks to symbolize war and aggression. For something to act as a symbol, it must share some quality or characteristic with the object or idea it is supposed to represent. For instance, fairy tales often use a “big bad wolf” to symbolize danger or evil. The wolf works as a symbol in these cases, because wolves are intimidating creatures that prey on small, defenseless animals – they suggest danger or evil. Carlton’s mother sighed and gazed adoringly as she watched her only son give his speech. All his life, Carlton had been a superior child, always helping his mother around the house, always helping his classmates with their school work. So today, the day he was accepting an award for student citizenship, his mother had made sure to press and bleach his best white shirt. It was sparkling clean, and, in the sea of the other students’ dark shirts, it really stood out. It also set off Carlton’s dark hair and dark eyes and made the boy seem to glow. His mother couldn’t be more proud of how well her son had turned out. What does Carlton’s white shirt symbolize? Irony is a device authors use to make their writing more expressive and colorful, to spark interest or create surprise. Authors who use irony write one thing but mean another. They purposely use words that mean the opposite of what the words mean literally. For example, imagine a character just found out that she had won a prize. An author using irony might have the character exclaim, “How awful!” to mean quite the opposite – that winning the prize is wonderful. In addition to contradiction – saying one thing but meaning another, as in the preceding example – irony often involves: • Using a word or phrase with two or more meanings •Saying the opposite of what’s meant, generally for humor •Using language to make the meaning difficult to identify There are three basic types of irony: • Verbal Irony – In this case, the narrator or a character says one thing but means the opposite. Example: A father cries “How wonderful!” when he finds out that his son is failing English. •Situational Irony – What’s expected to happen and what really happens are two different things. Example: A man cancels a date with his girlfriend to have dinner with friends, only to run into his girlfriend at the restaurant on a date with someone else. • Dramatic Irony – This type of irony occurs when the reader understands something the character doesn’t. As a result, the character’s actions and words take on new meaning for the reader. Example: When a character is saving all his money for a present for his mother, but the reader knows his mother does not want the present, the character’s thoughts and actions take on new significance for the reader. “Wow! Look at that guy over there, Jamar, in the middle of the ring!” Kavi exclaimed as he gestured to the center of the auditorium. Clearly impressed by the hulking, brooding boxer, the boy let out a huge breath, then glanced at his friend before turning his attention back to the ring. “He’s massive, enormous – twice my size, and yours, too, at least!” Jamar nodded his approval with wide eyes. Just then, an announcer crackled an introduction into the room’s many speakers. “And now, weighing in at a trim, modest, sprightly 265 pounds, the world’s reigning heavyweight boxer, Tiny Brewster!” Stunned, at first the two boys exchanged a surprised look. Then, together, they burst into laughter. “Well, how do you like that?” Kavi roared, holding his stomach. “From now on, you can call me ‘Giant’!” What is the irony of this passage?