Common Core ELA Question Stems for Grades 9-10

910CoverAre your students ready for Common Core assessments?  If you’re like most teachers out there, you have been struggling to find quality materials and sample assessments to help your students get a taste of what they will soon be facing.  To help, I have spent hour upon hour creating Common Core Question Stems to help you create lessons and assessments that are up to the rigor of the CCSS.  I posted Grades 11-12 previously, so here are Common Core ELA Question Stems for Grades 9-10.  Keep your eye open for Grade 8, Grade 7 and Grade 6 to be posted soon!

To get you started, here are a bunch from the Grades 9-10 compilation.  Hopefully, you can get some of your own ideas from these, but if you are stuck, I have created 390 questions for Grades 9-10 for you!

RL.9-10.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • Which sentence best supports the idea that                                              
    • What evidence from the text clarifies the author’s claim in (line, sentence, paragraph, etc.)                   
    • The overall purpose of the description in the fourth paragraph is to                                 
    • The following statements include explicit information about the (characters, plot, setting) except for                                                    , where the reader is required to infer the information.

RL.9-10.2. Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • Which of the following statements does not provide an objective summary of the text?
  • Which words or phrases should be removed from this paragraph in order to make the summary more objective?
  • The author has organized the action in this passage to develop the                                

RL.9-10.3. Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • How does (character) act as a foil to (character)?
  • Which character reveals more than one motivation?  Explain.
  • Which of the following (statements, actions) represent a shift in the action of the story?

RL.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • The word                                                    deepens the meaning of the (paragraph, sentence) by                      
  • The author’s use of the phrase                                         emphasizes                                           
  • The (expression, idiom, etc.) refers to the                                                    
  • As used in (sentence), the word                                                        most likely refers to the narrator’s                

RL.9-10.5. Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

  • The author of the (passage, text) chose to structure the beginning of the story in the middle of                                            
  • In which paragraph does the climax occur?
  • How does the author create suspense in paragraph 9?
  • Which two plot lines are evident in this passage?

RL.9-10.6. Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

  • What sentence best reveals the author’s background/cultural experience?
    • Which era best describes the setting of the novel?
    • Which of the following examples reveal that this text is not a work of American Literature?
    • Which (paragraph, passage, text) best presents the theme of (societal freedom, dangers of wealth, role of a restrictive government, etc.)?

RL.9-10.7. Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).

  • Which of the following descriptions captures the character                                   as seen in the movie                                           
  • The movie                                shows the character of                      quite differently than in the book                 .  What are the most significant differences between these two interpretations of the character?
  • Why do you think the director chose to portray                          rather than                            ?
  • What important scene or character was left out of the movie version?
  • How is the setting of                                              in the movie more or less effective than the setting of the novel?
  • How does the painting                                         reveal the suspense that is found in                           

RL.9-10.9. Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).

  • How is the concept of a folktale similar to the text of                                                 
  • Which of the following archetypes from the                                 period are found in                            
  • How does the treatment of (archetype, character, theme, topic) compare with the treatment of (archetype, character, theme, topic) in the texts                                and                                    
  • Many books give indications of similar characters or plot lines found in ancient stories.  What indications might an author use to reveal these similar characters or plot lines?
  • Which of the following stories is taken from the popular children’s tale                           
  • How does the story stray from the typical morality lesson?

RI.9-10.1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • Based on                                  the author’s tone towards                                  can be described as                          
  • Based on this passage, we can infer that (the author) is feeling                        
  • Based upon (speaker’s) speech, all of the following can be considered a part of (speaker’s) agenda except                                    

RI.9-10.2. Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • Based upon the theme of the article, which of the following could be an alternate title for the text?
  • How do the themes                              and                            provide an account of                      
  • How does (paragraph, sentence, line) reflect the theme of                                                   

RI.9-10.3. Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

  • How is the information in the article organized?
  • Based on the excerpt, each of the following events had an effect on the (individual) except               
  • Once the (individual) learned of                     , his ideas were clearly changed to                                

RI.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).

  • By including an allusion to                                 , the author has emphasized that                 
  • The following analogy helps the reader understand the comparison between                            
  • Which quotation from the text best reflects the meaning of (sentence, quote, line, paragraph, etc.)?


RI.9-10.5. Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).

  • All of the following statements support the author’s claim that                                               except the statement                                         
  • The last paragraph serves the author’s purpose by                                                  
  • Which of the following statements helps to clarify the author’s meaning in paragraph 7?

RI.9-10.6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

  • What is the purpose of this (article, passage, story)?
  • How does the use of understatement in the following (paragraph, statement, passage) support the author’s argument?
  • Which of the following (paragraph, statement, passage) contains the use of situational irony?
  • If the following statement was added to the (paragraph, statement, passage), how would the point of view change?

RI.9-10.7. Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.

  • Compare the two videos.  Which video gives a more clear description of                    
  • Which version of                                  shows a more positive representation of                                    
  • How could the relationship between (characters) have been better represented in the movie version?

RI.9-10.8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

  • The technique of (argument, propaganda, including assertion, bandwagon, glittering generalities, card stacking, stereotyping, circular reasoning, logical fallacies), are used in the text to                                   
  • According to the article, all of the statements below are reasons why                                               except                                                       

RI.9-10.9. Analyze seminal U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (e.g., Washington’s Farewell Address, the Gettysburg Address, Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”), including how they address related themes and concepts.

  • What is the purpose of this (article, passage, story)?
  • The tone of the following (paragraph, statement, passage) could be described as                                  
  • Which of the following best describes the author’s view of                                                  

W.9-10.1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • Which of the following statements would best introduce the claim in the previous passage?
  • What would be the best counterclaim for the following                      

W.9-10.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  • Draw a chart that best synthesizes the information from paragraphs 3 and 4.
  • Which of the headings below would be appropriate for introducing the information in paragraphs 7 through 9?
  • What information would logically come after                                              

W.9-10.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • What statement best clarifies the problem the author is attempting to solve in the passage?
  • How does the use of dialogue in paragraph 3 contribute to the narration?
  • All of the following plot lines are presented in this narration except

W.9-10.4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

  • Which of the following formats would be best for an argumentative essay?
  • Bias is acceptable in which of the following essay types?

W.9-10.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • What is the best way to revise the underlined sentence in paragraph four?
  • What three questions would help you to narrow your focus on the topic of                                 

W.9-10.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

  • Each of the resources below would be helpful in researching the idea of                                      except:
  • Which of the following websites might be useful in providing information on the research topic of                                     

W.9-10.8. Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

  • Which of the following websites most likely would not be considered an authoritative source of information?
  • Pull the three quotes from the article that would best suit your research project on                                 
  • Which of the following source of information does not need to be cited in a research project?

SL.9-10.1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • To participate in a class discussion, what might you have done to prepare yourself the night before?
  • Which of the following statements would best support your argument in favor of                    

SL.9-10.2. Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

  • What important step was left out of the presentation?
  • This piece chose to show                                                  rather than                             .  Why do you think the (creator, director, presenter) made this choice?

SL.9-10.3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

  • After hearing the speech                                , what word could best describe the tone of the speech?
  • What elements of rhetoric were you able to hear in the                      
  • Which of the following was not mentioned in                          ‘s speech?

L.9-10.1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • In which of the following examples is there an error in parallel structure?
  • Identify the type of phrase in the sentence below.

L.9-10.2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • Which of the following sentences shows correct use of the semicolon?
  • Insert a semicolon in the correct spot in the sentence below.

L.9-10.3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

  • How could the sentence below be written to make it more powerful?
  • Which of the following reference sources could you refer to if you need help with your style when writing?

L.9-10.4. Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9–10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • Which words help identify the meaning of the word                             
  • Which sentence employs the correct part of speech for the word                                   

L.9-10.5. Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

  • The author uses hyperbole to emphasize                               
  • Which of the following meanings is closest to the correct connotation of the word                                   
  • Which idiom most clearly expresses                          
  • What is the best reason the speaker repeats the (word, phrase, line)                             in the speech?


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  1. Thank you. I, like many of my colleagues, struggle to find our way towards the continuous changes in our field. Of course, the fact that our school district has not presented any training on Common Core as of yet, causes anxiety levels to soar in our District.

    Regardless, thank you for your support and help.

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