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Knowledge and Skills Statement

Comprehension skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking using multiple texts. The student uses metacognitive skills to both develop and deepen comprehension of increasingly complex texts.

The following is one example of how to assess proficiency of this student expectation (SE) or a portion of the SE. More examples coming soon.
2 Passages
George Washington’s Portrait

Gilbert Stuart was a popular painter who lived from 1755 to 1828. He painted portraits of distinguished famous people, such as George Washington. Most painters at the time asked the people they were painting to sit still for many hours while they created the portrait. Instead, Stuart would have conversations with his subjects so that he could capture their natural expressions in his paintings. Today he is most recognized for his half-finished portrait of Washington that has been used on the dollar bill since 1869.

Read the selection to learn about Gilbert Stuart’s most famous piece of art.

George Washington’s Portrait

  1. Many artists have hopes that their creations will become well known. But sometimes a work of art achieves greater recognition than the artist might have ever imagined. And in the case of Gilbert Stuart and George Washington, a work of art may not even be completed but still inspire people long afterward.
  2. Stuart was a painter who lived from 1755 to 1828. He was known for both his talent as a painter and his charm as a person. He painted the portraits of approximately 1,000 people during his lifetime. Many distinguished and famous people sat for a portrait with him. But instead of making his subjects sit perfectly still, as was commonly practiced at the time, Stuart engaged them in interesting conversation. He wanted his subjects to feel at ease in order to capture their most natural expression and pose. Only then would Stuart paint the person.
  3. One of Stuart’s aspirations was to paint George Washington. Their meeting was not easy to arrange, but Stuart eventually got the opportunity in 1796. Stuart had a difficult time getting Washington to be comfortable. The president finally relaxed when Stuart began to talk about horses. This was one of Washington’s favorite topics. The men chatted while Stuart painted the then 64-year-old president. Their time together was limited, however.
  4. Gilbert Stuart was a popular painter who lived from 1755 to
  5. The result was a portrait of just Washington’s head and shoulders. The reasons why Stuart never finished the rest of the portrait are uncertain. What is known is that the bottom and left parts of the canvas remained bare, and Stuart persuaded Washington to let him keep the original. Stuart made and soldmultiple copies of the portrait in his lifetime—a common practice in the days before cameras.
  6. Even unfinished, Stuart’s original portrait is considered the definitive representation of George Washington. People have always believed that the portrait truly captures this great man’s presence. The image was used on the dollar bill beginning in 1869 and has been featured there ever since. This means just about everyone in the United States has seen this work of art. While it is an amazing portrait, surely even Stuart would be amazed by its lasting popularity.
The Story Behind The Silmarillion

Read the selection to learn more about how Christopher organized and edited Tolkien’s writing.

The Story Behind The Silmarillion

  1. J. R. R. Tolkien is best known for the world of fantasy he created in the novel The Hobbit and the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Yet for Tolkien, one important work remained unfinished at his death in 1973. This book was The Silmarillion.
  2. Tolkien’s novels are based in a fictional world. In that world creatures such as elves and dwarves coexist with ordinary human beings. The Silmarillion can be thought of as a prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is an account of the history of this fantasy world before The Hobbit takes place. This history tells about when the villain of that world battled heroes to claim possession of jewels called Silmarilli.
  3. But the story of how The Silmarillion was created may be just as interesting as the story told on its pages. It was Tolkien’s first and last work. He began working on it in 1917 and continued adding to it and revising it for about 56 years. Tolkien was unable to complete the work before he died, so his son Christopher took on the challenge of finishing it. Tolkien had amassed many writings he wished to include in the book. Christopher thought, however, that presenting all the material would lead only to confusion for the reader, so he decided to select and arrange the pieces that together would create the most complete and understandable history of this fantasy world.
  4. To accomplish this task, Christopher enlisted the aid of a friend. Guy Gavriel Kay had always been interested in writing, particularly fantasy. He worked on The Silmarillion with Christopher for approximately a year. This assignment changed Kay’s life, and he eventually became a best-selling fantasy writer himself. Kay’s work on The Silmarillion undoubtedly provided training and valuable experience on his journey to become an author.
  5. The published version of The Silmarillion has five parts, which was what Tolkien wanted. But the parts had not been put together as a whole when Christopher took on the work after his father died. Some stories required organizing, and some parts were still incomplete and needed finishing.
  6. The Silmarillion was published in 1977 to mixed reviews. Some people believed it was too different from what they had come to expect from Tolkien’s writing. It had a grim mood and a complicated plot. Others were impressed with the masterful editing Tolkien’s son had done. They knew that Christopher had started the task with many incomplete pieces. After The Silmarillion, Christopher published more of his father’s unfinished writings, including a children’s story and a poem about King Arthur. Their publication allowed still more of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasies to be shared with devoted readers around the world.
Third party trademarks The Hobbit®, The Lord of the Rings® and The Silmarillion® were used in these testing materials.

In what way are the portrait of George Washington and the book The Silmarillion similar?

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Students make connections between what they are reading and relevant personal experiences, other texts they have read, or things from the real world they are knowledgeable about to build a framework for understanding the text they are reading. Using this background knowledge gives students a starting place for constructing meaning from the text. Students demonstrate comprehension of a text when they recognize these connections and can draw comparisons between them. For example, students reading an informational text about meteors and asteroids may make connections with a science-fiction novel or movie they have read or seen.


1. Liang, L. A., & Galda, L. (2009). Responding and comprehending: reading with delight and understanding. The Reading Teacher, 63(4), 330+. Retrieved from

Summary: Using the book Because of Winn-Dixie as their focal text, the authors describe the use of predicting and visualization exercises in the classroom. Students are asked to reflect on a personal situation in which they were new and consider how that felt and what happened. This reflection serves as a springboard for students to make predictions about what will happen in the story's narrative structure. The visualization exercise focuses on getting children to visualize images from poetry, and then illustrate those images. Although the article is targeted for primary grades, it can be scaffolded for older students. For example, students could illustrate a poem through digital art or photography.

2. Barbe-Clevett, T., Hanley, N, & Sullivan, P. (2002). Improving reading comprehension through metacognitive reflection. (Master theses, Saint Xavier University). Retrieved from

Summary: This research reports on a plan for increasing 6th grade students' reflection and comprehension skills. The reflective process was developed through four interrelated activities taught in a specific sequence. Post-intervention data shows an increased in reading skills along with an increased emotional involvement in reading.

3. Barth, A. E., & Elleman, A. (2017). Evaluating the impact of a multistrategy inference intervention for middle-grade struggling readers. Language, Speech, & Hearing Services in Schools, 48(1), 31+. Retrieved from

Summary: This study examines the effectiveness of multiple inference intervention strategies that were designed to increase inference-making and reading comprehension for struggling readers. The study focused on using text clues, activating and integrating prior knowledge, understanding character and author's purpose, and responding to inference questions. Details and lesson examples are available in the Appendix.