Reading Skills and Strategies thinking critically: facts and opinions recognizing Facts and Opinions

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Reading Skills and Strategies


Recognizing Facts and Opinions

A fact is something that can be proved true. It can be proved by direct observation or by checking a reliable reference source.

An opinion is a belief or an attitude. It cannot be proved true or false.

Which of the following sentences do you think are facts? Which do you think are opinions?

1. At six feet four, Abraham Lincoln still holds the record as the tallest president of the United States.

2. Lincoln was the best president the United States has ever had.

3. In 1860 Lincoln was elected despite winning only 40% of the popular vote.

4. Lincoln was intelligent and kind, but not very good-looking.

Sentences I and 3 are facts-they can be proved true by checking reliable sources. Sentences 2 and 4 are opinions-they express beliefs or attitudes. People have different opinions about who was the best president and who is good-looking.

Recognizing Valid Opinions

A valid opinion is an opinion that is supported by facts.

Sentences 2 and 4 are opinions, but they are not supported by facts. Therefore, they are not valid opinions. Sentences 5 and 6 below are valid opinions.

5. Lincoln was a great president because he freed the slaves and led our country through a bitter Civil War.

6. Very tall, thin, and angular, with what many considered a homely face, Lincoln was not particularly good-looking.

Reading Critically for Facts and Opinions

When you read a persuasive piece like "The First Americans," which follows, you must read critically to evaluate the writer's arguments. First, you must determine where the writer is presenting facts (could you look them up in a reference book?) and where the statements are merely opinions. Then, you must judge the validity of the opinions. Do they seem to be supported by facts or believable evidence? You must be the judge.

Although statements of opinion can't be proved, they can be supported with facts. Be a critical reader or listener whenever anyone is trying to persuade you.

Apply the strategy on the next page.


Before You Read


Make the Connection


Working with a group of classmates, discuss the following questions, and write down your answers.

What is a stereotype? (If people in your group disagree or aren't sure, check a dictionary.)

What are some examples of stereotypes?

Why are stereotypes a problem?

Can a stereotype ever be useful? good? right?


Freewrite for a few minutes about your own thoughts and feelings about stereotypes. (If you prefer, make a drawing about stereotypes instead.)

Reading Skills and Strategies

Distinguishing Fact from Opinion

As you read "The First Americans," look for facts, which can be proved, and opinions, which can't be proved. What evidence is given to support the opinions expressed? Do you find it persuasive?


Literature and Social Studies

In 1927, an organization called the Grand Council Fire of American Indians sent a group of representatives from the Chippewa, Ottawa, Navajo, Sioux, and Winnebago peoples to address the mayor of Chicago. Their goal was to persuade him that the image of American Indians conveyed in textbooks and classrooms needed to be made more fair and accurate.

Mayor William Hale Thompson, who had been reelected just a month before the council met with him, had campaigned on the slogan "America First." (Thompson opposed U.S. involvement in world affairs and claimed that the British government influenced the U.S. government's policies.)

"The First Americans" plays on this and other popular patriotic slogans of the time such as "one hundred percent Americanism."


The First Americans

The Grand Council Fire of American Indians

December 1, 1927

To the mayor of Chicago:

You tell all white men "America First." We believe in that. We are the only ones, truly, that are one hundred percent. We therefore ask you, while you are teaching schoolchildren about America First, teach them truth about the First Americans.

We do not know if school histories are pro-British, but we do know that they are unjust to the life of our people-the American Indian. They call all white victories battles and all Indian victories massacres. The battle with Custer 1 has been taught to schoolchildren as a fearful massacre on our part. We ask that this, as well as other incidents, be told fairly. If the Custer battle was a massacre, what was Wounded Knee?2

History books teach that Indians were murderers-is it murder to fight in self-defense? Indians

1. battle with Custer: the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which took place in 1876 in what is now Montana. General George A. Custer (1839-1876) led an attack on an Indian village and was killed along with all of his troops by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors.

2. Wounded Knee: Wounded Knee Creek, in South Dakota, was the site of a battle in 1890 between U.S. soldiers and Sioux whom they had captured. About two hundred Sioux men, women, and children were killed by the soldiers.


killed white men because white men took their lands, ruined their hunting grounds, burned their forests, destroyed their buffalo. White men penned our people on reservations, then took away the reservations. White men who rise to protect their property are called patriots-Indians who do the same are called murderers.

White men call Indians treacherous-but no mention is made of broken treaties on the part of the white man. White men say that Indians were always fighting. It was only our lack of skill in white man's warfare that led to our defeat. An Indian mother prayed that her boy be a great medicine man rather than a great warrior. It is true that we had our own small battles, but in the main we were peace loving and home loving.

White men called Indians thieves-and yet we lived in frail skin lodges and needed no locks or iron bars. White men call Indians savages. What is civilization? Its marks are a noble religion and philosophy, original arts, stirring music, rich story and legend. We had these. Then we were not savages, but a civilized race.

We made blankets that were beautiful, that the white man with all his machinery has never been able to duplicate. We made baskets that were beautiful. We wove in beads and colored quills designs that were not just decorative motifs but were the outward expression of our very thoughts. We made pottery-pottery that was useful, and beautiful as well. Why not make schoolchildren acquainted with the beautiful handicrafts in which we were skilled? Put in every school Indian blankets, baskets, pottery.

We sang songs that carried in their melodies all the sounds of nature-the running of waters, the sighing of winds, and the calls of the animals. Teach these to your children that they may come to love nature as we love it.

We had our statesmen-and their oratory has never been equaled. Teach the children some of these speeches of our people, remarkable for their brilliant oratory.

We played games-games that brought good health and sound bodies. Why not put these in your schools? We


penned v.: confined or enclosed. (A pen is a fenced area where animals are kept.)

treaties n.: formal agreements between nations.

duplicate v.: make an exact copy; make or do again.

motifs n.: repeated figures in a design; themes.

oratory n.: skill in public speaking; the art of public speaking.


told stories. Why not teach schoolchildren more of the wholesome proverbs and legends of our people? Tell them how we loved all that was beautiful. That we killed game only for food, not for fun. Indians think white men who kill for fun are murderers.

Tell your children of the friendly acts of Indians to the white people who first settled here. Tell them of our leaders and heroes and their deeds. Tell them of Indians such as Black Partridge, Shabbona, and others who many times saved the people of Chicago at great danger to themselves. Put in your history books the Indian's part in the World War. Tell how the Indian fought for a country of which he was not a citizen, for a flag to which he had no claim, and for a people that have treated him unjustly.

The Indian has long been hurt by these unfair books. We ask only that our story be told in fairness. We do not ask you to overlook what we did, but we do ask you to understand it. A true program of America First will give a generous place to the culture and history of the American Indian.

We ask this, Chief, to keep sacred the memory of our people.

Student to Student


Indians are native people

here before the Pilgrims came

here before Columbus came

here before the Vikings came

Yet, we are treated

As though we don't belong here
Indians are native people

here before the Pilgrims came

here before Columbus came

here before the Vikings came

Yet, we are treated

As though we just got here.
-Ophelia Rivas

Santa Rosa Ranch Day School

Tucson, Arizona



Reading Check

In a brief paragraph, summarize the main points in this speech, and cite the details the speakers use to support their main points.

First Thoughts

1. What stereotypes are mentioned in "The First Americans"? How do you think the writers felt about those stereotypes? (You may want to refer to your Quickwrite notes.)

Shaping Interpretations

2. What opinion do the writers express at the beginning of the second paragraph? List three pieces of evidence they use to support this opinion.

3. Paraphrase (restate in your own words) what Ophelia Rivas is saying in her poem "Indians." How does her message relate to "The First Americans"?

Extending the Text

4. Do you think the popular image of American Indians has changed since 1927? What stereotypes of American Indians persist today? Use evidence from your own experience and from books, TV, and movies to support your response.

CHOICES: Building Your Portfolio

Writer's Notebook

1. Collecting Ideas for a Problem Solution

If you could add a new subject to your school's curriculum, what would it be?

Why do you believe this subject should be taught?

How could it be fitted into the schedule?

What problems do you foresee, and how could they be overcome?

Research/Social Studies

2. What Really Happened?

Using the Internet and the library, research and write a paragraph on one of these topics or another that your teacher approves:



Chief Joseph


the Trail of Tears

events at Wounded Knee (in 1890 and 1973)

Visual Literacy

3. Beauty and Purpose

Look again at the illustrations for "The First Americans." React to whatever strikes you about the handicrafts shown-perhaps their colors, shapes, or designs. Think about how they might have been used. (Most Indian artwork has a specific purpose.) Then, write a poem or a journal entry in which you express your responses to the art.



Language Handbook


See Glossary of Usage, pages 817 and 818.



See Language Workshop CD-ROM. Key word entry: usage.

Good or Well? Bad or Badly?

1. Use good to modify (describe) a noun or a pronoun. Use well to modify a verb. Good should never be used to modify a verb.


Carla's essay is good. [Good modifies the noun essay.]


Carla writes well. [Well modifies the verb writes.]


Carla does good in all her writing assignments.


Carla does well in all her writing assignments. [Well modifies the verb does.]
2. Well can be used as an adjective meaning "in good health" or "healthy."


She left school early because she didn't feel well. [Well modifies the pronoun she.]
3. Bad is an adjective. Badly is an adverb.


The fish was bad. [Bad modifies the noun fish.]


The man fished badly. [Badly modifies the verb fished.]
Try It Out

For each of the following sentences, choose the correct word from the underlined pair.

1. She planned good/well for our field trip.

2. We looked good/well in our waders.

3. Paul didn't feel good/ well enough to go.

4. We didn't do bad/badly in practice.

5. I wonder if we'll do as good/well next time.








Words from the News

A. Find the Word Bank word that best completes each of these headlines.

I. Hello, Dolly! Scientists _____ Sheep!

2. Senator's Speech Shows Skills in _____

3. Judge Awards Indians Land Based on Old _____

4. Flamingos _____ at New Zoo Perish

5. Education and Economy Are Recurring _____ in President's Speech
B. From newspaper or TV reports of today's current events, find five words you do not know. Look up their meanings, and use each word in a sentence of your own. Then, teach your words to a classmate.


Enter the Picture


Make the Connection

Yearning to Breathe Free

Imagine this: The time is somewhere around 1900. You live on a farm in Italy that can no longer support your family, and you face a life of miserable poverty. Perhaps you are Jewish and you live in eastern Europe. Each day you fear that hostile mobs will kill you and destroy your village.

You pack your bags and set sail for America -across more than three thousand miles of ocean. You don't know what you will find there, but you hope-you hope with every fiber of your being. Will you be able to make a good life in this new world? Will you-and your children-come to call it home?

Reading Skills and Strategies

Visual Literacy: Reading a Photo Essay

"A picture is worth a thousand words." How many times have you heard that expression? The truth is that a picture is very different from words. The more strategies you have for viewing, or "reading," a picture, the more you will see in the picture.

As you read this photo essay, ask yourself

Who or what is pictured in each photograph?

What can I learn about the people in the photos from their facial expressions, clothing, and surroundings?

What mood, or feeling, do the photographs create?

What message do I get from this photo essay? Does the essay present a point of view about its subject?


Literature and Social Studies

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Even Native Americans, the first Americans, journeyed here from Siberia thousands of years ago. Since 1600, more than sixty million people have come here to start new lives.

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island served as the main port of entry to the United States-its "Golden Door." For many immigrants the passage in steerage across the Atlantic was a nightmare. This 1911 report from the U.S. Immigration Commission describes the conditions far below decks, in steerage:

The unattended vomit of the seasick, the odors of not too clean bodies, the reek of food, and the awful stench of the nearby toilet rooms make the atmosphere of the steerage such that it is a marvel that human flesh can endure it.

The Atlantic crossing could take anywhere from ten days to more than a month. No wonder, then, the utter joy of immigrants at their first sight of the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of America's freedom and promise.

After leaving Ellis Island, many immigrants settled in nearby northeastern cities, such as New York and Philadelphia, where they lived in cramped, squalid tenements. Many others went on long rail journeys across our vast country, often joining groups from their homelands to build a new life in America. Some of these immigrants might be your own ancestors.


The Golden Door

A Nation of Immigrants

The first time I saw the Statue of Liberty all the people were rushing to the side of the boat. ‘Look at her, look at her,’ and in all kind of tongues. ‘There she is, there she is,’ like it was somebody who was greeting them.”

--Elizabeth Phillips, an Irish immigrant in 1920

The New Colossus

Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,°

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"° cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming° shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost° to me.

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

1. giant of Greek fame: The reference is to Colossus, a huge bronze (brazen) statue of the ancient Greek god Helios. It dominated the harbor of the Greek city of Rhodes from 280 to 224 s.c.

9. pomp: splendor; magnificence.

12. teeming: crowded.

13. tempest-tost: upset by storm. Tempest here refers to other hardships as well.


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