School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 4

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 2.0 Comprehension of Informational Text

Indicator 5. Identify and explain the author's use of language

Objective b. Identify and explain specific words and punctuation that create tone


Why Is It So Hard to Get Ketchup Out of the Bottle?

The tone of a text is the author's attitude toward his or her subject. To determine the author's tone, the reader should look at the author's word choice, grammatical arrangement of words, imagery or vivid details, and use of metaphors.

To determine the tone of this article, first identify the subject of the article. The subject is thixotropic solutions, and in this article, particularly, ketchup.

In paragraph one, the author introduces the subject in a setting that is familiar to readers: a dining table. The language choice is vivid and informal. The burger is "dripping;" the fries are "tantalizingly crisp, golden." Both descriptions appeal to sight and taste. The diner "grab(s) the bottle" and "slather(s) the entire plate. The words grab and slather suggest a rush of action, "but…what's this? Nothing is coming out!" The common setting and familiar actions set forth in informal language introduce the main idea of the article.

In paragraph two, the informal and now conversational language continues. "Ketchup is a liquid, right? Not really. A solid? Nope." Then the language converts to the more traditional language of an informational article, but the closing reverts to the commonplace and informal "and much easier to spread on toast!"

The introductory sentences to paragraph three continue to address the reader informally. "So why are thixotropic solutions so weird? Why can't they just make up their minds and be one or the other: solid or liquid?" The choice of the adjective "weird" and the personification of the solution lend a humorous attitude to scientific information. The paragraph proceeds with basic information and concludes by comparing a thixotropic solution to a simple demonstration to enhance a reader's understanding of the concept.

Paragraphs four and five state in simple language the effects of a dangerous thixotropic solution and the benefits of a more helpful thixotropic solution. The blend of scientific fact with possible situations where these thixotropic solutions are important further reinforces a reader's understanding.

Paragraph six begins informally… "Believe it or not…" but immediately reverts to simple informational language. This time the focus is thixotropic solutions within the human body.

In the final paragraph, the adjectives "mysterious, helpful, and frustrating" and "plain curious-or irritating" are used to describe the nature of thixotropic solutions. While mysterious, helpful and curious could be used to describe the nature of a scientific oddity, the adjectives "frustrating" and "irritating" are less commonly used for a science description but are more commonly used for human relationships. To conclude, the author asks the reader to consider "how badly you want that ketchup out of the bottle" which brings the circumstances back to those stated in the opening paragraph.

The author's tone or attitude about thixotropic solutions can be described as a blend of traditional, straightforward, scholarly, or factual and informal, AND conversational, bantering, or humorous. This is based upon the author's word choice, imagery, vivid adjectives, and metaphor.

It is the combination of the strangeness of thixotropic solutions and the blend of casual and traditional informational language used to make the reader understand its nature that create the tone of this article.

Resources for Objective 2.A.5.b: