“What Was Project Mercury?” and “Who was Alan Shepard?”


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Reading Informational Texts

RI.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

RI.3.2 Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

RI.3.3 Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

RI.3.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.

RI.3.5 Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.

RI.3.7 Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).

RI.3.8 Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).

RI.3.9 Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.


W.3.1 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.

W.3.4 With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.


L3.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L.3.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

L.3.3 Use conventional spelling for high-frequency and other studied words and for adding suffixes to base words (e.g., sitting, smiled, cries, happiness).


This grade 3 annotated mini-assessment titled “What Was Project Mercury?” and “Who was Alan Shepard?” cited on achievethecore.org is based on two texts that focus on the topic of the first United States astronauts. It is intended to inform instruction about a student’s ability to engage in the close reading of complex text in order to demonstrate deep understanding. In this mini- assessment there are twelve selected-response questions that address the Reading Standards listed above. There is also an optional constructed-response item, which is aligned to the Reading, Writing, and Language Standards. The writing prompt requires students to write an opinion essay that argues that there are many benefits to early space travel, supporting their opinion using details from both of the texts.


This mini-assessment is designed to be completed in one class period; however, educators are encouraged to allow students additional time as necessary. It is strongly recommended that the writing prompt not be optional.


This mini-assessment is an exemplary example of how to design text-dependent questions aligned to specific Common Core Standards. It could be used as a formative assessment at the start of a school year and/or to assess the growth in students’ abilities to engage in the close reading of a complex text. An annotated Teacher’s Guide for the assessment gives specific rationale for each answer option and lists which standards it addresses. There is an aligned rubric for the writing prompt, as well as assessment guidelines. Information about determining text complexity (quantitative and qualitative data) is included with assessment materials.