PARCC Grade 6 ELA Practice Test Questions

Everybody’s Problem

(1) I used to think homeless people were dirty and lazy and mean. I thought they were all old men with scraggly beards and mangy dogs. I thought they lived on the street because they wanted to. I thought they were all drug addicts and alcoholics who ate from garbage cans and slept in boxes. I used to think homelessness wasn’t my problem. Then I met Chris, and he showed me I was wrong-about everything. Homelessness is everybody’s problem.

(2) The sun was climbing into the bright blue sky as we loaded up the bus at the youth center. It was a crisp, cold Thanksgiving morning, and our youth group was headed down to a local shelter called The Lighthouse. We were going to serve Thanksgiving dinner to more than a hundred homeless people. It seemed like an appropriate way to spend Thanksgiving Day.

(3) When we arrived at the shelter, we were each given a job to do. My job was peeling potatoes. The shelter director gave me a peeler and a garbage can and sat me down in front of a giant pile of potatoes. I had never seen so many potatoes in one place before. They rose from the tray like Mt. Everest. By the time I had peeled them all, my hands and arms and shoulders ached.

(4) When the kitchen work was done, we were given our serving stations. The director explained that this was the only meal many of the homeless people would eat that day, and for some, it was the only hot meal they would have that week. Even so, there wasn’t a lot of food for so many people. We were supposed to give each person one slice of turkey, one scoop of mashed potatoes, one scoop of stuffing, a small drizzle of gravy, a few green beans, and a sliver of pumpkin pie.

(5) I was plodding along, dishing up mashed potatoes with an ice cream scoop, when I happened to look up at the person I was serving. He wasn’t a dirty, bearded old man. He was a boy about my age, with brown hair and brown eyes and a patched green jacket.

(6) “Hi,” the boy said. “I’m Chris.”

(7) “I’m Ben,” I said as I scooped some potatoes onto his plate. “Happy Thanksgiving.”

(8) “Thanks,” Chris said, and then he was gone.

(9) As Chris moved down the line, I began to look around, really seeing things for the first time. Very few of the homeless people fit my stereotype. There were men and women, old and young. Children played in a corner of the dining room. At one table, teenagers talked in a tight group. People chatted and smiled. A few were even laughing. This was not what I had pictured a homeless shelter would be like.

(10) When everyone had been served, I began to help clean up. I couldn’t help watching Chris as I cleared the tables and wiped them down. He was playing peek-a-boo with a little girl in a high chair. I wondered if it was his little sister.

(11) I was so lost in thought that I jumped when the shelter director tapped my shoulder. She laughed.

(12) “I’ll finish cleaning up here,” she said. “Why don’t you go talk to Chris? He’s very nice.”

(13) As I approached the table where Chris was sitting, I felt nervous. What would I say? Could we possibly have anything to talk about? Would he even want to talk to me? I sat cautiously beside him.

(14) “Hi, Ben,” he said.

(15) “Hi, Chris. Is that your little sister?”

(16) Chris smiled. “Yep. This is Sophia. And over there is my little brother, Dane.” Chris motioned toward the corner where the smaller children were playing. Then he pointed to a dark-haired woman at a nearby table. “That’s my mom.”

(17) “Are you all homeless?” I asked.

(18) “Yep,” answered Chris. “We’ve been here at The Lighthouse for almost two months now. It’s okay here, but I miss my old school and my friends. I hope we can move back to a real house soon.”

(19) “I didn’t know there was such a thing as homeless kids,” I admitted.

(20) “Me neither,” said Chris. “At least, not until I became one.”

(21) “How did it happen?” I asked. Then I had second thoughts. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I was just wondering.”

(22) “It’s okay,” Chris said. “I don’t mind talking about it. About a year ago, my dad got really sick. He was in the hospital for a few months. Then he died. We didn’t have any insurance or anything, and my mom couldn’t get a job. Besides, she was really sad, and she was trying to take care of me and Dane and Sophia.”

(23) “So, how did you end up homeless?” I wondered.

(24) “Mom says there were just too many bills and not enough money. First, we got our lights turned off. Then we couldn’t pay our rent, so we had to move out of our house. We stayed with friends for a while, but eventually there was nobody left to stay with. So, we came here.”

(25) “Will you stay here forever?” I asked.

(26) “No,” Chris said. “My mom is in a program to give her training and help her get a job. When she finds a job, we can get a new place to live. Then things can be normal again.”

(27) I heard my youth leader calling for us to load the bus. I wanted to talk to Chris more and ask him more questions, but I knew I had to leave. I stood up.

(28) “I have to go,” I said. “I’m glad I got to meet you, Chris. I hope you get a new house soon.”

(29) “Thanks, Ben,” Chris said. “It was nice to meet you, too. Thanks for hanging out with me for a while. Happy Thanksgiving.”

(30) “Happy Thanksgiving,” I echoed as I headed toward the door. When I looked back, Chris waved. Then he started playing peek-a-boo with Sophia again.

(31) I will probably never see Chris again, but I have thought of him many times since that day. In just a few minutes together, he taught me so much about the problem of homelessness. It isn’t just a problem that affects lazy, mean old men. It affects men and women of all ages. It affects children. It affects whole families. It affected Chris. And because I got the chance to see homelessness through his eyes, it affects me now, too. I think I’ll go back again next Thanksgiving…or maybe sooner. After all, now I know that homelessness is everybody’s problem.

1. What is the setting for this story?

1. B: This story is set at a homeless shelter.

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