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Grade 7


Sample Constructed-Response Items


The Importance of Tribal Masks

One Example of an African Tribal Mask

Many people view African tribal masks as decorative art . Unfortunately, few people understand  just how special these masks are . For African tribes, the masks serve a very important cultural purpose . They represent a large component of the beliefs of the tribe . African tribal masks should be celebrated for their cultural importance to the tribes, not just for their beauty.

The Tribal Artist

The artist is the key element in a mask’s creation . African tribal artists design masks based on their personal style and their tribe’s traditions . The artists are considered critical members of their  communities . They are valued for their ability to express the tribe’s beliefs, not just for their talent as artists . The artist’s role is crucial in maintaining tribal customs .

The Wood

The masks are usually made of wood . Because trees are considered an important part of the natural world, wood makes a perfect material for these treasured items . Before a tree is cut down to create a mask, the tribe performs a ceremony asking the tree for permission to cut it down . This ceremony is one of the many tribal customs reinforced through making masks .

Adorning the Mask

The tools used to carve the mask are also special, and they are passed down from generation to generation . Using the tools of ancestors is believed to strengthen the ties to the past . Remembering ancestors is another important part of tribal culture .Carvings on the mask represent a spirit, ancestor, or animal . Each carving symbolizes something different, but each one has a special meaning for the tribe .The masks are decorated with dye that comes from plants, soil, and insects . Shells, teeth,feathers, and animal skin and hair are also used as decorations . The mask’s decorations evoke pride in certain tribal customs and traditions .


Using the Masks

Tribe members wear masks during initiations (such as when children enter adulthood), festivals, harvest ceremonies, and other customary events . Each mask has a specific purpose and helps the tribes celebrate their culture in all its forms .Often tribe members wear full costumes and perform elaborate dances . During these dances, the masks are believed to come to life . The person wearing the mask transforms into whatever the mask is representing, whether that’s an animal or an ancestor. Younger generations learn about the history of the tribe through these dances . In turn, the younger generations learn to uphold the tribal customs . It is important to remember that making tribal masks is a specialized process . Each mask’s special meaning should never be forgotten . Though the masks are beautiful to look at, they are much more than just art . To truly appreciate tribal masks, one needs to understand their importance to the cultures and traditions of African tribes .


Answer this constructed response about the essay:

1 .

How does the author’s organization of the passage support the main idea?

Be sure to use details and evidence from the text to support your answer.

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