Minggu, 06 Juli 2008


How the Language Really Works:
The Fundamentals of Critical Reading and Effective Writing
Reading / Writing
Critical Reading
Ways to Read


Facts v. Interpretation

What a Text Says, Does, and Means: Reaching for an Interpretation

Goals of Critical Reading

Analysis and Inference: The Tools of Critical Reading

What Is Critical Reading?

Note: These remarks are primarily directed at non-fictional texts.

Facts v. Interpretation

To non -critical readers, texts provide facts.� Readers gain knowledge by memorizing the statements within a text.

To the critical reader, any single text provides but one portrayal of the facts, one individual�s �take� on the subject matter. Critical readers thus recognize not only what a text says, but also how that text portrays the subject matter.� They recognize the various ways in which each and every text is the unique creation of a unique author.

A non-critical reader might read a history book to learn the facts of the situation or to discover an accepted interpretation of those events. A critical reader might read the same work to appreciate how a particular perspective on the events and a particular selection of facts can lead to particular understanding.

What a Text Says, Does, and Means: Reaching for an Interpretation

Non-critical reading is satisfied with recognizing what a text says and restating the key remarks.

Critical reading goes two steps further.� Having recognized what a text says , it reflects on what the text does by making such remarks.� Is it offering examples?� Arguing?� Appealing for sympathy?� Making a contrast to clarify a point? Finally, critical readers then infer what the text, as a whole, means , based on the earlier analysis.

These three steps or modes of analysis are reflected in three types of reading and discussion:

  • What a text says restatement
  • What a text does description
  • What a text means interpretation .
You can distinguish each mode of analysis by the subject matter of the discussion:
  • What a text says � restatement � talks about the same topic as the original text
  • What a text does � description � discusses aspects of the discussion itself
  • What a text means � interpretation � analyzes the text and asserts a meaning for the text as a whole

Goals of Critical Reading

Textbooks on critical reading commonly ask students to accomplish certain goals:
  • to recognize an author�s purpose�����������
  • to understand tone and persuasive elements
  • to recognize bias
Notice that none of these goals actually refers to something on the page. Each requires inferences from evidence within the text:
  • recognizing purpose involves inferring a basis for choices of content and language
  • recognizing tone and persuasive elements involves classifying the nature of language choices
  • recognizing bias involves classifying the nature of patterns of choice of content and language�
Critical reading is not simply close and careful reading. To read critically, one must actively recognize and analyze evidence upon the page.

Analysis and Inference: The Tools of Critical Reading

These web pages are designed to take the mystery out of critical reading. They are designed to show you what to look for ( analysis ) and how to think about what you find ( inference ) .

The first part �what to look for� involves recognizing those aspects of a discussion that control the meaning.

The second part �how to think about what you find� involves the processes of inference, the interpretation of data from within the text.

Recall that critical reading assumes that each author offers a portrayal of the topic. Critical reading thus relies on an examination of those choices that any and all authors must make when framing a presentation: choices of content, language, and structure. Readers examine each of the three areas of choice, and consider their effect on the meaning.

Related Topics
Critical Reading v. Critical Thinking
Choices: The Ingredients of Texts
Inference: Reading Ideas as Well as Words
Three Ways to Read and Discuss Texts


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Reading is a multi-dimensional cognitive process of decoding symbols for the purpose of deriving meaning (reading comprehension) and/or constructing meaning.

It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Readers may use a variety of reading strategies, such as: decoding (to translate symbols into sounds or visual representations of language), using morpheme, semantics, syntax and context cues (to identify the meaning of unknown words), or activating prior knowledge (schemata theory).

Other types of reading may not be text-based, such as music notation or pictograms. By analogy, in computer science, "reading" refers to the acquisition of data from some sort of computer storage.

Although reading print text is now an important way for the general population to access information, this has not always been the case. With some exceptions, only a small percentage of the population in many countries were considered literate before the Industrial Revolution.



[edit] Reading skills

[edit] Skill development

Main article: Reading education

Other methods of teaching and learning to read have developed, and become somewhat controversial[1]:

  • Phonics involves teaching reading by associating characters or groups of characters with sounds. Sometimes argued to be in competition with whole language methods.
  • Whole language methods involve acquiring words or phrases without attention to the characters or groups of characters that compose them. Sometimes argued to be in competition with phonics methods, and that the whole language approach tends to impair learning how to spell.

Learning to read in a second language, especially in adulthood, may be a different process than learning to read a native language in childhood.

There are cases of very young children learning to read without having been taught.[2] Such was the case with Truman Capote who reportedly taught himself to read and write at the age of five. There are also accounts of people who taught themselves to read by comparing street signs or Biblical passages to speech. The novelist Nicholas Delbanco taught himself to read at age six by studying a book about boats during a transatlantic crossing.

[edit] Methods

Reading is an intensive process in which the eye quickly moves to assimilate text.  Very little is actually seen accurately. It is necessary to understand visual perception and eye movement in order to understand the reading process..
Reading is an intensive process in which the eye quickly moves to assimilate text. Very little is actually seen accurately. It is necessary to understand visual perception and eye movement in order to understand the reading process.[3].

There are several types and methods of reading, with differing rates that can be attained for each, for different kinds of material and purposes:

  • Subvocalized reading combines sight reading with internal sounding of the words as if spoken. Advocates of speed reading claim it can be a bad habit that slows reading and comprehension. These claims are currently backed only by controversial, sometimes non-existent scientific research.
  • Speed reading is a collection of methods for increasing reading speed without an unacceptable reduction in comprehension or retention. It is closely connected to speed learning.
  • Proofreading is a kind of reading for the purpose of detecting typographical errors. One can learn to do it rapidly, and professional proofreaders typically acquire the ability to do so at high rates, faster for some kinds of material than for others, while they may largely suspend comprehension while doing so, except when needed to select among several possible words that a suspected typographic error allows.
  • Structure-Proposition-Evaluation (SPE) method, popularized by Mortimer Adler in How to Read a Book, mainly for non-fiction treatise, in which one reads a writing in three passes: (1) for the structure of the work, which might be represented by an outline; (2) for the logical propositions made, organized into chains of inference; and (3) for evaluation of the merits of the arguments and conclusions. This method involves suspended judgment of the work or its arguments until they are fully understood.
  • Survey-Question-Read-Recite-Review (SQ3R) method, often taught in public schools, which involves reading toward being able to teach what is read, and would be appropriate for instructors preparing to teach material without having to refer to notes during the lecture.
  • Multiple Intelligences-based methods, which draw upon the reader's diverse ways of thinking and knowing to enrich his or her appreciation of the text. Reading is fundamentally a linguistic activity: one can basically comprehend a text without resorting to other intelligences, such as the visual (e.g., mentally "seeing" characters or events described), auditory (e.g., reading aloud or mentally "hearing" sounds described), or even the logical intelligence (e.g., considering "what if" scenarios or predicting how the text will unfold based on context clues). However, most readers already use several intelligences while reading, and making a habit of doing so in a more disciplined manner -- i.e., constantly, or after every paragraph -- can result in more vivid, memorable experience.

[edit] Reading assessment

[edit] Reading rate

Further information: Speed reading, English language learning and teaching, and Proofreading
Average reading rate in words per minute (wpm) depending on age and measured with different tests in English, French and German.  The data from Taylor (English) and  Landerl (German) are based on texts with increasing difficulty. The other data were obtained when all age groups were reading the same text.
Average reading rate in words per minute (wpm) depending on age and measured with different tests in English, French and German. The data from Taylor (English) and Landerl (German) are based on texts with increasing difficulty. The other data were obtained when all age groups were reading the same text.

Rates of reading include reading for memorization (under 100 words per minute (wpm)), reading for learning (100–200 wpm), reading for comprehension (200–400 wpm), and skimming (400–700 wpm). Reading for comprehension is the essence of most people’s daily reading. Skimming is sometimes useful for processing larger quantities of text superficially at a much lower level of comprehension (below 50%).

Advice for the appropriate choice of reading rate includes reading flexibly, slowing down when the concepts are closer together or when the material is unfamiliar, and speeding up when the material is familiar and the material is not concept rich. Speed reading courses and books often encourage the reader to continually speed up; comprehension tests lead the reader to believe their comprehension is constantly improving. However, competence in reading involves the understanding that skimming is dangerous as a default habit.

The table to the left shows how reading rate varies with age [4] , probably regardless of time period (1965 to 2005) and language (English, French German). The values of Taylor are probably higher because he discarded students who failed the comprehension test.

The test of the french psychologist Pierre Lefavrais ("L'alouette", published in 1967) asked for reading out aloud with a penalty for errors and could therefore could not be much faster than 150 wpm.

[edit] Types of reading tests

  • Sight word reading: reading words of increasing difficulty until they become unable to read or understand the words presented to them. Difficulty is manipulated by using words that have more letters or syllables, are less common and have more complicated spelling-sound relationships.
  • Nonword reading: reading lists of pronounceable nonsense words out loud. The difficulty is increased by using longer words, and also by using words with more complex spelling or sound sequences.
  • Reading comprehension: a passage is presented to the reader, which they must read either silently or out loud. Then a series of questions are presented that test the reader's comprehension of this passage.
  • Reading fluency: the rate with which individuals can name words.
  • Reading accuracy: the ability to correctly name a word on a page.

Some tests incorporate several of the above components at once. For instance, the Nelson-Denny Reading Test scores readers both on the speed with which they can read a passage, and also their ability to accurately answer questions about this passage.

[edit] Effects

[edit] Intelligence

Studies have shown that American children who learn to read by the third grade are less likely to end up in prison, drop out of school, or take drugs. Adults who read literature on a regular basis are nearly three times as likely to attend a performing arts event, almost four times as likely to visit an art museum, more than two-and-a-half times as likely to do volunteer or charity work, and over one-and-a-half times as likely to participate in sporting activities.[5] Literacy rates in the United States are also more highly correlated to weekly earnings than IQ. A graph showing this relationship is shown here. Reading books is generally regarded as being a relaxing past-time, while at the same time requiring the brain to process text so it can be stimulated. Because of this it is sometimes considered to cause at least a temporary increase in one's mental faculties.

[edit] Lighting

Reading requires more lighting than many other activities. Therefore, the possibility of comfortable reading in cafés, restaurants, buses, at bus stops or in parks greatly varies depending on available lighting and time of day. Starting in the 1950s, many offices and classrooms were over-illuminated. Since about 1990, there has been a movement to create reading environments with appropriate lighting levels (approximately 600 to 800 lux).

[edit] References

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Dina Feitelson (1988). Facts and fads in beginning reading: a cross-language perspective. Norwood, N.J: Ablex Pub. Corp. ISBN 0-89391-507-6.
  2. ^ Stainthorp, Rhona and Diana Hughes. Learning From Children Who Read at an Early Age, Routledge, 1999.
  3. ^ Hans-Werner Hunziker, (2006) Im Auge des Lesers foveale und periphere Wahrnehmung: vom Buchstabieren zur Lesefreude ISBN 978-3-7266-0068-6
  4. ^ Hans-Werner Hunziker, Im Auge des Lesers, foveale und periphere Wahrnehmung: vom Buchstabieren zur Lesefreude, page 117, Transmedia Zurich (2006) ISBN-13: 978-3-7266-0068-6
  5. ^ Promote Reading: Share Books. Charity Guide. Jamie Littlefield

[edit] Bibliography

  • Briggs A., Burke P. (2002) MAS 214, Macquarie University, A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the. Internet, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • National Right To Read Foundation
  • National Endowment for the Arts (June 2004). "Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America" (pdf)
  • Littlefield, Jamie (2006). "Promote Reading: Share Books" Retrieved June 20, 2006.
  • Shaywitz, S. E. et al.: Evidence that dyslexia may represent the lower tail of a normal distribution of reading ability. The New England Journal of Medicine 326 (1992)145-150.
  • Bainbridge, J. and Malicky, G. 2000. Constructing Meaning: Balancing Elementary Language Arts. Toronto: Harcourt.
  • Ontario Ministry of Education, 2003. Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading. Toronto: Queen's Printer for Ontario.
  • Gipe, J. 2002. Multiple Paths to Literacy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Reading Comprehension



Word Meanings From Context

Use the context to help you choose the best meaning or synonym for each highlighted word.

1.Fortunately, the dizzy spell was transient. He was able to continue playing within seconds and had no trouble winning the match.

When you describe an event as “transient,” you are saying that __________.

a. it sounds like a train
b. it is quite harmful
c. it helps you win
d. it doesn't last long

2. Brea and Elizabeth are having a dispute over which radio station to play at work. It would be so much simpler if they both liked the same kind of music.

A dispute is a __________.

a. musical instrument
b. choice of music
c. discovery
d. disagreement

3. When they heard the good news about the court’s decision, the angry crowd cheered and then began to disperse. “It looks like everyone is going home,” one reporter stated.

Which would be the opposite of “disperse”?

a. come together
b. smile
c. fly like a bird
d. sing

4. It’s a wonder to me how anyone can still be undecided about this election. These two candidates are certainly distinct. Each would lead our nation in opposite directions.

What does distinct mean?

a. needing a bath
b. dishonest
c. clearly different
d. about the same age

Reading Comprehension



Word Meanings From Context

Use the context to help you choose the best meaning or synonym for each highlighted word.

1. Mr. Huge was very proud of his auto superstore. “We have such an extensive selection of cars,” he said, “so everyone should find a vehicle that he or she will love!”

The word “extensive” means __________.

a. costing a lot of money
b. large amount
c. having no color
d. not enough

2. Friendship is a priceless thing. If Chris put a price, or conditions, on her friendship, it’s no longer priceless. In fact, it’s not real friendship at all!

If something is priceless, __________.

a. it has a missing tag
b. it has no value
c. it has great value
d. it is made out of rice

3. The news story was based on a letter that was a fabrication. Now the reporter who wrote the story is in big trouble. Will anyone believe him again?

A fabrication is __________.

a. made of cloth
b. full of long words
c. funny
d. fake

4. The reporter insisted that the letter he used was authentic. He said that he had shown it to many experts before he used it in his story.

When something is authentic, it’s __________.

a. genuine, or real
b. carefully written
c. full of tasty worms
d. very old

5. In 1975, Governor James promised to do something about the high taxes in our state. She didn’t present a tax cut bill to lawmakers until 1985. It took her a decade to keep her promise, but better late than never.

How long is a decade?

a. 75 years
b. 85 years
c. a century
d. 10 years


Reading Comprehension



Mr. El and the Princess

“You should try one of these sundaes,” said Mr. Smitty.
Miss Joan nodded in agreement.
“I’ll get around to it,” Mr. El replied as he looked across the large Dairy Center tent. The three teachers were at their school’s Back to School Fair. It had grown into a major annual event, sort of a mini county fair.
“What are you staring at, Mr. El?” asked Miss Joan.
“I think I’ll stroll over there and talk to the County Dairy Princess,” Mr. El replied.
“She is beautiful,” Mr. Smitty remarked.
“I hadn’t noticed,” said Mr. El, trying not to smile.
Miss Joan rolled her eyes.
“Actually, my interest in her is purely professional,” Mr. El stated. “I might learn something about the dairy industry that I can share with my fourth graders.”
Mr. Smitty broke in, “Besides, he likes that new resource teacher, Miss Cheryl.”
“Miss Cheryl is kind of cute,” Mr. El admitted. “I like the way her eyes cross when she’s annoyed.”
“Why is it that you know how everyone looks when they’re annoyed?” Miss Joan asked.
Mr. El chose to ignore the question. “I’ll be right back,” he said as he walked toward the dairy princess.
Miss Joan and Mr. Smitty relaxed on a bench as they enjoyed their sundaes and watched Mr. El approach the princess.
Mr. El and the young lady seemed to be having a pleasant conversation when suddenly the princess walked away with a much less than pleasant expression on her face.
When Mr. El rejoined his friends, Miss Joan could not contain herself. “I’d give a million dollars to know what you said to her!” she exclaimed.
“You don’t have a million dollars,” Mr. El responded.
“I’ll buy you one of these giant hot fudge sundaes for the story,” Mr. Smitty proposed.
“Deal!” said Mr. El. “I was asking her what qualities the judges look for in choosing a dairy princess.”
“And?” Miss Joan demanded.
“Well it just goes to prove that a sense of humor isn’t one of the requirements,” Mr. El replied.
“What did you say?” Miss Joan asked with that “What terrible thing have you done?” look that she did so well.
“Just to add a little levity to the conversation,” Mr. El went on, “I asked her if looking like a cow was one consideration.”
“You did what?!” Miss Joan practically screamed.
“I think this is worth a double hot fudge sundae!” Mr. Smitty announced.
“I thought she’d know I was kidding,” Mr. El stated. I say stuff like that to my students all the time and they know I’m kidding.”
“That’s because they’ve learned not to take you seriously,” Miss Joan said.
“Well this girl, who’s at least twice the age of my fourth graders, ought to know that she doesn’t look anything like a cow. You can’t win a competition to be a princess of any kind without knowing that you’re smart and good looking.”
“Maybe she thinks that you think that she looks like a cow,” Mr. Smitty offered.
“Why would she care?” Mr. El countered.
“Good question,”said Miss Joan. “But don’t you see the damage you’ve done?” she added.
“Damage, what damage?” asked Mr. El.
“Up until today she was a self-confident young woman, destined for greatness. She might have become a scientist whose inventions would have saved millions of lives. She might have gone on to be a great leader who would bring peace and prosperity to the whole world!” Miss Joan paused to catch her breath. “But now,” she continued, “she’ll spend the rest of her miserable existence hiding her face. She’ll live her entire life wearing a character costume at some amusement park so that no one will ever gaze upon her cowlike features! And needless to say, she’ll never save the world!”
“You could just go over there and apologize,” Mr. Smitty suggested.
“That might just make things worse,” said Mr. El. “In a few minutes she’ll forget I exist; she’ll forget what I said, and she can go on to save the world.”
“I’ll have my sundae now,” Mr. El reminded Mr. Smitty. “Didn’t I hear ‘double hot fudge’?”
As Mr. Smitty walked off to buy the sundae, Mr. Kay, the principal, came by. “Mr. El,” he said, “I have a nice surprise for you. I’ve lined up your student teacher for this fall. Her name is Miss Lee. She’s already a very accomplished young lady. In fact, you may have noticed her at the fair.”
“She’s here? I’d like to meet her,” said Mr. El.
“That’s her over there,” Mr. Kay said. “She’s wearing that shiny little crown.”
“You mean that Dairy Princess crown?” asked Mr. El.
“That’s her,” said Mr. Kay.
Miss Joan, who couldn’t help hearing the conversation, had a broad smile on her face. Mr. El was not smiling.
“Excuse me,” said Mr. El, “I have to rush to my room and prepare a lesson plan!”
“A lesson plan?” asked the principal.
“Yes,” sighed Mr. El, “A lesson about thinking before speaking.”

For Discussion:

1. What lesson did Mr. El learn from his experience?

2. Can you think of any examples of someone making a similar mistake?

3. Do you think that it’s always possible to know how someone will react to something you say?

Reading Comprehension



I Build Walls

I build walls:
Walls that protect,
Walls that shield,
Walls that say I shall not yield
Or reveal
Who I am or how I feel.

I build walls:
Walls that hide,
Walls that cover what’s inside,
Walls that stare or smile or look away,
Silent lies,
Walls that even block my eyes
From the tears I might have cried.

I build walls:
Walls that never let me
Truly touch
Those I love so very much.
Walls that need to fall!
Walls meant to be fortresses
Are prisons after all.

In this poem, walls are not made of bricks or any physical materials. The author uses “walls” as a metaphor for someone hiding his feelings and thoughts from others and even from himself.

Why would someone build “walls” around his or her feelings?

Do you, or others you know, ever build such “walls”?

Does the narrator believe that it’s always a good idea to have these “walls”? How do you know?

Do you think that there are times when we need to “build walls”?

Reading Comprehension, Vol. 8, No. 3, April 8, 2003http://rhlschool.comCopyright 2003 RHL

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 1, September 11, 2000

A Little Advice

Allow me to give you a little advice about writing fiction. First, make your characters believable. Make sure that they behave and talk as individuals. In real life, everyone is unique. If all your characters speak the same way and react to things in the same way, you’ll lose your readers from the start.
Once your readers believe in your characters, you must get them to care. Each reader must be able to identify with at least one character, to almost become that character in his or her mind. You can do this by developing characters with genuine human traits, both good and bad. The individuals who populate your story should have human strengths and weaknesses.
Now it’s time to weave your tale, to create a plot. Your readers are part of the story now; they are involved.
One last thing. Your story must touch the readers’ emotions. If you can make them laugh and cry along with your characters, you will be a successful writer.

1. For discussion: Think of a favorite book, movie, or television program. Give examples of how the author or writers followed any of the rules presented in this essay.

2. Solve the crossword puzzle. Every word in the puzzle can be found in the essay.

rhlschool.comRHL School - Free Worksheets and MoreCopyright 2000 RHL

RHL School

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 1, September 11, 2000

A Little Advice


2. To put oneself in another's place
4. Qualities; properties
7. Not fake
8. Permit
10. Being a part of
12. Live in
14. Feelings


1. Different from all others
3. Made up but realistic
5. Building
6. Make; fashion
9. Act
11. Events that make a story
13. Story

Puzzle created by Crossword Compiler.RHL School - Free Worksheets and MoreCopyright 2000 RHL rhlschool.com

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 2, September 18, 2000

Word Meanings From Context

Use the context of the paragraphs to determine the meanings of the highlighted words.

We walked slowly down the trail with great trepidation. No one who had gone this way had ever been heard from again. Had they simply found a better place to settle on this dark planet? We doubted that.

1. Which word is a synonym of “trepidation”?

a. movement
b. worry
c. enjoyment
d. laughter

Only an hour or so had passed before a tremendous roar shook the ground. At that very moment, a strange grey creature materialized before our eyes. It resembled a lizard in shape. It was about ten feet high at the shoulders and at least fifty feet long.

2. What did the creature do?

a. It whipped its tail back and forth.
b. It stamped its feet.
c. It showed its sharp teeth.
d. It appeared.

Kathy was looking for a strong but light material to use for making her water jugs. Unfortunately, she chose noodelite. It proved to too porous to hold jelly.

3. A porous material _____.

a. is good for holding things that you pour
b. protects you in pouring rain
c. allows liquids to flow through it
d. is necessary for making bowling balls

We have rather lofty expectations for you, son. You will attend college. You will become rich and famous. You will be elected president of the United States before you turn forty.

4. Which word is a synonym of “lofty”?

a. high
b. shaky
c. small
d. lowly

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 3, September 25, 2000

Using Inference

Sometimes someone will try to tell you something without coming right out and saying it. He will imply it. When you understand what is implied, you infer. Sometimes you can infer the truth even when the speaker or writer isn’t trying to be helpful. That’s called “reading between the lines.”

See if you can infer an impled or hidden message in each of the following selections.

Turner almost wished that he hadn’t listened to the radio. He went to the closet and grabbed his umbrella. He would feel silly carrying it to the bus stop on such a sunny morning.

1. Which probably happened?

a. Turner realized that he had an unnatural fear of falling radio parts.
b. Turner had promised himself to do something silly that morning.
c. Turner had heard a weather forecast that predicted rain.
d. Turner planned to trade his umbrella for a bus ride.

“Larry, as your boss, I must say it’s been very interesting working with you,” Miss Valdez said. “However, it seems that our company’s needs and your performance style are not well matched. Therefore, it makes me very sad to have to ask you to resign your position effective today.”

2. What was Miss Valdez telling Larry?

a. She would feel really bad if he decided to quit.
b. He was being fired.
c. He was getting a raise in pay.
d. She really enjoyed having him in the office.

No, Honey, I don’t want you to spend a lot of money on my birthday present. Just having you for a husband is the only gift I need. In fact, I’ll just drive my old rusty bucket of bolts down to the mall and buy myself a little present. And if the poor old car doesn't break down, I’ll be back soon.

3. What is the message?

a. I don’t want a gift.
b. Buy me a new car.
c. The mall is fun.
d. I’ll carry a bucket for you.

Bill and Jessica were almost done taking turns choosing the players for their teams. It was Jessica’s turn to choose, and only Kurt was left.
Jessica said, “Kurt.”

4. We can infer that ________

a. Kurt is not a very good player.
b. Jessica was pleased to have Kurt on her team.
c. Kurt was the best player on either team.
d. Jessica was inconsiderate of Kurt’s feelings.

rhlschool.com.RHL School - Free Worksheets and MoreCopyright 2000 RHL

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 4, October 2, 2000

Main Idea

The main idea of a paragraph is what all the sentences are about. Read the paragraph and ask, “What’s your point?” That will help you zero in on the main idea.

Read each paragraph carefully. Choose the best answer to the questions that follow.

1. Juan loves to play games. His favorite game is chess because it requires a great deal of thought. Juan also likes to play less demanding board games that are based mostly on luck. He prefers Monopoly because it requires luck and skill. If he’s alone, Juan likes to play action video games as long as they aren’t too violent.

What is the main idea of this paragraph?

a. Juan dislikes violence.
b. Juan likes to think.
c. Juan enjoys Monopoly.
d. Juan enjoys playing games.

2. Maria is watching too much television. A toddler shouldn’t be spending hours staring blankly at a screen. Worse yet, some of her wild behavior has been inspired by those awful cartoons she watches. We need to spend more time reading books with her and pull the plug on the TV!

What is the main idea of this paragraph?

a. Watching a lot of television isn’t good for Maria.
b. Books are good.
c. All cartoons are bad.
d. Some cartoons are bad for Maria.

3. Samantha, I can’t eat or sleep when you are gone. I need to hear your scratchy voice and see your lovely toothless smile. I miss that special way that you eat soup with your fingers. Please come home soon!

What is the main idea of this paragraph?

a. Samantha, you have bad manners.
b. Samantha, you should see a dentist.
c. Samantha, I miss you.
d. Samantha, I have lost my appetite.

4. Someday we will all have robots that will be our personal servants. They will look and behave much like real humans. We will be able to talk to these mechanical helpers and they will be able to respond in kind. Amazingly, the robots of the future will be able to learn from experience. They will be smart, strong, and untiring workers whose only goal will be to make our lives easier.

Which sentence from the paragraph expresses the main idea?

a. Someday we will all have robots that will be our personal servants.
b. We will be able to talk to these mechanical helpers and they will be able to respond in kind.
c. They will look and behave much like real humans.
d. Amazingly, the robots of the future will be able to learn from experience.

rhlschool.com.RHL School - Free Worksheets and MoreCopyright 2000 RHL

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 5, October 10, 2000

Did I Ever Stop?

Did I ever stop to make you smile
When your day was hard or your road was long?
When your light stopped shining for a while,
Did I sing for you a happy song?

Did I ever try to make you laugh
When your eyes held tears and you couldn’t speak?
When your world seemed almost torn in half,
Did I hold your hand or kiss your cheek?

Did I ever pause to hear your voice
When you needed just a moment’s ear?
When you’d lost your way or missed a choice,
Did I let you know that I was near?

Did I ever stop to say I care
When I didn’t seek to hear it too?
When you weren’t so sure that I’d be there,
Did I ever show my love for you?RHL

For Discussion: The same poem can have different meanings to different readers.

1. When you read or listen to this poem, who do you think the author is addressing?

2. In your own words, what is this poem about?

3. Does the poem make you think of any experience from your own life?

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Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 6, October 16, 2000

Political Polls

Many people are closely following the political polls during the final weeks preceding this important election. But how do these polls actually work?
Polls are surveys of a relatively small number of people compared to the actual number who will vote. They are an attempt to determine who may actually win an election in advance of the final vote.
Let’s say that 100 million people are expected to vote in the general election. If 100 people are asked for their opinions, each respondent represents a million voters. Obviously, the results of such a poll are not very reliable. The more people surveyed, the more meaningful are the results.
Pollsters have various ways of making their polls more accurate. They try to find a representative variety of people to question. For example, they look for people with similar backgrounds and from similar regions to those of all the voters.
Pollsters also ask questions that try to determine how many people who support each candidate will actually vote. If a candidate has a higher percentage of enthusiastic supporters than his opponent, he has a better chance of winning than the simple numbers might suggest. Pollsters may only count those who they consider to be “likely voters.”
If we look at polls that are taken over time, we can often detect a trend. We can tell if a candidate is gaining or losing support when we compare the most recent poll to earlier ones.
Polls often ask potential (those who could be) voters what they like or dislike about each candidate. The campaigns use those results to help them decide which issues to stress or which positions to clarify. They can also determine which voters to target with their messages.
Because no two people are the same, polls can never be perfect predictors of the real vote. But they can give important clues as to where things may be heading. At the very least, if you like politics, polls can be great entertainment.

Solve the puzzle using the highlighted words from the article.


2. Surveys
4. Make clear
6. Able to be counted on
7. Figure out
9. Correct
11. Clearly
12. Try
14. Stands for
15. Find, or notice


1. Matters of discussion
2. Coming before
3. Areas, or places
5. Really
8. Interested in; excited about
10. One who responds, or answers
13. The way that something is developing or changing

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 7, October 23, 2000

Contributing to the Main Idea

Every sentence in a paragraph must contribute to the main idea. Most of the sentences in a paragraph simply support the main idea. Some may state or summarize that idea.

There is one sentence in each of the following paragraphs that does not contribute to the main idea. It does not belong in the paragraph. Underline the sentence that should be removed from each paragraph.

1. I am looking forward to election day. It’s fun to vote and exciting to watch the election results. I’ll be rooting for my candidate to win and enjoying the suspense if the vote is close. The following day will be a good time to play video games. No matter who wins, an election is a special occasion.

2. April is beginning the lengthy process of choosing a college to attend. She is buying and reading guides to the best schools. She hasn’t completely ruled out working for a year before attending college. She’s checking out the many Websites that provide information for picking the right college or university. She’s even researching the climate of the area of every school she considers.

3. Bill is one of those people who just doesn’t have to worry about gaining too much weight. He is the best tennis player I’ve ever met. Bill can eat any amount of any food he likes without putting on an ounce. He can go for weeks without exercising with no apparent effect. It just doesn’t seem fair!

4. Scientists are learning a great deal about the aging process. This knowledge will allow doctors to help their patients live longer and better lives. They will be able to defeat diseases associated with aging and perhaps even delay the onset of old age. Many doctors would agree that some medicines are much too expensive.

rhlschool.com.RHL School - Free Worksheets and MoreCopyright 2000 RHL


A Guide Designed for His Year 1 Students
by Professor John Lye

Copyright John Lye 1996, 1997

This is a guide to what you might look for in analyzing literature, particularly poetry and fiction. An analysis explains what a work of literature means, and how it means it; it is essentially an articulation of and a defense of an interpretation which shows how the resources of literature are used to create the meaningfulness of the text. There are people who resist analysis, believing that it 'tears apart' a work of art; however a work of art is an artifice, that is, it is made by someone with an end in view: as a made thing, it can be and should be analyzed as well as appreciated. There are several main reasons for analyzing literature:

  1. The ultimate end of analysis is, first and foremost, a deeper understanding and a fuller appreciation of the literature -- you learn to see more, to uncover or create richer, denser, more interesting meanings. I have a brief page on the ideas of depth, complexity and quality as they relate to literature.
  2. Secondly, as literature uses language, images, the essential processes of meaning-making, analysis can lead to a more astute and powerful use of the tools of meaning on the reader's part.
  3. Thirdly, analysis should also teach us to be aware of the cultural delineations of a work, its ideological aspects. Art is not eternal and timeless but is situated historically, socially, intellectually, written and read at particular times, with particular intents, under particular historical conditions, with particular cultural, personal, gender, racial, class and other perspectives. Through art we can see ideology in operation. This can be of particular use in understanding our own culture and time, but has historical applications as well. See my brief page on ideology for an expansion of this.
  4. A fourth function of analysis is to help us, through close reading and through reflection, understand the way ideas and feelings are talked about in our culture or in other times and cultures -- to have a sense both of communities of meaning, and of the different kinds of understanding there can be about matters of importance to human life. Art can give us access to the symbolic worlds of communities: not only to the kinds of ideas they have about life, but also to the way they feel about them, to the ways they imagine them, to the ways they relate them to other aspects of their lives.

    You might also look at my page On the Uses of Studying Literature

This Guide contains the following major sections:
analysis of poetry , analysis of fiction , analysis of prose in fiction , writing an analytical essay .

I: Critical Analysis of Poetry

The process of analyzing a poem

The elements of analysis discussed below are designed to help you identify the ways in which poetry makes its meaning, especially its 'parts'; they do not give a sense of how one goes about analyzing a poem. It is difficult to give a prescription, as different poems call on different aspects of poetry, different ways of reading, different relationships between feeling, i mages and meanings, and so forth. My general advice, however, is this:

  1. look at the title
  2. read the poem for the major indicators of its meaning -- what aspects of setting, of topic, of voice (the person who is speaking) seem to dominate, to direct your reading?
  3. read the ending of the poem -- decide where it 'gets to'
  4. divide the poem into parts: try to understand what the organization is, how the poem proceeds, and what elements or principles guide this organization (is there a reversal, a climax, a sequence of some kind, sets of oppositions?)
  5. pay attention to the tone of the poem -- in brief, its attitude to its subject, as that is revealed in intonation, nuance, the kind of words used, and so forth.
  6. now that you've looked at the title, the major indicators of 'topic', the ending, the organization, the tone, read the poem out loud, trying to project its meaning in your reading. As you gradually get a sense of how this poem is going, what its point and drift is, start noticing more about how the various elements of the poetry work to create its meaning. This may be as different as the kind of imagery used, or the way it uses oppositions, or the level of realism or symbolism of its use of the natural world.

Reading poetry well is a balance among and conjunction of qualities: experience, attention, engagement with the qualities which make the poem resonant or compelling, close reading of structure and relationships. It's an acquired talent, you have to learn it. When you do, however, more and more meaning, power and beauty start leaping out at you.

Elements of analysis

Here then are some questions to apply to your analysis in order to see how the poem is making its meaning: they cover
genre, the speaker, the subject, the structure, setting, imagery, key statements,
the sound of the poetry, language use, intertextuality,
the way the reader is formed by the poem, the poem's historical placement, and
ideology or 'world-view'

1. What is the genre, or form, of the poem?

Is it a sonnet, an elegy, a lyric, a narrative, a dramatic monologue, an epistle, an epic (there are many more). Different forms or genres have different subjects, aims, conventions and attributes. A love sonnet, for instance, is going to talk about different aspects of human experience in different ways with different emphases than is a political satire, and our recognition of these attributes of form or genre is part of the meaning of the poem.

2. Who is speaking in the poem?

Please remember that if the voice of the poem says "I", that doesn't mean it is the author who is speaking: it is a voice in the poem which speaks. The voice can be undramatized (it's just a voice, it doesn't identify itself), or dramatized (the voice says "I", or the voice is clearly that of a particular persona, a dramatized character).

Identify the voice. What does the voice have to do with what is happening in the poem, what is its attitude, what is the tone of the voice (tone can be viewed as an expression of attitude). How involved in the action or reflection of the poem is the voice? What is the perspective or 'point of view' of the speaker? The perspective can be social, intellectual, political, even physical -- there are many different perspectives, but they all contribute to the voice's point of view, which point of view affects how the world of the poem is seen, and how we respond.

3. What is the argument, thesis, or subject of the poem

What, that is to say, is it apparently 'about'? Start with the basic situation, and move to consider any key statements; any obvious or less obvious conflicts, tensions, ambiguities; key relationships, especially conflicts, parallels, contrasts; any climaxes or problems posed or solved (or not solved); the poem's tone; the historical, social, and emotional setting.

4. What is the structure of the poem?

There are two basic kinds of structure, formal and thematic.

Formal structure is the way the poem goes together in terms of its component parts: if there are parts -- stanza's, paragraphs or such -- then there will be a relation between the parts (for instance the first stanza may give the past, the second the present, the third the future).

Thematic structure, known in respect to fiction as 'plot', is the way the argument or presentation of the material of the poem is developed. For instance a poem might state a problem in eight lines, an answer to the problem in the next six; of the eight lines stating the problem, four might provide a concrete example, four a reflection on what the example implies. There may well be very close relations between formal and thematic structure. When looking at thematic structure, you might look for conflicts, ambiguities and uncertainties, the tensions in the poem, as these give clear guides to the direction of meanings in the poem, the poem's 'in-tensions'.

5. How does the poem make use of setting?

There is the setting in terms of time and place, and there is the setting in terms of the physical world described in the poem.

In terms of the physical world of the poem, setting can be used for a variety of purposes. A tree might be described in specific detail, a concrete, specific, tree; or it might be used in a more tonal way, to create mood or associations, with say the wind blowing mournfully through the willows; or it might be used as a motif, the tree that reminds me of Kathryn, or of my youthful dreams; or it might be used symbolically, as for instance an image of organic life; or it might be used allegorically, as a representation of the cross of Christ (allegory ties an image or event to a specific interpretation, a doctrine or idea; symbols refer to broader, more generalized meanings).

Consider this a spectrum, from specific, concrete, to abstract, allegorical:
concrete --- tonal -- connotative -- symbolic --- allegorical

6. How does the poem use imagery?

"Imagery" refers to any sort of image, and there are two basic kinds. One is the images of the physical setting, described above. The other kind is images as figures of speech, such as metaphors. These figures of speech extend the imaginative range, the complexity and comprehensibility of the subject. They can be very brief, a word or two, a glistening fragment of insight, a chance connection sparked into a blaze (warming or destroying) of understanding; or they can be extended analogies, such as Donne's 'conceits'or Milton's epic similes.

7. Are there key statements or conflicts in the poem that appear to be central to its meaning?

Is the poem direct or indirect in making its meanings? If there are no key statements, are there key or central symbol, repetitions, actions, motifs (recurring images), or the like?

8. How does the sound of the poetry contribute to its meaning?

Pope remarked that "the sound must seem an echo to the sense": both the rhythm and the sound of the words themselves (individually and as they fit together) contribute to the meaning.

9. Examine the use of language.

What kinds of words are used? How much and to what ends does the poet rely on connotation, or the associations that words have (as "stallion" connotes a certain kind of horse with certain sorts of uses)? Does the poem use puns, double meanings, ambiguities of meaning?

10. Can you see any ways in which the poem refers to, uses or relies on previous writing?

This is known as allusion or intertextuality. When U-2's Bono writes "I was thirsty and you kissed my lips" in "Trip Through Your Wires," the meaning of the line is vastly extended if you know that this is a reference to Matthew 25:35 in the Bible, where Jesus says to the saved in explanation of what they did right, "I was thirsty and you wet my lips."

11. What qualities does the poem evoke in the reader?

What sorts of learning, experience, taste and interest would the 'ideal' or 'good' reader of this poem have? What can this tell you about what the poem 'means' or is about? The idea is that any work of art calls forth certain qualities of response, taste, experience, value, from the reader, and in a sense 'forms' the reader of that particular work. This happens through the subject matter, the style, the way the story is told or the scene set, the language, the images, the allusions, all the ways in which we are called by the text to construct meaning. The theorist Wayne Booth calls the reader as evoked or formed by the text the "implied reader."

12. What is your historical and cultural distance from the poem?

What can you say about the difference between your culture's (and sub-culture's) views of the world, your own experiences, on the one hand, and those of the voice, characters, and world of the poem on the other? What is it that you might have to understand better in order to experience the poem the way someone of the same time, class, gender and race might have understood it? Is it possible that your reading might be different from theirs because of your particular social (race, gender, class, etc.) and historical context? What about your world governs the way you see the world of the text? What might this work tell us about the world of its making?

13. What is the world-view and the ideology of the poem?

What are the basic ideas about the world that are expressed? What areas of human experience are seen as important, and what is valuable about them? What areas of human experience or classes of person are ignored or denigrated? A poem about love, for instance, might implicitly or explicitly suggest that individual happiness is the most important thing in the world, and that it can be gained principally through one intimate sexually-based relationship -- to the exclusion, say, of problems of social or political injustice, human brokenness and pain, or other demands on us as humans. It might also suggest that the world is a dangerous, uncertain place in which the only sure ground of meaningfulness is to be found in human relationships, or it might suggest on the other hand that human love is grounded in divine love, and in the orderliness and the value of the natural world with all its beauties. What aspects of the human condition are foregrounded, what are suppressed, in the claims that the poem makes by virtue of its inclusions and exclusions, certainties and uncertainties, and depictions of the way the natural and the human world is and works? For a brief elaboration of the concept of ideology, see my page on the subject.

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II: Analyzing fiction

The analysis of fiction has many similarities to the analysis of poetry. As a rule a work of fiction is a narrative, with characters, with a setting, told by a narrator, with some claim to represent 'the world' in some fashion.

The topics in this section are plot, character, setting, the narrator, figurative language, the way reality is represented, the world-view.

1. Plot.

As a narrative a work of fiction has a certain arrangement of events which are taken to have a relation to one another. This arrangement of events to some end -- for instance to create significance, raise the level of generality, extend or complicate the meaning -- is known as 'plot'. Narrative is integral to human experience; we use it constantly to make sense out of our experience, to remember and relate events and significance, and to establish the basic patterns of behaviour of our lives. If there is no apparent relation of events in a story our options are either to declare it to be poorly written or to assume that the lack of relation is thematic, mean to represent the chaotic nature of human experience, a failure in a character's experience or personality, or the lack of meaningful order in the universe.

In order to establish significance in narrative there will often be coincidence, parallel or contrasting episodes, repetitions of various sorts, including the repetition of challenges, crises, conciliations, episodes, symbols, motifs. The relationship of events in order to create significance is known as the plot.

2. Character.

Characters in a work of fiction are generally designed to open up or explore certain aspects of human experience. Characters often depict particular traits of human nature; they may represent only one or two traits -- a greedy old man who has forgotten how to care about others, for instance, or they may represent very complex conflicts, values and emotions. Usually there will be contrasting or parallel characters, and usually there will be a significance to the selection of kinds of characters and to their relation to each other. As in the use of setting, in fact in almost any representation in art, the significance of a character can vary from the particular, the dramatization of a unique individual, to the most general and symbolic, for instance the representation of a'Christ figure'.

3. Setting.

Narrative requires a setting; this as in poetry may vary from the concrete to the general. Often setting will have particular culturally coded significance -- a sea-shore has a significance for us different from that of a dirty street corner, for instance, and different situations and significances can be constructed through its use. Settings, like characters, can be used in contrasting and comparative ways to add significance, can be repeated, repeated with variations, and so forth.

4. The Narrator.

A narration requires a narrator, someone (or more than one) who tells the story. This person or persons will see things from a certain perspective, or point of view, in terms of their relation to the events and in terms of their attitude(s) towards the events and characters. A narrator may be external, outside the story, telling it with an ostensibly objective and omniscient voice; or a narrator may be a character (or characters) within the story, telling the story in the first person (either central characters or observer characters, bit players looking in on the scene). First-person characters may be reliable, telling the truth, seeing things right, or they may be unreliable, lacking in perspective or self-knowledge. If a narration by an omniscient external narrator carries us into the thoughts of a character in the story, that character is known as a reflector character: such a character does not know he or she is a character, is unaware of the narration or the narrator. An omniscient, external narrator may achieve the narrative by telling or by showing, and she may keep the reader in a relation of suspense to the story (we know no more than the characters) or in a relation of irony (we know things the characters are unaware of).
In any case, who it is who tells the story, from what perspective, with what sense of distance or closeness, with what possibilities of knowledge, and with what interest, are key issues in the making of meaning in narrative. For a fuller discussion, see my page Narrative point of view: some considerations.

5. Figurative language.

As in poetry, there will be figurative language; as in drama, this language tends to be used to characterize the sensibility and understanding of characters as well as to establish thematic and tonal continuities and significance.

6. Representation of reality.

Fiction generally claims to represent 'reality' (this is known as representation or mimesis) in some way; however, because any narrative is presented through the symbols and codes of human meaning and communication systems, fiction cannot represent reality directly, and different narratives and forms of narrative represent different aspects of reality, and represent reality in different ways. A narrative might be very concrete and adhere closely to time and place, representing every-day events; on the other hand it may for instance represent psychological or moral or spiritual aspects through symbols, characters used representatively or symbolically, improbable events, and other devices. In addition you should remember that all narrative requires selection, and therefore it requires exclusion as well, and it requires devices to put the selected elements of experience in meaningful relation to each other (and here we are back to key elements such as coincidence, parallels and opposites, repetitions).

6. World-view.

As narrative represents experience in some way and as it uses cultural codes and language to do so, it inevitably must be read, as poetry, for its structure of values, for its understanding of the world, or world-view, and for its ideological assumptions, what is assumed to be natural and proper. Every narrative communication makes claims, often implicitly, about the nature of the world as the narrator and his or her cultural traditions understand it to be. The kind of writing we call "literature" tends to use cultural codes and to use the structuring devices of narrative with a high degree of intentionality in order to offer a complex understanding of the world. The astute reader of fiction will be aware of the shape of the world that the fiction projects, the structure of values that underlie the fiction (what the fiction explicitly claims and what it implicitly claims through its codes and its ideological understandings); will be aware of the distances and similarities between the world of the fiction and the world that the reader inhabits; and will be aware of the significances of the selections and exclusions of the narrative in representing human experience.

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III: Analysis of Prose in Fiction

Someone is always speaking in a novel -- whether it is a narrator who is not a character within the fiction, or a character within the narrative. Consequently both the particular ideas, attitudes, feelings, perspectives of that speaker, and the concerns and attitudes of the novel as a whole, will be presented through the prose The analytical reader needs to understand what information is conveyed and how it is conveyed. The following is a guide to some things to look for, and contains:
A. prose: the language; sentence structure; imagery and setting; discourse features.
B. characterization
C. genre and tradition

A. The Passage as Prose.

  1. The language:
    1. What kind of language is used? Here are some possibilities:

      Is the language:

      1. abstract or concrete language
      2. language of emotions or of reason
      3. language of control or language of openness
    2. What are the connotations of the language? How much language is connotative? What areas of experience, feeling, and meaning are evoked? When Conrad writes that a gate was "a neglected gap," we have to take notice, as a gate is not ordinarily a gap, nor is the issue of neglect or care usually applied to gaps. Conrad intends to imply, to connote, certain qualities through his language use.
    3. How forceful is the language (see also imagery and sentence structure)?
    4. what aspects of feeling are supported or created by the sound of the language?
      1. by the vowel and consonant sounds -- soft or hard long or short
      2. by how the words go together -- e.g. smoothly, eliding, so that one slides into the other, or separated by your need to move your mouth position.

  2. Sentence structure: Meaning is created by how the sentences sound, by how they are balanced, by the force created by punctuation as well as by language:
    1. by the stresses on words, and the rhythm of the sentence
    2. by the length of the sentence
    3. by whether the sentence has repetitions, parallels, balances and so forth
    4. by the punctuation, and how it makes the sentence sound and flow.

  3. Imagery and setting: Images and use of setting can tell you a great deal about a character, a narrator, a fictional work:
    1. Imagery as figurative language: what sort of metaphors, similes and analogies does the speaker use, and what does that tell you about their outlook and sensibility?
    2. Images as motifs: are their recurring images? What ideas or feelings are aroused by them, what people or events are brought to mind by them?
    3. Imagery as setting: How is the setting used? To create a sense of realism? To create mood? To represent or create a sense of states of mind or feelings? To stand for other things (i.e. symbolic or allegorical -- as for instance Wuthering Heights and Thrushcroft Grange in Wuthering Heights might be said to stand for two ways of viewing the world or two different sociological perspectives, and jungle in Heart of Darkness might be said to stand for the primeval past or for the heart of humankind)?

  4. Discourse features
    1. how long does the person speak?
    2. are the sentences logically joined or disjointed, rational or otherwise ordered, or disorderly?
    3. what tone or attitude does the talk seem to have?
    4. does the speaker avoid saying things, deliberately or unconsciously withhold information, communicate by indirection?
    5. to what extent and to what end does the speaker use rhetorical devices such as irony?

B. Characterization The idea here is that the various features of the prose, above, will support features of characterization which we can discuss in somewhat different terms.

  1. What ideas are expressed in the passage, and what do they tell you about the speaker?
  2. What feelings does the speaker express? What does that tell you about them? Are their feelings consistent?
  3. Does the character belong to a particular character type or represent a certain idea, value, quality or attitude?
  4. What is the social status of the character, and how can you tell from how they speak and what they speak about?
  5. What is the sensibility of the speaker? Is the person ironic, witty, alert to the good or attuned to evil in others, optimistic or pessimistic, romantic or not romantic (cynical, or realistic?).
  6. What is the orientation of the person -- how aware are they of their own and others' needs, and of their environments?
  7. How much control over and awareness of her emotions, her thoughts, her language does the speaker have?
  8. How does the narrator characterize the character through comment or through description?

C. Genre & Tradition

Different traditions and genres tend to use language and characters and setting and plot differently, and this may show in individual passages. Is it a satire, a comedy, a tragedy, a romance? Is it a novel of social comment, an exploration of an idea? (There are more kinds.) Is it in a certain sub-genre like a detective novel, science fiction, etc.? Is it an allegory or a satire, is it realistic or more symbolic? How does this genre, sub-genre or tradition tend to use setting, characters, language, mood or tone? Does this one fit in?

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IV: Writing an Analytical Essay

Your purpose in writing an analytical essay is to convey your sense of what the text is saying, and how the text creates its meaning -- the use of the various aspects and devices mentioned in the previous sections. The simplest way to open your essay is with a statement of what you have decided the meaning of the text, the most sufficient interpretation, is. The body of your essay is then a presentation or 'defense' of your interpretation: you demonstrate the ways in which the text makes the meaning you believe it to have. In the conclusion you sum up your findings or recapitulate your argument briefly, and extend the significance of your reading if you wish -- this is where you comment on the more general, cultural or moral or technical significances of the theme and techniques of the text. You may begin you essay in other ways -- by stating what the main barriers are to an interpretation of the poem or what the main difficulties with arriving at an interpretation are, for instance, and how consequently you intend to deal with the text , or by stating what sorts of options you have in terms of emphases and why you have chosen the one(s) you have chosen. It is important to give the reader a sense of how you are proceeding in the essay and why.

There is no sure-fire formula for essay writing. The form your essay takes will likely vary with the nature of your evidence (quotations from the text, principally, or from other sources), with your sense of how the text is structured and shaped, with your interpretation, and with your sense of what issues are most relevant. Obviously, you will have to make some organizational decisions. In writing on a poem, for example, do you go through a poem stanza by stanza showing how the meaning is developed? If this is your method, be sure you avoid the pitfalls: mere paraphrase, providing an unselective running commentary, and disorganization of kinds of evidence. An alternative approach might focus on the poem aspect by aspect (the point of view, the voice, the setting, and so forth). The pitfalls here are not being able show how the various aspects tie together to create meaning, and assuming that each aspect deserves equal and exhaustive treatment. Fiction is usually analyzed by considering one or more aspects of the work in the categories of theme (ideas, meanings), and/or of fictional techniques (plot, point of view, etc.).

Remember that there are different kinds of literature in each genre, and that different kinds may rely on different devices. A poem may be narrative; it may be a dramatic monologue; it may be a collection of images with no human in sight; it may develop a logical argument; it may work allusively, analogically, symbolically and so forth; it may have a careful stanza-by stanza development, or it may depend on repetitions, images, and so forth. A work of fiction might be allegorical, it might use magical realism, it might concentrate on the effects of the environment, or it might attempt metaphorically to represent the interior lives of characters. Figure out what the main devices and strategies are, and concentrate on them, adding the lesser ones later and not necessarily in full. Try, if you are not sure of your interpretation, starting with the simplest, most obvious situation -- two lovers are meeting, say -- and add other possible points of meaning as they seem to extend or illuminate the dramatic situation -- for instance a storm is threatening, the meeting is seen from only one lover's point of view, each stanza gives a different meaning to what the significance of physical love might be, and so forth. Always deal with the 'form' as well as the 'content', however, with how the way something is said shapes what it means.

Before you write your essay read about writing essays in the Norton anthology, pp. 2147 -- 2165 (if you are an ENGL 1F95 student). Look, too at the "Student Writing" essays in the anthology, for instance on pages 212, 323, 477, 755, 861, 909, 1176, 1461, 1942. Read, too, the section on writing and on documentation in The Little, Brown Compact Handbook, Section VI, "Research and Documentation" and Section VII, "Special Types of Writing." Write what you have to say as clearly and precisely as you can. Have someone proof-read your paper for you for spelling and grammatical errors and for intelligibility.

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Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 8, October 30, 2000

How Television Has Changed

You really have to get very old before you realize you’re old. I’m in my middle fifties and I don’t feel old yet. However, sometimes I look back at my childhood and __1__ things to the way life is for __2__ kids. Some things have certainly changed.
One area of change is television. Some changes have been improvements. Some changes, on the other hand, have been __3__.
When I started school, most people didn’t have a television; TV was just beginning to get __4__. My father decided to go all out and buy a 16 inch black and white Motorola set. I still remember watching the Lone Ranger save people from the __5__ guys on that awesome electronic machine. That was exciting!
Now, __6__ have larger pictures in full color. The pictures are clearer and the sound is much more realistic. The new high definition sets are made to rival __7__ screens.
The variety and quantity of programming has __8__ greatly. There are hundreds of channels and more shows than one person could ever watch. There are many fine entertainment and educational __9__. There’s also a lot of garbage, stuff that most parents don’t want their kids exposed to. Overall, we have more choices, and that is good.
I wonder what __10__ will be like when today’s kids are my age.

rhlschool.com.RHL School - Free Worksheets and MoreCopyright 2000 RHL

How Television Has Changed

1. forget remember compare miss

2. today's yesterday's tomorrow's poor

3. great huge setbacks remarkable

4. gone replaced expensive popular

5. old good bad best

6. films movies billboards televisions

7. movie video watch telephone

8. loss increased decreased played

9. books shows authors awards

10. movies food cars television

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Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 9, November 6, 2000

Who Elects the President?

November 7, 2000 is a very special day in the United States. Voters all across the nation are __1__ representatives in local and national races. Some people think that they’re voting for the president of our country too. They’re not! Again, they're voting for __2__. These representatives are called electors. They are part of a system called the Electoral College.
In most states the electors are chosen on a winner take all basis. That makes it possible for one candidate to win the most electors while getting less popular votes nationally than his __3__.
The electors will meet in their respective states and cast their votes for president and vice-president on December 18, 2000. The Constitution does not __4__ the electors to vote for the candidates that they are pledged to, but they almost always do. On January 6, 2001, just two weeks before the new president and vice-president take office, the votes will be counted in Congress.
If no one gets a majority (more than half) of the electoral votes, at least 270 out of 538, the __5__ will be chosen by Congress. The House of Representatives will choose (one vote per state) the president and the Senate will choose the vice-president. It’s not likely, but we could actually end up with a president from one party and a vice- president from another.
In an extremely close election, all kinds of strange outcomes are __6__. Will the __7__ that most voters prefer be the next __8__? And when will we even know?

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Who Elects the President?

1. phoning asking wishing electing

2. president someone candidates representatives

3. mother election memory opponent

4. force see remind popcorn

5. voters winners people guys

6. possible impossible good bad

7. food election car candidate

8. diner victory dog president

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Critical Reading

Critical reading is actually a two-step process: reading for understanding and analyzing what you have read. When you are asked to evaluate a piece of writing, you must first be sure that you clearly understand what you have read. Only when you understand the author's viewpoint, purpose, and methods of support are you ready to critique the piece effectively.

Steps to Reading for Understanding

  1. Identify the thesis statement and topic sentences.
  2. Identify key words and phrases.
  3. Look up new vocabulary.
  4. Trace the organization (examine the order in which points are presented).
  5. Identify the support for the thesis (examples, illustrations, arguments, etc.).

Once you understand what is being presented, you are ready to evaluate. As you re-read, it is helpful to jot down notes concerning the content; indicate the sections with which you agree/disagree, question the puzzling sections, mark the sections that seem contradictory or irrelevant, etc.

Analyzing What You Have Read

  1. Does the article present facts or only opinion?
  2. If the author offers opinions, are they well-supported? Are they too generalized?
  3. Are the ideas developed logically and convincingly?
  4. Does the author leave important things unsaid?
  5. Are irrelevant or pointless details included?
  6. What authority does the author have on the subject? What bias?
  7. Does the article come from a reputable source?

It is nearly impossible to critically analyze everything about a piece of writing (unless it is extremely short). Attempting to do so often leads a writer into unsupported generalizations rather than a detailed criticism of the work. Your writing should focus on a single aspect of the work in question, such as the following:

  1. Thesis Statement- Is it convincing? Logical? Do you agree/disagree with it? Why?
  2. Supporting Details- Do they logically support the thesis? Is support of the thesis complete? Do you agree/disagree? Why?
  3. Organization- How does it function in the essay? Is the essay well-organized? How does the author use transition devices?
  4. Analysis of the Issues- Are they examined completely? Does the author cover all possible angles? What issues are left out, and why? Are you persuaded? Why (not)?

Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 10, November 13, 2000

Word Meanings From Context

1. If you count all the votes in an area that heavily supports candidate A, and only some of the votes in an area that heavily supports candidate B, you’ll skew the results in favor of candidate A.

What does “skew” mean?

a. roast
b. ignore
c. slant
d. ask

2. The home team made sure that the officials were on their side. They won a close game and the championship with many questionable decisions from the officials. However, no one from any other town would accept the winners as legitimate champions.

What does “legitimate” mean?

a. real
b. talented
c. sneaky
d. good looking

3. Some people believe that lawyers are always working to see that justice is done. On the other hand, some believe that lawyers only want to manipulate the legal system to get what they want. Could both sides be right?

What does “manipulate” mean?

a. control in a dishonest way
b. give help
c. teach about or explain
d. disagree with

4. Both sides battled for years. They were very far apart and could find no way to make a lasting peace. When the fighting finally came to an end, everyone was exhausted and embittered.

What does embittered mean?

a. very angry, resentful
b. sour tasting
c. humorous
d. annoyed

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Reading Comprehension
Volume 6, Number 11, November 27, 2000

Word Meanings From Context

1. Both sides in the election contest are throwing accusations at each other. The Gore supporters claim that Governor Bush is trying to thwart the will of the people. The Bush supporters say that Mr. Gore is trying to create votes or assign choices to people who did not really cast votes for president.

What does “thwart” mean?

a. help
b. figure out
c. block
d. tickle

2. There is a legal battle raging and the judges are concerned that time is running out. Lawyers are being asked to expedite the matter by getting their paperwork in early.

What does “expedite” mean?

a. quicken
b. agree on
c. sue
d. discuss

3. The Florida legislature believes that it has the power to choose the winner of the election if the courts haven’t finished their work by December 12. Both houses are controlled by Republicans and they would surely resolve the matter in Bush’s favor.

What does “resolve” mean?

a. cancel
b. consider
c. debate
d. settle

4. The election could actually end up being decided in the U.S. Congress. Al Gore’s vice presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman, and perhaps Mr. Gore himself, would be able to vote on the matter. Some would argue that they should recuse themselves, but they would probably exercise their right to vote.

What does “recuse” mean?

a. step aside and not be involved
b. admit that you are wrong
c. leave the country
d. insist on being heard

Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing

Critical Reading: What is It? | How Do I Read Looking for Ways of Thinking? | Practical Tips

Critical writing depends on critical reading. Most of the papers you write will involve reflection on written texts - the thinking and research that has already been done on your subject. In order to write your own analysis of this subject, you will need to do careful critical reading of sources and to use them critically to make your own argument. The judgments and interpretations you make of the texts you read are the first steps towards formulating your own approach.

Critical Reading: What is It?

To read critically is to make judgements about how a text is argued. This is a highly reflective skill requiring you to "stand back" and gain some distance from the text you are reading. (You might have to read a text through once to get a basic grasp of content before you launch into an intensive critical reading.) THE KEY IS THIS:

  • don't read looking only or primarily for information
  • do read looking for ways of thinking about the subject matter

When you are reading, highlighting, or taking notes, avoid extracting and compiling lists of evidence, lists of facts and examples. Avoid approaching a text by asking "What information can I get out of it?" Rather ask "How does this text work? How is it argued? How is the evidence (the facts, examples, etc.) used and interpreted? How does the text reach its conclusions?


How Do I Read Looking for Ways of Thinking?

  1. First determine the central claims or purpose of the text (its thesis). A critical reading attempts to assess how these central claims are developed or argued.
  2. Begin to make some judgements about context . What audience is the text written for? Who is it in dialogue with? (This will probably be other scholars or authors with differing viewpoints.) In what historical context is it written? All these matters of context can contribute to your assessment of what is going on in a text.
  3. Distinguish the kinds of reasoning the text employs. What concepts are defined and used? Does the text appeal to a theory or theories? Is any specific methodology laid out? If there is an appeal to a particular concept, theory, or method, how is that concept, theory, or method then used to organize and interpret the data? You might also examine how the text is organized: how has the author analyzed (broken down) the material? Be aware that different disciplines (i.e. history, sociology, philosophy, biology) will have different ways of arguing.
  4. Examine the evidence (the supporting facts, examples, etc) the text employs. Supporting evidence is indispensable to an argument. Having worked through Steps 1-3, you are now in a position to grasp how the evidence is used to develop the argument and its controlling claims and concepts. Steps 1-3 allow you to see evidence in its context. Consider the kinds of evidence that are used. What counts as evidence in this argument? Is the evidence statistical? literary? historical? etc. From what sources is the evidence taken? Are these sources primary or secondary?
  5. Critical reading may involve evaluation. Your reading of a text is already critical if it accounts for and makes a series of judgments about how a text is argued. However, some essays may also require you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an argument. If the argument is strong, why? Could it be better or differently supported? Are there gaps, leaps, or inconsistencies in the argument? Is the method of analysis problematic? Could the evidence be interpreted differently? Are the conclusions warranted by the evidence presented? What are the unargued assumptions? Are they problematic? What might an opposing argument be?

Some Practical Tips

  1. Critical reading occurs after some preliminary processes of reading. Begin by skimming research materials, especially introductions and conclusions, in order to strategically choose where to focus your critical efforts.
  2. When highlighting a text or taking notes from it, teach yourself to highlight argument: those places in a text where an author explains her analytical moves, the concepts she uses, how she uses them, how she arrives at conclusions. Don't let yourself foreground and isolate facts and examples, no matter how interesting they may be. First, look for the large patterns that give purpose, order, and meaning to those examples. The opening sentences of paragraphs can be important to this task.
  3. When you begin to think about how you might use a portion of a text in the argument you are forging in your own paper, try to remain aware of how this portion fits into the whole argument from which it is taken. Paying attention to context is a fundamental critical move.
  4. When you quote directly from a source, use the quotation critically. This means that you should not substitute the quotation for your own articulation of a point. Rather, introduce the quotation by laying out the judgments you are making about it, and the reasons why you are using it. Often a quotation is followed by some further analysis.
  5. Critical reading skills are also critical listening skills. In your lectures, listen not only for information but also for ways of thinking. Your instructor will often explicate and model ways of thinking appropriate to a discipline.
  6. [Top]
    Written by Deborah Knott, New College Writing Centre. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

    Reading Comprehension
    Volume 6, Number 12, December 7, 2000

    Using Context - Synonyms

    Use the context of the selections to identify synonyms.

    Harold is a hard worker who helps our company succeed. We would be well advised to pay him more money before some other corporation snatches him away. It’s always wise to compensate employees fairly if you want your business to thrive.

    1. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “compensate”?

    2. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “corporation”?

    Santa just can’t expect his elves to manufacture all the presents he needs to deliver to good little boys and girls. That task could never be done in time. The elves do make many of the toys in Santa’s own shop. The rest of the toys are outsourced to major companies around the world. Santa requires a lot of help to get his job accomplished.

    3. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “manufacture”?

    4. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “accomplished”?

    5. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “needs”?

    6. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “job”?

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    Reading Comprehension
    Volume 6, Number 13, December 14, 2000

    All Around the Christmas Tree

    All around the Christmas tree
    As little kids they played.
    All the world was magic;
    Dreams were not delayed.
    All around the Christmas tree
    Happiness was made.

    All around the Christmas tree
    They learned how life was shared,
    Growing up together,
    Those who really cared.
    All around the Christmas tree
    For future days prepared.

    All around the Christmas tree
    They watched their children play.
    Families joined together
    To celebrate the day.
    All around the Christmas tree
    Loving words to say.

    All around the Christmas tree
    They sit and proudly gaze,
    Older and more peaceful,
    Savoring these days.
    All around the Christmas tree
    Settled in their ways.

    Reading Comprehension
    Volume 6, Number 14, January 12, 2001

    Using Context - Antonyms

    Use the context of the selections to identify antonyms.

    Megan was determined to finish her homework before bedtime. She still had to start her math assignment; it would take at least an hour to complete. She sighed and thought, “I’ve been working really hard since right after dinner!”

    1. Which word in the paragraph is an antonym of “complete”?

    2. Which word in the paragraph is an antonym of “before”?

    There are some very different opinions about the outcome of the presidential election. James insists that Al Gore really won the election and that the U.S. Supreme Court took it away from him. He didn’t have the same kind of objections when the Florida Supreme Court ruled for his candidate. Is James right, or is he just a sore loser?

    In my opinion, the final decision was correct. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled against a very bad and unequal process. Votes weren’t being counted, they were being assigned to people who hadn’t cast legal votes. George W. Bush was the true winner of the presidential election.

    3. Which word in the selection is an antonym of “same”?

    4. Which word in the selection is an antonym of “against”?

    5. Which word in the selection is an antonym of “loser”?

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    Reading Comprehension
    Volume 6, Number 15, January 22, 2001

    Word Meanings From Context

    The United States has a new president. Americans are hopeful that George W. Bush will succeed in dealing with some of the major problems that our nation faces. Some feel that the task will be made extremely difficult by the controversial way that the election ended. Others are very confident that our new leader is a man who will bring people together to get things done.

    President Bush’s top priority will be to improve education in our country. He is determined to see that no child will ever fail. He believes that local school districts should decide how to meet national standards. The president insists that parents should have greater choices about which schools their kids attend. He will work hard to find areas of agreement between the opposing parties so that important education reforms will become law.

    1. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “important”?

    2. Which word in the selection is an antonym of “succeed”?

    3. Which word in the selection means to make better?

    4. Use a word from the selection to complete the following sentence.

    The Giants and the Ravens will be the ___________ teams in the Super Bowl.

    5. Which word in the selection is a synonym of “nation”?

    6. Which word in the selection means the rank (place in order) of importance?

    7. Which word in the selection means having a lot of disagreement.

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    Reading Comprehension
    Volume 6, Number 16, March 5, 2001

    Word Meanings From Context

    Ryan is a great inventor. However, I don’t think that his latest invention, edible socks, is likely to be too successful. Not many people want to eat socks. There are some things in life that should remain inedible.

    1. Which word in the passage means “fit to be eaten”?

    2. Which word in the passage means “not fit to be eaten”?

    Marsha is really an introvert. When I took her to Jason’s party, she sat in a corner without speaking to anyone. All she did was eat most of the snacks. The only reason she hangs out with me is because I never try to force her to be sociable. She would never forgive me if I introduced her to anyone.

    3. An introvert is usually _____.

    a. friendly
    b. hungry
    c. unclean
    d. shy

    Sunshine said, Amber, why are you making such a big deal about Robert’s hair? Yes, he did dye it purple. It is rather unusual for a guy to have purple hair. On the other hand, it’s not exactly going to change the course of world history. It’s really quite a trivial matter.

    4. What does “trivial” mean?

    a. strange
    b. unimportant
    c. disgusting
    d. dangerous

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    The Topic:
    Skimming and Scanning

    Easier - There are different styles of reading for different situations. The technique you choose will depend on the purpose for reading. For example, you might be reading for enjoyment, information, or to complete a task. If you are exploring or reviewing, you might skim a document. If you're searching for information, you might scan for a particular word. To get detailed information, you might use a technique such as SQ4R. You need to adjust your reading speed and technique depending on your purpose.

    Many people consider skimming and scanning search techniques rather than reading strategies. However when reading large volumes of information, they may be more practical than reading. For example, you might be searching for specific information, looking for clues, or reviewing information.

    Harder - Web pages, novels, textbooks, manuals, magazines, newspapers, and mail are just a few of the things that people read every day. Effective and efficient readers learn to use many styles of reading for different purposes. Skimming, scanning, and critical reading are different styles of reading and information processing.

    Skimming is used to quickly identify the main ideas of a text. When you read the newspaper, you're probably not reading it word-by-word, instead you're scanning the text. Skimming is done at a speed three to four times faster than normal reading. People often skim when they have lots of material to read in a limited amount of time. Use skimming when you want to see if an article may be of interest in your research.

    There are many strategies that can be used when skimming. Some people read the first and last paragraphs using headings, summarizes and other organizers as they move down the page or screen. You might read the title, subtitles, subheading, and illustrations. Consider reading the first sentence of each paragraph. This technique is useful when you're seeking specific information rather than reading for comprehension. Skimming works well to find dates, names, and places. It might be used to review graphs, tables, and charts.

    Scanning is a technique you often use when looking up a word in the telephone book or dictionary. You search for key words or ideas. In most cases, you know what you're looking for, so you're concentrating on finding a particular answer. Scanning involves moving your eyes quickly down the page seeking specific words and phrases. Scanning is also used when you first find a resource to determine whether it will answer your questions. Once you've scanned the document, you might go back and skim it.

    When scanning, look for the author's use of organizers such as numbers, letters, steps, or the words, first, second, or next. Look for words that are bold faced, italics, or in a different font size, style, or color. Sometimes the author will put key ideas in the margin.

    Reading off a computer screen has become a growing concern. Research shows that people have more difficulty reading off a computer screen than off paper. Although they can read and comprehend at the same rate as paper, skimming on the computer is much slower than on paper.



    • "What do I need to find out?" Be aware of your purpose in research before you start reading.


    • You can’t read everything on a topic, so develop efficient reading skills – good reading speed and good comprehension.


    • Before reading, you need to scan the book or article. This involves looking at contents, chapter headings, graphics, diagrams and introduction. Look quickly to gain an overall impression.


    • This is a quick reading or skimming of certain sections: the opening paragraph, the first sentence in a paragraph, sub headings and the final paragraph of the article.
    • Let your eyes roam down the page, concentrating on the centre section, searching for important words or key terms. "There are three reasons why …" Train your eyes to roam down the page reading and anticipating groups of words. Practise moving your hand or finger down the page to train your eye to move more quickly.


  7. Don’t read one word at a time. The rate of skimming should be at least twice as fast as your normal reading. Vary your reading rate to suit your purpose and type of text. Slow skim information that looks important to select and take notes or fast skim information that is not relevant.

  8. Reading Comprehension Skills - Scanning

    Scanning is used to discover required information to complete a given task such as making a decision about what to watch on TV, or which museum to visit while visiting a foreign city. Ask students NOT to read the excerpt before they begin the exercise, but rather, to focus on completing the task based on what the question requires. It is probably a good idea to do some awareness raising of the various types of reading skills that they use naturally in their own mother tongue (i.e. extensive, intensive, skimming, scanning) before beginning this exercise.

    Aim: Reading practice focusing on scanning

    Activity: Comprehension questions used as cues for scanning a TV schedule



    • Do a short awareness raising session by asking students how they go about making decisions based on schedules, short articles etc. Focus on whether they read every word and if the read in strict order when making such a decision in their own mother tongue.
    • Remind them that this process is the same in English and does not require that they understand every word perfectly.
    • Distribute comprehension questions and TV schedule to students.
    • Make a special point of asking students to complete the exercise by first reading the question and then scanning for the appropriate answer.
    • Ask students to use the TV schedule to answer the questions. To increase difficulty add a timing element (this should help students who insist on understanding every word to not do so).
    • Correct activity as a class.
    • Extend activity by bringing in a number of magazines concerning travel, entertainment or a similar activity and asking students to complete a given task - for example finding a destination they would like to visit or choosing a film they would like to see. Once again, ask students to do the exercise by scanning and not reading each word.
    What's On?
    First read the following questions and then use the TV Schedule to find the answers.
    1. Jack has a video - can he watch both documentaries without having to make a video?
    2. Is there a show about making good investments?
    3. You are thinking about traveling to the USA for a vacation. Which show should you watch?
    4. Your friend doesn't have a TV, but would like to watch a film starring Tom Cruise. Which film should you record on your video?
    5. Peter is interested in wild animals which show should he watch?
    6. Which sport can you watch that takes place outside?
    7. Which sport can you watch that takes place inside?
    8. You like modern art. Which documentary should you watch?
    9. How often can you watch the news?
    10. Is there a horror film on this evening?

    6.00 p.m.: National News - join Jack Parsons for your daily news roundup.
    6.30: The Tiddles- Peter joins Mary for a wild adventure in the park.
    7.00: Golf Review- Watch highlights from today's final round of the Grand Master's.
    8.30: Shock from the Past- This entertaining film by Arthur Schmidt takes a poke at the wild side of gambling.
    10.30: Nightly News- A review of the day's most important events.
    11.00: MOMA: Art for Everyone- A fascinating documentary that helps you enjoy the difference between pointilism and video installations.
    12:00: Hard Day's Night- Reflections after a long, hard day.


    6.00 p.m.: In-Depth News - In-depth coverage of the most important national and international news stories.
    7.00: Nature Revealed- Interesting documentary taking a look at the microscopic universe in your average speck of dust. 7.30: Ping - Pong Masters- Live coverage from Peking. 9.30: It's Your Money- That's right and this favorite game show could make or break you depending on how you place your bets. 10.30: Green Park- Stephen King's latest monster madness. 0.30: Late Night News- Get the news you need to get a hard start on the upcoming day.


    6.00 p.m.: Travel Abroad - This week we travel to sunny California!
    6.30: The Flintstones- Fred and Barney are at it again.
    7.00: Pretty Boy- Tom Cruise, the prettiest boy of them all, in an action packed thriller about Internet espionage.
    9.00: Tracking the Beast- The little understood wildebeest filmed in its natural surroundings with commentary by Dick Signit.
    10.00: Pump Those Weights- A guide to successfully using weights to develop your physique while getting fit.
    11.30: The Three Idiots- A fun farce based on those three tenors who don't know when to call it quits.
    1.00: National Anthem- Close the day with this salute to our country.

    Worksheet Printing Page

    Skimming and Scanning are two key skills identified in the Programmes of Study for KS2 Reading in the National Curriculum. The following exercise will help the children to practice these, will increase their exposure to different kinds of texts, and will increase their awareness of the different consonant blends.

    1) Choose a page of text which can easily be photocopied onto a single A4 page. This can be from any kind of book, and if the activity is repeated, try to vary the kinds of texts that you use (e.g. stories, information books, pages from dictionaries). Make sure that each child has one copy. They should also have access to coloured pens and / or pencils.

    2) Read through the text with the children to give them a general understanding of it..

    3) The main part of the activity can be tried in two different ways:

    • Give the children a time limit (e.g. 5 minutes) and ask them to find as many occurrences of a certain consonant blend (e.g. "ch") as possible. They should colour each "ch" on the page in a certain colour (e.g. red), whether the "ch" is found at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of a word. At the end of the time, ask them to count the number of "ch"s they have found.
    • Before the lesson, count how many "ch"s there are on the page. Then, instead of getting the children to find as many of these as possible in a certain time, ask them to find them all (telling them how many there are on the page), colouring them in as above. The first person to find all of them wins.

    4) Now, ask them to find a different blend (e.g. "st"), making sure that they colour these in using a different colour.

    5) Repeat the activity using different texts, and finding different blends.

    Another suggestion has been contributed by a visitor...

    This is fun practice for identifying keywords. You need a class set of whatever non-fiction or fiction text is currently being studied. If the books are shared, partners must take turns or you risk torn pages!

    The teacher chooses 2-3 words, each occurring only once on page. Write the word, then the page number on the board. The winner is first person to find the word and prove by reading the sentence containing that word. Then children can identify and write up their own keywords for others to find.

    Scanning speed reading

    Scanning is the first thing that you do when you select a resource. It answers the question: -
    Is this the right resource to help me find the answers to my questions? Will it give me the answers I want?

    Scan - by zapping through the whole resource homing in on the important bits.
    Scan before you start skimming.
    Scanning gives you a feeling for the whole item.

    Think about:

    • Is it relevant?
    • Is there any thing in it that answers the target questions?

    Look at:

    • Title page.
    • The contents page. Are there chapters or sections that you may want to read?

    Are there maps, diagrams, pictures, captions? Do they look as if they would be helpful? Scanning involves running your eyes down the page looking for specific facts or key words and phrases.

    You already use scanning

    Recall how you find a word in a vocabulary? You don't read any more than necessary to find the word you seek. Notice that you go directly down a column. Maybe you use your finger to guide your eyes. This type of reading is usually called scanning.

    Scanning is a technique you often use when looking up a word in the telephone book or dictionary. You search for key words or ideas. In most cases, you know what you're looking for, so you're concentrating on finding a particular answer. Scanning involves moving your eyes quickly down the page seeking specific words and phrases. Scanning is also used when you first find a resource to determine whether it will answer your questions. Once you've scanned the document, you might go back and skim it.

    When scanning, look for the author's use of organizers such as numbers, letters, steps, or the words, first, second, or next. Look for words that are bold faced, italics, or in a different font size, style, or color. Sometimes the author will put key ideas in the margin.

    Reading off a computer screen has become a growing concern. Research shows that people have more difficulty reading off a computer screen than off paper. Although they can read and comprehend at the same rate as paper, skimming on the computer is much slower than on paper.

    Similarly, scanning skills are valuable for several purposes in studying science. First, they are an aid in locating new terms, which are introduced in the chapter. Unless you understand the new terms, it is impossible to follow the author's reasoning without dictionary or glossary. Thus a preliminary scanning of the chapters will alert you to the new terms and concepts and their sequence. When you locate a new term, try to find its definition. If you are not able to figure out the meaning, then look it up in the glossary or dictionary. (Note: usually new terms are defined as they are introduced in science texts. If your text does not have a glossary, it is a good idea to keep a glossary of your own in the front page of the book. Record the terms and their definition or the page number where the definition is located. This is an excellent aid to refer to when you are reviewing for an examination, as it provides a convenient outline of the course).

    Secondly, scanning is useful in locating statements, definitions, formulas, etc. which you must remember completely and precisely. Scan to find the exact and complete statement of a chemical law., the formula of a particular compound in chemistry, or the stages of cell division. Also, scan the charts and figures, for they usually summarize in graphic form the major ideas and facts of the chapter.

    Just start

    Scan how the page is laid out, and use bold headers and captions to get an overview of the ideas and themes.

    • Use peripheral vision; don't focus only on the logical flow of the text. Observe what you're reading with a wide-angle scope, as if you were looking at an image rather than a block of text. Use the same wide-eye span as you do when driving, looking at all that surrounds you and heading your way.
    • Using the wide-span approach, there are several methods in which you can "read" a page.
      - Read paragraphs diagonally, and place emphasis on the key words.
      - Read the page in a "Z"
      - Read in a "U", moving down the page, and back up.
    • Skim the text by reading the first sentence of each paragraph.
    • Try to speed up your eye movements to take in more per reading, rather than stay fixated and focused on a word.
    • Use the help of your index finger, by moving it at a slightly faster pace than your reading speed. When reading on the Internet, scroll down quicker than you actually read.

    How Can I Locate the Main Idea?

    Ditulis oleh Mr Frans di/pada Desember 17, 2007

    Once you can find the topic, you are ready to find the main idea. The main idea is the point of the paragraph. It is the most important thought about the topic.

    To figure out the main idea, ask yourself this question: What is being said about the person, thing, or idea (the topic)?

    The author can locate the main idea in different places within a paragraph. The main idea is usually a sentence, and it is usually the first sentence. The writer then uses the rest of the paragraph to support the main idea.

    Let’s use the paragraph below as an example. First find the topic, then look for the main idea.

    Summer is a wonderful time to spend at West Beach. It is a beach with light-

    colored, soft sand. The coastline goes on for a long way and many people enjoy walking

    along it. Children like to play in the surf and walk along the rocks that are visible at

    low tide. This is a fun beach for people of all ages.

    In this paragraph:

    • the topic is West Beach

    • the main idea (what the writer is saying about the topic) is that summer is a wonderful time at West Beach

    Here is another example:

    The movie Apollo 13 was a blockbuster for the summer of 1995.

    It is an exciting story about space exploration. In the movie, the astronauts

    get in trouble while they are trying to return to Earth. People in the audience

    are on the edge of their seats waiting to see what happens. What makes it even

    more exciting is that it is a true story.

    In this paragraph:

    • the topic is the movie Apollo 13

    • the main idea is in the first sentence: Apollo 13 was a blockbuster for the summer of 1995

    While the main idea is usually in the first sentence, the next most common placement is in the last sentence of a paragraph. The author gives supporting information first and then makes the point in the last sentence.

    Fast reading techniques

    Make life easier

    • Once you know how to scan or skim a document, practise the skills on your course material.
    • Coloured overlays or tracking rulers can help reduce the distracting glare from white pages. Suppliers include Crossbow Education and Cerium.

    Fast reading techniques help you to browse text and extract the key points. The skills require practice, but once you have got the hang of them you’ll find you can get through a substantial amount of reading in quite a short time.

    Scanning – a useful first step before reading more deeply.

    Skimming – handy when you're looking for particular things within a text, or trying to find out whether a text will be useful.

    Ways to develop your skimming and scanning skills
    Scanning Skimming

    Read quickly to get an overview prior to in-depth reading. Although you may still need to read the entire text, by scanning first you can decide where you want to concentrate your time.

    Run your eyes down the page to

    • spot new concepts or terminology so you can check the meaning before you start reading
    • find information on a specific topic
    • look for key words to give an indication of the scope of the text
    • read the first and last paragraphs to get the main points
    • look at the first sentence of each paragraph to get a feel for the content
    • note the key points in the summaries.

    Locate specific information to give an overview of a text, for example a reference document, by finding out

    • what it's called
    • who produced it
    • when it was produced
    • who it was produced for
    • why you think it was produced.

    This overview will help you decide whether you should read further, and how useful the document might be for your study.

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