Becoming an Active Reader Study Guide (page 3)

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Looking for Clues

We've already mentioned the word clues a couple of times in this lesson. That's because good readers are a lot like detectives. They don't read just to get through a passage; they pay careful attention to words and details, much like Sherlock Holmes would do if he were solving a mystery. Detectives look for clues that will help them better understand the writer's ideas. These clues come in many forms:

  • specific word choice and details
  • repeated words or phrases
  • the structure of sentences or paragraphs

The key to finding these clues is to look carefully. Be observant. As you read, keep your eyes open. Look at not just what the writer is saying, but also how he or she says it. Notice the words he or she uses. Look at how the ideas are organized.

Being observant is essential for reading success. People draw conclusions (make inferences) about what they read, and sometimes those conclusions are wrong. Usually this means that they just didn't read carefully enough. They didn't notice the clues the writer left for them, and they based their conclusions on their own ideas. But conclusions should be based on the ideas that are there in the text.

The rest of this book will give you specific strategies for recognizing these clues.


Active reading is the key to reading success. Active readers use the following strategies:

  • skimming ahead and jumping back
  • highlighting or underlining key words and ideas
  • looking up unfamiliar vocabulary words
  • recording their questions and comments
  • looking for clues not just in what the writer says, but in how he or she says it


Here are some ways to practice the skills you've learned in this lesson. Practice them today and for the rest of the week:

  1. Write a quick note or e-mail to a friend and explain what "active reading" means. Describe the strategies that active readers use to better understand and remember what they read.
  2. Develop a detective's eye. Notice the things around you. Look at the details on people's faces and clothing. Notice the names of the stores you pass on your way to school. Pay close attention to the things around you. You may be surprised at the interesting things you see that you hadn't noticed before. To test yourself, write down the names of all the stores on the block where you walk every day, or jot down the colors of all the houses on the street where you live.
  3. Try your active reading strategies when you read your favorite magazine.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Becoming an Active Reader Practice Exercises

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