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Getting the Essential Information in Reading: Reading Comprehension Review Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 24, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Getting the Essential Information in Reading: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

Have you ever read something and then, almost as soon as you put it down, forget what it was you read? We've all done that. Many times we're just in such a hurry and we don't take time to really pay attention to the details of what we're reading. Think about everything you've read today. Can you remember it all? Probably not. A lot of what we read isn't meant to be remembered for any significant length of time. For instance, think of a restaurant menu. When you read it, you need to remember what you read so you know what to order. But aside from that, it's probably not important to remember all the stuff you read! However, sometimes it's very important to remember what you read, and a lot of what you read for school falls into this category. Your teacher assigns you something to read with the intention that you'll learn from it—not just read it and move on. When you want to actually learn something from a text, you don't just read it, you comprehend it. That's what this book is all about.

PACE YOURSELF

SPEND A WHOLE day noticing what you read. Keep a notebook with you and record every time you read something. At the end of the day, look at your notes. You'll be surprised at how much you've read!

In reading comprehension, it's important to be an active reader. That's someone who focuses on what he or she is reading and connects with it. So instead of reading like they would a restaurant menu, active readers really learn from what they read. If you're wondering how you can become an active reader, read on!

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

THE OPPOSITE OF active is passive. Passive means lacking in energy or will.

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

IF YOU READ every word in this book, you'll have read more than 32,000 words!

The first step in becoming an active reader is to get in there and dissect the text. No, don't rip up the page or anything like that! This just means that you want to read each sentence slowly and carefully, and extract every little bit of information that you can from it. If you're thinking that it'll take a long time to focus so intently on each sentence, you're right—but it's worth the time. When you first start it may take a long time, but as you learn what to look for, you'll know exactly what to extract—and fast!

PACE YOURSELF

ACTIVE READING OFTEN requires going back and rereading something to get more information. Count the number of times the word the appears in the previous paragraph.

Every day you come across text that contains valuable information, and every day you dissect text without even thinking about it. Whether it's a travel guide, a recipe, or instructions for how to play a game, you naturally break down what you're reading to get the information you need. With a recipe for example, you ask yourself questions: "What ingredients do I need?" "How long do I bake it?" "When do I put in the eggs?" For a travel guide, you might ask other questions: "When do I go?" "What should I see?" "How do I use the transportation system once I get there?"

PACE YOURSELF

THINK OF THREE other things you read every day in order to get information.

You'll notice that the questions you ask have something in common. They all use one of the question words. You probably know them already, but here's a quick review:

      who
      what
      when
      where
      why
      how

When you're an active reader, you look for answers to certain questions: What happened? Who was involved? When did it happen? The answers to such questions give you the basic facts in the text you're reading. Getting those basic facts is the first step on the way to reading comprehension.

PACE YOURSELF

FIND A NEWSPAPER article and see if you can extract the basic information by asking who, what, when, where, why, and how.

The following passage is similar to an article that you might find in a newspaper. Read it to find the basic information. First, read it carefully, marking anything you think is important or that you have a question about.

On Friday, October 21, at approximately 8:30 a.m., Judith Reynolds, owner of The Cupcake Factory, arrived at her establishment to find that it had been robbed and vandalized overnight. The front window of the shop at 128 Broad Street was broken, and chairs and tables were overturned throughout the cafè area. Additionally, the cash register had been pried open and emptied of money. The thieves attempted to open the safe as well, but were unsuccessful. Ms. Reynolds used her cell phone to report the crime to the police. She also phoned the proprietor of Primo Pizza, located at 130 Broad Street, as she noticed that the door of that restaurant showed signs of forced entry. The police department is asking anyone with information to call 555-2323.

Now think about the following questions:

      What happened?
      When was the crime discovered?
      Who discovered the crime?
      Where did the crime occur?

The answers to these questions give you the basic information you need to really understand what the passage is about. Here are the answers:

      What happened?
      The Cupcake Factory was robbed and vandalized.
      When was the crime discovered?
      Friday, October 2, at 8:30 a.m.
      Who discovered the crime?
      Judith Reynolds, owner of The Cupcake Factory
      Who called the police?
      Judith Reynolds
      Where did the crime occur?
      at The Cupcake Factory, which is located at 128 Broad Street

Sometimes reading might seem overwhelming because you're given so much information all at once. So, break the information down into more manageable pieces! It's sort of like eating. You don't sit down to breakfast and stuff a whole pancake in your mouth. (Well, we hope you don't, anyway!) Your mouth would be too full even to chew, so you cut the pancake into smaller pieces so it's easier to eat. Well, breaking down information in text is just as simple. Just ask yourself one question at a time, and don't try to understand everything right away. Even if you have to go back and reread to find an answer, just take it one question at a time.

INSIDE TRACK

DON'T HESITATE TO mark up the text in this book as you read. Circle, underline, or highlight anything you think is important. Make notes in the margin, or use sticky notes!

Of course, not all the questions you ask yourself will be the exactly like the ones about The Cupcake Factory robbery, but they'll be the same kinds of questions. Suppose you read a passage about ice cream. You might ask:

      Who makes ice cream?
      How is ice cream made?
      Where do they make it?
      When do people eat ice cream?
      What is the most popular ice cream flavor?
      Why are we even talking about ice cream?

That last question is tricky. Think about the robbery again. If you asked yourself why the robbery occurred that particular night, you might have a hard time finding the answer. But there are other why questions you could answer, like why Ms. Reynolds called the police (because her store had been robbed). When it comes to why some things happen, we can't always be sure, and speculation is not fact. So you may not be able to answer some questions, but that's okay!

Even if you can't answer a question, however, it's still important to ask it. Let's go back to that hypothetical ice cream passage. Pretend you've read a passage about ice cream. It's helpful to ask yourself the last question we suggested, "Why are we even talking about ice cream?" It's important to ask that question because, even if we don't know the answer, it'll help us think about why someone wrote the passage in the first place! What was the author's purpose? Is it purely educational, to inform readers, or does the author have a different agenda? That aspect of reading comprehension is covered in Chapter 2, but for now, keep those questions in mind!

Take a look at another passage and see if you can dissect it to get the essential information. Read the passage, and then we'll take it step by step.

The town of Wakeville is looking forward to rooting for their Wakeville Wildcats in the big football game on Friday night. If the Wildcats win the game, they will qualify for the state finals. So far this season, the Wildcats have won eight out of ten of their games, but this Friday, they face their toughest opponent yet. They will play the Tollytown Tigers, who are undefeated this season. The big game will start at 8:00 p.m. and will be played at Wakeville High School's John Reed Field.

Now that you've read the passage, here are some questions:

      Who is playing in the game?
      What happens if the Wildcats win?
      Where will the game take place?
      When is the game?
      Why are the Tigers tough opponents?

The next step is to reread the passage and find the answers to our questions. As you reread, underline, circle, or highlight anything you think is important.

The town of Wakeville is looking forward to rooting for their Wakeville Wildcats in the big football game on Friday night. If the Wildcats win the game, they will qualify for the state finals. So far this season, the Wildcats have won eight out of ten of their games, but this Friday, they face their toughest opponent yet. They will play the Tollytown Tigers, who are undefeated this season. The big game will start at 8:00 p.m. and will be played at Wakeville High School's John Reed Field.

Here are the questions again, along with the answers that we found in the passage:

      Who is playing in the game?
      the Wakeville Wildcats and the Tollytown Tigers
      What happens if the Wildcats win?
      They will qualify for the state finals.
      Where will the game take place?
      Wakeville High School's John Reed Field
      When is the game?
      8:00 p.m. Friday
      Why are the Tigers tough opponents?
      They are undefeated this season.

See how easy that was? All the information is right there in the passage. All you have to do is dig in and find it.

CAUTION!

IF YOU READ too fast, you might miss something, so be sure to go slowly. However, if you don't remember something that you read the first time, don't worry. Just read it again more carefully.

Let's try another one together. The following passage is a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Read through it once and then we'll ask ourselves some questions to get the basic information.

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