Lesson 1: What is critical reading? Reading to Write: Becoming a Critical Reader

what is critical reading become a critical reader

Generally, we read texts to answer textual questions, prepare for class discussions, and also for writing assignments. But we also read to evaluate the ideas of others, to form judgments, and to develop original viewpoints. This kind of reading is critical reading.

Texts introduce us to new ideas and new ways of thinking about familiar concepts. Our critical reading prepares us to respond critically to the ideas of others, and develop ideas of our own. So, critical reading is a vital part of our education. Before knowing, what is critical reading first understand the critical reading. Read Writing Process

Understanding What is Critical Reading

Reading is a two-way street. We (readers) are presented with a writer’s ideas, but we as readers also bring our own ideas to what we read. Readers have different national, ethnic, cultural, and geographic backgrounds and different kinds of knowledge and experience.

So, readers may react differently to a particular essay or story. For example, readers from similar economic status and ethnicity may find it difficult to understand a story about class conflict; and they may also be more objective than the readers who are struggling with such conflicts in their own lives.

So, we can have different readers’ responses. But it doesn’t mean every interpretation is acceptable. A text doesn’t mean whatever a reader wants, but the reader should develop an interpretation that the work itself supports.

To get the most out of our reading, we should use active reading strategies. This means actively participating in the reading process: approaching the texts (readings) with a clear understanding of our purpose, and marking the text to help us understand what we are reading.

Determining Your Purpose

Even before we start reading, we should ask ourselves some questions about our purpose – why we are reading. The answers to these questions will help us understand what kind of information we hope to get from our reading (text), and how we will use this information.

Questions About Your Purpose

• Will we are expected to discuss what we are reading? If so, will we discuss it in class? In a conference with our instructor?
• Will we have to write about what we are reading? If so, will we be expected to write an informal response (for example, a journal entry) or a more formal one (for example, an essay)?
• Will we are tested on the material?

What is previewing a text? What are visual and verbal signals associated with previewing?

When we preview, we try to understand the writer’s main idea, key supporting points, and general emphasis. We can begin by focusing on the title, the first paragraph, (which often contains a purpose statement or overview), and the last paragraph (which may contain a summary of the writer’s main idea). We should also look for clues to the writer’s message in the passage’s visual signals and verbal signals:

Using visual Signals:
• Look at the title.
• Look at the opening and closing paragraphs.
• Look at each paragraph’s first sentence.
• Look for headings.
• Look for italicized and boldfaced words.
• Look for numbered lists.
• Look for bulleted lists (like this one).
• Look at any visuals (graphs, charts, tables, photographs, and so on).
• Look at any information that is boxed.
• Look at any information that is in color.

Using Verbal Signals:
• Look for phrases that signal emphasis (“The primary reason”; “The most important idea”)
• Look for repeated words and phrases.
• Look for words that signal addition (also, in addition, furthermore).
• Look for words that signal time sequence (first, after, then, next, finally).
• Look for words that identify causes and effects (because, as a result, for this reason).
• Look for words that introduce examples (for example, for instance).
• Look for words that signal comparison (likewise, similarly).
• Look for words that signal contrast (unlike, although, in contrast).
• Look for words that signal contradiction (however, on the contrary).
• Look for words that signal a narrowing of the writer’s focus (in fact, specifically, in other words).
• Look for words that signal summaries or conclusions (to sum up, in conclusion).

When we finish reviewing the passage, we have a general understanding of the writer’s ideas.

When we read and reread, we record our reactions in writing. Our reactions in writing are notations. These notations are the results/products of the writer’s ideas and our own ideas about those ideas. There are different systems of recording responses (notation), but the most common is a combination of highlighting and annotating.

An annotation is a note or comment added to a text to provide an explanation or criticism about a particular part of it. When we annotate, we carry on a conversation with the text. In marginal notes,
(a) we can ask questions,
(b) suggest possible parallels with other readings or our own experiences,
(c) argue with the writer’s points,
(d) comment on the writer’s style or word choice,
(e) define unfamiliar terms and concepts, and so on.

For students, annotations suggest questions; we may ask your instructor for clarification, or we may raise puzzling or provocative (annoying/irritating) points during class discussion, in our search for answers. After our questions have been answered, we will be able to write about what we have read with greater accuracy, confidence, and authority.

When we highlight, we mark the text. We may:
• underline (or double underline) important concepts,
• box key terms,
• number a series of related points,
• circle an unfamiliar word (or place a question mark beside it),
• draw a vertical line in the margin beside a particularly interesting passage,
• draw arrows or connect related points or star discussions of the work’s central issue or main idea.


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