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Q: Which statement best approximates the main ideas of this section? English II – Unit 4: Exposition Advanced Reading Skills A person who has read much realizes that the main idea is important to
understanding, but the details make written material interesting. A person who has learned to write well forms a good topic sentence. This topic sentence states the subject of the paragraph in the subject of the sentence, places the controlling idea in the predicate (what he is going to say about the subject), and provides details in the rest of the paragraph to support or prove the topic sentence. Likewise, a well-organized writer will have little trouble seeing the same pattern in the works of other writers. Objectives * Demonstrate comprehension skills. * Differentiate between imply and infer. Vocabulary a priori knowledge knowledge acquired prior to examination of the facts (Latin: from what is before) deductive arriving at inferences derived from the examination of general principles inductive arriving at a particular conclusion from the examination of facts inference the act of or process of arriving at a conclusion from facts or a premise premise a presupposition from which a conclusion is drawn * Vocabulocity * Flash Cards * Spelling Bee Understanding and Recalling Details As you know, a well-organized paragraph is made up of ideas and supporting details. Common details found in expository prose include facts, dates, names, places, quotations, anecdotes, and illustrations. Read the following quote from "Tradition and the Individual Talent" by T.S. Eliot: In English writing we seldom speak of tradition, though we occasionally apply its name in deploring its absence. We cannot refer to "the tradition" or to "a tradition"; at most, we employ the adjective in saying that the poetry of So-and-so is "traditional" or even "too traditional." Seldom, perhaps, does the word appear except in a phrase of censure. If otherwise, it is vaguely approbative, with the implication, as to the work approved, of some pleasing arch ological reconstruction. You can hardly make the word agreeable to English ears without this comfortable reference to the reassuring science of arch ology. In difficult text like this, the reader must be patient to understand the concepts being presented. The topic of the paragraph concerns the use of the word tradition. Beyond that, it is difficult for many to comprehend what Eliot is trying to say. To unravel this and other difficult text, the reader must be prepared to do some work. Take a quick glance at some things (there are many others) to look at when unraveling difficult texts. Audience and Purpose Who is the author, who is the author writing to, and why? T.S. Eliot, for example, was an early-twentieth-century poet, critic, and academic. He refers to "we" in the quote, so we can infer that his target audience must be early-twentieth-century poets, critics, and academics. Social/Historical Context Finding out when a text was written and under what circumstances can also be revealing. When Eliot wrote this, he was examining the role of the artist (individual talent) in relation to the complete body of art and literature that are usually studied by those that study art and literature (tradition). Narrowly defining "tradition," therefore, is a key element in his overall argument. We learn from the quote that tradition, as used among Eliot's peers, has a very specific use. Biographical Information Knowing a little about T.S. Eliot, his career, his accomplishments, and his agenda may also lend an element of understanding to the reader. Eliot's work is known for a great number of references to classic texts, so it may be inferred that he will be treating the concept of tradition with a certain reverence. On the other hand, his use of structure, meter, and rhyme is often unconventional, so the reader may also infer that his treatment of tradition will not be unqualified. Vocabulary If you do not know what words like deploring, censure, and approbative mean, the text is considerably more difficult. Use a dictionary or appropriate context clues (see below) to decipher difficult words and terms. By applying a dictionary and this knowledge of the text, it is possible to translate difficult texts into something we can more readily understand: The word tradition, in academic circles of the early twentieth century, is used selectively. One common use is to complain that something lacks tradition. As a group, we seem to lack any clear idea of our own tradition, except to say that a poet who limits himself to classical forms is "traditional" or "too traditional." Commonly, the word is used as a term of disapproval. Only as a sort of scientific term is it "officially" okay to use, such as in the study of archaeology. These "translations" can easily be made by close reading strategies such as note taking and rereading. Using Context Clues Context can provide many types of clues to the meaning of unfamiliar words. Authors often inject hints about word meaning either consciously or unconsciously. One context clue is the use of a definition immediately after a word. The author may use an appositive, or a clause or phrase set off by commas. Often a synonym will be employed. Be particularly aware of two clauses joined by a semicolon or a colon. These constructions often indicate that a list, a summary, or a restatement will follow the main clause. Examples: Mary sat quietly reminiscing, remembering former joyous times. Mary sat quietly reminiscing; in her thoughts she was again sledding with her brothers and skating with her friends. Sometimes the use of contrast will reveal the meaning of a word. Usually contrast will be indicated by such words as although and nevertheless. Other times, example or comparison may be used. Examples: Although Mary often reminisced, she lived in the present through her volunteer work. Like a tour of the family picture album, Aunt Mary's reminiscences are vivid and entertaining to us. If none of the devices described above appear, the reader should look at the sentence as a whole. Example: Whenever Grandmother and Aunt Mary visit together, they reminisce. Identifying the Author's Structure Every author has a plan. Textbook writing, for example, is usually clearly structured. Ideally, the author states the main thesis for a chapter in the first paragraph or two. The remaining paragraphs will support this thesis, and the summary or conclusion will restate it. If a reader actively searches for the plan of a writer, he will more quickly be able to understand what the author is saying. Being aware of the elements of expository writing will improve reading comprehension. Six types of structure to look for in expository writing include: * cause/effect—emphasizes the action/consequence principle; used in history and sociology and related subjects; * extended definition—tells what something is; found in all subjects; * classification/division—groups or separates items based on characteristics; commonly used in the sciences; * process analysis—describes any process from "how to refinish furniture" to "how to become an expert auto mechanic"; * comparison/contrast—emphasizes the likeness or differences between two or more things; key words include similar, dissimilar, like, unlike, on the other hand, on the contrary, and in comparison; * illustration/example—uses an anecdote or story to clarify a point or concept. Titles of books and chapters are often keys to the structure of the book or chapter. Developing Your Vocabulary, Prose Models, An Introduction to Poetry, and Criticism are titles that give clues about the subject matter and how it may be handled. Examine the table of contents of a textbook before studying in it. The table of contents is like a road map for a traveler; it shows the reader where he is going. The reader will be able to see the structure—and often the intent—of a textbook in its table of contents. Identifying the Author's Intent Knowing the intent of the author is an important factor of comprehension. The vocabulary level used by the author generally indicates the intention of the author to speak to an audience of a particular level of age or education. If the author is writing to fifth-grade readers, he will employ words that are common to a fifth grader's vocabulary. If the author is aiming his writing at college professors, his vocabulary will reflect this fact. The author's style affects intent. Style is the customary habit of speech or word usage that a person employs. No two people use identical word order, illustrations, or ways of proving points. No two people think alike. Some writers are harder to understand than others. If the subject is intriguing, the reader will stay with the writer in spite of difficulties. A reader will evaluate the writer's intent as well as his structure almost unconsciously when he practices the art of careful reading.
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