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UNDERSTANDING WHAT YOU READ: A REVIEW
This chapter reviews several important reading skills including locating the topic; distinguishing main
ideas, major details, and minor details; recognizing patterns of organization; uncovering the central
message of a longer selection; and summarizing and paraphrasing.
1. Once again, emphasize that although the skills covered in this chapter may be familiar, they are
extremely important aids to understanding textbook material.
2. On page 54 the unstated main idea for the EarthShare advertisement is that products do not
have to be physical objects. Here the unstated main idea is that if you protect the prairies and the
penguins you help the planet.
3. For the items with ―unstated main ideas‖ in Activity 1, have students read their answers, share in
small groups, or write them on the board. Discuss paraphrasing and instruct the class to
compare answers for accuracy. Stress that, while answers may be worded differently, there is
one main idea and one central message, which will be reflected in all correct responses. Accept
accurate paraphrasing for major details.
4. For Activity 2, pair students who are not currently using other textbooks with those students
5. Use newspaper articles or news magazines to provide students with additional practice in
identifying organizational patterns. Students will usually find examples of each pattern by
examining editorials, front-page articles, the sports section, and even the weather predictions.
Use the college‘s student newspaper if it has one.
6. Stress the connection between the organizational pattern of a paragraph and the transition
words that connect the major details. Remind students that these tools help them to discover the
main idea, or central message. To aid their analysis of the paragraph, encourage students to
develop a system of underlining, marking, or annotation to connect the ideas, especially as they
complete Activities 3–5.
7. Activity 7 offers an excellent opportunity to discuss students‘ personal and shared
interpretations of poetry. Discuss the central message of the poem as well as any individual
associations students may wish to share. Comments by the poet are included in the Answers
section below; you may want to read these to the students.
8. Any source material can be used to practice summarizing and paraphrasing, including current
films, fairy tales or fables, and popular songs. These familiar sources can be summarized to
introduce the skills, which can then be applied to the literary reading of The Tell-Tale Heart in
9. Encourage students to scan Mastery Test 2-4 into a Word document, complete the test, and email it to you (the instructor) as an attachment.
Have students find images on the Internet that illustrate contemporary issues. Most of the
prominent newspapers and magazines have photo galleries that may be helpful.
SFGate.com(www.SFGate.com) has a photo gallery that is pretty good. An example is the
cartoon image from MSNBC on the issue of gay marriage that can be accessed here:
http://cagle.msnbc.com/news/GayMarriage/Gay-Marriage/jones.gif [San Francisco
city hall official marrying two men when all they wanted was a fishing license.]
THINK ABOUT IT!
These two photos encourage young women to join Girl Scouts. The central message is that the Girl
Scout organization trains leaders whether they become a future president or a skateboard pro. Defying
self-doubt encourages girls to achieve success through the Girl Scout organization.
Activity 1: Finding the Topic, Main Idea, and Major Details
1. Topic: Technology in fast-food restaurants
Main Idea: Cutting edge technology is now being used to improve customer service in the
food service industry from processing orders to paying bills.
Major Details: MacDonald‘s is processing orders in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri through a
central facility in Colorado. Hardee‘s and Carl‘s Jr. are following suit. Domino‘s
Pizza has a text-message ordering system. Some restaurants have table-side phone
ordering. In Asia, smart phones can place orders. Care must be taken to avoid ―upselling.‖
2. Topic: Critical thinking
Main Idea: Critical thinking, however, is not merely negative thinking.
Major Details: Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to assess claims and to make
objective judgments on the basis of well-supported reasons. It also fosters
creativity and constructiveness—skills that help one to develop possible
explanations for events, think of implications of research findings, and apply
new knowledge to a broad range of social and personal problems.
3. Topic: Understanding what is said
Main Idea: Everything that is said is not understood exactly as intended.
Major Details: Messages are filtered by listeners’ attitudes, values, and beliefs; consequently,
changes in their meaning may occur.
4. Topic: Who discovered America?
Main Idea: Determining who discovered America is not an easy question to answer.
Major Details: Ancestors of the American Indian, who were hunters and herders, were unaware
that they were entering ―new‖ territory. So we must look elsewhere (and much
later in time) for the ―discoverer‖ of America as we use that word.
5. Topic: The importance of positive intimate relationships
Main Idea: While we strive for positive relationships with our friends, family, and significant
others, we sometimes find ourselves in relationships that result in an emotional
Major Details: While negative relationships may cause us distress, intimate relationships that have
gone bad can send us in a downward spiral emotionally and physically. What are
the characteristics of a healthy relationship?
6. Topic: The cost of air pollution
Main Idea: The social cost of driving includes all the private costs plus at least the cost of air
pollution, which society bears.
Major Details: When automobile drivers step into their cars, they bear only private costs of
driving. But they cause an additional cost—that of air pollution, which they are not
forced to take account of when they make the decision to drive. Clean air is a
scarce resource used by automobile drivers free of charge. They will use more of it
than they would if they had to pay the full social costs.
7. Topic: Marketing to children
Main Idea: There is pressure on marketers, especially food marketers, to curb their ads to
children because of the child obesity rate in the United States.
Major Details: Childhood obesity in the U.S. is 18 percent. Children view more than twenty food
ads each day with 90 percent of them promoting high-fat, high-sugar products.
8. Topic: Loss of natural resources
Main Idea: A realistic program of environmental and energy conservation should be adopted
by every business.
Major Details: This nation did not recognize that it was destroying the ability of nature to maintain
a balanced ecological system. Energy sources that took nature thousands of years
to create are consumed within minutes.
9. Topic: Meanings of ―Islam‖
Main Idea: The word ―Islam‖ has at least three different meanings, and much
misunderstanding arises from the failure to distinguish among them.
Major Details: In the first place, Islam refers to the religion taught by the prophet Muhammad and
embodied in the Muslim revelation known as the Koran. In the second place, Islam
has developed through tradition and through the work of great Muslim jurists and
theologians. In the third meaning, Islam is the counterpart not of Christianity but
rather of Christendom.
10. Topic: Sonia Nieto‘s childhood experiences with discrimination
Main Idea: Sonia Nieto personally experienced the effects of poverty and discrimination in
school as a child.
Major Details: A common perception was that [her] culture and language were inferior. Some
teachers expected that she would not do well in school because of language and
Activity 2: Finding Topics, Main Ideas, and Major Details (Application)
Answers will vary.
Activity 3: Patterns of Organization
1. Main Idea: John McEnroe and Björn Borg behaved very differently on the tennis
Pattern of Organization: Comparison and Contrast
Important Details: If you follow tennis, you know that John McEnroe was famous for his
on-court antics and spectacular temper tantrums; he was the bad boy of
the tennis circuit. In contrast, Björn Borg, another tennis champion,
was controlled and civilized on the court.
2. Main Idea: Junk mail is an environmental problem.
Pattern of Organization: Simple Listing of Facts
Important Details: 42 billion pieces of mail are delivered annually representing 41 pounds
per adult each year. 100 million trees are cut down and 28 billion gallons
of water are used to produce junk mail. Some areas have an anti-junk
mail campaign—San Francisco and Santa Barbara and Great Britain.
Charities don‘t like these restrictions in Great Britain, though.
3. Main Idea: A distinction can be made between one-way and two-way
Pattern of Organization: Comparison and Contrast
Important Details: A lecture hall, for example, provides lots of opportunity to listen but
very few opportunities to respond. Research shows that such settings
promote a one-way communication pattern in which the teacher
talks and students, for the most part, listen. When snuggling close to
someone you care about, you and your partner have opportunities to
talk and to listen. Thus a two-way communication pattern is
4. Main Idea: Once the war was underway, blacks found a variety of ways to turn
events to their own advantage.
Pattern of Organization: Simple Listing of Facts
Important Details: The rest of the paragraph.
5. Main Idea: The extraordinary popularity of sports in the postwar period can be
explained in a number of ways.
Pattern of Organization: Simple Listing of Facts/Cause and Effect
Important Details: People had more money to spend and more free time to fill. Radio was
bringing suspenseful play-by-play accounts of sports contests into
millions of homes thus encouraging tens of thousands to want to see
similar events with their own eyes. But what truly made the twenties a
golden age was the emergence of a remarkable collection of what today
would be called ―superstars.‖
Activity 4: Patterns of Organization
1. Main Idea: Marketers see opportunities for research and promotion in virtual
worlds such as Second Life.
Pattern of Organization: Listing of Facts/Persuasion
Important Details: Second Life has numerous users. $200 million of real money moves
through the virtual world. Some marketers already have a strong
presence like Sony and Pontiac. Kraft launched 70 new products in a
2. Main Idea: Collective behavior is relatively spontaneous and unorganized, while
institutionalized behavior occurs in a well-organized, rather
Pattern of Organization: Comparison and Contrast
Important Details: Institutionalized behavior is frequent and routine. These predictable
patterns of group action are basically governed by social norms.
Collective behavior, however, operates largely outside the confines
of these conventional norms.
3. Main Idea: The aspect of the physical environment that places the
greatest constraint on organisms is climate.
Pattern of Organization: Listing of Facts
Important Details: Weather is the combination of temperature, humidity,
precipitation, wind, cloudiness, and other atmospheric
conditions at a specific place and time. Climate is the longterm average pattern of weather. We can describe the local,
regional, or global climate.
4. Main Idea: Following three years of famine, the Pilgrims changed from
―farming in common‖ to parceling their land equally
among the families, which led to bountiful harvests.
Pattern of Organization: Time Sequence
Important Details: After three years of enduring conditions bordering on starvation, the
colonists began to reconsider the practice of ―farming in common,‖
which entailed pooling what they produced and then rationing this
―common property‖ in equal allotments. Parceling the land equally
among families led to bountiful harvests and a day of
thanksgiving—the forerunner of the modern American
5. Main Idea: Geologists define three major types of rock: igneous,
sedimentary, and metamorphic.
Pattern of Organization: Listing of Facts
Important Details: Igneous rocks are formed by the cooling of volcanic flows,
surface or subterranean. Sedimentary rocks are formed by the
deposition of mineral particles (sediments). Metamorphic rocks are
either igneous or sedimentary rocks that have been altered by heat
and the pressure of overlying rock.
Activity 5: Patterns of Organization (Application to students’ textbooks)
Examples will vary.
Activity 6: Finding the Central Message
1. Topic: In-store kiosks
Central Message: Kiosks are popping up everywhere from self-service functions to in-store
ordering of merchandise to collecting information at business and trade shows.
2. Topic: Studying human sexuality
Central Message: You’ll come to view human sexuality for what it is—a beautiful and
integral, but complex, part of life.
3. Topic: Surgical snafus [especially spongers and a solution]
Central Message: [unstated] A number of new technological techniques are now being used to
prevent doctors from leaving instruments and other items inside the patient
4. Topic: Muhammad Ali: principles over profit
Central Message: Ali‘s courage and dedication to human rights make him the standard by which
all athletes should be judged.
Activity 7: Finding the Central Message in Poetry
Topic: The importance of daydreams
Central Message: Nature, poetry, and dreams are more important than material
success and daily labors.
Note: The poet Mark Hillringhouse offers the following introduction to his work and comments
on this poem in particular:
The Tao (pronounced ―dow‖) is understood by Taoists as a mysterious, dynamic,
and creative force that is beyond definition. Poetry and painting have long been felt
to be the most receptive media for the expression of the essential, indivisible Tao.
The Taoist way in art is to gradually attune the onlooker through the particular
inner rhythms of nature to the essence of the great Tao itself. The Taoist-inspired
poet aims to present a view of the world that is both satisfying and spiritually
refreshing. This is achieved by creating a subtle harmony of opposites, a balance,
within the poem itself, the effect of which is beautiful, relaxing, and potentially
―A Quiet House in the Suburbs‖ tries to locate that Taoist feeling about nature,
and the speaker in the poem tries to center his own personal nature by removing
himself from the day‘s demands so that he can better contemplate the life around
him. The poem is a reaction to the busy world of others who don‘t understand the
universal principals of the Tao. The more you struggle to race ahead, the more you
fall behind. By tuning into the spiritual forces of nature and by accepting the
inexorable movement of time and by letting yourself be swept away in the Taoist
current, you free yourself from opposition to change and begin to travel in
harmony. The idea is to float with the tide and not try to swim against it as so
many try to do.
Activity 8: Highlighting, Summarizing, and Paraphrasing [―The Tell-Tale Heart‖]
Answers will vary.
Students can access contemporary issues on the Internet at the following sites:
http://sac.edu/students/library/nealley/websites/controversial.htm or http://controversialissues.org/
CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION: The Fair Evangeline
1. No. His bare word is unsupported.
2. No. Like the Admirable Farragut, C. Starr‘s bare word is unsupported.
3. No, although the approximate time when the painting was made could be ascertained by the
position of the moon on the relevant night.
4. Yes. He might have killed the Fair Evangeline in the course of a lover‘s quarrel.
5. Yes. He might have killed his wife because he thought her unfaithful.
6. At the grave site, because a path of reflected light travels from the source (in this case the
moon) to the eye of the observer. Therefore Farragut stood at the grave site and not near the
ruined house, which he stated was a mile away.
7. Farragut, because, as proved by the answer to question 6, he lied, and the painting is proof of
the lie. On the basis of the painting, the jury had no trouble making a murder conviction.
―I admit I made a mistake,‖ he said, ―but at least my reputation as an artist is unquestioned.‖
On that, the jury took no stand.
Practice withwww.myreadinglab.com is suggested if students have purchased it as part of the textbook
1. Hypocrites show their behavior on Sundays. (The sign intends to separate the definition of
a hypocrite from the day when the sermon will be offered.)
2. We don‘t take our possessions with us when we die.
MASTERY TEST 2-1: Main Idea
1. Even many experienced and polished speakers have some anxiety about delivering an oral
presentation, but they use this nervous energy to their advantage, letting it propel them into
working hard on each presentation, preparing well in advance, and rehearsing until they’re
satisfied with their delivery.
2. The term ―technical profession‖ applies to a broad spectrum of careers in today’s changing
workplace, where technology is making astonishingly rapid advances; boundaries between
companies, countries, and continents are blurring; and jobs are being redefined.
3. Spouse selection is clearly an activity that most people eventually choose to engage in, and a
variety of considerations are involved.
4. Firearms-related violence is a major societal issue in the United States.
5. International tension over water availability is increasing rapidly.
6. Unlike other movements of the sixties that have not survived, the environmental movement has
gained steadily in power, prestige, and public appeal.
7. An understanding of our intimate and non-intimate relationships, components of our sexual
identity, our gender roles, and our sexual orientation will help us make healthy, responsible,
and satisfying decisions about our relationships and identities.
8. The accurate definition of a problem affects all the steps that follow.
9. Many reasons have been advanced to account for non-reporting of crime.
10. On a planetary scale, human beings are very recent arrivals indeed, and what we proudly refer
to as human history barely registers. Yet, although we arrived only an instant ago, we have
certainly made our presence known.
MASTERY TEST 2-2: Patterns of Organization
1. comparison and contrast
2. cause and effect
3. chronological order
4. comparison and contrast/simple listing of facts
5. comparison and contrast
6. comparison and contrast
7. simple listing of facts
8. cause and effect
9. cause and effect/simple listing of facts
10. cause and effect
MASTERY TEST 2-3: The Central Message
1. Central Message for Damon Conquered Stuttering Problem: Johnny Damon, Yankee
outfielder, battled stuttering as a child, but he overcame it to become a fine interviewee on
television. He also pitches Puma in print and television ads.
2. Central Message for New Twist in Light Bulbs: Environmentalists see fluorescent light bulbs as
the answer to lowering high energy bills and minimizing global warming.
3. Central Message for Kipling and I: Jesus Colon, inspired by Kipling‘s poem, battled poverty
and discrimination in New York.
4. Central Message for Gambling: Mankind has engaged in gambling for many centuries, and
today it has gone global, necessitating the need for regulation.
MASTERY TEST 2-4: Underlining and Highlighting/Summarizing
Examples will vary. An example for Selection 1 is included here using underlining
Selection #1: Conflict Interaction
1 As do most things in life, conflict offers a mixture of the good, the bad, and the
uncertain. On the positive side, conflicts allow us to air important issues, they produce
new and creative ideas, they release built-up tension. Handled properly, conflicts can
strengthen relationships; they may lead groups and organizations to reevaluate and
clarify goals and missions; and they can also initiate social change to eliminate
inequities and injustice. These advantages suggest that conflict is normal and healthy,
and they underscore the importance of understanding and handling conflict properly.
2 But perhaps more familiar is the negative side of conflict. Heated exchanges
spiral out of control, resulting in frustration, tension, hard feelings, and, ultimately,
more conflict. Low-grade family conflicts, prosecuted through criticism, arguments,
nagging, and verbal abuse, not only distance parents from children and husbands
from wives but also lower self-esteem and create problems that may follow people
through their entire lives. Additionally, conflicts are sometimes violent, not only
between strangers but also in the workplace and within the family. Sometimes not
being able to start a conflict is the source of frustration. If one friend persistently
denies that a problem exists or changes the subject when it comes up, the other cannot
discuss the things that are bothering her, and the friendship suffers. The various
negative experiences we all have with conflict are reinforced in the media, where it
often seems that the only effective way to solve problems is to shoot somebody.
3 Conflicts also bring uncertainty. As we will see, the great ―unpredictables‖ in life
often center around how interactions will go. Conversations, meetings, conflicts all
have in common the fact that they may suddenly turn in unexpected directions. Indeed,
the uncertainties that arise in conflicts often cause them to turn in negative directions.
SUMMARY: Conflict offers a mixture of the good, the bad, and the uncertain.
Selection #2: Compulsory Voting in Australia
SUMMARY: Political scientists believe that compulsory voting, as it has in Australia, strengthens