Page 2 - ELAR: Reading Study Guide for the TSIA2

Parts of a Text

As with qualities of a text, knowing the different parts of reading material will help with comprehension and question-answering ability. Many questions on this test will refer to some of these text parts. Knowledge of others will just come in handy as you search for correct answers.

Topic vs. Main Idea

The topic of a passage is the subject about which it is written. Topics include things like school uniforms, mandatory drug testing in the workplace, or trains. It is usually possible to state or express a topic in a one- or two-word phrase. The main idea in a text is the writer’s interpretation of or ideas about the topic.

For example, “school uniforms should be mandatory in every public school” (this is the author’s position or stance with regard to the topic of school uniforms), “mandatory drug testing in the workplace would help ensure the safety of all employees and customers,” or “trains are a symbol of a bygone era of American expansion and development.”

Main ideas are more detailed than the topic but can generally be summarized in one or two sentences. It is this main idea that the body paragraphs work to develop as they support and provide evidence. The main idea should be evident to the reader by the end of the first paragraph, which is usually an introductory paragraph.

Supporting Details

Supporting details are important because they answer questions of who, what, when, where, why, or how for the reader. Supporting details help back up claims made by the author and help develop the main idea so the reader can more easily understand it. They provide evidence that can be used to persuade readers to interpret a topic in the same way as the author. Supporting details can be present as facts, statistics, examples, anecdotes, or sensory details. A reader should check an author’s details for credibility, if appropriate.

Text Evidence

When we read, we come to a text with preexisting knowledge and experiences, but we should also be on the lookout for new information or support that is present in the text. Text evidence refers to the information found in the text itself and which supports the main idea to help a reader draw conclusions about a subject. It helps provide support or information so that the reader does not have to rely on his or her own thoughts or understanding. Text evidence should be precise, descriptive, and factual.

Author’s Craft

Authors use language to communicate ideas and information to their readers. Their use of language has direct impact on how a message is received and interpreted by a reader. Consider these language techniques when you are reading.

Explicit and Implicit Information

Authors can present information or ideas in one of two ways: explicitly or implicitly. Explicit means that the author comes out and tells the reader directly what a character is like or what the issue really is and the reader does not have to do any independent thinking, considering, or figuring out; the information is outright stated by the author. Implicit means that an author may hint at or suggest information but does not come right out and state it. It is implied and the reader must “read between the lines” to determine the underlying message the author is trying to convey.

Implications can be dangerous because a reader may have an interpretation the author did not intend and therefore come to a conclusion the author hadn’t considered. Implications can also help keep the author out of trouble because he or she does not actually state anything that might be distasteful or offensive but offers hints and clues for the reader to infer such a message.

Inferences

An inference is a conclusion a reader comes to based on evidence in a text and his or her own reasoning. It is an educated guess. Making an inference requires “reading between the lines” and coming to a conclusion about what is implied without it being explicitly stated. An author will make implications in his or her writing, and a reader will make inferences based on those implications and their own prior knowledge or experiences.

Inferences in a Text

A good reader must be able to make inferences from a text, and a good writer must present information in a way so that the reader will make the inferences the author wants or needs the reader to make and not come to a conclusion that was not intended. To help you make inferences, keep these questions in mind:

  • What details and information are explicitly presented in the text?
  • Are there any details or important information that seem to be missing?
  • Based on the details and information the author does provide, what else is probably true?
  • Is this a logical conclusion to draw based on the hints and clues provided by the author?

Finding Inferences

How do you know when you are supposed to be making an inference? In the case of a multiple-choice test, key words may be used in the question that indicate you are supposed to be drawing a conclusion. Words like suggest, imply, or even infer let the test-taker know there were conclusions to be drawn in a text. But how do you go back and find them?

Look for clues in the text that suggest you are to use certain pieces of evidence to make an inference. Supporting details, the use of vocabulary words, an author’s tone, what a character says or does, descriptions, dialogue, foreshadowing, etc., all suggest to a reader that there is something in that section of text that is important or noteworthy. Make educated guesses based on the clues provided in a text as to what the underlying message might be.

Typical Inference Questions

Here is a list of some of the most often used phrasing of inference questions on standardized tests:

  • “According to the passage, it can be inferred that…”
  • “The reader can interpret xyz as meaning ____
  • “The underlined portion of the text suggests…”

Sometimes the act of inferring is implied. Questions like these should prompt you to look for implied information:

  • “Why is Arthur upset?”
  • “With which of the following statements is the author most likely to agree?”
  • “What will William say to his mother tonight?”
  • “Which of the following sentences would the author most likely use to add support to paragraph 4?”

These questions require the reader to draw a conclusion based on understanding of the characters, the author, or the author’s style.

Appeals to the Reader

Authors use persuasive strategies to support their claims in an attempt to convince the readers to see a topic in a particular way. They also use persuasive strategies to respond to opposing arguments in an attempt to excuse them away and refocus the readers on why one particular interpretation is the best or most appropriate.

Logic (Logos)

Arguments that appeal to a reader’s sense of logic and rational sense are known as logical arguments. Often in the form of facts and statistics, logical arguments appeal to people who want “proof” or evidence of something being true. Logos is evidence-based, which makes it difficult to refute.

Emotion (Pathos)

Emotional appeals, or “pathos,” target an audience’s feelings. Emotional appeals can tug at the heartstrings or feel like a punch to the gut. Emotional arguments are intended to get the audience to feel the need to take action. Emotional arguments do not always have to evoke negative feelings like pity or anger or fear in an audience; they can also inspire or encourage an audience and give them hope. They often come in the form of anecdotes or personal stories and rely heavily on an author’s diction to really make the audience respond.

Credibility (Ethos)

Ethical appeals help authors build credibility or believability with their audience. Critical readers require that authors be trustworthy and make factual claims, using credible evidence and not making things up. Authors can build their credibility with their readers by explaining what expertise they have in an area or citing credible sources as research by an expert on the subject.

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are questions authors ask in their writing without expecting an actual response. Instead, they are posed to get the reader to think about something or consider a topic further or in a different way. Rhetorical questions are asked in order to get the reader to put themselves in a particular situation and consider how they would feel in that scenario and how they would respond.

Figurative Language

Figurative language is the use of words or phrases to create a meaning that goes beyond their literal meaning. Figurative language uses exaggeration or somehow alters language to make a particular point. Here are some examples of figurative language that play with the sounds of words and impact a reader’s understanding of a text.

Alliteration and Assonance

Alliteration and assonance are types of figurative language that authors use purposefully in their writing. They create a certain rhythm or beat that appeals to readers and can give writing a very poetic sound.

Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in words that are close together in a sentence or line of poetry. We must define it as repeated consonant sounds (not letters) because there are a number of consonants that have the same sound but are represented by different letters (f = ph, c = k, s = c, etc.). Here are examples of alliteration:

“Constance sells candy from her kitchen.”
“Stephanie’s sisters sent fifty cents worth of scent to Grandma Sally who lives in Cedar Rapids.”

“Assonance” is a similar kind of repetition, but of vowel sounds as opposed to consonant sounds. Here is an example:

“I will fight with all of my might for what is right.”

The easiest way to remember the difference between alliteration and assonance is to look at the last letter in each word. Alliteration ends with a consonant, n, so it is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in words that are close together. Assonance ends with a vowel, e, so it is the repetition of vowel sounds in words that are close together.

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is a tough spelling word, but its definition is pretty easy. Onomatopoeia is the term for words whose spelling mimics the sound they describe. They are words that mean what they sound like. Oftentimes animal noises or comic books words are examples of onomatopoeia. Here are some examples: pow, bang, whoosh, bam, sizzle, buzz, baa, boom, purr, plop, slurp, boing, clink, neigh, woof.

Pun

A pun is a play on words. Using homonyms or words with multiple meanings, puns often create humor in writing and are a clever way to suggest multiple meanings at once. Shakespeare was famous for his puns, which were often “dirty”, rude, or sexual in nature. Here are some modern, cleaner puns:

“Where do you find giant snails? On the ends of giants’ fingers.”
“Santa’s helpers are known as subordinate Clauses.”
“The chicken farmer’s favorite car is a coupe.”
“The bicycle fell over because it was two-tired.”

Simile

A simile is a comparison between two unlike things to show a connection of similarity. Similes usually use key comparison words such as like or as to make the comparison. For example, “Growing up, Mark and his sister fought like cats and dogs.” In this sentence, the fighting between the siblings is compared to the fighting between dogs and cats, who don’t typically get along too well. In this way, the reader is prompted to envision Mark and his sister arguing and attacking each other in the manner that dogs and cats behave with one another.

Metaphor

A metaphor is very similar to a simile in that metaphors also compare two unlike things, but metaphors don’t use “like” or “as”; instead, metaphors simply state that one thing is another. For example, “When the teacher was gone and the substitute was left in charge, the classroom was a zoo.” The comparison being made is between a classroom of rowdy children and the unmanageable animals at the zoo. The reader can envision the classroom chaos, based on this comparison.

Personification

Personification is the giving of human characteristic to non-human things. When we read stories about talking animals or think our pets understand and empathize with us when we’ve had a bad day, this is personification. We are projecting human qualities or characteristics of feelings and speech to non-human things.

Personification can also be applied to elements of nature, technology—just about anything! “The sunflowers winked in the sun.” Sunflowers don’t have eyes, so they didn’t literally wink, but we can envision the plant doing a human action and it creates a very vivid image. “My computer just stared at me as I screamed at it in frustration.” Well, it’s not clear what behavior is expected of the computer, but we can imagine the scene based on the personification.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole is extreme exaggeration not meant to be taken literally. It comes from the Greek word meaning excess so it is literally excess exaggeration. When you say, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!” no one really expects you to sit down to a nice big leg of mare. But the audience can get a sense of the level of your hunger. When your mom says, “I’ve told you a million times not to leave your wet towel on the floor,” she probably hasn’t really been keeping count, but the impression is that it’s something she says pretty often.

Symbolism

Symbolism means using an object or a word to represent something beyond its literal meaning or actual self. For example, a flag is just a piece of cloth, but throw some stars and stripes on it and it’s a symbol of freedom and independence. A dove is just a bird until it’s used to represent peace. Colors are also popular symbols in literature. A very different tone is set when the leading lady wears a yellow dress (happiness, light-heartedness) versus a black dress (depressing, mourning, sadness) versus a red dress (seduction, love, danger). A bright blue sky sets a different tone than a grey sky. These color symbols affect a reader’s interpretation of a text.

Counterarguments

A counterargument is an idea in opposition to the argument made. It is a differing opinion and the argument that someone “on the other side” might give to a topic. In persuasive writing, it makes a more effective argument to mention the opposition and then offer a rebuttal as to why their argument, opinion, or point of view is flawed in some way. In this way, the original argument can be proven more effective, credible, or reasonable.

Addressing the counterargument(s) can also help an author build credibility as it proves he or she has considered the arguments that might be made against his or her position and can outline the way(s) in which those arguments are flawed and should not be considered by the audience. Considering and refuting the counterarguments make an author seem less biased to his or her own position and more understanding of how others might perceive an issue, thereby creating a sense of balance in the argument.

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