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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Realizing Focused Active Reading During the ACT

After booting-up the brain, it is necessary to provide the brain with a purpose for reading and to supply it with key words to look for in the passage. The idea here is to connect the questions to the passage. It also gives something for the students to do to keep them focused. If they have to read and circle, it stops them from losing focus and daydreaming. Circling keywords in the question stems starts this process.

Read and Circle Keywords in the Question Stem

  1. Read each question stem and circle key words—dates, proper nouns, important phrases, line references, etc.

  2. DO NOT READ THE ANSWER CHOICES. Since you haven’t actively read the passage yet, reading the answer choices is a time suck.

Actively Reading the Passage

  1. Use your finger to pace yourself through the passage. Glide your finger across each row of text. Read according to the pace set by your finger. Keep moving.

  2. Unlike booting-up, read each word but keep pace.

  3. As you read the passage, you must determine the thesis statement of the passage as well as the main idea of each paragraph. The thesis statement is the big idea of the entire passage often referred to as the central argument. You may not realize it until you finish the passage, when you realize it—write it down or circle it.

  4. Individual paragraphs are made up of main ideas and significant details. It is critically important that students understand the difference between main ideas and significant details.

  5. Main ideas are usually found in topic sentences. Always underline the topic sentence of each paragraph. Topic sentences are usually the first or last sentence of the paragraph.

  6. As you read the passage circle key words—dates, proper nouns, transitional phrases, as well as the words you circled in the question stems.

  7. Don’t bounce between the questions and the passage yet. Keep reading, following your finger, and circling key words until you complete the passage.

Good Models Think Aloud

Model this process for your students by doing a think aloud as you mark up a transparency of an ACT reading passage with questions. Have students practice this process so that it becomes second nature. We want to condition students to use this method on test day; instead of reverting to old behaviors that are manifested by stress.


In the meantime, take a look at my test prep posts. They are free, and they have worked with city kids. If you have any questions drop me a comment. All comments are posted to my email first. I will never post any email addresses in the comment section. So if you want to contact me, drop me your email and I’ll get back with you. It is my hope that my expertise in this field will help someone out there. Let me know.

Posts Concerning Test Prep

Quick and Dirty Guide to Raising PSAE Scores
PSAE Test Prep Strategies that Work
ACT Reading Prep and the Two-Point Conversion
Maximizing Brain Power on the ACT Reading Test
Realizing Focused Active Reading During the ACT

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